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Q&A: The Tiny Vegan

Veganism has definitely been on the rise in Ireland in the last few years, with many businesses catering specifically for a meat and dairy free diet successfully opening their doors, as well as many adapting their menus to incorporate these new dietary needs.

The Tiny Vegan Kitchen blog, started by Tanya O’Halloran in 2014 when she decided to go vegan, began as a way of sharing tips on how to eat healthily at home and gained attention with the increasingly popularity of meat and dairy free diets.

We spoke to Tanya about the rise in veganism, how restaurants have adapted, and recommendations on places to eat.

FFT.ie: What trends have you noticed with vegan food?
Tanya O’Halloran: There have been quite a few trends over the last few years, from aquafaba meringues and egg-less omelettes to easy to make "nice"-creams but I think the biggest trend in recent years has probably been the pulled jackfruit one. Jackfruit comes in a few forms but the tinned version that's readily available from Asian markets mimics the texture of pulled pork and soaks up flavours very well. The same technique can be applied to some varieties of mushrooms including portobello and I'll take a mushroom over tinned jackfruit any day.

Tell us about your background and the history of the blog? How has it grown?
I kind of feel like an imposter when it comes to the blog, as I started it not only with the intention of sharing my simple and tasty recipes to prove that a plant-based diet needn't be difficult, but also with the intentions of giving myself an extra creative outlet and learning a little about food photography in the process. I didn't expect it to gain such a large following in a relatively short space of time and I certainly didn't expect to win Best Food & Drink Blog last year. I have been very lucky and I've enjoyed doing demos at a wide variety of events from Dublin Vegfest and The Strandhill Food Festival to corporate events.

What is your opinion of vegan food in Ireland at the moment?
Ireland has come on so much in the last couple of years - there are so many vegan offerings, especially in the cities. Many restaurants now have vegan options on their menus and some, like Peploes, even have a separate vegan and vegetarian menu. This is massive progress!

How do you think festivals are faring so far this year with their vegan offerings?
I'm hitting All Together Now next week and I'm not worried at all about food. I'll pack a few bits myself but I'll look forward to checking out the food trucks and deciding what to have. You'll always get a great falafel at an Irish festival and a lot of the Asian Street Food trucks will have vegan treats too. I'm sure there'll be plenty for me to chose from.

When did vegan food start to pick up in Ireland?
Vegan food has been getting more popular over the last few years but in the last two years I've seen so much change and so many options available. Even if a restaurant doesn't offer a vegan option on their menu, most are happy to rustle up something for you, which is great.

What vegan offerings have recently impressed you the most?
Weekend brunch at Sova Vegan Butcher in Portobello; not only is the food great but its also incredibly easy on the pocket. I recommend the Chia Burger here. For dinner, Peploes are winning with their separate vegetarian menu. It says vegetarian but almost all of the dishes are vegan and you're spoiled with a full three course menu to chose from. The miso glazed eggplant is amazing!

It is difficult these days to monetise a blog? How have you made money, if any from it?
I haven't made money directly from the blog, but I do get samples of things to try.

Why do you think there is such a high demand for vegan food now?
For me and most of the people I know who have adopted a vegan lifestyle it is because of animal ethics, but I think people are becoming more aware of the other issues facing us today. Health and the environment are major factors. People are becoming more aware of the destructive effects that animal agriculture has on the planet and of the destructive effects that the consumption of meat can have on your health.

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