Malta-based Miriam Sorrell maintains a prolific and active presence online through her recipe innovation on her website, Mouthwatering Vegan Recipes. A popular website with hundreds of free recipes, MVR has a special affinity for sun-drenched Mediterranean flavors but can do it all, proving in recipe after recipe how vegan food is not a sacrifice but bursting with flavor and variety. Through her various social media platforms, Miriam shows that amazing vegan food is something anyone can create without a ton of complicated techniques or hard-to-find ingredients: the simplest food preparations are often the most delicious. Please check out her various social media platforms, including her brand new YouTube channel, as well as her cookbooks, to help spread the word about compassionate living through the lure of some luscious food. As a passionate vegan, Miriam aspires to save the animals, winning over one palate at a time. We are proud to feature her as this week’s Vegan Foodie.
1. How did you start down this path of creating delicious food? Was a love for food nurtured into you? Did you have any special relatives or mentors who helped to instill this passion?
I have always enjoyed cooking from a very early age, and in particular preparing delicious food for close friends and family. As a child, I was impressed and influenced by a particular couple who were like an aunt and uncle to me, and she would prepare the most wonderful homely food which I adored – this certainly inspired me, together with the fact that my father owned a restaurant in London, which I used to help out in as a teenager.
2. What was your diet like when you were growing up? Did you have any favorite meals or meal traditions? Do you carry them over today?
Well, of course, food was far simpler then – and because I come from a Mediterranean background, I have always loved the best of Greek and Maltese cuisine. Inevitably, meat and fish would feature fairly prominently, and kleftiko was a firm favourite, together with the simple Maltese ‘Ħobż biż-żejt’ (Maltese bread drizzled with olive oil, and smeared with beefsteak tomatoes or tomato paste, then served with olives, crushed black pepper, etc). I still love simple rustic cuisine, though due to the constantly expanding horizons of my work, I have had the privilege of exploring so many different foods and cuisines.
3. What is the best vegan meal you've ever had? Give us all the details!
That’s a very difficult question to answer, because there have been so many! I have to add, that one of the hardest aspects of becoming vegan was when I realized just how lacking most restaurants were in creativity when it came to vegan menu options, although this has improved considerably over the years, particularly in the last year or so. This only served to spur me on further to use my own creativity and start my food blog. So, my honest answer to your question has to be that nearly all the best vegan meals I can remember having have been created in my own kitchen. Our Christmas meal is always memorable – I usually make one of the two roulades on my blog – there’s the ‘Lentil, Mushroom, Spinach & Spicy Nut Roulade’, or the ‘Double Stuffed Savoury Christmas Log’. Aside from the above, we stayed with my sister a couple of years ago, and she always goes to town in the kitchen whenever I’m over. She produced an incredible Briam (Greek Mixed Roasted Vegetables), which she served with ‘Bamies Latheres me Domata’ (okra cooked in a tomato sauce) – this so impressed me that I created my own version of Briam which went in my second book Yasou. [UK version here.]
4. If you could prepare one meal or dessert for anyone living or dead, who would it be for and what would you create?
I think it would have to be for my dear late mother, who passionately believed in me. And since she was Greek, I would make my vegan keftethes (meatballs) for her since I learnt how to make them from her own recipe (which is also published in my book ‘YASOU’) coupled up with a Greek salad topped with my crumbled feta cheese (also from my book ‘YASOU’) - she would have loved that!
5. What do you think are common mistakes in vegan cooking and how do you avoid them?
I don’t see there being any difference between the mistakes made in vegan cooking or any other form of cooking. Creativity is creativity, and food made without any heart or soul will always taste as such. But an obvious shortfall can be seen in so many food outlets, where the mentality is still that a vegan dish can be a normal menu option with the meat or fish left out! Then, when the chef tries to get a bit creative, you land up with a bizarre combination of vegetables and perhaps a few beans, created in a panic behind the scenes – this is an area that they haven’t covered in culinary school. But, in truth, a talented chef should be able to come up with a good vegan platter with any of the standard ingredients in his/her kitchen.
6. What ingredients are you especially excited about at the moment?
I am working a lot with different forms of mushroom at the moment for my YouTube channel, and am completely blown away by just how versatile fungi are, as well as nutritional yeast - an old time favourite for vegans, I still love using it in many dishes for flavouring - there are more, and what fascinates me the most is combining unlikely ingredients in order to achieve amazing textures and tastes!
7. What are your top three cuisines from around the world?
That’s pretty simple for me to answer – Greek (obviously), Middle Eastern, and Asian (particularly Indian and Thai), since I love exotic and spicy food, I am extremely excited by fusing different cuisines, giving them a twist as well as my own personal touch!
8. Who or what has been most influential to you on your vegan path? Individuals, groups, books, films, etc. included.
I am an ethical vegan, so as my awareness of animal suffering and torture grew, so did my passionate desire to do what I could do to help. I had been vegetarian since my 20s, and this choice had also been ethical. The film Earthlings was a major turning point for me, as was Gary Yourofsky, his University speech impacted me on many levels, and although not everybody takes to his manner - being a pragmatist I look at his astounding results in converting so many people to veganism which can only be applauded, (and subsequently has became a close friend of mine, and who has supporting my activism through my culinary endeavours).
9. What issue is nearest and dearest to your heart that you would like people to know more about?
I abhor any form of animal suffering or exploitation. But I also cannot tolerate the polarised view of many veganism (particularly the ‘vegan police’ and self-righteous vegans as well as the many trolls that frequently come out of the woodwork). The infighting that occurs between people that are supposed to be on the same side constantly shocks me. It becomes a battle of egos, it is so very destructive to the vegan movement, and I feel that this is so wasteful and counterproductive. An example is when I choose to focus on a specific topic – in my case, this is often the skinning alive of dogs and cats in China, the Yulin festival, etc. Now, as it happens, I do feel more passionate about this cause than most others, and so I often post about this subject on Facebook, particularly at this time of year, when Yulin is about to take place (this has never been at the exclusion of all the other worldwide animal horrors that occur each and every second of the day by the thousands). But should this give people the license to accuse me of speciesism, and of not caring about other animals suffering? This really hacks me off, as it shows such narrow-mindedness. I do think that the horrific torture and ghastly way in which dogs, cats, monkeys, etc. are treated before being killed in China and Asia, should be hitting the headlines worldwide, and I wholly support the efforts of Marc Ching, who is doing so much himself at great risk, by personally rescuing dogs from China.
Because most people do place a greater value on those animals traditionally kept as household pets (cats and dogs), then inevitably they will be far more shocked and relate more to images of cats and dogs being tortured, than say cows, pigs or chickens. Then this could be a great starting point in increasing their awareness of the broader picture (I saw this happen on a video with Earthling Ed who spoke to a woman who was campaigning against the dog meat trade, he made her aware of how cows, pigs etc. where treated, and she was horrified, one could see on her face this was genuine, she was not vegan of course, and he made her aware of this and she said she would consider veganism because she couldn’t support such cruelty), and we then have the potential for them to make the connection as to why they themselves shouldn’t be consuming or using animals or dairy, and why they should become vegan.
But, thanks must also go to the initiative of PETA and other progressive activist organizations, who are running fantastic PR campaigns, with billboards in the most prominent locations. Veganism is truly gaining more mainstream status, though we still have a long, long way to go, and don’t really have the time truth be told to be at any point ‘nit picking’ about little details thus losing sight of the bigger picture. Time is king and millions of animals are screaming out for our help each and every second round the clock.
10. Last, please finish this sentence. “To me, veganism is…”
Veganism is living the truth of ‘live and let live’ and I shall never stop fighting for animal rights until I draw my last breath.