I first met Sarala Terpstra through Instagram. I loved following along with her beautiful vegan creations inspired by French cuisine. Since I first started following her, Sarala has not only released two vegan cookbooks, which currently inhabit my bookshelf until I can decide which recipe to try first, but she’s also made the move to France with her husband and her adorable four-year-old daughter, Yvette. She shares about her life and her latest culinary creations on her Instagram feed.
When did you first adopt a plant-based diet?
I adopted a plant-based diet after deciding to go vegan for a month. My husband had gotten really bad food poisoning over Thanksgiving from eating meat and requested that we eat only vegan food for a month. During that month, I discovered so many new ways to cook, was effortlessly eating more vegetables than I ever thought possible, and felt great. Then I watched a documentary called ‘What the Health’ where I learned how devasting modern animal agriculture is for the environment and that reducing or eliminating animal products was one of the most impactful actions I could take to combat climate change. That sealed the deal for me and I decided to stick with a plant-based diet.
Now that you are based in France, where do you find most of the ingredients for your
I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the availability of alternative foods in France. I can find dairy-free milk and tofu, and even meat and cheese alternatives at most supermarkets. France’s version of a health food store is the ‘bio’ store which can be found in most towns.
The bio store has a wider selection of vegan alternatives. The weekly markets with fresh and local vegetables and fruit is a paradise! The market produce is such good quality and often cheaper than the supermarkets. That’s where I like to shop the most.
What is one of your favorite markets you’ve discovered when exploring the French
I lived in a charming artists’ town for a few months called Pézenas. It has one of the largest and most famous Saturday markets in the Languedoc region. The market stretches down the entire main street of the town with unimaginable variety. I had never seen vegetables in so many different shapes and colors. In the summer I can get a bushel of basil there for just 1 euro that’s bigger than my head! Another beautiful and more well-known market is the one in Aix-en-Provence. It’s set up in a charming old square and feels like stepping into a painting.
How long does it take to make cashew cheese from scratch?
That depends on what kind of cheese you’re after. You can make a quick and easy parmesan substitute by grinding cashews (or almost any other nut or seed) in a processor for a few minutes, with some nutritional yeast. To make a smooth spreadable cheese, you have to soak the nuts for a few hours to overnight, then blend them into a paste. You can even go so far as to make a sliceable cheese by adding agar powder (vegan gelatin) to the mix and allowing it to set.
Tomato Blinis | Sarala Terpstra
I can’t wait to make the Mushroom Bourguignon and the Cherry Clafoutis. What are some of the dishes you make most frequently?
The Mushroom Bourguignon has been one of the most popular recipes in the book and is a favorite of mine on a cold winter’s night. Another popular recipe has been the Eggplant Meunière- a vegan reimagining of a classic fish recipe. It’s easy to make and can be served many different ways. The Beet Tartare is my go-to if I want to make something that feels fine dining and the Carrot Salad is very simple but delightful.
Out of all the recipes which were the hardest to adapt to a vegan-friendly recipe?
The Spinach Soufflé! A soufflé is traditionally made with whipped egg whites which gives it a towering form and spongy texture. It took many attempts to create a vegan recipe that still had some semblance or sensation of a soufflé. I try not to use tofu too often in my recipes because even though it’s very healthy and safe for most people to consume, there is a wariness of it. Perhaps tofu is seen as cliché in vegan cooking. But in this case, tofu did the
Your second book, The Plant Soirée is about the art of entertaining. What dishes would you prepare for a small intimate soirée with close friends?
The Pesto Sun Tart is really fun and always gets guests excited because of its impressive shape. The funny thing is, it’s one of the easiest recipes in the book. The Tomato Blinis which are inspired by a popular salmon hors d’oeuvre feel very elegant for an intimate soirée. For the main, the Vegetable Blanquette which is creamy white stew is hearty and seems to appeal to everyone.
Vegetable Blanquette | Sarala Terpstra
You released your first book in 2021 and your second book in 2022, do you have another cookbook currently in the works?
That’s a great question- one I’ve been asking myself. Both of my cookbooks are small. I wrote my first cookbook thinking it would just be a nice resource for my Instagram followers. I wrote the second one intending for it to be a little ebook for the holidays but got so many requests to make it available in print that I published it as a proper cookbook. Self-publishing two cookbooks has made me realize the ‘big picture’ of vegan French cooking as
I’ve sold many more copies than I expected, to a broader audience than I realized. So I would like to take my time with the next cookbook to create a much larger book that will serve the general interest in vegan French cuisine. It could be a while because I’m a one-woman show and cookbooks are a lot of work- but the wheels are always turning!