Posted by: Lisa Hill | December 8, 2019

Cooking with Kindness (2017), compiled by Pam Ahern

I borrowed Cooking with Kindness, over 70 recipes from Australia’s best vegan chefs and restaurants from the library not because I am a vegan.  I borrowed it because, since recent surgery, I have become, inexplicably, lactose intolerant.  This digestive catastrophe may, I’m told, be temporary, or last for months or a year, or maybe forever.  This last is too awful to contemplate because I love French cheeses, hot buttered crumpets, and creamy Paris mash.

So, in what I am determined is only the interim, I am experimenting with culinary denials of this tiresome problem.  I have created a recipe for date muffins made with cashew nut butter (which are quite nice); made a Coles magazine ‘cheesecake’ made with decadent coconut cream (though the nut-based crust fell apart all over the dining-table); made my signature ‘party plate’ spanakopita with goats cheese and dill instead of feta and ricotta (and it disappeared off the plate immediately so that was a success) and substituted lactose-free milk instead of the real thing in home-made Greek yoghurt.  (It tastes ok, but it doesn’t have that distinctive tang without which making your own seems hardly worth the bother.) ‘Paris’ mash made with goats milk tastes like the mash my mother used to make (and that’s not a compliment), but goats cheese on Ryvita is surprisingly good.  (Meredith Dairy make delicious goats cheeses (plain, dill, and (to-die-for) dusted with ash, and I have just discovered Maggie’s General Store in Tucker Rd Bentleigh where she had a version made with Australian native pepperberries, plus also some aged hard goats cheeses which I think hope are going to be ok.)

But I needed some recipes for entertaining that would be just as nice as the dips and nibbles we usually serve.  So I borrowed Cooking with Kindness from the library.  The recipes all come from vegan restaurants so they are commercially successful, not just worthy efforts by amateurs.  I skipped all the well-meaning ‘journey to veganism’ introductions, and (also skipping the breakfast chapter because I’m still ok with eggs) went straight to recipes which looked appealing.  In ‘Snacks’ I found a not-too-fatty recipe for hummus; a ‘Creamy Chipotle Aioli’ that will use limes from the garden; sweet potato chips (supposed to be served with tofu aioli, but I can’t abide tofu so I won’t be using that aioli); Curried vegetable samosas with a coconut yoghurt dipping sauce (coconut yoghurt?  who knew, and can I make it myself?! *See update below);  superfood bars with a million ingredients including cumin (but I shall leave out the quinoa flakes for sure); and ‘Scrumptious raw cacao balls’ made with dates.

There were also good ideas in the ‘Lunch and Dinner’ chapter, but (apart from the fact that I’m ok with fish and meat though I don’t like red meat) I have a good collection of vegetarian cookbooks with Indian curries and Italian meals using legumes etc and  most of them don’t use dairy.  Also, I cannot come at the idea of a vegan chowder made with soy milk.  Noooo.  I would rather just think nostalgically about creamy seafood chowders and do without.  (Hopefully not forever.) But ‘Pumpkin Coconut Soup’ sounds interesting, and so does ‘Lebanese Pearl Couscous, Pumpkin, Saffron and Figs; Eggplant Caponata will be useful at harvest time (if we have any leftover after I make ratatouille.  I love ratatouille.)  ‘Giant pasta with Mushroom Sauce’ looks nice and it uses rice milk to make the creamy sauce.  (I have yet to experiment with rice milk, almond milk etc., because I haven’t had a recipe to do it with.)  The ‘Calzoni Fritti’ made with an almond and cashew ‘ricotta’ and spinach look scrumptious, and so do the ideas for pizza but we’ve already got that sorted. (You just use pesto or a nutty spread instead of the cheese, and then add whatever’s growing in the garden.)  There’s a few good alternatives for burgers which are handy as well for when our vegetarian friends come for a BBQ.

But ‘Spag Bol’ and ‘Lentil Shepherd’s Pie’?  No, no, and no.  Some things are just not meant to be.  If you can’t have it, you can’t have it, and you should just have a nice glass of wine instead…

At the back of the book there’s a very useful collection of savoury and sweet sauces, even a caramel sauce, which actually looks a whole lot less tricky to make than a real one made with butter.

‘Sweet treats’ are a challenge when dairy is off the menu.  I’ve found ‘peanut butter cookies’ made with rice malt syrup; ‘peanut bars with a chocolate ganache’ made with agave syrup (which I will replace with honey); coconut gelato; and a ‘Red velvet cake with buttercream frosting’ (only, I have grave doubts about frosting made with margarine and soy milk). The ‘Chocolate beetroot cake with raspberries and avocado chocolate icing’ might be a better bet, eh? I have nothing to say about a pavlova whose meringue is made with chickpea water… but the ‘Mango and Lime Cheesecake with a chewy Chocolate Almond Crust’ not only looks very nice, but also as if the crust, made with almonds, dates and cacao, might solve the problem I had with crust that fell apart in the Coles ‘cheesecake’ recipe.  There’s a ‘Raw Creamy Dreamy Fruit Flan’ recipe that has a base of almonds, cashews, dates and tahini, which looks as if it’s holding together too, (though of course we all know by now how clever food photographers are — it could be held in place with hairspray for all we know, eh?)  I might try out the ‘Warm Oreo Brownie with Hot Chocolate Sauce’ on my neighbour whose faint American accent makes her an expert on Brownies, and when she joins us for dinner each week, we could try some of the winter warmers: the ‘Warm Mexican Corn and Blueberry Puddings’ made with polenta and flour; the ‘Pear upside-down pudding’; and the ‘pumpkin pie’ (though whether she will like that as much as my usual recipe remains to be seen. It comes from Meta Given’s Modern Encyclopedia of Cooking Vol II Fo-Z (Doubleday, USA. 1947) and this OpShopFind is a treasure trove of old-fashioned American cooking such as chowders, ‘brown Betties’, key lime pie, crumbles and pickles, though everything made with meat is best avoided and not from any vegan scruples!)

See, that’s the thing… it’s not just me suffering this dairy deprivation, it’s my friends and family too.  So I’m investing my time and creativity in finding delicious solutions that will tide us over this phase.  Which it had better be, and not a permanent state of affairs…

Even so, I think I’d better buy the book.

Update 21/12/19 I found some coconut yoghurt at the supermarket.  It is awful.  It is throw-out-the-rest-of-the-tub awful. And that is why I have crossed off the coconut yoghurt dipping sauce.

Title: Cooking with Kindness, over 70 recipes from Australia’s best vegan chefs and restaurants
Compiled by Pam Ahern founder and director of Edgar’s Mission
Photography by Julie Renouf
Publisher: Affirm Press, 2017, 233 pages
ISBN: 9781925584394
Source: Kingston Library


  1. Sorry to hear about your lactose issues. One thing that worked for me in a similar situation was Lactase tablets. Good luck!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Belinda, I’ll investigate those:)


  2. I do empathise with the sudden food horror situation. Diverticulitis and chemo has a similar impact. Goat’s and sheep’s cheeses are tangy and quite acceptable, but it depends on your palate. These days there are many more milk substitutes more widely available. Olive oil spread seems good. Coconut yoghurt is quite yummy. Aldi had it in Orange. Health food stores have it as well. Happy creative sourcing and cooking! I do hope that your tolerance improves sooner rather than later.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Steph, how lovely to hear from you! I hope you and your lovely garden are surviving the drought?
      You’re right, it’s not until you go looking that you discover all sorts of things: I’ve always been a cook-with-natural-things kind of cook, it derives from my Earth Mother Phase in the 1970s when I made everything from scratch, and spent very little time or money in the supermarket. And these days, since The Spouse does the shopping for food, I barely know where they shelve my face cream. But now I am scouring the shelves, from one end of supermarket to the other, and I’ve swallowed my scruples and gone to the Big Rapacious Ones that have been squeezing our poor farmers into bankruptcy, because they have the best range of odd things that our little local indie grocer doesn’t have. I’m exploring ‘health food stores’ too, but honestly, they sprout such rubbish about the products, you can’t believe anything they say.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. I hope this sorts out for you soon. The foods you’re investigating sound interesting though. I love sheep’s cheese but not in mash! 🤠🐧

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, the mash side of things is frustrating. You might remember that I once reviewed Mollie (Moosewood Cookbook) Katzen’s The Heart of the Plate, which features dozens of different kinds of mashes, but most of them use butter. (Katzen is vegetarian, not vegan, see
      I am going to go through her book with a fine tooth comb to see if any of them don’t, and then experiment from there.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I’m sorry for you Lisa and hope it is short-lived. However, you can survive! I discovered I was lactose intolerant back in 1983 when I was pregnant and thought I should up my dairy intake – with dire consequences. (It explained to my mum and me so much of why I was a thin child growing up – she kept trying to fatten me up with her lovely Sunshine Milk Powder ice cream and I kept … well, let’s not go into that.)

        Anyhow, I have a lot of substitutes for dairy that work OK. I use soy milk and nuttlex (dairy free spread) as substitutes a lot of the time and they are fine. Friands with nuttlex aren’t quite the same as with butter but they are not bad.

        Mash though has been a challenge. My current method is to use olive oil and/or some nuttlex, and soft Meredith Dairy goat’s cheese. I play with the quantities depending on the type and quantity of potatoes, but I think the mash works well. You can also try Duchess potato, using substitutions and adding the egg. The helps you get lovely soft mash.

        I love Manchego cheese, and our local deli has a magnificent Truffle Pecorino.

        As you probably know lactose intolerance is a spectrum thing so you have to work out how much lactose you can tolerate. As you know I have a complicated set of intolerances to manage, so I am forever juggling my diet to keep my eczema under control. It’s a lifetime thing for me. If you have any particular questions, let me know though I’ve probably given up a lot of things that you are still perhaps hanging on to!!


        • Ah, you know me so well. I am indeed ‘hanging onto’ things!
          I’ll try your suggestions, especially for the mash. There are some meals that absolutely must have a mash, and I’m definitely hanging onto that!


          • Hopefully you’ll be back to normal sooner rather than later. Me? I had to give up hanging on to things pretty early on. It’s interesting though that we poor people with intolerances have struggled for decades but now, suddenly, veganism has created a whole new market that we can tack onto! I am partly resentful about this, but partly grateful too! (Veganism doesn’t solve all my issues, but it helps, particularly in the dessert area.)

            PS I laughed at your comments re your Mum’s Paris mash. I have never been a mash fan because my mum’s wasn’t great, but in recent times, working out my substitutions, I’ve become a bit of a fan.


            • I know, I feel for you. If all else fails, I’ve had a lifetime of great culinary experiences…

              Liked by 1 person

  4. I can’t even imagine not eating cheese. (That would be enough to not become vegan, unless it’s for a health issue) Poor you, I hope it gets better soon.

    Thanks for this lively billet. There are some interesting recipes in there and the positive outcome of this predicament is that you’ll discover new dishes.

    PS: I had to Qwant “Paris mash”, I suppose it’s what we call “purée”.
    (I say Qwant because I don’t use Google anymore, Qwant doesn’t use your data)

    Liked by 1 person

    • I know: I tried not to look, but they had the most gorgeous Brie and Camembert at Maggie’s Grocery Store yesterday…and there is a cheeserie in Hampton that sells the most divine cheeses from all over the world. Maybe if I try the Lactase tablets that Belinda suggests above, who knows?
      Yes, Paris Mash (as we know it) is potato puree, but with decadent levels of butter, milk and cream, and particular varieties of potato i.e. Dutch Creams or Nicolas, both of which we grow in our garden. You can use Desirees too. Here’s a recipe:
      Qwant? LOL I Googled it. I’ll give it a try because I hate Google.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Frico Chevrette goats cheese is a pale hard-ish cheese which is not too bad as a substitute for grilled cheese on toast substitute. It’s fairly easy to find in IGAs and even supermarkets now I think.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, that’s what I bought from Maggie’s Grocery Store. It’s delicious.


  6. I was a lactose intolerant child, but I can now tolerate lactose in moderation. I hope that this is temporary for you, Lisa, but if it isn’t it looks like you’ve found some alternatives …. best of luck.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Jennifer.
      Gosh, that must have been hard as a child… no ice cream!
      Strangely enough, I can’t enjoy a Magnum any more, but I can eat my own home made icecream, which is made with eggs and sugar and cream, and either lemons or limes, depending on what’s in glut in the garden. (Stephanie Alexander’s recipe.) Something must happen to the lactose in the process of making it…

      Liked by 1 person

      • Haha Lisa, love it, another closet Magnum lover! My father loves Magnums and my kids’ big memories of visiting my parents when they were kids were the Magnums in the garage fridge. Dad now had a mini-Magnum most days. And why not?

        BTW I can tolerate some cream and butter, more than I can milk/yoghurt/cheese. But that’s partly, I believe, because of casein which way less present in the fatty part of the dairy. Casein allergy/intolerance is different to lactose intolerance, and is more related to eczema. So, sometimes when I’m out I will have a Creme Brûlée (if it’s been made only on cream. Not so good for the cholesterol though) because I can tolerate some lactose and it doesn’t tend to contribute to the eczema. But, if I overdo it, then I learn my lesson!


        • Ooh, yes, loved those mini-Magnums in the freezer!

          Liked by 1 person

          • There are now dairy free ones, not minis, but they are very sweet. I had a couple last summer.

            Liked by 1 person

  7. Sorry about your lactose intolerance, I don’t ever have milk but I live on cheese.
    I use DuckDuckGo to avoid G******. It mostly comes up with the same stuff literature-wise, as far as I can tell.

    Liked by 1 person

    • AH well, I’ve bought some of the lactase tablets that Belinda suggested above, and it will be cheese that I tried them with first!


  8. You might be ok with butter. It has only traces of lactose. By the way, when was the last time you heard someone say ‘hard cheese’, as in ‘hard luck’? Here’s hoping the intolerance doesn’t last. In the meantime, enjoy the culinary challenge.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I wish I were ok with butter, but it’s just about the worst thing.
      But tonight I tried Belinda’s lactase tablets when I was out at dinner and a dish came with labne, and that seemed to be ok!


      • Odd about the butter but encouraging about the lactase.


  9. Hi,

    I love your writing on “Cooking with Kindness”. Your post is very much helpful and informative. Keep up the good work and present us your best.



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