Ava Szajna-Hopgood
November 30, 2013 1:00 pm

“You used to be hard to buy for. Now you’re impossible.”

My best friend emails me after what I’m guessing is probably an exasperating trawl through the internet to find me a Christmas present. Before, this was a feasible task, now, apparently, it is just too much.
“Where I used to be able to stick with the innocuous bath bomb gift set or whatever, now it’s all gotta be eco-this and BUAV-approved that. I can’t keep up!”
Ironically enough, turning vegan for me started with a Christmas list (don’t make out I’m the only one that still writes these!). I was halfheartedly searching through Amazon customer lists for ‘Books That Will Change Your Life’ when I came across Jonathan Safran Foer’s Eating Animals. Just reading the blurb had me hooked, so I added the title to my Christmas list and emailed it off to my Dad.
It was only in the first days of January, as I began to read, that I realised the impact Eating Animals would have on me. Within a couple of chapters I knew I was going to have to start thinking about veganism in a new light. Despite the stereotypes, the eye-rollings from best friends and the possibility of becoming “every BFF‘s festive nightmare”, as I am now referred to by email, I realised I needed to know more.
So here’s a list for the vegan in your life that wants to know more- whether this is you, or a best friend you keep drawing a gift-list blank with. It’s a starting point for anyone struggling with stocking fillers, but Gigglers – if you have any other suggestions, please add them below in the comments section, as I still have a list I need to finish for this year!
Finding out he’s soon going to be a father, Foer decides to investigate exactly what it means to be eating animals in the Twenty First Century, as well as its impact on the environment and the moral implications. Accessible, non-preachy and absolutely shocking. Also file under must-read.
Although it’s easy to assume a vegan diet is automatically healthy, there’s a ton of junk food out there that’s also default vegan. Case in point: when I first went vegan, I didn’t quite understand the importance of focusing my meals around a plant-based diet, as opposed to the potato-chips-and-Coca-Cola-are-both-vegan-and-how-amazing-is-that diet.
This documentary introduced me to an entirely new way of thinking about the food I was eating as a vegan. Forks Over Knives is a fantastic way of thinking about the health-giving properties of the foods we eat, and reaffirming the idea that you truly are what you eat. The cook book under the same title is also chock-a-block of plant-based recipes to try.
Isa, (as she is fondly known in my kitchen) is something of a touchstone for contemporary, do-able and exciting vegan cooking. She’s the First Lady of veganism, if you will, and any person that’s published an entire cookbook on vegan brunches has my vote for life. Isa has written a ton of cookbooks on pretty much every vegan culinary scenario you can imagine, but I think Vegan with a Vengeance best distills the DIY, punk aesthetic of veganism that got me so excited to begin making vegan food for myself.
From hosting pop-up brunch cafes to the best egg-replacers in baking, Vegan with a Vengeance makes a great first cookbook for anyone you know who has just turned vegan or is thinking about it. You could work through all her ideas for a year and still not finish this book as there’s so may suggestions and ways to tweak the recipes to your own taste. But the best parts, as with any great cookbook, aren’t the recipes but Isa’s anecdotes about starting a community access program and discovering the vegan scene in Brooklyn. Reading about this inspired me to start writing and creating something for myself from my own findings, which I think is the best thing a book can ever do.
Now that you’ve got your Christmas list all worked out, here’s a gift you can make yourself to give back. These cocoa and coconut-rolled vegan truffles are super easy to make and would be really fun to do with your whole family or a bunch of friends. Just make sure you leave enough time for the ganache to set, and hold some spare truffles back for a few ‘taste tests’ before giving them all away.
Cocoa and Coconut-Rolled Vegan Chocolate Truffles 

Makes 30 truffles

Ingredients 

  • 1 ½ cups or 300g of the best dark chocolate you can find (we’re talking 70% cocoa solids and above)
  • Pinch of salt
  • 2 tbsp virgin coconut oil
  • Scant 1 cup/ 220 ml coconut milk

For coating the truffles:

  • Desiccated coconut, cocoa powder, or anything else you fancy!

The ganache needs to be made ahead of time to cool and set, so prepare at least 4 hours in advance, or even better, leave in the fridge overnight.

Break the chocolate in to small chunks and place in a large bowl with the salt and coconut oil. In a pan on a medium heat, bring the coconut milk to the boil. Once it reaches boiling temperature, turn off the heat and pour over the chocolate. Gently stir the chocolate and coconut oil in to the milk until everything has melted and there are no chunks of chocolate left. The ganache should be smooth and rich looking and all one colour.

Pour the mixture into a bowl for the fridge, and cover with cling film. Leave for at least four hours to set.

Once the ganache is set, you’re ready to start rolling! Make sure the room you’re preparing the truffles in isn’t too warm as this will melt the mixture. It’s also a good idea to wash your hands in cold water and dry them thoroughly, so you at least start with cold, dry hands to begin shaping the ganache.

Set out one plate with desiccated coconut, and one with cocoa powder, along with the ganache bowl and some teaspoons. The cocoa powder gets everywhere so make sure you’re working on an easy-to-clean surface.

Take a large teaspoon of the mixture and begin to roll it in your hands. Once it reaches a rough ball shape, roll in either the cocoa or coconut and set on a plate.

As your hands heat up from rolling they will melt the chocolate faster, so try to handle the ganache as little as possible, or wash them again with cold water if you feel the ganache warming up too quickly. Once you have all your truffles made, store in an air-tight box in the fridge for up to five days, or pop in the freezer until you’re ready to give them away.

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