“Pine nuts are expensive and avocados are delicious!”.
Jayson’s approach to cooking is pragmatic. A vegetarian since 2008 and ardent vegan since 2010, Jayson’s dietary choice is not based on ethics, but nutrition, agency and cost-effectiveness; “pretty much everything I cook is based on how can I make it as nutrient dense as possible”. What is nutrient density? Jayson substantiated his statement, “The whole idea of nutrient density is the total nutrition divided by the number of calories. So an apple or spinach is highly nutrient dense because they have high amounts of nutrients but low calories”.
Growing up, Jayson rarely ate red meat, and chicken and fish were infrequently consumed in this home. Independently of each other, and while living in different countries, Jayson’s parents and brother became vegan over a period of a few years. During his last year of high school, Jayson attended a campus in California where all food served on site was strictly vegetarian. Attributing his veganism to a number of factors, including his school environment, working on an organic farm, and researching dietary benefits, Jayson believes the dietary transition was not a difficult one, particularly due to a pulse based diet he was accustomed to. “My mother is from South India, so we ate mostly Daal, and a million and one variations of curry, rice, and a lot of silver beet growing up. Everything always had turmeric in it. My mum had this great ability to take any food, like pasta or Chinese food, or whatever and make it Indian.”
Citing his mother as a wonderful cook, Jayson found that becoming a vegan also resulted in him improving his culinary skills. “There aren’t always vegan options when you go out. What sucks about being vegan is I miss out on free food at events all the time”. Much of what Jayson prepares and cooks nowadays is often inspired by traditional recipes, which he then improvises to make them vegan. The vegan pesto is the brainchild of both Jayson and his friend Sarah. “We came up with this recipe based on pumping in as much micro and macro nutrient density into something that is still tasty. So the first step was veganising pesto… and the next step was to make it really healthy by reducing the olive oil. And the avocado is to replace the pine nuts and to make it a lot cheaper”.
“I make everything in industrial amounts” – Jayson
1 kilo of gnocchi: boil until it floats to the top of the saucepan
2 zucchinis sliced and lightly fried
400g sliced mushrooms lightly fried with smashed garlic
1 garlic clove smashed
Salt and pepper to taste
For the pesto, blend the following until combined into a smooth paste
2 garlic cloves
2 basil bunches
Juice of 1 lemon (to prevent the avocado from oxidising and turning brown)
Mix pesto blend with mushrooms and zucchini and a little extra salt and pepper if needed
Combine gnocchi with pesto sauce and serve