People Behind The Food: Mira Manek

You may have noticed that the Veggie Option team love talking about food. And we will quite happily talk food with anyone we meet. The only thing we love more than talking about food is listening to the lovely people that we meet talk about their love of plant-based food. This week, we’re featuring Mira Manek, author of the bestselling cookbook Saffron Soul, as she has just launched the first CHAI-focused cafe in London, Chai by Mira, in Kingly Court Soho. Over the last few years, through her blog, her instagram and various supperclubs and yoga brunches, Mira has given Indian food a facelift, accenting traditional recipes passed down from her mother and grandmother with a wholesome, yet contemporary twist. Through dishes such as beetroot coconut curry, masala-grilled aubergine and saffron-lime cheesecake, Mira is all about making Indian spices and seasonings more accessible to all. She has collaborated with the likes of Raw Press and Holborn Dining Rooms, where you'll still find her dishes on the menu. And her distinctive and delicious style of cooking has all now come together at her new space, Chai by Mira, which is housed inside Triyoga Soho.



Can you tell us a bit about your work and why plant-based ingredients are important to you/your work/food/way of cooking/products?

I've always been vegetarian and grew up eating vegetable curries, daals and beans. Taking my own home food, the wonderful dishes that my mum, my grandmother and aunts have made and still make everyday as inspiration, I created my own Indian-inspired recipes. It is only in the last few years that I've really realised the importance of vegetables in our daily diet, and how eating well can impact our energy levels, our vitality, the colour of our skin and even our happiness every single day.


Why do you think it is important that we, as a society, change our eating habits to include more plants?

Plants contain a whole array of vitamins and nutrients that our bodies need to function, to promote longevity and to prevent disease in the future. There was a time not so long ago when vegetables were an accompaniment to a dish. Now, they've taken centre stage. They often ARE the event! Having discovered and rediscovered spices from all over the world, we are all collectively realising the way they can entirely alter the flavour of plants and make vegetables incredibly exciting. That said, these ideas and changes and ingredients still need to travel outside of the main cities and benefit more and more people.


What 3 plant-based ingredients can you not live without?

Broccoli, spinach, almonds (almond milk!) - this is a real tricky one to answer!



What is your all-time favourite plant-based dish to cook or eat (in or out)? And what types of dishes do you avoid, if any?

Spinach curry, sweet potato wedges with a coriander chutney, tarka daal with coconut milk.... and so much more!


What is your go-to cafe/restaurant (other than your own) for an inspired veg-focused meal?

I love Farmacy in Notting Hill, Farm Girl, Juice Baby, Shoryu for a ramen bowl, Nopi for gourmet salads, Planet Organic for a quick wholesome and fresh lunch box, Maple & Co for colourful salads... to name a few!  (And did I mention, Chai by Mira?!)