'Making vegan food mainstream is all we care about’ – Sheffield’s BOSH! serve up their second book
A good cookbook can work wonders.
When Henry Firth and Ian Theasby's first collection of vegan recipes - BOSH! - was published last year, they knew they had produced something worthwhile.
But the reaction from readers left them very pleased indeed - by the end of 2018 it was the year's bestselling debut cookbook, having held on to the number one spot in the Sunday Times hardback non-fiction chart for a month.
"We put a lot of time, effort and energy into the recipes," says Henry. "I think we hoped it would do well but it's been an absolute honour to see how it's been received and how many people have taken it on board, and really loved it."
It's opened up a lucrative new avenue for the Sheffield pair, both in their mid-30s. They met at High Storrs School aged 11 and later moved in together in London where they began making popular YouTube videos demonstrating how to prepare sundry vegan meals.
They were both converted after watching Kip Andersen's documentary Cowspiracy, which argues that animal agriculture is destroying the environment - however, Henry and Ian tend not to moralise, preferring to use the term 'plant-based' to describe their ethos.
"I think people are a lot more conscious of what they are putting inside themselves," says Ian as he attempts to explain their first book's success. "The conversation around plant-based food has got really loud of late, and our recipes are the sort that appeal to everybody."
A second book is ready for publication on Thursday. BISH BASH BOSH! - "It had to be called that, didn't it," says Henry - features another 140 recipes driven by a basic idea.
"We've decided to write a book that encompasses your favourites," says Ian, putting special emphasis on the word 'your'. "We believe that so much we've put it on the front. It's just some wonderfully tasty, hearty recipes that anybody could appreciate."
The first volume was about 'introducing someone to their first vegan meal', says Henry. "Whereas this is showing people how to get more plant-based cooking into their lives. There's meal planning tips and tricks, cooking hacks... we've highlighted mini recipes so people can use it as a point of reference and really turn it into a book they can use every single day."
They're particularly proud of a vegan chicken dish that comprises imitation meat made from seitan - protein-rich wheat gluten. "We developed a really interesting technique that hasn't been done before that achieves a ridiculously meaty texture, and the flavour is really good as well. When people make that it's going to knock their socks off," Ian promises.
An 'absolutely delicious' one-pot pasta is a standout and an 'incredible lasagna' is reportedly 'about as meaty as vegan food becomes'.
Elsewhere there are nods to their home city. "We did a pulled jackfruit sandwich which is basically a homage to a Roney's pork sandwich," Ian says, referring to the Sharrow Vale Road butcher's.
Should everybody be trying these recipes then?
"It's really healthy to eat more plants and the world is coming around to that now," says Henry simply. "The word vegan doesn't have the stigma it used to."
They have signed a deal for two more books with HarperCollins. How to Live Vegan - a guidebook, rather than a cookery tome - will be published in September, while The Healthy Vegan Diet is a further recipe collection, albeit with a wellness theme.
Is this the first time they've explicitly used the word 'vegan'?
"We've used the word, we've dotted it around, but we've not shoved it in people's faces before," says Henry. "The books are about living vegan, eating vegan... so they had to be called that really. I think we are already strident, but just in our own way. People have different ways of doing what they believe in."
But does it rankle with them when chefs who aren't vegan start offering up their own recipes? Gordon Ramsay, for example, has begun offering menus free from animal products in his restaurants, despite once claiming he'd electrocute his own children if they became vegetarians.
"I think we quite like the fact these massive household names are now dipping their toe into the vegan scene," says Ian diplomatically. "That's just indicative of what's happening in British culture at the moment."
They also welcome the fact that every major supermarket either expanded or announced a vegan range in 2018.
"This is all about making vegan food mainstream, that's all we care about," Henry insists. "That involves everyone being on board."
And yes, they've tried the Greggs vegan sausage roll that caused queues to develop outside branches when it was launched last year. "It's a sausage roll. Who doesn't like sausage rolls? For what it is, it's great," says Henry.
The BOSH! YouTube channel has reached 1.5 billion people - so while their books are selling extremely well, they have no plans to abandon social media, as both forms go hand-in-hand.
"Usually if a chef was releasing their first cookbook, they might find it difficult to sell as many copies as we did, but because we'd done so much work building up trust and a relationship with people we'd provided videos for online they bought the book in their droves and we couldn't be happier," says Ian.
Talks - "lots and lots of talks" - are ongoing about their own TV show. "There are irons in fires we're working on," says Henry.
Their territory has already been covered slightly - Dirty Vegan, the BBC's first foray into vegan cookery, aired in January, but neither Henry nor Ian watched it.
"It maybe didn't do as well as we would've hoped," says Ian. "If we're going to do a TV show you can be sure it's going to be a good one."
Henry and Ian will be launching BISH BASH BOSH! with a talk at Sheffield Hallam University tomorrow at 7.30pm. Visit www.offtheshelf.org.uk for tickets.