Max is a low-waste chef and digital creator who has an audience of over 1.2 million followers across his social media platforms. Known to create simple and affordable dishes, Max makes sure to use each ingredient as much as possible. It’s through his life experiences and skills in which allowed him to create viral recipe videos which have now added up to over 1 billion views!
Not only becoming a viral sensation, Max is an award-winning author, where his debut cookbook ‘More Plants Less Waste’ was recognised as being the ‘Most Sustainable Cookbook’ at the 2020 Gourmand World Cookbook Awards.
It is through his passion of plant-based cookery which led to the release of his highly anticipated second cookbook, ‘You Can Cook This!’.
The book is all about more taste and less food waste, including over 100 no-fuss recipes that celebrate simple food with big flavour to keep things quick and easy. Covering inspirations for weeknight dinners and comforting one-pots to sweet treats and crowd-pleasing dishes, Max shows readers how to create delicious, veg-packed recipes with easy-to-follow methods.
Championing dishes with affordable ingredients is at the heart of Max, which is why he wants his readers to incorporate more veg into their lifestyle and be less wasteful in doing so!
In Conversation with Max La Manna
We managed to catch up with Max (when he wasn’t cooking up a storm in the kitchen!), and discussed the inspirations behind his new cookbook. We also got to understand what made him switch to a plant-based lifestyle and getting to know ways in which we can reduce our food waste.
Max, we’re super excited for the release of your newest cookbook, ‘You Can Cook This!’. Could you tell us the inspiration behind creating this book?
For two years I asked my online community which foods they were throwing away and wasting the most. I received around 50,000 responses and discovered that there are roughly 15 ingredients that are commonly thrown away in every household around the world. This was the beginning and the moment I realised that there this could be my next cookbook.
Within your cookbook you embrace the power of plants, what made you switch to a plant-based lifestyle?
Everyone is welcome to my table and I try to make that come through in my cookbooks – it doesn’t matter if your vegan or not, my food is for everyone. I went plant-based for the first time in 2012 for 6 months then went back to eating “everything”. It took me a few years, but I realised that I felt better physically and mentally overall so I went plant-based for the second time in 2016. I enjoy cooking with plants and seeing my friends and family enjoy the food I make with plants.
Top tips for people trying to adopt a more plant-based diet?
- Put more plants on your plate.
- Choose one meal a day or one day a week that will be entirely plant-based.
- Try new recipes and get curious.
You have so many delicious recipes in your new book, come on, you must have a favourite you like to make?
This is a tough one because there’s about 20 dishes I have in rotation from the book, but the one dish I tend to make on repeat is my Sticky, Spicy Ginger and Garlic Tofu Noodles. Imagine crispy crumbled tofu with a sweet and spicy ginger and garlic sauce poured over some warm noodles. I tend to add a few random streamed veg – whatever is at the bottom of my fridge drawer. This I have at least twice a week!
National Stop Food Waste Day is on the 26th April this year, what is one vegetable that most people tend to waste?
From my research over the two years, households are wasting almost everything they bring into their homes. The number one ingredient that is often wasted is bagged salad. As a country, we throw away over 1 million bags of salad every day. To help our readers waste less bagged salad, I like to wash it in cold water as soon as I get home, pat dry and then divide the leaves in half. Half will be stored in an airtight container with a paper or tea towel. The other half with be blanched then squeezed dried and kept in the freezer for stews, stir-fries, soups and curries. This is a sneak peak into what you may find in You Can Cook This!
Could you tell us a few ways in which people can try and reduce our food waste?
- Cook the food you already have!
- Create a list before shopping – and stick to that list!
- Store your leftovers in the freezer to enjoy later in the week or months ahead.
- Donate food to charities.
- Compost food scraps – if you don’t have a compost, contact your local council or MP and request a food waste recycling bin and programme.
What is a normal day in the life for you Max?
Every day is slightly different for me which keeps me on my toes. I normally check in with my team to see what projects we have and how I can help them achieve our goals. I can be recipe developing or filming a recipe video. I can recording a podcast or in the kitchen preparing my next supper club dinner. What I love most is that I can connect with people from all around the world and share tasting, delicious recipes with them. It fills my heart when I see people across the globe and from the around the corner make my dishes!
Name 3 things in your kitchen you can’t live without?
- Crunchy peanut butter
- Frozen blueberries
- Lemons and limes
Sticky Aubergine and Peanut Salad
Delicious! This is one of Max’s all-time favourite ways to cook aubergine. His main tip for cooking this dish is to grill the aubergine without any oil so you can get a really intense, smoky, charred flavour. The veg is then coated in a delightfully sweet, sticky maple-Sriracha glaze. Topped with a zesty peanut butter dressing, fresh herbs and of course peanuts, this dish is full of flavour! You can serve this with brown or white rice as a main dish.
- 2 aubergines
- 2 tbsp soy sauce or tamari
- 2 tbsp maple syrup
- 1 tbsp Sriracha
- 2 tbsp sesame oil
For the sweet and spicy peanut sauce:
- 2 tbsp peanut butter, either smooth or crunchy
- 1 tbsp Sriracha
- Zest and juice of 1-2 limes
- 1 tbsp maple syrup
- 50g peanut, roughly chopped
- 4 tbsp chopped fresh coriander
- 4 tbsp chopped fresh mint
- 3 spring onions
- 1 red chilli, thinly sliced
- A pinch of Maldon Salt
- Preheat the grill as high as it will go.
- Slice the aubergines in half lengthways and use a knife to cross hatch the flesh. Grill in a roasting tin for 10 minutes or until charred.
- Once the aubergine is grilled, remove from the oven and turn the oven to 220˚C/200˚C fan/gas 7.
- Meanwhile, whisk together the soy, maple syrup, sriracha and sesame oil. Place the charred aubergine on a baking sheet lined with baking parchment and drizzle with the marinade.
- Cover with foil and roast for 20 minutes. Remove the foil cover and spoon any glaze in the tray over the aubergine, then roast for a further 8–10 minutes, uncovered, until very soft and sticky.
- Whisk the ingredients for the sweet and spicy peanut sauce with enough water to make it drizzle-like consistency.
- Once the aubergines are cooked, place on a large platter and drizzle with the sauce. and a pinch of Maldon Salt. Scatter over the peanuts, coriander, mint, spring onions and red chilli.
Want To Create a Recipe From This Book?!
You can find where to purchase Max’s cookbook here and start creating a bountiful of easy yet deliciously good recipes for yourself and your family!
Make sure you have your Maldon Salt ready for these recipes! If you are running out, please feel free to browse on our Where to Buy Page to find your nearest store in which stocks our beloved Maldon Salt.