Food Industry

Sea Sheperd's Laura Dakin on Cooking Vegan Eats in Small Spaces

True heroes are hard to find these days (honestly, they were hard to find in any days), but the folks that make up the Sea Sheperd Conservation Society's' (SSCS) crew are the real deal. Led by Captain Paul Watson, the conservationists use their fleet of ships to stop the slaughter of ocean-dwelling wildlife. Basically, they kick ass  (not literally because they're non-violent) and save whales.

While the group was made famous in 2008 with the debut of its Animal Planet show, Whale Wars, SSCS has actually been saving lives since the 1970s. These are folks who practice what they preach, with all vessels in the fleet abiding by a vegan diet — a crucial part of ecological conservation. And since they're hard-working, tough-as-nails seamen (and women), obviously they eat more than lettuce and tofu. 

Cookin' Up a Storm is a new cookbook, chock full of recipes by Laura Dakin, chief chef of one of the SSCS' ships, the Steve Irwin. In addition to recipes for big boat banana bread, even-keel kabobs with dipping sauce and chickpea noodle soup for the vegan soul, the book features many of the crew's adventures and lots of interesting factoids.

We spoke to Dakin for a few tips on cooking with limited resources and some of her favorites from the new book. 

New Times: Given your expertise on working with limited space (and materials), what advice would you give vegan cooks who are dealing with small kitchens and/or a lack of access to ingredients?
Laura Dakin: We are pretty lucky on the Steve Irwin to have a fairly big space as far as ships galleys go, however, when the ship is moving (which is pretty much all the time), we cooks are confined to one tiny corner and must keep hold of everything. This can make the work space feel very small. My advice to folks, if they happen to be working in a small confined kitchen or galley space, is to try and keep the area as tidy and clean as possible. I don't have anything out on the workbench that I am not directly using, and I also have a corner where prepared ingredients can be kept out of harm's way, and out of your work space. It is also important, if you are cooking for long periods of time, to take trips above deck, (after making sure everything is secure) or outside, for a few gulps of fresh air and a change of scenery so you don't get galley fever.

The longer we are out at sea, the more limited our food supplies are, peaking about a week before we hit land with little to no fresh produce left over. If you find yourself cooking with limited ingredients be sure to plan your meals so that the foods that will perish sooner, are used up first. If you find yourself with a lot of one ingredient, soups are a fantastic and delicious way to get the most out of a pile of one kinda veggie. Also, don't be afraid to cook simple, clean dishes. It is often meals with the least number of ingredients that taste the best!

What's your favorite recipe in the new cookbook, and why?
My favorite recipe really does change every time I'm asked this question! Right now it's coming into winter in Australia and I am really digging soups. My all-time favorite soup recipe is the Spicy Greek Red Lentil. It is easy to make and completely satisfying. It tastes great the next day as well, if you have and left-overs.

Which dish from the book would you recommend serving to a die-hard meat eater?
I often find myself cooking the Sea Shepherd's Pie with Spicy Punk Rock Gravy for my meat-eating friends and family. It tastes good, is super filling, and does not up-set their tummies like a lot of fake-meat dishes can.

Sea Sheperd's Pie


  • 1 tablespoon (15 ml) vegetable oil 
  • 1 tablespoon (15 ml) vegan butter 
  • 3 cups (750 ml) sliced button mushrooms 
  • 1 leek, thinly sliced (tender green parts only) 
  • 1 onion, diced 
  • 1 carrot, peeled and diced 
  • 1 stalk celery, finely diced 
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced 
  • 3 tablespoons (45 ml) reduced-sodium tamari 
  • 1 teaspoon (5 ml) freshly ground black pepper 
  • 3 cups (750 ml) no-salt-added vegetable broth or water, plus more as needed 
  • 3 cups (750 ml) dried French lentils, picked over, rinsed, and drained 
  • 2 tomatoes, finely diced 
  • 1 tablespoon (15 ml) cider vinegar 
  • 1 tablespoon (15 ml) nutritional yeast flakes

  • 4 potatoes, peeled and diced 
  • 1 tablespoon (15 ml) olive oil, plus more for drizzling 
  • Pinch salt 
  • 1 tablespoon (15 ml) thinly sliced fresh chives

To make the filling, put the oil and butter in a large soup pot over medium-high heat until the butter is melted. Decrease the heat to medium and add the mushrooms, leek, onion, carrot, celery, and garlic and cook, stirring frequently, until soft, about 10 minutes. Add the tamari and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, for 8 minutes. Add the broth, lentils, and tomatoes and bring to a boil over medium-high heat.
Decrease the heat to medium, partially cover, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the lentils are tender, about 25 minutes. If necessary, add more broth as the lentils cook so they don’t become dry. Stir in the vinegar and nutritional yeast. Transfer to a 4-quart (4 L) casserole. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F (205 degrees C).

While the lentils cook, prepare the topping. Fill a medium saucepan with water and bring to a boil over high heat. Add the potatoes, partially cover, and cook until soft, about 15 minutes. Drain. Add the oil and salt and mash until the potatoes are smooth and creamy. Spread the topping evenly over the filling. Sprinkle the chives evenly over the topping and drizzle with olive oil. Bake for 20 minutes, until golden brown and bubbly. 

Cookin' Up a Storm is available now via Amazon
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Hannah Sentenac covers veg food, drink, pop culture, travel, and animal advocacy issues. She is also editor-in-chief of
Contact: Hannah Sentenac