Fearne Cotton isn’t actually vegan. Shock horror. In fact, she is quick to note: "I bloody love an omelette."
And yet, the 38-year-old has written an entirely plant-based, animal-free cookbook, Happy Vegan. In its introduction, she explains this isn’t a contradiction. Vegetarian from the age of 12, with a brief foray into pescatarianism in her 20s, she still cooks meat, fish and dairy for her family (husband Jesse Woods, children Honey and Rex, and step-children Arthur and Lola), and most of her baking involves eggs.
However, the Londoner is not one to eschew reinvention. Her telly life started at age 15 as a presenter on The Disney Club, followed by Diggit alongside her long-time friend Reggie Yates. Radio 1, Top Of The Pops and Celebrity Juice presenting gigs swiftly followed, but now, instead of the celeb partying you might expect from a well-connected TV darling, her Instagram feed is a serene corner of the internet, devoted to yoga (and enviable leggings), vegan cookery, and the lessons she’s learned from the empowering, positive people she interviews on her Happy Place podcast.
From kids’ TV presenter to wellness conduit – the woman is all about moving forward and doing what feels right for you, when it feels right.
And so, now, she explains, "I am a vegetarian who eats probably 90% vegan." Chickens arguably take the full brunt of the fact she’s not 100% there; the most challenging aspect of going totally plant-based, she says, is not eating eggs. "I do love eating eggs," she adds again, for good measure.
Then there’s the fact vegan options can often be limited at times. "If I’m out travelling with work, it can be trickier," she muses, "so I may eat a little butter in those moments."
Egg and butter-fuelled work trips aside, "more and more people are eating vegan and are up for experimenting," says Cotton. Hence Happy Vegan, which she says is for "vegans; people that have never tried vegan; and those like myself, who eat a lot of vegan food but want to learn more," – and that’s regardless of the motivation behind your decision.
"We all have a better understanding these days of how food affects us, and also how our food choices affect the planet," adds Cotton. "Whenever you decide to eat vegan, whether it be for a month or once a week on a Monday, it’s still going to be beneficial to you and the planet."
In terms of the recipes, "fun and easy" is her mantra – so don’t expect to have to go shopping for a vast array of new ingredients, or for a specific vegan larder. There are cauliflower steaks and tofu fingers, tomato dahl and vegetable kofta wraps, plus the odd recipe that might raise a few surprised eyebrows. Take her blueberry and cannellini bean traybake with tahini and maple syrup icing, Cotton’s way of tricking her kids into eating more protein.
And she is particularly proud of her veggie black bean sausages. "I was dead-set on creating my own kind of homemade banger," she buzzes. "They’re packed with flavour and so easy to make."
Cotton spent a lot of time in LA in her 20s and ate at a lot of vegan restaurants while there, so she’s found it really exciting to see so many restaurants closer to home increasingly adopting the ethos, or at least offering more interesting vegan options.
She’s all about making it a lifestyle that’s more accessible, especially at home, even getting her kids involved in the kitchen. "I cook with the kids a lot," she says. "They luckily love it, but it’s mainly cakes they enjoy making! Banana loaves, choc energy balls – Honey’s fave – chocolate cake… They love it all."
It echoes memories she made as a child herself; she recalls making jam tarts with her Nan Ruby, ones that were "super gooey with a rough crust!"
However, Cotton understands that not everyone finds cooking enjoyable, and it can feel even more daunting if you’re trying vegan recipes for the first time. Her advice – particularly if cooking is something you find stressful – is to "keep trying to cook from scratch for fun", and to "put great music on, take your time if you can, and be proud of what you created".
Ultimately, it’s about finding what works for you. "If you don’t eat enough or eat too much sugar, or binge on a certain food too much you’ll, of course, feel rubbish," she explains. "Eating in a balanced way can be challenging with how fast-paced life is, but if we have fun cooking and try new stuff, and notice how we feel after eating certain things, we have a better chance of having more energy and a better mindset."
Happy Vegan: Easy Plant Based Recipes To Make The Whole Family Happy by Fearne Cotton, photography by Andrew Burton, is published by Orion Spring. Available now.