Badass, tasty plant-based recipes


Best mates as well as YouTube su­per­stars, the ve­gan Bosh! boys aren’t mil­i­tant about meat-free eat­ing – they just want to share their love of ‘badass’ plant-based food

This is the thor­oughly modern tale of how a cou­ple of hip­sters tapped into the culi­nary zeit­geist and con­quered the (virtual) world. First they were best mates. Then flat­mates. Next they were work mates. One of them turned ve­gan. So did the other.

Then they thought it would be fun to launch their own on­line cook­ery chan­nel and Bosh!, a global phe­nom­e­non, was born.

That was in June 2016. Now, Henry Firth and Ian Theasby, both 33, are ve­gan su­per­stars, whose recipe demon­stra­tions reach 26 mil­lion peo­ple a month world­wide. Their brand name is Bosh! be­cause it ‘sounds fast and fun and the very op­po­site of fussy’ and, in­evitably, they’ve been dubbed the Bosh! boys. Also rather in­evitably, they’ve been com­pared to Ant and Dec be­cause their suc­cess lies in their friend­ship as much as food, but they don’t see it that way: this isn’t show­busi­ness, these lads are on a mis­sion to change the way we all eat.

‘We’d like to be thought of as the slightly less hairy Hairy Bik­ers,’ says Ian. ‘But re­ally we’re just do­ing our own thing and bang­ing the drum for de­li­cious, plant-based food. This is all so ex­cit­ing and the launch of our book is a ma­jor mile­stone for us.’ And not just for them, for their fans, too; their hotly an­tic­i­pated Bosh! cook­book soared to the top of the Ama­zon charts on pre-or­ders alone. Oh, and if you’re still not con­vinced that ‘ve­gan su­per­star’ isn’t a con­tra­dic­tion in terms, you prob­a­bly aren’t aware that Bey­oncé is a ve­gan. So are Brad Pitt and Liam Hemsworth.

‘Our food isn’t just aimed at ve­g­ans,’ em­pha­sises Henry. ‘It’s for ev­ery­one. There’s a huge groundswell of in­ter­est in go­ing meat-free; peo­ple want to try new flavours, new dishes that don’t in­clude any an­i­mal prod­ucts. We’re not out to con­vert any­one and we are cer­tainly not in the least bit mil­i­tant. We just hope we can con­vince – not by lec­tur­ing any­one but by shar­ing our badass, plant-based recipes.’ If you’ve never heard ve­gan­ism de­scribed as ‘badass’ it’s time to tune in to The boys’ first ever recipe, for healthy sushi cake, has re­ceived more than three mil­lion views on Face­book. Their sec­ond, mezze cake, notched up five mil­lion, but the su­per-vi­ral record-breaker was their wa­ter­melon Jäger­bomb punch, which was viewed 17 mil­lion times in the first week. They’ve made rata­touille with Take That’s Gary Bar­low and they’re hop­ing the newly ve­gan might drop by their home in Lon­don, where they film their videos. It’s a far cry from mung beans, hemp san­dals and virtue sig­nalling.

Tall – both six foot­ers – dark and hand­some, the Bosh! boys al­ways dress in black as an ex­ten­sion of their cool brand. Henry, wear­ing a hoodie bear­ing the leg­end ‘Work Harder’, is smi­ley and gar­ru­lous while Ian is more re­served. Both are funny, warm and ra­di­ate a re­laxed as­sur­ance. They are, in short, the an­tithe­sis of the joy­lessly earnest ve­g­ans of old. Their gen­er­a­tion con­sider it cool to eat Quorn, drink soya lat­tes and care about global warm­ing.

It is es­ti­mated that around 2 per cent of the Ir­ish pop­u­la­tion – about 95,500 – are veg­e­tar­ian, with a grow­ing num­ber of them be­com­ing ve­g­ans. Many more of us are chang­ing our eat­ing habits, coin­ing new terms such as flex­i­tar­ian, or semi-veg­e­tar­ian.

Last year more than a quar­ter of us de­lib­er­ately re­duced our meat in­take for rea­sons of health, an­i­mal wel­fare and en­vi­ron­men­tal­ism. ‘We make good, sim­ple food that isn’t bland or bor­ing or ex­pen­sive,’ says Ian. ‘It’s easy to cook and get fired up about, not be­cause it’s wor­thy but be­cause it tastes amaz­ing. That’s how to get peo­ple hooked on ve­gan­ism.’

Henry and Ian first met at sec­ondary school. ‘We weren’t close friends, we just felt a con­nec­tion,’ ex­plains Henry.

No one in his fam­ily is a ve­gan, but they were all so im­pressed when he cooked them a ve­gan Christ­mas din­ner three years ago that they’ve asked him to do it ev­ery year since. He has a ve­gan girl­friend, Emily-Jane – a make-up artist who sells ve­g­an­friendly make-up kit bags.

‘Be­ing ve­gan wasn’t a cri­te­rion for the re­la­tion­ship,’ Henry grins. ‘It just hap­pened that way and it makes life eas­ier, for sure.’ Ian, who is ‘hap­pily sin­gle’, con­curs. Any fu­ture girl­friend could be a meat eater – it wouldn’t be a prob­lem. ‘But I would be cook­ing ve­gan food for her and she would be so well fed that she might be per­suaded.’

There was no in­ti­ma­tion that either Ian or Henry would end up as full-time food­ies. Af­ter leav­ing school Ian worked in fash­ion re­tail, while part-time DJ Henry coded web­sites and set up his own tech com­pany in 2012, where Ian, by then his flat­mate, be­came his first em­ployee and mar­ket­ing man­ager.

Then, three years ago, Ian de­cided to do Dry Jan­uary and ditch al­co­hol for a month. ‘I found it easy, so I upped the ante by do­ing Ve­gan­uary and it re­ally suited me,’ he says. ‘I slept bet­ter, I felt bet­ter and woke up with so much more en­ergy. As the weeks went by, my hair grew thicker and I lost weight; it was a win-win out­come. It was the best thing I’ve ever done.’

When Ian started cook­ing ve­gan meals at home, Henry was con­vinced he ought to give it a go. He felt that


go­ing ve­gan rather than veg­e­tar­ian showed a greater com­mit­ment to an­i­mal wel­fare.

‘I’ve al­ways been in­ter­ested in en­vi­ron­men­tal is­sues,’ says Henry. ‘And af­ter see­ing the doc­u­men­tary Cowspiracy, which ex­am­ines the dev­as­tat­ing im­pact of an­i­mal agri­cul­ture on the en­vi­ron­ment, I felt a per­sonal re­spon­si­bil­ity to do some­thing.’

At this point Ian hastily in­ter­jects that he comes from a farm­ing back­ground – his grand­par­ents were farm­ers – and that they both re­spect the dif­fer­ent choices peo­ple make about what they eat. ‘We re­alise that meat and dairy agri­cul­ture is a big part of the econ­omy and we aren’t here to con­demn it. Most of our friends aren’t ve­gan and that’s OK. Ours is a pos­i­tive mes­sage: try this pasta burger; it’s de­li­cious, good for you and good for the planet.’

Henry dis­cov­ered that a ve­gan diet even cured his long-term hay fever. And as he and Ian started ex­plor­ing new in­gre­di­ents, search­ing in vain for ap­petis­ing recipes, in­spi­ra­tion struck: why not use their tech back­ground to set up an on­line chan­nel ded­i­cated to plant-based dishes, cooked with equal help­ings of pas­sion and panache? So that’s ex­actly what they did. Henry sold his busi­ness and Bosh! be­came their fo­cus.

‘From the out­set we’ve taken the great­est of care with ev­ery recipe,’ says Ian. ‘We de­cide ev­ery morn­ing what we’re go­ing to cook, then we buy the in­gre­di­ents, prac­tise the recipe and film it. Then we spend four or five hours edit­ing the film. That’s im­por­tant; qual­ity food de­serves high pro­duc­tion val­ues. So what looks like a quick video is ac­tu­ally an eight- or nine-hour labour of love.’

It’s a labour that is fi­nally pay­ing off. Un­til now the Bosh! boys have been ‘boot­strap­ping’: do­ing every­thing on the cheap, re­ly­ing on sav­ings and scratch­ing a liv­ing from free­lance tech work. Their book deal is an im­por­tant con­sol­i­da­tion of their brand; they’d love to take it fur­ther with a main­stream cook­ing show and, frankly, it would be mad­ness not to give them one.

At a time when we are all ex­am­in­ing our eat­ing habits, ve­gan food could do with some prime­time ex­po­sure and these two are gen­uine, lik­able and watch­able pre­sen­ters.

‘We both love food and have a dif­fer­ent ap­proach to cook­ing, which is great be­cause we com­ple­ment each other,’ says Henry. ‘Ian is me­thod­i­cal and thinks things through with great pre­ci­sion. I’m more about, “How can we make the process quicker and more ef­fi­cient?” I also vi­su­alise what our next step will be as a brand.’

There’s just one point of ten­sion be­tween the duo and even that’s quite mild: Henry has an in­abil­ity to wash up as he goes along and Ian has a ten­dency to get ex­as­per­ated by the mess. They’re not quite at the stage of fin­ish­ing each other’s sen­tences, like a mar­ried cou­ple, but time will tell. Henry’s favourite treat is a mush­room roast din­ner. Ian loves a spaghetti bolog­nese with mush­room mince. The only things they ‘miss’ from the old days are fish and chips (Henry) and Ian’s mum’s choco­late brown­ies. Need­less to say they have painstak­ingly cre­ated ve­gan ver­sions.

As far as sup­ple­ments go, the pair take ve­gan omega-3 and 6 and a mul­tivi­ta­min pill daily to cover any short­fall, par­tic­u­larly B12, which is gen­er­ally lack­ing in a plant-based diet. Other­wise ev­ery nu­tri­tional need is cov­ered. More­over, din­ing out as a ve­gan is be­com­ing eas­ier all the time. The grow­ing pop­u­lar­ity of Ve­gan­uary menus un­der­lines the de­sire to eat well with­out an­i­mal prod­ucts. ‘Even just a few years ago, if we wanted to eat out the choice in most restau­rants was either salad or chips or salad with chips,’ says Henry. ‘Nowa­days it’s very dif­fer­ent; one marker is the sheer num­ber of al­ter­na­tive milks on the su­per­mar­ket shelves. It used to be just soya and pos­si­bly al­mond; now there’s oat milk, rice milk, co­conut milk, cashew milk and so on. There’s a real hunger for change.’

Kitchen cre­ativ­ity is on the in­crease; even that holy grail of ve­gan­ism, a juicy meat-free Be­yond Burger that ‘bleeds’ (beet­root juice, since you ask), is due to ar­rive any time now. It’s fair to say there’s been a rad­i­cal blur­ring of the bound­aries be­tween fast food and fab­u­lous food. ‘We’ve tasted those burg­ers and they are great,’ con­firms Henry. ‘It’s re­ally ex­cit­ing. There’s so much go­ing on that we in­tend to pub­lish a new cook­book ev­ery year.’

It’s a de­mand­ing sched­ule, but they are cer­tainly not short of en­ergy and drive. ‘Set­ting up your own busi­ness is tough and de­mand­ing,’ says Ian. ‘Be­cause we’ve been friends for so long we can rely on each other. We’ve spent the best part of six years to­gether all day, ev­ery day so we can han­dle this crazy rou­tine; we put in around 80 hours a week.’

As far as the next step is con­cerned, the Bosh! boys are mulling over the idea of pro­vid­ing home-de­liv­ered ve­gan meals us­ing an ex­ist­ing firm such as De­liv­eroo be­cause some­times even the most vir­tu­ous of ve­g­ans can’t be both­ered to cook. ‘The first ques­tion the sub­scribers to our chan­nel ask is when there’s go­ing to be a Bosh! restau­rant. We did think about it, but a de­liv­ery ser­vice is more scal­able; our food can reach more peo­ple in more places that way.’

An­other way to ex­pand their em­pire would be to have their own range of kitchen gad­gets (the sec­ond most-asked ques­tion is about their favourite food pro­ces­sor). I think young peo­ple in par­tic­u­lar would be in­clined to in­vest in Bosh! kitchen es­sen­tials. The name is cool and the con­cept is cooler. The Bosh! boys have whet­ted an ap­petite for de­li­cious food with a dif­fer­ence. Bon ap­petit!

Henry films as Ian whips up an­other ve­gan dish for their Bosh! TV chan­nel. Op­po­site: the pair are nat­u­rals in front of the cam­era

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