So how was your Veganuary?
Thinking of carrying on?
Or at least exploring meat-free options whenever you can?
I’ve been vegetarian bordering on vegan for several years now and (shock) Pork Belly’s been keeping me company, dramatically cutting his meat consumption.
So if you’re pushing on beyond January here’s our take on the 9 things that will help you stay ‘veganish’. It’s personal, and not endorsed by any company or society.
Accept that vegan cheese is not really cheese
Sorry, but no matter how well they use alternatives, the texture just isn’t right. But that doesn’t mean it’s not tasty. I’m getting used to the coconut oil variations, especially the mild cream cheese alternative (which makes a wicked cheesecake by the way) and some of the spicier ones are great in sandwiches and salads.
Pork Belly remains unconvinced (he doesn’t like the smell of them either) but I sneak some into vegan dishes occasionally like my special aubergine-and-lentil bake and he humours me.
Award-wining plant-based eatery Purezza – which has branches in London and Brighton – does a brilliant selection of cashew nut cheeses, infused with a variety of flavours. They may not cut quite like cheese, crumble quite like cheese but they make me moo with pleasure!
But don’t accept salad when you’re eating out
Unless it’s a really good top-of-the-range blend of creativity and flavour it’s a cop-out for restaurants to offer salad as the main vegan alternative. There’s no excuse these days for them not to be just as creative as they are with meat-based dishes. Even fast-food places are smartening up their meat-free act.
So don’t let chefs get away with it!
You can still have afternoon tea
Just look at the range I was served at Leonardslee Gardens! It’s a tough nut to crack, taking all dairy and eggs out of delicate little pastries and creamy morsels but it can be done.
The price of afternoon teas these days you deserve the best whatever your dietary choices.
Get an app
Living in Brighton we’re spoilt for choice as almost every pub, club, restaurant and pop-up has a range of vegan-friendly options, but that’s not the case wherever we go so I rely heavily on advance research, usually on Trip Advisor, or a phone app for spontaneous decisions.
I like Happy Cow, the original vegan travellers guide. It’s FREE, quick, easy to load and covers 183 countries. That’s how I found the lovely Meraki Market Café when I was last in Cyprus – right on the doorstep of my hotel in Paphos. So good I ate there twice! The app also includes shops with a good range of vegan ingredients if you’re self-catering.
Vanilla Bean is also FREE. Originally from Germany their app’s recently been extended to cover the U.S. and has plenty of UK based eateries. It has extra filters to add if you’re gluten-free or want to eat raw.
Fight me if you want, but vegan foods can lack flavour so hit that spice rack – hard.
I had a new year clear out and decided to experiment more widely. Most of my soups and casseroles are routinely flavoured with a little curry powder but I’ve upped my game recently with harissa paste which makes roasted cauliflower a thing of beauty and extra cumin, star anise and crushed chillies find their way into almost every top-of-the-stove dish I prepare nowadays.
And yes, for those of you who’ve been following us for years, I do cook more now I’m veganish. Pork Belly’s still the best chef, but I’m improving.
Find the right recipes
We have a few vegan recipes in our A-Z but there are some great websites out there with masses more. You’ll soon find your favourites but TryVeg has a couple of leaflets free to download for anyone just starting out. Vegan Food and Living is a good resource too.
Don’t settle for less
There’s no reason to give up treats if you’re eating a vegan diet nor do you have to splash the cash. Look at all these delights we found.
Be kind – to yourself
You don’t have to be perfect to be veganish. It’s almost inevitable you will make mistakes, perhaps accidentally buying something with a hidden animal ingredient or giving in momentarily to a craving for butter. It happens. Move on.
Most of all, enjoy the change
I don’t regret for a single moment becoming 100% vegetarian and veganish. It’s not a magical cure for either your health or the planet but it’s made a difference to my own well-being. Pork Belly still eats meat every now and then. I doubt he’ll never give it up completely. And that’s okay too.
Vegan foods are becoming increasingly mainstream. Most supermarkets in the UK have a good range on offer all year round, even the cut-price ones like Aldi and Lidl. Pret’s vegan croissant is outselling its traditional version, Gregg’s vegan sausage rolls caused a Twitter-storm on launch day and Ben and Jerry have recently developed a trio of vegan ice-creams made from sunflower butter.
The food industry’s clearly convinced veganism is here to stay, long after Veganuary is over.
If you’re serious about becoming vegan all the time then The Vegan Society is a great resource for tips, recipes and general advice.