So you wanna go (partly) plant-based?

You don’t even have to say goodbye to a fish finger sandwich…

Have you watched GameChangers? Doing Veganuary? Love animals? Got a New Year’s Resolution for Meatless Mondays? Or just wondering what your life would be like with more fibre on your plate? Read on to expand your culinary horizons, and find out how I’ve quite happily not eaten animals since mid-2016.

A quick google search for “vegan food ideas” brings up 489,000,000 results. That’s quite a lot. It gets said all the time, because it’s true: it’s never been easier to eat fewer animal products, and more plants. I’ve only been vegan for three and a half years and it’s changed so much in that time alone. 20 years ago you’d be a social outcast for being vegetarian! (Massive respect to the pioneers who lived off Holland and Barrett and lentils for all those years by the way, who were vegan before it was cool/as easy.)

My biggest tip is to enjoy plant based food. There is so much joy in vegan food alone, let alone the reasons why we do it (Animals. Environment. Health.). Find exciting recipes online (resources list at the end of this post), or in pretty shiny books. Go to new cafes and restaurants. Many chains have widened their range or have discounts for Veganuary. Discover your new favourite vegan-friendly takeaway. Think of it as a journey of discovery and growth, and don’t beat yourself up. Everyone starts somewhere; do the best you can.

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Art by the inimitable Kate Sutton

Onto some specific food questions I get asked fairly regularly…

1. Meals: GET INSPIRED. Treat yourself to a (simple?) cookbook, follow some good accounts on IG, Pinterest some tasty things, watch some Bosh vids. But get some straightforward meals in your arsenal for when you can’t be bothered. Maybe much of what you already eat is plant-based, or just needs a little tweak! Here’re some easy ideas:

  • Stir fry with wheat or rice noodles and your fave veg and sauce; add nuts/mock duck/tofu for more protein (mock duck available in Chinese supermarkets, tips to cook tofu)
  • Stew (mmm dumplings)
  • Pasta with falafel/mheatballs and sauce
  • Mac n cheeze
  • Beans on toast or jacket potato: chuck in a few spices to the beans, use sweet potato for a twist
  • Soup (add tahini or houmous for extra creaminess and protein)
  • Breakfast: now’s a good time to try out all those fancy different mylks you’ve seen… If you’re an oats-in-the-morning, here’re some ideas: https://adventureandcake.wordpress.com/2019/05/29/porridge-tips/
  • Check out the ready meals, there are loads now, especially all the Christmas stuff!
  • Bird’s Eye now does some great swedish-style meatballs, Quorn does Fish Fingers, Linda McCartney makes scampi, everyone does chickn nugz and sausages (even Richmond!!)…
  • Most onion rings, hash browns, chips, potato smileys and your other favourite carby treats are accidentally vegan… Just make sure you put some veg on your plate too!

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2. Cheeze: Sooo vegan cheese is a funny one – its lack of casein, generally lower fat content and, er, lack of cows’ milk mean it’ll never taste exactly the same in a direct comparison. And quality varies wildly, as with dairy cheese. I was someone who couldn’t imagine pizza or pasta without cheese… Then I just stopped eating dairy cheese, and the cravings went away. I don’t feel the need to replace it, but there are lots of good vegan cheases…

But if you’re in need of a wine and cheeze evening, the expensive nut based ones are best, e.g. Tyne Chease. Some companies even do Brie and Camembert and blue cheese – there’s an entire vegan chease shop in London. And Gopal in Portugal do the best “goats cheese” I’ve ever tasted (including cheese from an actual goat). Sainsburys do a very good garlic and herb cream cheeze, and I love my sauce (free cheeze jokes at link).

Your experience will wildly depend on if you’re still eating dairy cheese, and tastebuds change all the time. Sometimes I love Violife, sometimes I hate it… If you’re down south, check out Purezza in Camden/Brighton, who apparently have the best vegan pizza in the country; they make their own cheeze. Woody’s Pizza in Tod has great vegan options.

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3. Sweets & chocolate & biscuits: most dark chocolate is milk-free, both cheap and expensive. Check out the free from aisle, GALAXY’S NEW VEGAN RANGE in Tesco’s (expensive but worth it for a treat), Vego bars (white & mylk, ditto), supermarket own brand “mint thins”, Elizabeth Shaw minty discs, Bournville chocolate buttons…your life doesn’t have to be chocolate-free by any stretch of the imagination. Sweets-wise, there are plenty to be getting on with, same with biscuits. If you’re a baker, I have it on good authority that these are some of the best cookies…

For other snacks, don’t forget about the obvious: bananas, houmous, crisps…

4. Worried about nutrition? Here’s how to thrive without animal products.

5. Try some new things. Buy some “weird vegan stuff”. Liquid smoke, nutritional yeast, spices you’ve always wanted to try, bacon bits, new pulses, vegetables, fruits, wholegrains. Discover how tasty mung beans, miso paste, jackfruit, seitan, bulgur wheat, wholemeal couscous, tahini, balsamic glaze, passion fruit, harissa roasted cauliflower are. Think of going plant-based as expanding your horizons – I eat a much more varied diet now. You don’t have to live off houmous and Oreos*.

*Probably not nutritionally recommended anyway

6. Tea: possibly almost as contentious as cheese. If you’ve been drinking tea or coffee with cow’s milk for 20, 30, 60 years, of course it’ll seem weird to put anything else in it. But you might be surprised: cashew and oat are super creamy, hazelnut mylk adds a certain something, and ultimately it didn’t take me that long to get used to soya mylk (possibly because it’s 59p). Try doing it incrementally (e.g 50/50 soya & cow). Try it without. If tea’s your sticking point, do everything else first.

I hope this is useful – what would be your sticking point? What tips would you like to see added on here? Get in touch on my instagram or in the comments below.

List of a few resources, beyond Google and me (though I’m of course happy to help!)

Veganuary website and free newsletter

The Vegan Society’s website for answers to all your questions

Vegan Food UK – News & group on Facebook

– Vegan Womble – website & facebook group

Pinterest search for “vegan

#veganfood on Instagram (this is what got me interested in the first place)

Bosh’s mouthwatering recipe videos

Free From/Veggie/possibly meat sections of supermarkets (work out how your local’s organised!)

Barnivore for alcohol

Lists like these

If in doubt, adapt one of your faves – or rather, find out if someone already has (they have). Searching “vegan lemon cake recipe” brought me this staple

For more ideas and tips, check out this interview I did for 3 Valley Vegans. Their website is also a goldmine of info.

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