Written by Dee
Our first ‘week’ of Veganuary spans ten days, on account of the first day of January falling on a Friday. From week two onwards it will cover seven days.
The pre-Veganuary visit to the supermarket for a food and drink shop proved quite a challenge, and took significantly longer than normal due to us having to check every single label on everything we picked up to make sure that it was vegan. This only went part-way to solving the problem though, as not everything was flagged up as being suitable for vegans. Luckily, Jay’s phone had wi-fi, so there was a lot of going backwards and forward to various vegan web sites which gave the yes/no on each product we checked. We were extremely grateful to the many bloggers who have spent time putting these lists together. So much so that I don’t think Veganuary would have been possible without them.
Luckily, there is also a specialist vegan food shop on the outskirts of Birmingham, so we also paid a visit to it and picked up a few items that we didn’t find at the supermarket. It later turned out that a nearby Holland and Barrett shop also stocked some vegan food and drink products. Where the bloggers were able to advise on ‘conventional’ food and drink items, these stores provided access to the less common ingredients that we would have otherwise had to order on line.
The first day kicked off with a simple porridge made from Quinoa and Chia seeds, which we had made previously as part of the BBC Good Food seven day diet plan. That version included coconut yoghurt but we left that out and just cooked the grains and seeds in water after an overnight soaking. The finished product looked like frog spawn, and probably could have done with some sprucing up with spices or fruit, but it worked as fuel for the New Year’s Day running events that I attended that morning. We made enough of it to provide breakfasts for day two and day three.
Lunch was a simple soup made from red lentils and peppers which we made a job lot of, and this also gave us lunches for another couple of days.
Tea was a Lentil Bolognese, which we’d made before and enjoyed. This gave us our first encounter with nutritional yeast, which we used as a garnish in place of parmesan cheese. We were a little nervous about the nutritional yeast, which looked and smelled like goldfish food, but it provided a similar sour tang to parmesan and worked just as well.
Tea on Day Two was an Aubergine and Tomato Stew, based on a recipe in my folder. This was another simple stew, cooked slowly to intensify the flavours. The chunky aubergine took on the flavour of the tomato sauce that it was cooked in, and a garnish of Dukkah added a nice touch of spiciness and crunchiness. We served the stew with some polenta which we cooked until it had set.
Day three saw out the last of the porridge and soup, while tea was a delicious Indian feast consisting of Popadoms, Chilli Pickle, Brinjal Bickle which were shop bought, and a great Potato and Tamarind Curry which was home made from Kaushy Patel’s excellent Prashad recipe book. I also made a raita with soya yoghurt, mint sauce, chopped fresh mint and a little chilli powder. This was our favourite meal so far and we were both keen to try out some more vegan curryies.
Days Four and Five, being the first days of a new week, introduced a new breakfast in the form of a tasty muesli which included raw cocoa, dried coconut and a mixture of berries and seeds. This was great with soya milk and almond milk, and our usual morning cup of black coffee.
For lunch we made our first recipe from the ‘Peace and Parsnips’ book; Vegan Burritos. These were supposed to be made with plantain, but we substituted sweet potatoes as we couldn’t find plantains in time. This didn’t seem to affect the recipe, which also included scrambled tofu, onion, pepper and spices. It was served with a portion of freshly prepared Pico de Gallo, which we’d made many times before. We both enjoyed the burritos with some extra sauce. Jay added shop-bought Reggae Reggae sauce while I went for home-made Hot Pepper sauce.
For Tea we consulted Jay’s Burmese recipe book and chose a soup recipe which turned out to be a meal in itself. The base of the soup was made from chickpea flour, salt and water, but it turned out that it was the garnishes which gave the soup its character. For this we added noodles, shredded lettuce, peas, crushed chillies, toasted cashews, shallot oil and chilli oil. This recipe worked well for us and gave us plenty of ideas for other garnishes to try in the future.
It also provided us with our first batch of Shan Tofu, which was made simple by leaving the soup base to set in the fridge. There is a recipe for Shan Tofu Salad in the same book, so we will be trying that out soon.
The meals on Day Six were leftovers from what we’d made earlier in the week.
Two new recipes were up for sampling on Day Seven. The first was a batch of Sweetcorn Pancakes, again from ‘Peace and Parsnips’. These were a hit for both of us, and we chose to serve them with some home-made Guacamole, to which we added chargrilled artichokes and toasted pine nuts.
For tea we made a Cauliflower and Chickpea Curry. For this the ingredients were cooked together in a tomato sauce spiced up with garam masala. It was tasty and filling, but we felt that for future servings of it we would roast the cauliflower rather than cooking it in the sauce.
On Day Eight we enjoyed muesli for breakfast and the last of the pancakes and guacamole for lunch.
Tea was an experiment using a non-vegan Chilli recipe but substituting meat for Soya Mince, and a garnish of grated vegan cheese. It worked really well and gave us the confidence to adjust more recipes from our collection in the coming weeks.
Three new recipes arrived with Day Nine.
The first was for Vegan Breakfast Pancakes; another recipe which we tweaked to include vegan alternatives to the dairy products. I offered to share the recipe for these pancakes but I think it will need a separate blog entry, which will follow in due course. For accompaniments, Jay went for Rice Syrup while I went for Apple Butter and Peanut Butter.
For lunch we enjoyed a plate of Frijoles Refritos (Refried Beans) with home-made Tortillas and Soya Yoghurt seasoned with herbs and spices.
We made our first vegan burgers for tea, following the third recipe from Peace and Parsnips. We followed the quantities listed in the book and ended up with ten good-sized burger patties. The recipe brought together ingredients that I was doubtful would work together: Pecans, Portobello Mushrooms and Dried Seaweed. After an intial unsuccessful attempt at frying the burgers, we decided instead to bake them in the oven, which worked far better. The burger patties were quite fragile, as was pointed out in the book, though they firmed up as they cooled. The seaweed proved to be a bit of an unwelcome guest when we tasted the burgers, but we still enjoyed them and would make them again, just without the seaweed. We served them in home-baked burger buns and potato wedges. We took a photo of them but haven’t posted it here as it was a bit blurred.
Finally, Day Ten’s meals consisted of Porridge for breakfast, the last of the Frijoles for lunch and two more of the Burgers for tea.
Once we’d made it through the difficult first shopping trip to buy in the first of our supplies, by the end of week one we were pleased to have our journey underway.
Vegan cooking has introduced us to previously unfamiliar ingredients and taught us a new approach to shopping and food preparation. We haven’t found ourselves craving meat, or alcohol for that matter, yet, and were especially impressed with the chilli that we’d made, which we have now named ‘Chili Con Soya’. As I mentioned previously, we can approach non-vegan recipes with confidence that we will be able to produce tasty alternatives that dispel the myth of vegan food being dull and flavourless.
I am finding that sauces, relishes and salads form play an important role in many vegan meals. This is great news to me as I love to collect recipes for them, and always appreciate home-made condiments on the table.
The next challenge that we are anticipating is the minefield that dining out presents. Luckily there are a few vegan-friendly restaurants in the city centre that we can visit but what of all the others? How would they cope with vegan customers? Stay tuned to find out.