Vegetarianism for the whole of April and veganism for the whole of May.
Why do this to myself?
I want to explore a healthier, more ethical way of living. Experimenting in this way will enable me to do that without fully committing to a huge lifestyle change. I’m also hoping it will kick start me into a healthier way of life and I’ll finally ditch the excess stone of weight that loves me so much. I’ll keep you posted on any weight loss.
Where am I at?
Today is day five without meat. I can honestly say I’m not missing it at all. I’m not a huge meat eater or fan and I have a love of soya protein anyway. I was also vegetarian for ten years so vegetarian month will be a doddle for me. The difficulty is going to be Vegan May. Milk and butter are easy to replace, I already have almond milk and oil based margarine. The problems I have are trace elements. There’s even lactose in my artificial sweeteners. I’m not going to lie, this is going to be a mega challenge! I will become a label expert, retrain myself in the art of cookery as I know it and eating out is going to be tedious.
What will I miss?
Eggs. I love omelettes, poached eggs, boiled eggs, scrambled eggs, any eggs. They are a fabulous form of protein and in my opinion one of the most versatile items on the grocery list. I will also miss cheese as an ingredient. Will my pasta be quite the same without a shaving of parmesan? Will pizza be the same without mozzarella? Will I master making an egg free cake? I don’t have to answer these questions quite yet. I have the rest of April to slowly come up with a plan to replace these much-loved foods. As far as meat goes, I will miss salmon. I love a salmon fillet. I’ll also miss minced beef as it’s so versatile. Watching my husband Nigel tuck into salmon while I eat a bean burger is going to be difficult but hey, I need to commit to this. Bring on the soya. One thing I won’t do is fail – will I soon be eating my words?
Cost. I’d be lying if I didn’t bring this up. On a whole I think soya meat products are cheaper than meat so vegetarianism isn’t worrying me. Veganism however is slightly more concerning. The cost of vegan approved produce like chocolate for example is stacks higher than its dairy counterpart and I do like a fair bit of chocolate. Plant based milk and margarines are a little dearer. I prefer almond milk to soya and the cheapest I’ve found it is £1 a bottle at Aldi. Making everything from scratch is going to put a dent in my pocket. I’ve prided myself on cooking highly nutritious meals for next to nothing for years, but now I will have to start thinking savvier. Can I become a vegan but still spend the same on food? That’s a question I’ll hopefully answer in full at the end of May.
What’s for tea?
I bought a tin of edamame beans from Delivegan (details below) and I’m determined to turn them into a smashing meal tonight. I’m going to play Ready Steady Cook (like the cookery program). I have brown rice, a pepper, an onion, a good collection of herbs and spices and a jar of lime curd I bought from a vegan fair last weekend. Who knows how it will all end but I’ll certainly take a photo and let you know. Now is my time to get creative in the kitchen.
Replacement of favourites.
I adore chilli-con-carne but I have been making and enjoying a veggie version on and off for years. I’m going to reveal my recipe below for all who wish to give it a go. I often cook it up when I have to feed a lot of people with varying dietary needs and it goes down extremely well.
1 bag of Sainsbury’s own soya mince.
3 large red onions.
3 peppers including a green one.
3 mild chillies.
1 small punnet of chestnut mushrooms.
1 tin of kidney beans.
1 tin of mixed beans.
2 x tins of tomatoes.
4 vegetable stock cubes/heaps of stock powder. (Check trace elements if vegan, Marigold vegan stock powder is a safe choice).
1 tin of sweetcorn.
3 tablespoons of olive oil. (Use a cooking spray is watching your fat intake).
4 tablespoons of tomato puree.
3 tablespoons of cumin powder.
1 tablespoon of cumin seeds (if you have them).
2 tablespoons of chilli powder.
1 tablespoon of sugar.
A few splashes of tabasco.
Salt and pepper to taste.
(I also add tins of ratatouille, left over veggies such as carrots, courgettes and anything else I fancy or that is about to go off).
The above will easily make 6-8 main portions (depending on size of appetite) and freezes brilliantly.
Chop the onions and peppers and fry in the oil until they start to go soft. Add the cumin seeds and lightly fry. Slice and add the mushrooms and chillies. Add the soya meat. At this point the mixture will feel quite thick. Add the spices and mix. Add the tinned tomatoes and stock, then stir. Then, add everything else. If it feels too thick, just add a little water. Bring the pan to a simmer and leave to cook on low for about twenty minutes – easy peasy. Taste the chilli and season to your preference. I normally add salt at this point as stock cubes can be salty. If the tomatoes were a little unripe, add a bit more sugar until you’re happy with the flavour. I also add more chilli as I like it hot.
Assuming that most of us have a few herbs and spices in the cupboard, this normally costs around £7.50 for a pan but makes about 8 main meals if accompanied by baked potatoes, pasta or rice. I buy the soya mince from Sainsbury’s as I think it’s the best tasting mince and the rest of the ingredients come from Aldi which keeps the cost down.
Author of Whispers Beneath the Pines, To Let, Flame and Meet Me at Marmaris Castle.