We’re half way through January, and not only is it January but it’s also Veganuary, and this January I’m (still) vegan.
In August 2021 I made the change from vegetarian to vegan, and it’s been a damn fine, fun tasty journey. Don’t get me wrong, I still have times when I miss cheese, but honestly, from one of the most dedicated cheese eaters out there, it’s actually been OK. More than ok—I’ve probably been eating better, more variety and have actually discovered a burgeoning joy in the act of cooking.
I have always historically been a dedicated “cooking is equal to, or the same as, incinerating everything to a crisp” and yet, since going vegan, I’ve managed to make meals other people can eat and actually enjoy (or at least, they tell me this, and do not appear to become ill swiftly after the eating of said dishes).
But before I went vegan, I honestly thought it was something I wouldn’t be able to do. So, for those of you having a go at veganism this January, here’s some top tips.
- Don’t expect to find a perfect cheese replacement. Sorry. Nothing I’ve found so far has lived up to the job, but all is not lost—I talk about vegan cheese and what works for me here.
- Enjoy trying new things. Whether they work out or not, trying new meals is half the fun for me. I’ve had some misses (for the record, it looks like I am still not partial to aubergine), and some hits, but the experimenting has been fun.
- Treat yourself. There’s always a reason to treat yourself—get up this morning? Congratulations! Remember to put the bin out? Well done you! Get some words down on that story that was rattling around your brain? Double points, hooray! I found some vegan chocolate orange truffles that were just melt in the mouth loveliness, and shall be rewarding myself at every given opportunity.
- Use fresh herbs if you can. They can make all the difference and really brighten up simple dishes. Fresh herbs and a squeeze of lemon add a little bit of culinary magic to almost everything. If you do one thing, this is probably the one that makes the biggest difference.
- Don’t overcomplicate it. I’m a simple luncher, especially on a work day. I scoff a sarnie and some crisps, maybe a banana. It’s gonna be a rare occasion when I’ve got the time or organisational wherewithal to prep a salad with a thousand ingredients and dressings, especially if I’ve got to be out and about during the day. Don’t feel the need to reinvent the wheel for every meal. For me, where I used to have a cheese sarnie, a vegan chicken one does just the trick. (Bonus tip, vegan mayonnaise and pestos can add that almost creamy, rich hit you might be looking for if you’re missing cheese between your slices of bread).
- Find some go-to recipes and eat to your heart’s content. I talked about trying new meals earlier so here are some of my favourite discoveries…
Seriously these are amazing – find the time to make the chutney and onions, you won’t regret it. It converts easily into different dishes—it doesn’t always have to be a wrap, add more veg to the roasting chickpeas and put it with rice and a quick curry sauce and you’ve got a whole new dish. This recipe, and parts of it, are part of the regular rotation for me.
I was given a copy of Meera Sodha’s East for Christmas (a beautiful book, highly recommend) and I’m gradually working my way through some of the recipes and they are a complete joy. In the last few months I’ve become a real tofu convert, and her recipe for Chill Tofu is sublime.
Another one from Meera Sodha, this is one of those dishes that is so different to what I normally cook, but relatively easy for me to pull together and so tasty. I loved the swede but if you’re not a fan (as my other half isn’t) then take your pick of your favourite veg or tofu additions instead.
Moroccan lentil stew
This recipe was a revelation to me, and I’ve included it here because it is still a source of amazement. I now add roasted chickpeas to almost every soup I make, and genuinely who would have thought that a tomato salad works with a stew?! It’s rich and tasty and genuinely delicious.
Hopefully you’re enjoying your Veganuary journey if you’re on it. Share your favourite tips and recipes in the comments! I’m always eager to try something new!