Calling all would-be vegans!

Apologies for the complete absence of posts over the last few months. It’s not a very original excuse but it’s been a hectically busy time and blogging just hasn’t quite fitted in. I’m currently experimenting with new recipes and will soon be boring you with soups, stews and other winter warmers, but in the meantime I wanted to bring an unmissable event to your attention.

November is Vegan Month and Animal Aid’s Great Vegan Challenge is back! If you’ve ever been tempted to take the animal-free plunge but worried about exactly what you’d eat or whether you could keep it up, then this could be exactly what you need. The Great Vegan Challenge gives you a chance to try an animal-free diet for a month, and you will receive all the support and information you need, absolutely free! It takes just minutes to sign up, and you will receive:

  • Advice on nutrition and vegan products
  • Recipes and motivational tips sent regularly
  • Access to an internet forum for swapping tips and stories
  • A telephone hotline for any burning questions
  • Information on exclusive events, offers and product give-aways

If you live in the UK, you’ll also be invited to a day out at the Retreat, a wonderful farmed animal sanctuary in Kent.

To find out more about the Great Vegan Challenge and sign up to take part, please visit http://www.govegan.org.uk. If you have any other questions, you can contact Ben at Animal Aid via veganchallenge@animalaid.co.uk or by calling 01732 364546 ext 227.

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How to liven up a stir fry

This is an ideal recipe for those times when you are too hungry/tired/busy to even wait for pasta to cook. It takes less than 15 minutes to prepare, but is tasty and nutritious, with the tofu and vegetables providing a generous dose of goodness. Golden syrup may not seem like a natural stir fry ingredient, but it adds a nice sweetness to the sauce and is a more economical alternative to maple syrup. Marinated tofu is fairly widely available in supermarkets, although I’ve only ever seen the Cauldron brand. It’s actually really versatile, can be eaten straight from the packet and works really well in salads and sandwiches (especially combined with tomatoes and vegan mayonnaise).

001Ingredients for marinated tofu stir fry (serves 2):

  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • A small piece of root ginger
  • Oil for stir frying
  • 1 packet of marinated tofu
  • 1 packet of stir fry vegetables
  • (Optional) 1/2 small packet pumpkin seeds
  • 4 tsp soy sauce
  • Juice of one orange
  • 2 tsp golden syrup
  • 2-4 tortilla wraps (4 mini or 2 standard size)

Method:

  1. Peel and crush the garlic cloves, then peel and grate the ginger. Heat a generous splash of oil in a frying pan (or wok). Preheat the oven to gas 4 (180).
  2. Add the garlic and ginger to the pan and sautee gently for a couple of minutes, stirring constantly and taking care not to let them burn.
  3. Add the tofu and stir fry for a few minutes, then add the veg  and seeds. Stir fry for around five minutes. Meanwhile, mix the soy sauce, golden syrup and orange juice together. Warm the tortillas for a few minutes in the oven, but take care not to leave them in for too long as they become impossible to roll if they get to the crispy stage.
  4. Add the sauce to the stir fry and warm through for a few more minutes. Divide the stir fry between the tortillas, roll up and serve. As you will have guessed, the photos show them at the pre-rolled stage (rolled up tortillas are decidedly un-photogenic!)

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Sunday lunch: make it fail-safe and fuss-free

I always think animal-free cooking is a lot less likely to result in culinary disasters, and Sunday lunch is no exception. Instead of struggling to synchronise the roasting of a large chunk of meat with the preparation of time-sensitive side dishes, you can potter about the kitchen preparing things and putting them aside as you feel like it, safe in the knowledge that nothing can go seriously wrong and everything can be re-heated or even served cold.

A roasted vegetable croustade with a couple of easy side dishes is a good option for a stress-free Sunday lunch. This type of thing is also fine to serve cold, so ideal if you need to leave lunch on the table and go to meet/pick up your guests. The croustade is a veganized and slightly modified version of a Rose Elliot recipe, and the bean, orange and hazelnut salad is adapted from one of Yotam Ottolenghi’s cook books. If this type of menu leaves you feeling deprived of the traditional, you could always provide some roast potatoes to go on the side (I usually do).

  033Ingredients for roasted vegetable croustade (serves 4):

2 large courgettes (and olive oil)
4 medium peppers (any colour except green!)
100g white bread with the crusts removed
100g ground almonds
3 cloves of garlic (crushed)
100g vegan margarine
100g pine nuts
Basil or parsley to garnish

For the sauce:

1-2 small cartons of soya cream
A good sprinkle of dried tarragon, Juice of one lemon, zest of 2

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to gas 7 (220). Slice the courgettes into rectangles, lay out on a baking tray and add a good drizzle of olive oil (mix in with your hands if possible). Cut the tops off the peppers, de-seed them and place them upside-down on another baking tray.
  2. Put the peppers on the top shelf of the oven and the courgettes underneath. Roast until the peppers’ skins are charred (around 30-40 mins), and the courgettes are tender. When the veg is ready, set it aside and turn the oven down to gas 6 (200).
  3.  Meanwhile, place the bread in a large mixing bowl and tear into small pieces. Add the almonds, garlic and margarine. Mix with a spoon/your hands to form a sticky dough, then mix in the pine nuts. It will feel implausibly buttery, but don’t worry- this is normal!
  4. Lightly grease a flan tin (medium size). Press the dough in so it’s fairly even and bake for around 20 mins until golden.
  5. Once the peppers are cool enough to handle, you can peel off the skins. You may not be able to get all the skin off- just concentrate on the very charred parts. Cut the peppers into long strips.
  6.  To make the sauce, place the soya cream in a pan and add the other ingredients. About 5 mins before you are ready to use it, heat it up gently. You may want to warm the veg up in a pan too.
  7. When the croustade is ready, remove the side of the tin (don’t panic if it crumbles a little!) then top with the veg and garnish with the herbs. Serve with the sauce.

 

036Ingredients for bean, orange and hazelnut salad (serves 4)

1 packet of green beans
1 packet of mange tout
1/2 a broccoli
1 packet of hazelnuts
Zest of 1 orange
Parsley and olive oil

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to gas 7 (220) and bring a large saucepan of water to the boil. Simmer the veg until tender (about 5 mins) then drain and refresh under cold water.
  2. Meanwhile, spread the hazelnuts out on a baking tray and roast until golden (around 5 mins).
  3. Place the veg and hazelnuts in a large dish and add the orange zest and parsley. Drizzle with olive oil, and it’s ready to serve.

035The roast potatoes probably don’t need much explanation. Just place on a baking tray, drizzle generously with olive oil and roast on about gas 7 (220) or slightly higher, until they’re golden on the outside and tender on the inside. This will take somewhere between 30 and 60 mins, depending on the size of the potatoes and strength of the oven.

A change in direction

Apologies for the complete lack of posts over the last few months. You will be relieved to know that I have neither stopped eating nor abandoned the animal-free diet, but it has been a hectic period and I haven’t had time to log my breakfasts, lunches and dinners, complete with photographic evidence and detailed descriptions.

In reality, I can’t see myself having time to return to the daily diary, but the 100-plus posts in the archive should satisfy the curiosity of anyone who wonders what vegans really eat, and there are only so many times you can photograph a bowl of Weetabix or try to think of something original to eat before 8am.

That said, there are an infinite number of recipes to bore people with, so I have no intention of giving up the blog, and will still be posting as often as I can. On a more serious note, farmed animals need all the help they can get, and though a vegan blog may be a drop in the ocean, it can only help to spread the message about how quick, easy and delicious animal-free meals can be.

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This lovely pair of pigs live at FRIEND Farmed Animal Rescue in Kent, which provides a safe haven for around 150 animals

Calling all would-be vegans!

Have you ever been tempted to go animal-free but wondered exactly what you’d eat or worried that you might not be able to keep it up? Well, Animal Aid’s Great Vegan Challenge could be just the thing for you. To take part, you pledge to go vegan throughout the month of November and you will receive a whole package of support, 100% free, including:

  •  Advice on nutrition and vegan products
  • Recipes and motivational tips sent regularly
  • Access to an internet forum for swapping tips and stories
  • A telephone hotline for any burning questions
  • Information on exclusive events, offers and product give-aways

It’s open to anyone, anywhere in the world and last year almost 800 people took part from 17 different countries. This year, Animal Aid has teamed up with other organisations from around the world, so it really is an international event:

If you need any more persuasion, you might like to hear what some of last year’s vegan challengers said:

‘So glad I gave the Great Vegan Challenge a go! It’s been fantastic and made a big change in my lifestyle for the better! Everyone should try it!’ – Katrina Powis

‘Fantastic! I didn’t realise it would be as easy as it was to transition from veggie to vegan. I will certainly be staying vegan… no going back now!’ – Shaune Mather

‘The Vegan Challenge gave me invaluable knowledge, as well as the support and ease to continue on this path in future.’ – Nadya Booyse

If you’re already vegan, why not take part in the Vegan +1 initiative by convincing a friend or family member to sign up for the challenge?

To find out more about the Great Vegan Challenge and sign up to take part, please visit www.govegan.org.uk. If you have any other questions, you can contact Ben Martin via veganchallenge@animalaid.co.uk or by calling 01732 364546 ext 227.

Piglet

Make November a great month for animals, the planet and your own health!

Ice cream discovery!

Apologies for the lack of pictures. I didn’t have my camera with me and my phone was in a state of low battery and determined to make everything look pale and insipid!

Breakfast

Toasted jam sandwich, fruit

A toasted sandwich is generally a good option for a sustaining breakfast,  especially if you use wholemeal bread.

Lunch

Tortilla wrap with vegan cream cheese and cucumber, apple, banana, licorice

This is definitely a great sandwich option that only takes a few minutes to prepare in the morning. I find that garlic and herb ‘cream cheese’ (Tofutti brand) goes really well with cucumber, especially in a wrap. At the risk of sounding a little fixated with wholegrain, brown wraps are probably the best option for a serious dose of afternoon energy. Bananas are another good choice for an energy boost that lasts for several hours.

Dinner

Courgette and olive couscous, salad

I’ve now arrived back at home for a week of animal-sitting, and my Mum prepared this lovely couscous dish. Couscous is such a versatile food that lends itself really well to any veg or even fruit. This dish included olives, courgettes and tinned apricots.

Dessert

Non-dairy Neapolitan ice cream

Going for non-dairy ice cream definitely doesn’t mean cutting out exciting flavours. Booja Booja do a great range which includes gems like ginger flavour, and even the much cheaper Swedish Glace brand do raspberry, blueberry, vanilla, chocolate and Neapolitan. The Neapolitan flavour comes in bigger tubs, but you can buy it in health food shops or in large Sainsbury’s stores. It was the first time I’d tried it, but I was really impressed. The ice creamy taste is totally authentic and it’s much lighter than its dairy equivalent. While on the subject of vegan ice cream, it’s probably worth mentioning sorbets which are often vegan and seem to be appearing in increasingly varied flavours.

The un-riskiness of vegan cooking

Breakfast

Weetabix type cereal, soya milk, grapes

This was the Co-op’s own brand of wheat biscuits which are labelled as vegan. They make you feel as though you’re having a healthy start to the day and using sweetened soya milk means that you don’t even need sugar.

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Lunch

Ciabatta with cherry tomatoes and olive oil, tortilla chips, apple, raspberry licorice

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This was a reduced-resource version of bruschetta, which normally includes some sort of herb (probably basil) and/or garlic. I hadn’t got round to equipping myself with herbs or garlic, but the basic idea was the same. You just toast the ciabatta, then top it with some tomatoes, herbs, olive oil, and salt. Many people would probably frown on serving a traditional Italian dish with crisps, but I always feel as though something is missing if a bread-based lunch isn’t accompanied by additional carbs in the form of fried potato!

Dinner

Yesterday was Animal Aid and Viva’s Day of Action for Fish (please click here or here to read more), so I thought it might be a good day to have some faux fish for dinner and highlight the great (and very realistic) alternatives that are available. Unfortunately though, I totally failed to turn on the oven in the flat I’ve just moved into, so the ‘fish style steaks’ were definitely off the menu. They were the Redwood brand, which can be bought in Holland and Barrett (please click here to see). I can confirm from previous experience that they’re very nice and unbelievably similar to cod in batter.

In the end I decided to go for some broccoli pasta with pine nuts and lemon,  which would have been more of a success if the simple task of cooking the broccoli had gone more smoothly. I only had one saucepan, but thought that the broccoli and pasta would take about the same amount of time and could reasonably be cooked together. I’m used to gas hobs though, and didn’t realise quite how long pasta takes to cook on an electric hob. By the time the pasta was al dente, both the taste and texture of the broccoli had been severely compromised. Actually though, it’s  quite a good illustration of the fail-safe nature of vegan cooking, as over-cooking the veg is about the worst that can happen and the results will generally still be fairly nice, even if not quite what you’d envisaged. That certainly applied to this dish, which tasted really quite nice once the pine nuts, lemon and olive oil had been added, even if the broccoli itself left much to be desired!

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