As we limp through the first few weeks of the New Year clinging onto our resolutions, spare a thought for the January vegans who must be getting rather tired of avocadoes by now. In a spirit of encouragement, here are a some suggestions to help steer clear of meat and dairy whilst maintaining a small degree of sanity.
- Most important is to avoid all meat and dairy substitutes: enjoy vegetables, beans and pulses for their own merits (not so that you can pretend you are eating a steak- save that for February!). And don’t even think about butter; put the butter dish away and concentrate on developing an expensive olive oil habit than clog your arteries full of the artificial trans-fats found in most alternative yellow spreads.
- Take pride in your vegetables: shop locally and seasonally where possible, and display your finds in big, beautiful bowls, as you would with fruit. Why hide the sculptural Romanesco cauliflowers, waxy aubergines and bright red tomatoes in the fridge when they will look beautiful displayed in a large serving platter or fruit bowl? Ditto herbs: store bunches of fresh parsley and coriander in pretty jugs and glass vases to cheer up your kitchen surfaces.
- Look to hearty, protein rich foods like chick peas and cannelloni beans to add some heft to your cooking, and delight in spices, flavoured oils and tangy vinegars to get your flavour hits.
- Asian cooking is your friend: vegetable curries rich with coconut milk and flavoured with lemon grass, lime juice and firey chillies, or noodle dishes laced with salty soy sauce and bursting with fresh green vegetables. Have a look at Meera Shodha’s fabulous book Fresh India which is bursting with vegetarian recipes, many of them vegan: her Goan butternut squash cafreal is a marinated vegetable and rice dish with a fierce little kick, and her spinach, tomato and chickpea curry is deliciously moreish. The fact that both recipes are vegan is nothing more than a footnote.
- Find inspiration too in Middle Eastern cooking, most notably in the ample vegan offerings from Yotam Ottolenghi. His crispy roast potatoes with zaatar and salsa verde are to die for and don’t get me started on his aubergine with miso and Chinese cabbage. His website contains endless mouth-watering recipes from butterbean humous to tangerine donuts, so many that you will soon start to question your reliance on meat and dairy.