Updated: Jan 6
Veganuary 2021 is here! I’ve read that over half a million people will sign up to do veganuary in 2021. I went vegan just over one year ago. Before going vegan, I'd been on the paleo diet for 12 years. A typical paleo diet is very meat heavy, so going from paleo to vegan was a huge change.* I thought perhaps some of the experiences I had transitioning from paleo to vegan might help anyone doing Veganuary 2021.
I’m presuming that at least part of why you’re doing Veganuary is for health reasons. This means that you probably don’t want to live on vegan ready meals - which are now readily available in every major supermarket. You can! You definitely can. But it’s better for your health to avoid that much processed food, even if it’s vegan.
If you can already cook, then it will be pretty easy to carry on with your usual menu by substituting vegan versions of meat for the real thing. These days, you can get vegan chicken, fish, bacon, mince, burgers, and even steak. If that's your plan, then my experience is that the most successful substitution brands available in the UK are Vivera, This and Beyond Meat. I don’t use fake meat much anymore but it definitely helped me with the transition!
Learning to cook vegan
If you want to take the next step, then learn to cook the kind of dishes that are naturally vegan or easily adapted to being vegan. These are generally healthier than using meat substitutes.
Dishes that don’t use meat usually come from countries in the Asia Pacific, India and the African continent. Though there are also lots of naturally vegan dishes from the Mediterranean too! Here are three of my favourite plus a pic of my meringues, made from leftover chickpea water!
Tim Anderson’s mushroom pilaf - which I adapted to make it so easy.
Thomasina Miers Ethiopian Stew, which I adapted.
Hummus or Humous - which is just so easy. Blend a drained can of chickpeas with about 100g of tahini, a whole lemon (zest and all), a couple of cloves of garlic and some salt. Use the chickpea water to make it the consistency you like - and save the rest. Vegans call chickpea water acquafaba - and use it as an amazing egg substitute, particularly for meringues.
Have a look at these vegan meringues!
So many people I speak to tell me that they could go vegan, but for cheese. They can’t live without cheese. Cheese is addictive. The science proves it. Eating cheese produces casomorphins that act along the same pathways as morphine - giving you a very mild, though very real high. Cheese is an addiction and if you’re doing veganuary, you’ll have to treat it as such.
Thankfully, there are now so many ways you can have cheese and creamy textures that it’s much, much easier. There are loads of vegan cheeses available in supermarkets now, and I know many people love them. But as a former cheese addict myself, none of these really hit the spot.
Then I came across a little company called Tyne Chease - that makes artisanal cheeses, the type of which I was used to putting on a cheese board. I bought their selection box and made an evening of it, setting up every one of their 10 mini cheeses on a platter along with vegan oat biscuits and a salad. We sampled every single one - made notes - ate and had fun.
Although I no longer crave cheese the way I did in the first 6 months of going vegan, I do still buy these cheeses sometimes, especially at Christmas. They make a lovely cheese platter that even non vegans can enjoy. There are artisanal vegan cheese producers all over the world - so you'll need to do a little bit of investigation but to help you with your cheese addiction, it's worth the time!
There are loads of vegan cream cheeses, ready made white sauces and icecream that you can buy. But if you learn to make a vegan white sauce yourself, you can deal with a creamy textures craving quickly and easily.
Making a vegan white sauce takes around 10 mins.
Here's the recipe I use:
Just grab 4 tablespoons of plain, white flour, 2 tablespoons of oil (extra virgin olive is good for savoury dishes, melted coconut oil is good for sweet) and 1 litre of vegan milk (oat, almond, cashew, etc). Mix the oil and flour in a saucepan over a low heat until the flour cooks - it should make a paste.
Taste it - if it tastes floury, then cook for longer. As each batch of flour performs differently, you will need to adjust your sauce depending on what you want. If the paste is too dry - then add more oil. If it's too thin - then add a little more flour. Then very slowly add the milk, mixing the whole time to avoid lumps. Once the milk has been fully incorporated, you have a white sauce.
Add a few tablespoons of nutritional yeast, and you have a cheese sauce. Add some sugar and you have a sweet sauce. If you want it thick to use in sweet pastries, keep on the heat so that some of the moisture evaporates. If you want it thinner to make a mushroom pasta sauce, then add more milk.
My every day breakfasts now use oats in some form. Usually, I make porridge in the Instant Pot. Just put the porridge in with plant milk and press the “Rice” cooking option - it’s done in 15 mins.
Quite often, I’ll make Overnight Oats. There are a million ideas for overnight oats on the internet. For me, I’ll add about 1/2 a cup of oats, coconut milk, seeds and
some sort of fruit - tinned cherries or prunes or frozen berries.
On the weekends, I do a full cooked breakfast - mushrooms, beans, tomatoes, spinach, toast and scrambled “eggs”. I have come to love these scambled eggs better than the real thing. The eggs are made using firm tofu, pulsed with powdered turmeric to make a lovely colour and kala namak to taste. Kala namak volcanic salt from Hawaii. The salt is full of sulphur and gives the “eggs” their eggy taste. It's very strong, so start with a pinch and add until it tastes like eggs to you.
Keeping up the motivation is key. I would recommend watching the Game Changers documentary on Netflix - it’s fun and makes you feel like you could become an Olympian if you just stick with being vegan!
I would also recommend downloading Dr Greger’s daily dozen app. It’s just a list of all the things you should eat in one day. If you stick with it, it will make an improvement in your health!
I'm sorry I've gone on for so long! I'm just so excited for your Veganuary. I hope it will be the start of something amazing for you and your loved ones. I might do another vegan post in a few weeks to help keep up the motivation. If that's something you think would be useful, then please let me know through my twitter feed - @Cflutsch
Wishing you all the very best. Cxxx
All the products I've recommended in this post are the ones I use and have tried. This is not a sponsored post. I'm just recommending things that I personally like.
*New research on the diet of early humans has led me to the conclusion that a real paleo diet and a vegan diet are pretty much the same thing. That's a post for another time!