Having decided to join in with Vegan November following an event I attended the month before, I was full of enthusiasm and excitement. I have to admit, I didn’t think it would be difficult at all, and the fact that I eat a predominantly plant-based diet anyway, I thought it would be a breeze. Also, because I’m fairly informed about nutrition, I didn’t think I’d find myself lacking in any key vitamins or nutrients, although I knew I’d need to be even more conscious of what I was eating.
Pictured above: Gnocci cooked in chopped tomatoes and garlic – seasoned with black pepper. Grilled aubergine and a sprinkle of nutritional yeast on top, served with a side of green beans.
The first week went well, and I was pleased to find myself branching out a bit with my food choices. I made a tasty gnocci dish, gave tofu a try, and made the most delicious avocado pasta (pictures below). I snacked on nuts, gave my meals a sprinkle of nutritional yeast, added quinoa to my porridge, and added kidney beans into dishes where perhaps they didn’t really belong, all in an effort to make sure I was getting enough protein.
Pictured above: Tofu, mushrooms and green pepper, cooked with lemon juice, soy sauce, and seasoned with black pepper.
Pictured above: Spinach pasta cooked in a sauce made from mashed avocado mixed with lemon juice and seasoned with salt and pepper. Grilled with sliced tomato, a sprinkle of nutritional yeast and topped with a handful of almond flakes.
In the first week I was faced with my first real challenge – eating at a Chinese restaurant as a vegan. It was a family celebration, and it was challenging to say the least, given most things were fried in egg or served with fish sauce. I managed to get by with some steamed rice and vegetables, which was perfectly fine, although I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t eyeing up the duck in pancakes.
Luckily for me, I have a Planet Organic very close by to my flat, which means I’m never far from vegan soup, bread, chocolate, or pretty much anything else a vegan could want! Strangely enough, about half way through the month, I started to crave foods I would never have eaten before turning vegan; I guess it’s a prime example of wanting what you can’t have. Suddenly I was noticing certain smells more as I passed through the station on my way to work, like bacon sandwiches or Cornish pasties. I couldn’t tell you the last time I ate a bacon sandwich or a Cornish pasty, so it was definitely just psychological. I even started writing a list of the food I would eat once November was over!
Pictured above: Spiced sweet potato stew with butterbeans.
Throughout the month, and even before hand, I was told about so many amazing vegan restaurants in London and I actually ended up eating out far more than I usually would (because of course, I had to try them all out). I discovered some amazing restaurants and I’d definitely return to all of them, whether I stay vegan or not! My favourite vegan restaurant was Mildreds, in Soho, although they do have restaurants in other locations in London. Unfortunately you can’t book in advance, and it was an hour to wait when we went along on a weeknight. Luckily, it was more than worth it! There was so much on the menu that I really was spoilt for choice. I opted for smoked tofu, fennel, apple and white bean sausages, with cider jus, pan-fried hispi cabbage, peas, dill and mash, and it was truly delicious. I can’t wait to go back and try some of the other dishes!
Pictured above: Smoked tofu, fennel, apple and white bean sausages, with cider jus, pan-fried hispi cabbage, peas, dill and mash at Mildred’s restaurant.
The second vegan restaurant I would recommend is Pickywops in Fulham. It’s not the nicest of places to sit in, but I hope that soon, with it becoming so popular, they might open the restaurant up a bit so there’s more seating and more space, but the food is incredible! The guys that run the restaurant are so passionate about the food, and about using only the best ingredients. Once you’ve been seated, staff will tell you a bit about the ingredients they use and talk you through the different options for the ingredient added to your base, such as turmeric, spirulina or hemp. Having not eaten cheese for about three weeks at this point, I was overjoyed and overwhelmed by the different cheese options. I went for ‘Vegan temptations’, which was a violife coconut oil based mozzarella, kale, broccolini, almond ricotta and blueberry pizza with a multigrain base. (That’s right – blueberries on a pizza! And yes, it tasted as good as it looks!)
Pictured above: ‘Vegan temptations’, a violife coconut oil based mozzarella, kale, broccolini, almond ricotta and blueberry pizza with a multigrain base, served at Pickywops.
In the final week of November, my feelings towards eating meat again, changed. I wasn’t craving it, and in fact, the thought of eating fish, or even eggs didn’t seem appealing at all. It was the first time I thought about actually continuing with it after the month had finished, because other than closely monitoring my protein intake, I was sure it would be easy enough to keep up. The only thing I don’t like about being vegan was being the awkward one at a social dinner, or at an office lunch. When I’m cooking for myself, it’s definitely manageable, and actually it’s encouraged me to really branch out with my cooking, but sometimes when I’m at social events, I do feel like I’m being an inconvenience by being vegan.
So, it’s now the start of 2018, and I’ve decided that I will, for the most part, stay vegan. When I’m cooking at home, or if there’s a straightforward option on the menu, I’ll opt for vegan dishes. But, if I go to a friend’s house for dinner, I won’t be requesting they cook a vegan dinner especially for me. I believe that as long as the majority of my diet is vegan, and that the intentions are there, it’s good enough. I really do believe there are endless health benefits to this diet, and of course, the ethical reasons alone should be enough to follow it, but unfortunately, our culture can make it challenging (although that is starting to change!).
I’ve really enjoyed this month and it’s helped me learn so much more about nutrition and the health benefits of veganism. I still have so much more to learn, and I plan to continue with my research. Check out some of the recipes I’ve included, and I hope this blog post has inspired you to really think about exactly what you’re putting into your body.
Pictured above: Butternut squash ribbons cooked in a tomato and garlic sauce, with aubergine, pepper, mushrooms and spinach.
Pictured above: Roasted sweet potato with mashed avocado and lemon juice, served with mushrooms and kidney beans.
Pictured above: Vegan rocky road brownies, using chopped dates, coconut oil, cocoa, cashew nuts, syrup and oats.
Pictured above: Vegan jammie dodgers, using blended raspberries and a little sugar for the filling!