With an amazing 3.5 million people identifying as vegans in a recent survey, we provide some vegan menu advice.
You would have to have been on holiday to Mars, or trapped on a remote island, to be unaware of the rise in popularity – certainly as far as the food press is concerned – of veganism.
Often termed ultra-vegetarians, those following the vegan way seek to live by a philosophy which seeks to exclude, as far as possible and practicable, all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose.
By extension, vegans promote the development and use of animal-free alternatives for the benefit of humans, animals and the environment. In dietary terms it denotes the practice of dispensing with all products derived wholly or partly from animals. The Vegan Society, which was inaugurated in 1944 and became a registered charity in 1979, adds: “There are many ways to embrace vegan living, yet the one thing all vegans have in common is a plant-based diet avoiding all animal foods such as meat (including fish, shellfish and insects), dairy, eggs and honey-as well as products like leather and any that have been tested on animals.”
The precise number of people claiming to follow a vegan lifestyle is somewhat cloudy, with the suggested total rising from 150,000 in 2006 to a considerable 540,000 a decade later. But a consumer survey last year by comparethemarket.com registered an incredible 3.5 million replies identifying themselves as vegans.
To sober these statistics up, it’s therefore surprising to note that current 2018 membership of the Vegan Society is a mere 7400. Despite the confusing numbers, veganism is being talked about more often, and shows increased interest from people who are at least prepared to give vegan recipes a try – much in the same vein as becoming meat-free a couple of days a week, as urged by those following a vegetarian lifestyle.
Some of this is being brought about by those named months such as Stoptober and Veganuary, when people challenge themselves to go without alcohol or meat for a whole month.
The reported success of Veganuary can perhaps be partly explained by the fact it follows the Christmas festivities – the month when diet products also take centre stage on our supermarket shelves.
Whatever your view, there still persists a ‘love it or loathe it’ attitude between meat-eaters and those who forgo animal products. Veganism also eschews dairy. Many non-vegans do not understand the philosophy of not consuming milk or honey, neither of which cause harm to the animal or insect involved, while vegans’ avoidance of eggs is quite understandable.
So, what are the favourite food combinations of those seeking a vegan diet? I asked a friend of mine for some tips, and to talk me through some meal options.
First thing to consider for a person new to veganism is ‘keep it simple’. Learn how to cook vegetables properly and how to use herbs and spices correctly. While vegan cookery can become very adventurous, it is better to master the basics of texture and flavour first.
There are many ways to prepare and cook vegetables – roasting, stir-fry, steaming and boiling, for example – these last two methods being the best for preserving nutrients. Where herbs and spices are concerned, keeping it simple also means learning about basic spices.
Many of the more complex plant-based recipes require a huge list of spices, but save these for later and begin with simple, minimal spices that can enhance the flavour of the vegetables, grains and proteins you are using. Initially, sea salt, black pepper and perhaps cinnamon might be the only ones you need in the cupboard. Buy a more extensive range as your expertise grows.
Many ‘conventional products’ can be simulated in a vegan way, such as a tofu chorizo, a pea protein tuna, a blended raw cashew nut and ice water whipped cream and any number of non-dairy milks, yoghurts and cheeses made from potato and tapioca starch. Vegetable stock can be a revolution replacement for chicken, and agave nectar a decent replacement for honey. Here are some ideas in menu format to consider:
Serve guacamole, humous or aubergine dip with pitta bread fingers or raw vegetables chopped crudité style. Try salsa fresca, a Mexican dip made with raw tomatoes, lime juice, chillies, onions and coriander leaves or black bean dip with tortilla chips, and any type of salted nuts.
Virtually any combination of raw or cooked vegetables, fruits, beans, grains, seeds and oil-based dressings are good. How about giving roasted beets and watercress with toasted sunflower seeds and a citrus vinaigrette a go? Alternatively, use butterhead lettuce, steamed asparagus and chopped hazelnuts drizzled with lemon juice and olive oil.
Soups are an easy option for vegans – and you don’t need dairy to make a creamy soup. Autumn vegetables such as butternut squash, carrots, parsnips and potatoes can be simmered in water or vegetable stock then puréed to a creamy richness. For something a bit more eclectic, how about a savoury miso broth made with scallions?
So far, so good, but of course it’s the mains where many consider the absence of meat may be most obvious. While there is no shortage of tofu or Quorn-style meat substitutes that mimic meat items (why would you?) there are many other options. Pasta with tomato-based sauces is brilliant without the added cheese and cauliflower and sweet potato curries are very well received, too.
A decorative platter of dried and fresh fruits, nuts in the shell, candied ginger, and dark chocolate make for an enticing dessert course. In summary, as a carnivore myself, albeit one who often has three or four meatless days each week, I think vegans must be the most educated of consumers, with a penchant for turning basic ingredients into tasty and nutritious food combinations. While it’s not for me, all power to the vegan elbow, I say.
(Article source: Choice)