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VEGANUARY CHALLENGE WEEK FOUR

Deputy editor, Sophie, reflects on the highs and lows of her vegan challenge...

VEGANUARY CHALLENGE WEEK FOUR

They say it takes 21 days to break a habit, which might explain why this last week – despite being unfairly longer than usual (thanks a bunch January!) – eating accidentally vegan seemed to have crept into my subconscious way of cooking. When you take all animal products out of a diet, the tendency is to focus on what’s missing. But I found, as the challenge went on, I had changed my perspective.

It’s not like I've ever shied away from vegetables – I hit my five-a-day by 11am most mornings – but suddenly beetroot, sprouts, cabbage, squash, carrots, celeriac, leeks, mushrooms and even the humble onion took on a whole new lease of life, especially when you make them the star of the show.

Braised leeks with walnuts, peas and parsley? Check. Giant onions stuffed with wild rice, sundried tomatoes and olives. A revelation! Tabbouleh, sweet and sticky roasted veg, velvety soups, spiralized noodles, mounds of comforting pappardelle tossed in lemon, pine nuts and extra virgin olive oil. You name it, i’ve tried it this month. If this is vegan food, then yeah, I love it.

So 31 days of veganism and I can honestly say it wasn’t that bad; almost easy in fact. Admittedly, there were some cheese cravings, and yes I stumbled once or twice (confusing food labels didn’t help), but i’m still proud of my commitment to the challenge. I’ve pushed my creativity in the kitchen to the edge, substituted dairy products with every soy- and coconut-based product on the market and then substituted the substitutions all over again, after realising the ‘cheese’ alternatives were never going to cut it. Perhaps lifelong vegans won’t remember the unctuous texture of melted cheese, but I do, so the Violife is out and the Cheddar is back in.

Which leads me onto my next question... how much of the vegan way of life do I intend on sticking with? Well, a fair chunk actually. For the planet, for the animals and for my health, I've decided to do exactly as I did when I transitioned into vegetarianism; i’m going plant-based once a week. With the amount of ‘accidentally vegan’ meals I make, chances are that will creep up too.

So, it's a start.

What vegan highlights have there been this week?

Keen to kick off my final stretch with a celebratory meal, I paid a visit to Theo Randall’s eponymous restaurant within the InterContinental Hotel on London’s Park Lane. The reason? Well, when one of London’s most prominent chefs launches a vegan set menu you know the city’s animal product-free dining scene is on the up. Priced at £29 for two courses or £35 for three (a steal when you consider the plush interiors and attentive, knowledgeable staff), the menu spanned antipasti, primi, secondi and dessert; all presented with a nod from Theo’s signature love of Italy. Highlights included a San Marzano tomatoes and basil bruschetta (sweet and fragrant with the tell-tale earthy tang from new-season olive oil) and perfectly-cooked al dente fresh linguine tossed in a silky, bitter cavelo nero emulsion.

Other store cupboard essentials included the new range of mushroom mince from Hooba Foods, (great for stuffing peppers and a tasty alternative to Quorn in bolognase) and Oatly’s range of dairy-free alternatives. The crème fraîche meant I could still make a creamy mushroom stroganoff while the vanilla custard garnered gasps of disbelief from the meat-eating family when they found out what had topped their apple strudel!

A record 59,500 participants joined in with the challenge in 2017. When asked by the Veganuary team why they had taken the plunge into a plant-based diet, the majority cited animal welfare, their health or the environmental impact of the farming industry. Whatever your reason for looking to try out (or continue with) veganism, it’s fair to say the world could do with a little more compassion right about now.

Did you join in with the challenge? Let me know how you got on via social @rae_soph or @VeggieMagazine and look out for plenty of vegan suggestions and recipes in the March issue of Veggie on sale 23rd February.

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