Today sees the start of my official vegan journey, although over the last 15 months I’ve had a lot of experience cooking, shopping and eating plant-based. My partner became vegan in October 2015, which impacted hugely on my life and on this very blog. While at first I was reticent to curb my own meat and dairy eating, it became clear that to make life easier as a working mum of two I’d have to change everything we consumed at home and that was no small undertaking! I decided Veganuary was the perfect way to kick start my own transition this year, especially after watching documentaries like Cowspiracy and Vegucated. To all those who ask what vegans eat the answer will become clear over the course of this post – PLENTY!
There are some people who become vegan for animal welfare – and that has to be a significant factor for anyone undertaking this step – but my own process began by looking into the sustainability issues around animal agriculture and the impact this has on the environment. Reading labels when visiting the supermarket I realised how many animal products were in products that probably didn’t need to be. I remember the first ‘big shop’ I did after Mr. Canny became vegan took me 90 minutes instead of my usual 45 because I had to scrutinise everything I purchased. We’re still switching brands in the house and probably still have cosmetics and cleaning products that aren’t suitable, but we also have strong convictions regarding waste.
With this in mind I thought I’d share some of the lovely food I’ve found over the last year and a bit that have made my life easier. Some of the substitutes I’d willing take now over the ‘real deal’, while others we had been consuming anyway and didn’t even realise they were vegan. Everyone knows about Oreos & Bourbon Biscuits, right?!
While we do a lot of our shopping in our local Tesco, I try to support local businesses where I can to purchase that may be more difficult to source. In Newcastle we have independents like Farplace Stores and Almonds & Raisins in the Grainger Market where I can pick up Suma products and the incredible Tyne Chease. Seriously, I’m addicted to that stuff!
While it may appear we eat a lot of processed foods by these photos, I love trying to adapt my old recipes to create egg and dairy-free alternatives. My vegan Yorkshire Puddings are made using the Aquafaba, which is basically the water drained off a tin of chickpeas. They may not reach the lofty heights of my double egg versions, I’m proud I was able to create them. Orgran Egg Replacer is also used in my recipe and is a great store cupboard ingredient. A box lasts ages and can be found in most supermarkets and Holland & Barrett. The above photo is a Banana Bread recipe I’ve been using for years after my son asked me to make a cake that was gluten and egg-free for school. The fancy white chocolate ‘drizzles’ were made using Tesco Free From Chocolate Buttons. A growing acknowledgement and accommodation for those with allergies by supermarkets has certainly benefited vegetarians and vegans.
With milk-free prepared sauces like this Korma from Tesco, and the availability of creams like this one available from Alpro, cooking for the family is actually quite easy.
Linda McCartney and Quorn have vegan meat substitutes that are great for midweek suppers when you are time pressed, and I always ensure these are served up with fresh vegetables for vitamins and nutrients. You can even buy fish-less fingers in the supermarket, if you simply can’t live without a Fish Finger Sarnie when you’re hungover. You can find a recipe for my own Katsu Curry sauce, made with vegetables or teamed up with these breaded Quorn Fillets to emulate Wagamama at home, here.
While Tyne Chease is my absolute favourite dairy-free cheese, I have searched long and hard for alternatives to use on the top of pizzas, in sandwiches, etc. This Wilmersburger version is great and doesn’t have the horrid coconut taste I’ve found with the likes of Sainsbury’s own brand vegan ‘Gary’. It is also available in a variety of types. The Cheddar is great in a Grilled Cheese Toastie!
Discovering Biscoff was suitable was an Hallelujah moment, but I struggled not having Nutella around. We tried out all manner of spreads without any joy until we discovered Nature’s Store in our local supermarket. Our weekend breakfasts usually revolve around crumpets and one of these.
Another great recommendation is Jus-Rol, who have a lot of products that are accidentally vegan.
I used their Shortcrust Pastry to create a Mushroom Wellington we ate on Christmas Day this year, while the Cinnamon Rolls make a great breakfast treat for those who aren’t necessarily watching their calories. I recommend checking the labels on items regularly before purchasing, as sometimes recipes used by companies can change. I would hate to consume something I don’t want to through a lack of vigilance and presumption that things will forever remain the same!
Speaking of which, in restaurants we are always wary about what we are given. I remember the first time we tried out vegan ice cream, and how shocked we were at how good it was. We discovered it was a brand readily available in the supermarkets called Swedish Glace, and I will never buy dairy ice cream again. We’ve even convinced non-vegan friends to buy it after they’ve sampled it at our house.
We recently found a local start up with a range of vegan brownie and cookie mixes for sale. The Chocolate Brownie mix from Auntie Mo’s was so good that Mr. Canny was convinced I was wrong about it being suitable for us! The instructions were easy to follow and would make a great gift in these jars. They’re definitely high on my list of ‘must-haves’ when you crave something sweet.
Fry’s do an interesting range of vegan-friendly products for families are those who miss meat. Our Teen misses fish, so I buy these Battered Prawn Style Pieces for him. The Hot Dogs went down well at our annual Bonfire Night party, with some meat-eaters not even realising we’d given them a replacement.
I’ve even started to try and make my own substitutes when I find I’m not keen on the processed versions. Above is my attempt at Tofu ‘Bacon’, which was made with a marinade of liquid smoke, amongst other ingredients.
Not all vegans and vegetarians like Nut Roasts, but I always have one of these by Artisan in the cupboard in case I find us without weekend plans. I picked ours up from Farplace, although they are available in purchase online. As you’ll see from the number of restaurant reviews I post though, we eat out a lot too!
We’d be pretty unhealthy vegans if all we ate was Quorn and Vego chocolate, so I have spent time in the last year trying to ‘jazz up’ vegetables to create interesting and tasty main meals using nature’s own bountiful produce. Above is a Cauliflower Caponata I made for Sunday lunch a few months ago, and you can find the recipe here.
Part of my resolve for the New Year is to share more recipes and tips like this. Canny Food are on Facebook and Instagram and we will be posting links to things that may be of interest to those participating in Veganuary, or those who are already vegan and are looking to try out new recipes. We also welcome comments and tips for us too, as we’ve by no means experts on being vegan!
Thanks for reading,