Veganuary. What I’ve learned so far…

I’m more than half way through Veganuary now and so far so good. Here some of my surprising observations, other than it being an easy way to wean yourself off cake and beer after Christmas..

It’s not the meat that’s the hard bit – it’s the dairy.

Meat and fish are surprisingly easy to cut out. That’s the straightforward bit. But the dairy, oh the dairy! Normally not eating meat I’d throw in a bit of cheese. Feta would solve a lot of problems. Or eggs. But these options are obviously gone. Then there’s also the not so obvious. The most bizarre things have milk in them – like dry roasted peanuts?! There is a lot of labelling reading and googling while shopping. But probably what I miss the absolute most is my daily flat white. Almond, soy, rice milk – they don’t cut it. They’re not meant to be served heated. Not to mention that fact that they are mostly water. A flat white is what I long for not bacon or steak like I originally thought it would be…

You really have to think before you drink

I knew Veganuary would mean laying off my favourite whiskey sours (made frothy with a little egg white). But I hadn’t factored in that most wine and beer are not vegan. These alcohols are filtered through fining agents to remove protein, yeast, cloudiness etc can involve anything from casein (milk protein) to chitin (fiber from crustacean shells), egg albumen (derived from egg whites), fish oil, gelatin and isinglass can be used. Thankfully there are lots of newer winemakers that are vegan-friendly using plant casein, limestone or silica gel for this process. You just have to do more label reading. If it’s vegan friendly it will say it. O’Briens have a really good selection and I picked up a few bottles in Dunnes Stores. I also called ahead at Forest Avenue the other night and they had two really good wines to choose from. Oh and Guinness is fully vegan as of last year so that’s keeping me fairly happy.  

You have to be organised

It does take some planning to eat well and enjoyably as a vegan. We were filming just outside of the city the first week, in an beautiful location where the was food delightfully homely but everything had meat or dairy. I ended up eating a wrap with just cucumber, peppers and lettuce, toasted. No sauce, oil, nothing. The lady who made it said ‘Don’t choke on it now, I’d hate that to be my last meal’ as she looked at my ravenous face…

I learnt my lesson – call ahead! Most places are happy to accommodate with a bit of notice. Last week was much better. I had an incredible experience at Forest Avenue where they not only had a vegan tasting menu available the chef also sent us out a few extra tastes and mine were all vegan. Not once did I feel awkward. And the food was amazing. 

You will eat better

There’s no way around the fact that you’re going to eat a lot more plants. And more lentils, beans, nuts, seeds – all those things you usually buy and then forget about and you end up spilling all over the cupboard (maybe that’s just me). By default you won’t eat as much baked goods, mostly full of dairy and eggs. I’ve had a weird amount of birthdays so far in January and not had ANY cake. The most painful being TWO pavlovas in my house in one week. (Thanks Halina). And as I said there is a lot of label reading so you’re going to think more about what’s actually in everything you are eating. You start to make different choices. 

Veganism is not as funny as it seems

I’ve been having serious guilts about how mean I may have been to vegans and vegetarians. Admittedly some the jokes are still funny (the one about the vegan on a plane, no?). It think it’s still funny because you actually have to say ‘I’m a vegan’ a lot when you are eating vegan. And then explain/ apologise about not eating animal products in so many situations – coffee shops, bars, restaurants, tea break at work, birthday parties. And then people make really unfunny jokes. That’s not great. I will definitely be more selective with my vegan humour going forward…

These things will really help

My vegan discoveries & saviours. Admittedly my list is probably very Dublin focused but might be some good ideas!

Happy Pear sundried tomato pesto – on toast, pasta, sweet potato, pretty much anything

Coyo yoghurt – super tasty on breakfast & desserts

Cocu boxes – you can substitute any meat for tofu. Easy vegan on the go.

Natasha’s and Nobo – the best vegan treats

Keen vanilla almond butter – when nothing but sweet will do

Instagram – I’ve had so many supportive messages & following #veganuary hashtag is great for ideas and advice

Happy Veganuary!

What’s next for the avocado?

When these green, creamy fruits first appeared in supermarkets in the UK in 1960s legend goes that one woman stewed them and served them with custard. Fast forward forty years later and avocados are an everyday staple for lots of us – crammed onto our lunch boxes, on our instagram feeds and ubiquitous on every hip menu.

avocado-16041_1280We are simply captivated with this great, green contradiction – the fattiest fruit in the world but oh so good for us! But as we start to run out of quirky brunch ideas and twists on guacamole what’s next for the avocado?

Image from Nobo Ice Cream
Photo from Nobo Ice Cream

Avocado Ice Cream
Really tasty ice cream made from avocado? It’s here – Nobó is the world’s first ice cream alternative made from avocado, coconut milk, and sweetened with pure honey.  It’s also handmade in Ireland in small batches by two very cool food geeks.  Flavours on sale all over Ireland include Chocolate & Toasted Almond, Fresh Lemon and Vanilla & Coconut or check them out at People’s Park market in Dun Laoghaire for more experimental flavours, they’re avo-control.
Want to know more? Listen to them chat about this incredible Irish product on Monocle Radio (from 35 minutes)

Aveyo TA
Photo from Aveyo

Avocado Mayo
Ah two of my favourite fatty foods come together to make something relatively healthy? Yep it’s happening in the form of Avèyo the avocado mayonnaise. No soybean oil or eggs and it actually tastes like a good mayo. Unveiled recently in the US at the Fancy Food Show it’s made from 5 ingredients and is 82% avocado. Compared to mayonnaise, Avèyo has: 1/5 the fat (2 vs. 10 grams) and 1/3 the calories (25 vs. 90 cal.).  Looking forward to this new squeeze…

Hemsley & Hemsley Pina Colada Smoothie
Hemsley & Hemsley Pina Colada Smoothie Photo by Nicholas Hopper

Avocado drinks
Haven’t you heard? Bananas are sooo yesterday.  These days it’s all about the avocado, adding substance, creaminess and an undeniable hip factor to your drinks & smoothies. Not only that but they can also add nearly 20 vitamins and nutrients to aid in the nutrient-density of your smoothie. Check this super collection of avocado smoothie recipes or Dubliners can pop in the Ranelagh’s Green Beards to try their wholesome Green Goddess smoothie. Or try this incredible Pina Colada Smoothie from the uber stylish Hemsley & Hemsley sisters new book The Art of Eating Well. Loads of avocado recipes in there. Still not convinced? Here’s why swapping out for an avocado can make such a difference. Hass to be done…

 

Chocolate & Avocado cake from Not Quite Nigella
Chocolate & Avocado cake from Not Quite Nigella

Avocado cake!
Yes the knobbly green fruit can even make cakes taste better. They can replace fruit, vegetables, animal products and dairy in various baked goods perfect for any vegans or even just health conscious – you’ll be increasing nutritional value adding the nutrient packed goodness of an avocado to your dessert. I love the texture it adds to baked goods and even better the pretty green hue it can add to your cakes.  Try this bright green cheesecake again from avocado loving Hemsley & Hemsley sisters. Also for any chocolate lovers out there this cake from Not Quite Nigella tastes incredible. So now you can av-your-cado and eat it. 

AVOCADO 101
Why they are so bloody
good for us
Deep fried avocado cone anyone?
The secrets to ripening an avocado
10 really good avocado recipeseatmenow.jpg