7 Foods (and Lots of Tips) to Help You Nail Veganuary

whole foods market veganuary

If you are one of the 250,000 or more people expected to pass on the cheese and meat and take up a vegan diet this January – AKA Veganuary – then this post is for you. It’s also for you if you’ve been leaning towards plant-based eating and cooking for a while, but still need some extra inspo to make it work long term.

I’ve teamed up with Whole Foods Market to share my pick of vegan foodie products to help you have a successful Veganuary (and hopefully, beyond). From meat-free alternatives such as tofu and tempeh, vegan baking essentials, natural sauces and condiments (including vegan mayo!) to sweet treats and snacks, I’ve cherry-picked my faves below.

Continue reading “7 Foods (and Lots of Tips) to Help You Nail Veganuary”

My 8 favourite cookbooks for healthy vegan and vegetarian cooking

fresh india cookbook best vegetarian

I love a good cookbook. I have over 35-40 of them – bought, inherited or gratefully received. A few have proven their worth and have become absolute favourites. They’re the ones I can always rely on to provide me a new or interesting way of cooking with an ingredient. Or offer an inspiring recipe I can pull together with minimum effort and with simple foods I usually already have.

Friends often ask if I can recommend a good book and there are a few I always call out, which I’ve listed here. Each one is best for a different reason, occasion or cooking style. So if you’re looking to renew your repertoire of recipes or need fresh inspiration for healthy, plant-based cooking (that’s still hearty and filling!) then this is the list for you. Feel free to pass it on.

1. World Food Cafe Vegetarian Bible

By Chris and Carolyn caldicott

And it really is a bible. If you’re excited by the variety and flavours of world cuisine you will love this. Organised by region, the authors have cherrypicked recipes that show off the best from that area. I usually turn to this book when I’m looking for a curry, going straight to the index to see the options for my chosen veg (which is how I use most cookbooks) and then I can almost guarantee the dish I find in here wouldn’t be in any other cookbook.

Best for: interesting DISHES from FAR AND WIDE

2. The Happy Pear

by David and Stephen Flynn

This was a gift from a good friend and very quickly became a regular go-to. I’m quite averse to vegan food that’s light or superficial, inadvertently channeling the notion that vegans are not hearty eaters (which is far from the truth, in my case anyway!). The Flynn brothers have taken everyday, popular ingredients such as squash and lentils and not only given them fuss-free makeovers but the recipes are sure to fill you up too. There’s not a drop of pretentious cooking here, just down to earth, wholesome meals that are both inviting and easy to follow.

BEST FOR: keeping the family full and happy

 

3. Fresh India

by Meera Sodha

I received this as a birthday present from another good friend only a few months ago and it’s been the most exciting edition to my collection. I made three recipes within the first few days of receiving it and instantly bookmarked so many more to try. Possibly because I’m obsessed with vegetarian Indian cuisine – you’ll find me at one of London’s local pure vegetarian restaurants feasting on dosa, idly and vada at any possible opportunity – that I was smitten by this book but also because Meera Sodha makes everything so simple. For example, I’ve picked up lots of new (and uncomplicated) ways of cooking Indian-inspired sauces and I found it super easy to take ingredients from one recipe and combine with the method of another, depending on what I have in the kitchen.

Best for: being creative with Indian cooking with hardly any effort

 

 

4. The Nut Butter Cookbook by Pip & Nut

By Pippa Murray

This book isn’t vegetarian or vegan (in fact, apart from the nut butters there’s hardly any vegan recipes) but I have easily adapted ideas and replaced dairy ingredients with non-dairy alternatives. The highlight for me is the Peanut Sweet Potato Gratin – once I’d swapped the cream and milk for coconut milk, it was divine.  I have also discovered super easy ways to turn nut butter into sauces, dips and dressings which has transformed my lunches and dinners. I now make peanut and sriracha sauce almost daily!

Best for: surprisingLy endless ways with nut butter


5. Silk Road Vegetarian

by Dahlia Abraham-Klein

This one was a bit of a wild card which I bought after a recommendation from my uncle, who also loves vegetarian cooking, and despite its slightly old fashioned imagery it’s definitely proven itself. Covering a region I’m naturally drawn thanks to my Iraqi heritage, I often reach for this when I want comfort food inspiration. It’s great for stews and rice dishes.

Best for: traditional cuisine that’s true to its origins

 

6. Cook, Share, Eat Vegan

by Aine Carlin

Who would have thought that one day there would be as many modern vegan cookbooks as there are out today. Bookshops and bookshelves are bursting with them all vying for our attention but it’s hard to see which ones are really worth having. Having eaten a vegan diet for over a decade now (way back when veganism was still very hippie) I feel like my plant-based cooking skills constantly needs challenging and refreshing which is why Aine Carlin’s collections appeal. If you’re looking for the next step up in plant-based cooking I’d definitely recommend this. The ideas go the extra mile to impress but still accessible and easy to make.     

Best for: Impressing guests (but not leaving them hungry)

 

 

7. Riverford Companion: Autumn Winter and Spring Summer

By GuyWatson

I’m a regular customer of Riverford veg delivery boxes (I’ve tried other veg boxes over the years but always come back to Riverford for the variety and generous portion sizes) so it’s no surprise I also love their cookbooks, thoughtfully presented for seasonal cooking. Guy Watson and the Riverford team never fail to reveal a new or enlivening way to prep or cook a vegetable, banishing boredom and educating with their decades of expertise along the way.

Best for: never being stuck with what to do with a vegetable again

 

8. The Dal Cookbook

By Krishna Dutta

An oldie but a goodie. I have no idea how this one entered my life (another gift maybe?) but for lovers of dal (obviously) it’s a must-have. From simple to elaborate and all styles and flavours in between, this is a chance to experiment with over 50 ways to find your favourites. It’s also a bit of a reference book for all things lentil-based, another reason why it’s stood the test of time on my bookshelf.

Best for: Never cooking the same dal twice

 

Would love to hear what your go-to veggie/vegan cookbooks are! Thanks for reading :)

How to stick to Veganuary

veganuary Logo-how to stick to veganuary

Good news for celebrity vegans attending the BAFTA awards (Sunday 14th February) as this year vegan food is on the menu. Hoorah! Finally, a plant-based diet without dairy or meat is coming out of the shadows and being noticed by the mainstream as something desirable to try.

I was away for most of January but it seems Veganuary was a huge success. According to the organisers, around 23,000 people had pledged to give up meat and dairy so far, up from 3,000 in 2014. Very impressive.

nondairy milk at morrisonsI’ve been a vegan for around 10 years now (and vegetarian since I was nine) so it’s no new thing for me but there’s never been a better time to go dairy and meat-free.

Blogs and websites are full of inspiration for cooking and health (Green Kitchen Stories, Natural Kitchen Adventures and Sprouted Kitchen are a few of my favourites) and supermarket shelves are exploding with non-dairy produce. Years ago I’d be lucky if found one variety of non-dairy milk. Look at it now! (That picture was taken in Morrison’s a few weeks ago.)  

Years ago it was not the coolest of lifestyle choices. I was usually too embarrassed to say the V-word in case people thought I was weird let alone promote it as something to try. I would always say I’m ‘vegetarian and I didn’t eat dairy’ (mumbled quietly and quickly before anyone really noticed).

Now doing the big V is like proudly wearing the latest wellness badge and touted as the must-try new thing to help you lose weight, stay slim or eat more superfoods. Luckily they were never my primary motivations but definitely an added bonus of not eating butter, cheese, cream, eggs or meat. Some people will try Veganuary as it’s another trend to try, for others it will resonate more deeply and they will hopefully stick with it.

Sticking to a vegan diet has never been hard for me as it was never a fad or fashion. It was something I believed in

I did it for fairly strong ethical and health reasons of my own will. It came from an unwillingness to support the very act and nature of meat and dairy farming. I realised the problems that motivated me to be vegetarian (inhumane, unnatural and intensive farming) still very much existed in the dairy industry so it didn’t make sense to eat dairy and not meat. The more I read about the dairy industry the more I knew I couldn’t support it.

I didn’t want to buy into an industry that’s unethical in its practices (see ethicalconsumer.com report here), pumps its animals with antibiotics and growth hormones which we end up ingesting, puts unfair pressures on farmers to meet unrealistic supermarket quotas, and intensive farming methods that have massive environmental and human impact. I don’t agree with any of those things and don’t want any of them on my conscience.

So whatever your reasons for going vegan, whether it’s to less meat, be more healthy, lose/manage weight or even do your bit for the environment, the secret to sticking to Veganuary after January is to make sure the motivation comes from within.

The more the decision resonates with you personally, the more likely you are to stick to it.

Read up about what you’re doing, learn how to make it work, what sacrifices you may have to make, and how to eat well – being vegan means you omit a few major food groups so it’s important to substitute well so you don’t fall weak or ill. Discover where your boundaries lie (e.g. will you eat honey, but say no to a leather sofa? Or are you happy to have a bit of cake on special occasions (like I am!) particularly if your friend has baked it, but won’t wear a leather jacket. Experiment and you’ll discover what’s right for you and your lifestyle and where you can draw the lines.

If you’re going from full meat eater to vegan then it’s a massive jump so take small steps rather than going cold turkey, excuse the pun. Don’t be hard on yourself for having a bit of cheese after dinner and be open to trying new and alternative ways of eating breakfast, lunch and dinner. In restaurants, be creative with the menu but always smile sweetly at the waiter/waitress when making your extra special requests.

Remember, it’s not a punishment so enjoy it. Done with an open, relaxed and flexible mind it can be a really vibrant and creative way to eat.

It’s the best thing I ever did and if you’re giving it a go, let me know how you’re getting on and hope you love it too.

sticking to veganuary

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