Beginning our plant-based journey
As you may know, over the past few years, our family has moved closer and closer towards veganism, with plant-based eating becoming more and more of our daily diet.
Our primary motive has been for environmental reasons – our food makes up between 25-30% of an average person’s carbon footprint, and of that meat and dairy makes up 83%! So switching our meat and fish faves out for plant-based alternatives can have a huge effect on helping the planet.
And of course, eating less animals and animal products feels good for the soul too. (I’m particularly grateful to Antonia from The Harmless Kitchen for her continuous and loving advocacy on behalf of animals – it’s really inspired me to continue our journey.)
Eating more and more vegetables and less and less animal products.
My husband always remembers to celebrate how much of a changed we've made, especially when I'm feeling like we're not 'there' yet, and want to do more. When we moved back from the US in 2018, we weren't heavy meat eaters, but I would definitely say we were moderate meat eaters. Maybe mince once a fortnight, chicken or fish once a week and kid-approved sausages at least once a week.
And that continued until probably 2020.
Now, three or four years on, we probably eat Vegan four to five times a week, Vegetarian once or twice. We no longer have meat or fish at home for our family meals, but the kids might have a ham sandwich at school every now and then; or if we’re at relatives’ houses, we may make an exception. But the food we buy, make and eat in our house is meat and fish free – and hubby and I are vegan or veggie when we eat out too.
And we continue along that path, finding and incorporating vegan alternatives that work for us (without placing pressure or judgement on our shoulders before we have made the next change).
Texture & Depth
One of my top tips for moving away from meat and fish and towards vegetables is about texture and depth.
One of the things you may not realise until you give it up, is that a meal which includes both vegetables and animal protein has multiple textures and flavours. Without you realising it, subconsciously, your tongue, your teeth and your brain look for that range of textures to contribute to the sense of satisfaction from a meal. If you literally cook a ‘meat and two veg’ meal without the meat, you’ll come away disappointed.
And that’s where texture and depth comes in.
When I’m cooking a vegan meal, I make sure I cook different vegetables in different ways.
For example, I’ve developed a super tasty ‘Roasted Curry’, whereby I roast cauliflower or broccoli and chickpeas in curry powder – that provides the crunch. I cook rice, which provides the softer, ‘chewier’ starch. And then I make a daal with lentils and tomatoes, which is a much softer texture.
This range of not only flavours, but textures too really makes a huge difference and fills us up as much as any chicken version of the meal would do.
I’m still a novice when it comes to vegan cooking, but I’m definitely learning a lot – mainly through trial and error. And I’m managing to create some new family favourites along the way.
A few of our family's vegan faves
Whether it will become a spag bol, a chilli or a lasagne, I make sure our bolognese has a depth of flavours. I do this by starting with garlic, onion, oil, salt, pepper and any old, wrinkly tomatoes.
I then add a splash of red wine if I have it. Then it's the tinned tomatoes, followed by a teaspoon of marmite and a teaspoon of miso paste. Next it's the Quorn and / or lentils, depending on what we have. Then finally, I top it off with squeeze of tomato sauce. (It's not normally Heinz, but the kids pressured Hubby last time he did the shopping!)
2. Not-Duck Pancakes
This is such a simple and well-received dinner at ours. Slice thinly, then dry fry mixed mushrooms. Thinly slice some cucumber. And serve with pancakes / wraps and a hoisin sauce. The dry-frying gives the mushrooms a pleasing chewy texture.
3. 'Pulled' Portobellos
Another quick and easy mushroom dish. Slice and griddle portobello mushrooms. (And roast potato wedges and steam some green beans.) Then add to a pan and stir in some barbecue sauce - and depending in how many we're feeding, and how many mushrooms we have (mushrooms shrink a tonne!), I might add a tin of black or pinto beans too. Stir and heat through. Done!
4. Roasted curry, daal and rice
Roast the veg plain for 15 mins at 180. Take out, oil, season, shake and put back in for another 15. Take out, sprinkle with curry powder, shake to fully cover with the powder and put back in for another 15 mins.
Meanwhile, add garlic, onion and cloves to a pan, cook for 5 mins. Add garam masala, cumin, coriander and salt. Cook for 5 mins. Then add fresh or tinned tomatoes, plus a tin of lentils. And then cook on a low heat for as long as possible.
Serve with rice and other accompaniments.
I hope that brief overview of some of the dishes that we've been playing around with gives you some inspiration to ensure you think about texture and depth next time you're experimenting with vegan cooking.
I'd love to know what you've tried, and what's working for you!
With love from my family to yours,