I can’t believe we’re already almost a quarter of the way through our Veganuary challenge! It’s been so much fun so far… not least because we’ve put so much thought into what we’re cooking and eating.
Fittingly too, for a milestone day, today has also been a pretty amazing day in terms of everything going right. This morning Si treated us to an amazing breakfast of chia seed pancakes… we hadn’t been sure how/whether making them using ground up seeds in place of egg would work, but honestly you couldn’t tell the difference between these and wholegrain/buckwheat pancakes, they had a lovely nutty flavour and were so airy and light, almost like crepes in texture.
As part of our new healthy living challenge, we’ve also vowed to up our movement – my challenge at the moment is to improve my daily step count, and do at least one session of ‘proper exercise’ per week (hoping to increase this once I’ve built good habits) – and so today we decided to complement our efforts on two legs with an excursion on two wheels.
Although I’ve lived in London for almost 8 years, believe it or not I’ve never been on a Boris bike before – in fact, I haven’t cycled at all since I was at uni – but today seemed as good a day as any to change that! It’s wonderfully convenient (and cheap!) – Si took me to the bike rank nearest his home, reassuring me that it would just be like falling off a log (‘painful, and potentially deadly if you do it in the wrong place’, I thought…), and after a few taps of a keypad, we were on our way.
You know what? The old phrase ‘it’s like riding a bike’ is absolutely true – you really don’t forget how to cycle. I was a bit wobbly and uncoordinated to start, but I didn’t fall off or kill anyone – and most importantly, it was enormous fun. We did two laps of Victoria Park, and halfway through found a really interesting street market that we hopped off to explore. There were all sorts of food stalls – cheeses, meats, fruit and veg – and, other than a specialist burger stand, none of them were particularly vegan-friendly… but you know what, it proved that since we started this challenge we have both definitely turned a corner mentally, in terms of missing stuff or craving particular foods. As we wandered through the stalls, I found myself looking at what was on offer, enjoying the smells, but despite there being many glorious noms for sale, and many tempting aromas of cooking meat, I was able to just admire them objectively, with no particular desire to fling myself face-first at the cheese stall. Miracles do happen!
Still full from breakfast, we didn’t really need any lunch, though we did take advantage of the Holland and Barrett penny sale to acquire two bags of lentil chips (I may have already demolished one). I maintain that they are ‘no hula hoops’, but they are pretty tasty – and, admittedly, healthier than my usual salted potato snack of choice. The real excitement of the afternoon, though, was acquiring a new food processor/blender combo, half price in the sales – we now have joint custody of this wonderful creation, I can’t wait to try it out!
The afternoon was taken up with making seitan for our dinner – Si has documented it beautifully here, so I won’t go into more detail, but it was huge fun. Quite involved, and very physical, but what a laugh! Putting the science in domestic science – even if the material we were working with did look troublingly like brain/offal/an alien for quite a lot of the process.
Between that and dinner we had to swing by my sister’s to deliver a TV (no longer wanted by Si’s flatmate) and some other bits and bobs – our first experience as vegan guests, and it was very funny. So as to be no trouble, we brought our own milk – we’ve moved on from almond to cashew for the coming week – but quickly realised how complicated being a vegan in a non-vegan setting can be. When offered a biscuit, my immediate response was ‘what’s in them?’ – yes, I’m afraid I seem be turning into one of those guests! – and soon afterwards sis had an attack of conscience after accidentally stirring my tea with the same spoon she had just used for her (real milk) one. Honestly, I didn’t mind!
A note on cashew milk, by the way – it’s definitely my favourite milk substitute so far, beating almond into second place. I tried oat milk earlier this morning and found it a bit grainy textured, plus I’m not sure I particularly like the flavour (even though it was lovingly made by Si). Almond is lovely insomuch as, in tea, you can’t taste any difference… but cashew is the real deal, it makes the tea taste slightly thicker, like when you add actual milk. For an authentic-feeling cuppa, this is the ‘milk’ to go for.
Returning home (after some heroics on the tube by Jones) it was time for tea! And what a feast we cooked up – who says you can’t have Sunday roast when you’re a vegan? We cooked the seitan in a lovely marmitey gravy and served it up with roasted potatoes (cooked with garlic, rosemary, thyme, and chilli); potato and sweet potato mash; steamed broccoli and cauliflower; and braised cabbage… it was amazing! The seitan was a revelation – while not quite a dead ringer for beef, it certainly looked the part, and texturewise was not unlike toughish sliced meat. The taste was lovely and savoury, though perhaps needs more flavour adding at the rolling out stage – I’m sure we can deepen it somehow. But it was still lovely in a subtle way, and perfectly nommable once we’d doused it in gravy. A triumph!
As a treat, we accompanied dinner with a couple of cool bottles of (alcohol-free) Becks Blue – lovely and light and refreshing, and completely in keeping with our Dry January pledge – and… get this… chocolate icecream! It was a dairy free creation by a Norfolk company, Booja-Booja, and contained only four ingredients: cashew nuts, agave, cocoa, and water – but honestly, you couldn’t tell the difference between this and the full fat milk-made stuff. Called ‘Hunky Punky Chocolate’, it was so smooth and rich and truffley, it was an absolute phenomenon, a thing of extraordinary beauty. Good job Jones was there to prise the tub from my hands and return it to the freezer or I honestly think I could have devoured the whole lot in one go. Amazing!
It’s been a wonderful day, and a perfect end to our first week of Veganuary – on to the next one!
Today we ate/drank…
- Tea with almond milk
- Chia seed pancakes
- Bag of lentil chips (‘I’ll just have a few…’)
- Slice of rye bread
- Handful of nuts and a cup of tea with cashew milk (chez sis)
- A seitan roast with potatoes and veg
- Chocolate icecream!
- Becks Blue