How are we a week in already?? The time really is flying by this VegAugust, and I’m really enjoying our plant-based experiments – everything we’ve made at home has been so tasty, even if eating out has been a bit hit and miss (soggy tofu curry and boring jacket potato, I’m looking at you!).
We’re definitely feeling very well, and are sleeping SO deeply… however, we’ve not yet hit the ‘full of vim and energy’ feeling that we loved last time round. I think it’s because we’re sleeping so well – the alarm clock comes as a real shock, leaving us feeling very groggy in the morning (Si is also missing his coffee!) – but hopefully the energy will kick in soon.
Today we had our first real moral dilemma. I was leading on dinner tonight – back to Indian cuisine, more on that in a mo! – and to go with lovely curry flavours of course we needed (alcohol-free) beer. Our normal go- to is Becks Blue, but Si asked me to surprise him with something different so I picked up a 4-pack of Bavaria 0%. There was nothing in the ingredients list to suggest that we couldn’t have them, but Si is a bit more diligent that I am about checking ingredients, and insisted on googling them. It turns out that they are classed as ‘vegetarian but not vegan’ because isinglass is used in the brewing process, but no fish products end up in the finished product.
Boo and hiss! We had a bit of a problem here, and back and forth we went on what to do. In the end, though, we decided that we would drink them – largely because we are doing VegAugust for health/creative reasons rather than moral ones, and we have still been sleeping on a feather mattress topper/Si is wearing a leather belt to work/I’m wearing wool. I know not all vegans would agree, but we have decided that so long as there are no animal products in what we eat, that is good enough for us, for what we’re doing. That’s the interesting thing about our vegan months, though – it has made us think about and discuss things that would never have occurred to us before.
And what about dinner? Tonight I made vegetable biryani, sort of based on this recipe but cooking the veg and rice separately, and with a few tweaks to the ingredients. I first tried this dish in Brighton, when we were trying to be vegan but our host wanted to go for an Indian.
I started by cutting all the veg – a carrot, two tomatoes, mushrooms, a green pepper, a white onion, two small potatoes, a stick of celery, a couple of handfuls of cauliflower, a fistful of green beans, and a red chilli – into small pieces. I also blitzed up a finger-length of ginger and five fat garlic cloves in the food processor to make my base paste.
Into a pan went a little splash of oil and the diced onion, which I cooked till the onions were softening and a little glossy. Then add the garlic and ginger paste and give everything a good stir. Once that was nice and fragrant, you add the spices – garam masala, turmeric, ground coriander, cumin, chilli powder, and some green curry powder that my parents had brought back from holiday – and the chopped tomatoes.
We now had a thick paste that smelt amazing – and to this I added the ‘harder’ veg – the celery, potato, pepper, carrot, cauliflower, and green beans (basically everything except the mushroom and the chilli), gave everything a big stir, poured in a big glug of vegetable stock, and chucked in a couple of handfuls of sultanas.
While this was simmering, I put the basmati rice on. But while that’s cooking, an aside… I mentioned veg stock just above. One of the more surprising things I learned during previous vegan months is that not all veggie stock cubes are vegan – some of them contain milk. I know, right?? This time round I’d been careful and had bought the Knorr ones, which are fine – but they are so expensive! I’ve
ranted written before about how unfairly expensive vegan-ing can be, and once again I was hit by the ‘vegan tax’ – if I’d been able to buy Tesco own-brand stock cubes, they’d have cost me 50p. But the privilege of having cubes without milk in them? Three times as much!
Ahem – back to the cooking. Once the broth had cooked down, and the potatoes were nice and tender, I added the chopped chilli, mushrooms, and a big handful of frozen peas. By now the rice was pretty much there too, so I turned up the heat on the curry, stirring until the peas had cooked and the sauce had reduced right down, and then I drained the rice and mixed it all together.
Heaped in a bowl and topped with chopped fresh coriander and flaked almonds, it smelled amazing (if I do say so myself). I served it with a wedge of lemon on the side, plus poppadoms (shop-bought and cooked in the microwave, no shame!), and I mixed up a quick raita-inspired dip using Alpro soya yoghurt (important to use the plain one, the one with coconut is too sweet!), finely-chopped cucumber, and a tzatziki mix (essentially dill and garlic) from Tiger.
It was fragrant, it was a lovely mix of textures (the sultanas had gone so soft and fat!), it was super-tasty. I really don’t think it would have been improved by adding lamb or chicken – hooray for vegan deliciousness!
Today I ate/drank
- Tea with almond milk
- Peanut butter on toast with raw mushroom
- Handful of peanuts, spoonful of peanut butter
- Fizzy squash
- Fake gin and tonic
- Tonic water
- Veggie biryani with poppadoms and ‘raita’
- An oat bìscuit
- Chicken nuggets