Why would you chose to be vegan for a week? Since I’m a fan of fish and red meat it’s not a natural experiment for me. C., however, is a vegetarian with a dairy allergy, so for him it makes sense to restrict his diet one extra step from time to time.
We’re not going to go vegan permanently: I don’t have the moral conviction and C. agrees that it makes life rather difficult. At home, it is no problem but having a severely restricted diet makes it very difficult to eat out. It is not just something that affect vegans, but is an experience shared by anyone with a food allergy or serious intolerance.
Restricting your diet for reasons of moral conviction or allergies affects your life. Shopping becomes that little bit more involved and you find yourself spending more time reading labels and doing research. It’s probably a good thing: you become more aware or what you eat and where your food comes from. You also have to learn about food processing procedures, labelling standards and E-numbers. Cooking from scratch becomes the easiest option. Depending on your attitude, the side effects of a restricted diet is either interesting or very tedious. (Remember, I’m not talking about a diet that’s restricted in calories here but one that excludes certain foodstuffs, in this instance all manner of meat and meat by-products. The side effects are changes in behaviour rather than changes in shape.)
At home, being vegan is not just easy, but it can be cheap. Pulses and vegetables are cheaper than the cuts of meat that I would chose, anyway. But there’s more to vegan food than pulses – it’s not all bean pate and nut roasts. Fresh vegetables and fruit can be costly but on the whole, we save money on a vegan diet. We cut out the fancy cheeses and chocolates and pocket the difference. The change in what we eat has less of an impact than you might think.
It helps that we have simple breakfast and lunch needs. I’m a cereal girl and am happy to cover my cereal with fruit juice, and we tend to have left-overs of home-made soup for lunch. The week’s dinners looked like this:
- Monday: sweetcorn and spinach fritters with salad and lime pickle. (Recipe below.)
- Tuesday: channa chaat, the spicy and lemony Indian potato salad I wrote about a few weeks ago.
- Wednesday: more channa chaat.
- Thursday: soba noodles with spinach and pine nuts.
- Friday: cheese-free home-made pizza with sugo, capers, artichoke hearts and basil.
Does that look like a short week? It was. Saturday we go out for breakfast, lunch or (sometimes and) dinner. There are some very good vegetarian and vegan restaurants in Edinburgh, but it is a small number and I like variety. Sticking to a vegan diet seriously limits where we can go. I enjoy going out too much to limit my eating out options for long. On Saturday morning I could be seen lustily tucking in to eggs Florentine at Project Coffee in Bruntsfield.
So far, we haven’t managed more than five days running on a vegan diet and that only when we cook our own food. Temporary veganism is a good way of saving some money and remembering to think about what you eat but I’m not committing on a permanent basis and I will never more than dabble. I’ll make the fritters again, though, and again. They’re really good.
Sweetcorn and spinach fritters
I’ve been experimenting with egg and milk free pancakes and have found that a batter of 30 cl flour (preferably buckwheat) and 20 cl liquid (preferably soya milk, but orange juice, water and yogurt can be used too) works well. It makes an American style pancake rather than a crepe, and is a great base for other ingredients. It wasn’t much of a jump to turn it into a fritter. It holds shape and has good flavour in itself and doesn’t need to be deep fried. These fritters have an Indian twist and go particularly well with the avocado and mustard seed from Heidi Swanson’s Super natural Every Day recipe taster on 101 cookbooks.
- 20 cl gram flour
- 10 cl buckwheat flour
- 2 tablespoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon turmeric
- 15 cl soya milk
- 5 cl water (or spinach water or soya milk)
- 1 tablespoon oil (I use rapeseed but vegetable or sunflower works well too)
- 1 small onion
- 2 cloves garlic
- 2 cm piece of fresh ginger
- 1 small green chili
- 150-200 grams of spinach (fresh or frozen)
- 300 grams sweetcorn
- Put flour, dry spices and baking powder in a bowl.
- Add soya milk, water and oil to the flour and mix until smooth.
- Finely chop the onion, garlic, ginger and chili.
- Fry onion and garlic until soft.
- Add the onion mix, ginger, chili, sweetcorn and spinach to the batter and mix thoroughly.
- Heat a non-stick pan and fry dollops of batter until set, then turn. (2-3 minutes per side is usually about right.)
- Keep warm in a low oven while cooking all the batter.
- Serve as soon as possible.