“So, what can you actually eat?”
I get asked this on a daily basis, but I’m used to it. Being gluten free you get the same questions, but when it’s gluten free AND vegan people tend to look at you with a glazed stare, wondering how on earth you’re still standing.
Well I can confirm I am still standing and I’m feeling pretty good.
I’m not going to lie, it hasn’t been plain sailing. I started a few days late, due to being ill at the start of January. I actually started strong on January 1st, but when you’re run down with the flu it’s really not best to drastically change your diet, so I decided to wait until I was a little perkier and actually had my appetite back. But once I was prepped, I was ready to get cracking.
There are days I crave cheese. There are days I crave Dairy Milk. (Who are these devils who think it’s OK to release Easter Eggs eve super early this year?! Creme Eggs are my actual one true love, and it seems a crime to keep us apart but I haven’t caved). There are days I crave chicken, perfectly baked on the bone with garlic and oil, to form a thin crispy skin. Oh God.
‘What the hell I am doing.’ I ask myself a lot. But I already feel like I’ve come really far and want to continue to the end. It feels good to challenge yourself and even better when it pays off. I’m feeling lighter, surprisingly spending less on food and even managed to fit into an American Apparel size S, (which is literally unheard of) so there must be changes occurring,
So what have I actually been eating?
Here’s a little breakdown –
Before I leave the house, I’ll grab a single gluten free oat cake to quickly munch as I walk to the station. I have breakfast at work, but I’m one of those who can’t leave the house without having something. I’ve fainted on the train into work before, so I have to be careful.
Once I arrive at the office just before 9am I’ll have porridge. I’m not a massive fan of soy milk (although I’ve found it’s not too bad in the odd cappuccino) and although I do like almond and coconut milk, to keep the price and richness to a minimum, I quite simply use water. As a child I’d always have porridge with water and never really thought differently. I’m usually a skimmed milk girl, so switching to water wasn’t too much of a shock, but I can imagine the flavour would be pretty different for someone used to whole milk. Once microwaved, I’ll add a swirl of maple syrup for added sweetness.
Lunch I find is so much easier if planned in advance. A lot of the time, I’ll make extra for dinner and bring a portion into work (see below). Other times I’ll go simple like avocado and rice or soup (FYI Tideford Organics are gluten free and vegan).
If I’m feeling super prepared, I’ll make something like falafel and hummus. Great with spinach, rice or gf crackers depending on how hungry you are. The only thing I’ll say about falafel is I’ve found chickpeas and lentils to be quite bloating. Probably my own fault for having four falafel with a big dollop of hummus every day for four days… Topped off with lentils that I forgot to soak… Oops. Hello looking six months pregnant. If making falafel, I’d freeze in portions and defrost for a couple of portions a week rather than having them every day! Once I laid of daily portions of chickpeas and lentils, the bloat disappeared.
If I’m feeling less prepared, I’m super lucky to have Mildred’s a 30 seconds walk away. I bang on about Mildred’s a lot, but the food’s delicious, reasonably priced, and clearly labelled. All of their menu is vegetarian, and most is gluten free. A large chunk is also vegan as well as gf, which is why it’s so perfect a quick lunch you can rely on. It’s almost impossible to get a table, but the salad bar and hot counter are perfect for a takeaway. They have easily the best salads in London, but also have delicious curries, which use the likes of sweet potato, aubergine and plum tomatoes. Seriously yum.
The complexity of my dinner is often decided by what kind of day I’ve had and if I’m feeling like cooking up something new after getting in at 8pm. I think we tend to forget that most carbs and all veggies are perfectly fine, and a simple dinner like jacket potato and beans may not be the most nutritious, but it’s naturally vegan and gf, and often all you want after a long day. Eating a jacket potato I like to compare like a warm hug. I got myself some VioLife vegan cheese from Planet Organic and actually got it to melt, by adding a layer before and after the beans. Heaven.
Another way I’ve been using vegan cheese is when putting together my own pizzas. Schar’s gluten free pizza bases (which I’m a big fan of) are also vegan and with a quick tomato and garlic topper, sliced beef tomato, topped with vegan cheese, a little fresh spinach and chilli flakes, you’d never tell the difference! Granted this isn’t ‘proper cheese’ but it does the job. I can only compare it to the classic 90’s Cheesestring – not a particularly strong flavour, rubbery in texture and difficult to melt – but otherwise definitely gives the illusion of cheese.
Other dinners have consisted of; lentil bolognase, homemade pesto with gf pasta, nut roast roast dinner with rosemary potatoes, maple roasted veggies and vegan gravy, Thai green curry and rice, Thai green curry broth with rice noodles (found myself a vegan green curry paste! 😉 No shrimp in this one baby!), peanut noodle stir fry (recipe to come I promise) and veggie curry.
We also must not forget the humble potato. My favourites for roasting and baking are Maris Piper, sweet potato and baby potatoes. Slice them into wedges, cube then, half them, peel and roast them, whatever takes your fancy. My favourite combo is lots of oil, garlic, rosemary and a dash of smoked paprika.
I’m big on snacks, me. Being prepared with bits and bobs I could nibble on was important for me not to cheat. As I explained in my first Veganuary instalment, I asked for vegan and gf snacks for Christmas and got some lovely bits to try.
Fruit and nuts are always at hand, but I’ll always have a Nakd bar every day as my little chocolate hit. My faovurite is the chocolate orange flavour, and it’s helping me not to turn to a big slab of Dairy Milk. Dark chocolate is also great and I’ve learnt that ‘coco butter’ is vegan, even thought it sounds at first glance that it would be a no go. Lidl’s version of Hula Hoops (10 packs for £1) are often in my bag as is popcorn.
Next on my list is to create my colleague, Hanan’s Mum’s famous curry (I’ve sampled it and it’s amazing). Hanan is also a blogger at Sizzle and Scribe and I’m going to give her mixture of herbs and spices a go to make another vegan curry. Also next on the list is to try and create a creamy vegan sauce and whip up some homemade soups with the help of Abel and Cole’s Souping Box I was kindly sent to try.
Next week I’m definitely going to check out Kin Cafe. Fellow food blogger Karishma of KB Eats is a chef there and has told me all about their fantastic veggie and vegan menu – many dishes which are gluten free. Also based in Soho, I’ll have to swing by and grab lunch or a cake soon and let you know.
Would love to hear what you’ve been eating during Veganuary, or if you have any cool suggestions for London restaurants and cafes. I’m ALWAYS up for eating out and if anything, it’s the thing I miss the most.
Bring on the next week!