Thursday, 26 June 2008

Cheating at veganism

Haha, caught you with that title didn't I! You thought you were getting a full confession of my slip-ups and misdemeanours. Well, sorry, if you're the sort of person who likes that kind of thing you will be disappointed. If, however, you're after ideas for making veganism easy, you should probably retain some level of hope and keep reading.

Here are some basic things that are vegan (usually - check labels before buying in case you've found the one brand with milk in, as happened to me with gnocchi yesterday. The bloody soddingness of Sainsbury's on that issue is something on which I currently agree with Jay Rayner.), value for money, and versatile in their uses. Most also have an impressive level of longevity.
- Pasta. Brown is healthier, white is quicker to cook and digest. Personally I think it is ok to eat white pasta when accompanied by vegetables - while it doesn't have much nutritional value in itself, neither does it contain anything harmful.
- Rice. I tend to apply the same rule re brown vs white, with the proviso that brown rice tastes a shedload better than brown pasta.
- Marigold bouillon powder. Get the red or purple tins - the green one has lactose in. Can be used as a base for sauces, flavouring for curry, risotto or just pasta, or as a drink on its own or with soy milk. Costs a couple of quid, lasts for ages.
- Miso soup. Marigold makes a good one. You can drink it, flavour stuff with it, cook vegetables with it or just eat a bowl of it with random veg or croutons floating in.
- Oatcakes. A quick snack to keep in the desk drawer. Nuts are also good for this, if you're not allergic.
- Soy sauce. A quick way to add flavour.
- TVP mince. Dried is cheaper and keeps longer, frozen is generally more user-friendly. The dried stuff should be soaked for as long as possible - preferably pour some warm water on it before you go to work in the morning. (Not difficult for those of us whose morning routine involves a cup of tea) A good source of protein, can go in anything that you'd use minced meat for, although for the authentic fatty texture you will need to add extra oil or margarine.
- Margarine. Pure (from supermarkets and health food shops) and Suma (normally only in health food shops) are the most popular, according to my admittedly limited survey. Sainsbury's and Mark's & Spencer also do own-brand vegan spreads. Health food shops have a fairly wide range, although quality varies. And, you never know, maybe one day Vitalite will pull their finger out and veganise like they said they would a year ago.
- Couscous. Same purposes as pasta and rice, but quicker.
- Beans. These can be tinned, freshly-boiled or frozen, depending on your time/energy vs money ratio and whether you have freezer space. Red kidney and chickpeas are the most versatile.
- Passata. This is basically liquidised tomatoes. Comes in cartons or glass bottles - the latter is best if you want it to last for a while. Use with mince and veg for a pasta sauce, or mince and beans for chilli.
- Sunflower oil, for cooking things in.
- Cornflour, to thicken sauces. Or you could use bread flour for this - a bit more faff, but also has more uses in general. (like bread, or pizza, or cake)
- Tomato puree, as a thickener and a flavouring
- Quinoa. Same purpose as pasta, rice and couscous, but with far more nutritional value.
- Peanut butter. Yes, for cooking. Can be turned into pasta sauce, satay for a stir-fry or curry, soup base, spread, dip, sex aid and much more. (one of these suggestions does not come from my experience! A spoonful of peanut butter to the person who guesses which.) Contains protein, unsaturated fat, calcium and probably more that i can't think of right now.

These are the nuts and bolts of my diet. Of course they aren't the limit of what I eat - I do sometimes splash out on fake bacon, soy cheese and so on, and also try to introduce fresh veg whenever possible. And this list doesn't include dessert. In general, though, if you have most of the items on the list, you can always throw something together - this doesn't rule out dressing it up if you have time, energy, money or all three. The better food you can make for yourself at home, the less likely you are to send out for a pizza.

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