If you’re one of the 80,000 who have signed up to Veganuary this year, help is at hand! These are five recipes that I would be making if I was vegan or not.
Of all the mainstream diets, veganism has the lowest impact on the planet. Going veggie is a huge help but dairy often has a bigger carbon footprint than chicken or eggs. This paper by Oxford University academics suggests vegan diets have half the greenhouse gas emissions of normal meat diets.
The list of ingredients is a little long but I couldn’t believe how good it tastes. It has protein in the pulses to fill you up, and you can add vegan cheese to the top while the pie is cooking if you’re missing dairy. I’m usually very suspicious of vegan cheese but when it’s melted it all seems to be much nicer!
This one is going to seem mad but I can’t tell you enough how good it is. The combination of potatoes, carrots and nutritional yeast seems improbable — but it works and the best thing is, it’s so much healthier than actual cheese!
For dinner, I cut tortilla wraps into triangles, bake them in the oven for 10 minutes until toasted, pour the cheese sauce over the top and add salsa, jalapenos, refried beans and anything else vaguely Mexican. Do it.
I am forever sharing the recipe for this smokey red pepper, tomato, almond and paprika dip. I’ve taken it to pretty much every party I’ve ever been to. It also involves barely any cooking and makes for great packed lunches with roast veg and roast chickpeas.
Okay this last one’s not a recipe but it’s important! Finding the best alt milk for tea has become a weird hobby of mine. The Barista version of Oatly’s oat milk is super creamy, goes perfectly in tea and coffee and has the most naturally milky taste in my opinion. It’s also great in porridge and smoothies.
The company’s ethics are sound and they grow all their organic oats in Sweden so you know the provenance of the ingredients isn’t dodgy.
Foxlow, 8-10 Lower James St, Soho, London W1F 9EL (020 7680 2710). Two-course meal for two, including drinks: £26
The best thing about eating in Foxlow, to be completely honest, is that you can get two courses for £10 on their veggie/ vegan menu. This, and the copper hanging lamps, teal subway tiles and gold table edging, give succour to the budget-ailed diner who would like to pretend she regularly meets friends for lunch in Soho.
For £3 more you can drink bottomless filter coffee until the caffeine buzz becomes unbearable, at which point you have pretty much won London.
Foxlow is a small chain of restaurants for meat lovers. It is the sister of steak chain Hawksmoor and its usual lunch fare includes rare breed ribs for starters and ribeye for mains. Not a place, then, where you would expect a vegan menu. But lo, in honour of World Vegan Month this November, Foxlow has devised one.
We started with a smoky, creamy carrot houmous, on slices of sourdough, and a leafy pile of kale, avocado and herb salad. The houmous had a nice hit of tahini, which went nicely with carrot top pesto and pumpkin seeds. The kale was vinegary, offset by the avocado, and came with a meagre amount of squash. As it goes, the avocado, having been flown to the UK from lands afar, would have been unnecessary had there been more squash, which is in season and abundant in our own country.
The aubergine steak sure looked like steak, and would please most people to whom the heavily lentilled vegan aesthetic does not appeal. As a meaty restaurant, it makes sense to ground the vegan menu in familiar territory, where diners don’t roll their eyes at descriptions of nut roast and tofu and the like.
The sauce was nice and sweet, the mushrooms added to the umami meaty vibe and and the béarnaise was cleverly veganised, although nothing will ever replace the taste of butter. I would only add that it could do with a side of veg or chips, which I suppose is my fault for not foreseeing.
The cauliflower, in the running for 2017’s most fashionable vegetable, was wonderful thanks to the sauces. The curried aubergine one tasted a bit like HP, and a cauliflower puree brought creamy goodness. The attention to detail of the spicing and seasoning was obvious and the fried chickpeas and wilted spinach helped mop the sauces up.
It’s worth pointing out that on the Thursday that I went to Foxlow with a friend, we turned up at 1pm without booking and were seated straight away. There are other branches in Balham, Chiswick and Clerkenwell.
Foxlow has a 3-star Sustainable Restaurant Association rating – the highest. The rating is based on ingredient sourcing, looking after workers, and caring for the environment. The introduction of more veggie/ vegan options is the cherry on top, given that beef, Foxlow’s specialty, is such a greenhouse gas-intensive food. Even better, rumour has it the dishes are staying put.
There is a magical thing that happens when you combine baked goods with offices. Inbuilt cake radars have been fine-tuned over years and people can sniff the stuff from 20 desks away. Then suddenly, it’s gone.
These biscjacks are a perfect oaty 3pm office stopgap. Tea is mandatory.
P.S. They’re also really cheap to make!
Why are they eco?
I swapped butter for sunflower oil in this recipe, which helps cut down the carbon footprint. Oil, depending on the type and size of the bottle, has about half the footprint of butter. It’s such an easy swap that translates to many other recipes.
Makes 8 biscuit flapjacks
220g oats (any type)
40g brown sugar
1 tsp baking powder
2 tsp vanilla essence
70ml sunflower oil
1 tsp cinnamon
8 blackberries (optional – they’re in season so pick them from the hedgerows!)
1. Preheat the oven to 190C/ 170C fan/ gas mark 5.
2. Whizz the oats with a blender or a hand blender until it is a coarse flour. It should only take a few seconds. Set aside 20g and put the rest in a large bowl. Mix with the brown sugar and baking powder. Add the vanilla essence, oil and water. Mix again.
3. With your two hands, scoop up a small bit of the mixture and push your thumb against your fingers three times, until the mixture has been pushed back into the bowl. Turn the bowl 90 degrees. Repeat until the mixture resembles sandy breadcrumbs.
4. Squash the mixture into a ball of dough and on a floured surface using the 20g remaining oats, then shape into a round circle or a rectangle, about 1cm thick. Cut into 8 triangles or squares. Push a blackberry into the centre of each one.
Holy moly, I’ve done it. I have found the greatest chocolate bar on the planet. It is like one big bar of Nutella because it is made with hazelnut paste and hazelnut cocoa cream. It is also massive, it is smooth and it is crunchy, it is purity, it is ataraxia, it is my relationship status. Oh, and it’s vegan.
So I have done a clever one and made it the melty middle inside some extremely fudgy vegan chocolate brownies.
Go forth, bakers, and foller.
By the way, the chocolate bar is called Vego, it really is quite expensive at roughly £3 per 150g bar (shop around) but quite clearly I believe it is worth it.
Why is this eco?
This recipe is vegan, meaning no butter or eggs. Instead of butter I used vegetable oil (rapeseed) which has about half the carbon footprint. I’ve written about swapping butter for oil before if you want to know the numbers.
Vego bars are also Fairtrade. Just eat the chocolate, okay.
Makes 9 brownies
** TIME KLAXON**
You will need to leave the batter to rest for at least four hours. This lets the flour and cocoa absorb the liquid and results in a chewy, fudgy brownie rather than a cakey, crumbly one. It also means no weird vegan substitute for eggs.
80ml vegetable or sunflower oil
80g dark chocolate (check it’s vegan, dark usually is)
1tsp instant coffee
200g dark brown sugar
100g self-raising flour
40g cocoa powder
1 tsp vanilla extract
150g bar of Vego (or other vegan chocolate if you must)
In a saucepan over a low heat, warm the oil and regular dark chocolate until it melts. Take it off the heat, stir in the coffee then add the water and brown sugar. Whisk until combined.
Sieve the flour and cocoa powder into a medium-sized bowl. Pour in the chocolate/oil/sugar mixture steadily, whisking all the time. Add the vanilla.
Allow the mixture to cool, cover the bowl and leave in the fridge overnight or for at least 4 hours.
Heat oven to 170C/ 150C fan/ gas 4. Grease and line an 18cm square tin with baking parchment. You can use a 20cm tin but take 2 minutes off the cooking time.
Pour the mixture into the brownie tin. Break the Vego bar down the segment lines and then chop in half lengthways. That gives you 10 pieces. Imagine a grid of 9 brownies in your tin and place a Vego piece into the centre of each one, pressing down until you hit the bottom of the tin. Like so:
Bake for 30 minutes. Allow the brownies to cool in the tin for around 30 minutes, then cut into 9 squares. Devour.
Vegan food can induce fomo but it can also be stupidly delicious. Meat-eaters and vegans alike, meet the amazing vegan onion bhaji sandwich. Addition of either chutney, pickle or even houmous is mandatory. Take it to a picnic or just be frank with your feelings and cuddle it in bed.
As a bonus, these bhajis are very low-fat as they are baked instead of deep-fried AND they’re gluten-free.
70g chickpea or gram flour (now in many supermarkets)
3 tbps lemon juice
2 tbsps grated ginger
For the sandwich
Pickle, chutney or houmous (beetroot pickle works particularly well)
Spinach or salad leaves
Preheat the oven to 170C/ 190C fan/ 350F/ gas mark 5. Toast the cumin and coriander in a frying pan for 2-3 minutes on a medium heat. Blend the seeds in a spice blender or a pestle and mortar or keep them whole if you possess neither.
Finely chop the onions into thin half moons.
Using the same pan, heat the oil for a minute then add the onions and cook for 5 minutes on a medium heat until translucent.
In a big bowl combine the salt, coriander, ginger, lemon juice and spices with a couple of tablespoons of water. Mix to make a thick sticky batter that isn’t runny at all.
Add the onions and mix well to coat them completely.
Cover an oven tray with baking parchment. Use your hands to form 8 bhajis. Dip your fingers in a bowl of water to stop the mixture sticking.
Bake for 15 minutes, turn over the bhajis then bake for 15 minutes more.
Slice the baguettes, spread your pickle or chutney generously. Add the bhajis then cram in the leaves.
Fed By Water, Dalston Cross Shopping Centre,64 Kingsland High St, London E8 2LX (020 7249 6242). Three-course meal for two, including drinks and service: £85
This vegan Italian dinner started in the best way I could hope for – with a stuffed mushroom.
But after the first disappointing bite, I knew I was stuffed.
Let me rewind. This is Fed By Water, ‘a concept restaurant offering authentic, traditional Italian plant based cuisine’ that ‘encourages healthy, ethical and sustainable living’.
I’m sold. But it seems, after months of drooling over their Instagram posts, another Londoner has fallen prey to mediocrity masked by pretty pictures of pizza.
For starters I had Fungo Ripieno (£8.95), mushrooms purportedly stuffed with onions and sage. The stuffing was grey, mushy and watery. Perhaps it had been regurgitated. It came with a truffle soy cream that had the exact appearance of part-cooked egg white.
As so often with truffle oil, there was no evidence of it in the eating, only the smelling. Truffle should be served in generous shavings if at all. The green beans were just that.
My accompanying diner had Asparagi Al Sole (£8.95), baked asparagus with orange soy cream and a vegan version of pecorino cheese.
The asparagus was crunchy and sweet and the cream was an impressive take on hollandaise, with not too much orange. The roast fennel was nicely cooked but my sister makes better. The bread was stale.
The pecorino, however, was so offensive that I cannot calmly describe it. My keyboard will suffer.
It was shaped ironically into a heart, with sweet green gel in its hollowed-out middle. Its colour was so un-food-like that when my fellow diner cut into it I let out a yell of shock that it was not in fact a pottery dish for holding sauce.
It was fridge-cold, blended and bland. The waiter informed us it was made with hemp and soy, and doesn’t it taste nice? They might as well use a petrol-soaked tricolore as kindling for the pizza oven. Italian cheese this was not.
For a main I had a vat of Spaghetti Alla Carbonara (£14.95). It satisfied that urge you get with pasta to cram it in your mouth and enjoy the oxytocin high that comes with an overload of carbs. The sauce was cleverly made with salty smoked tofu, turmeric and soy cream and it came topped with seitan, a meat substitute made of wheat that was deliciously chewy and salty.
We also ordered a Pizza Diavola (£14.95). The base was excellent having been cooked in a pizza oven and the umami olives were proper. But the fake mozzarella was watery and foamy and the array of pretend salami would only convince someone who doesn’t remember what meat is like.
The wines were all organic and my glass of negroamaro was approved by fellow diner, who tastes wine for a living. She had a nice organic cider.
Fed filters impurities out of its drinking water and the water used in its cooking. It lists limescale, chlorine and bacteria as some of these impurities. The water is actually noticeably different, smoother somehow, with a mineral taste.
I ordered a ‘tiramisex’ pudding (£6.95) to take home, which I asked for in a very British matter-of-fact manner. It was very healthy tasting. (I have been known to stomp around the house chanting ‘TIR-AM-SUU’, in desperate need of cream, coffee, booze and cake.)
Instead of ladyfingers there was one layer of chopped nuts at the bottom. The vegan cream mix was thick and rich. I can forgive it for being healthy as this is one of the tenets of the restaurant. I was just expecting something more from a dessert with a rude name.
The bill came to £78.71, which I believe was too much for what we got. Fed justifies the portion sizes with being southern Italian, which is not so cute if you feel you’re paying too much. And in half-gentrified Dalston this cost seems incongruous. Next door was a cheap butchers with rows of plucked chickens hanging from the ceiling and a crowd of customers paying for them.
I don’t believe Fed has come into its own, despite its social media following. On a Saturday night, a London restaurant with approximately 40 covers should definitely be more than half full.
The pasta and pizza was delicious – all the chefs are all Italian, though not vegan. Which explains why the vegan elements were, let’s say, unusual.
Mostly I feel that Fed hasn’t pulled off its ‘authentic’ vegan Italian concept. Some of the dishes need to spend a long holiday in the test kitchen and that pecorino needs to return to the special deep, dark vegan hell from whence it came.