Who doesn’t want to be healthy, happier, richer?
I do, and it’s too easy ‘cos all you gotta do is get involved with some plants. Plant based food rocks and you don’t have to be a full blown vegan to get stuck in. It’s all about the small steps and anyway, life’s a journey hey? By adding a few extra veggies into our daily diets we’d all get a bit happier, a little healthier and life would be good…..man. Seriously, eating less meat and more plants is easier than you think.
There really is no reason to miss meat when there are endless tasty and exciting ways to create truly amazing food entirely from plants and whole foods. This is not about recreating, substituting or missing meat but rather a way to enjoy a world of plant based nutrition and making any recipe work! Being a vegan shouldn’t (and doesn’t) mean you’re missing out – quite the opposite really. It’s an opportunity to try something completely different, discover new flavours, experiment and share new meals safe in the knowledge that you are doing yourself the world of good. If you are just starting out on a plant based diet it can be a struggle at first but here are a few of my suggestions to make life easier and to offer a little inspiration.
Going plant based:
- Learn to love your beans and of course lentils too! I’m bean mad and urge you to experiment with them. Beans are amazing in casseroles, curry, bakes, lasagnes, dips and of course most veggie burgers are bean based. There’s such a variety out there, why not try a different bean each week until you find your favourite? My top two are haricot and black turtle beans. A mexican is never complete without black beans.
- Red, green + yellow lentils = staple store cupboard ingredient. The humble lentil has a bad rep but they are deliciously creamy and carry taste better than anything else. They’re perfect for replacing minced meat in Italian and Greek dishes and a sturdy foundation for a veggie burger. You can easily replace meat ingredients with lentils. They work a treat in lasagnes, shepherds pie too and a marriage made in heaven in curry.
- Fancy that pumpkin sausage casserole? Why not replace the sausages with the meaty texture of chestnuts, portobello mushrooms, butter beans or simply replace with use some veggie sausages.
- Mushrooms not only have that all important umami flavour but have that ‘meaty’ texture. There’s such a variety in the supermarkets these days just waiting for some experimentation. Pulse them up or slice them to imitate slithers of meat in a casserole or pasta sauce for that deep, rich flavour.
- Tofu. Drain and press (with a heavy weight) for several hours to minimise water content. Slice into quarter inch strips add a robust sauce and bake. This is a great way to utilise an otherwise tasteless product. Tofu is fantastic not only in stir fries, curries and baked versions but is brilliant for making sweet treats like cheesecakes and mousses. Tempeh, Seitan (gluten wheat powder) is great for making veggie sausages and equal protein to lean meat. I’m not a huge fan of faux meat products but they can be a good solution if you’re struggling every now and then.
- Use FLAVOUR to enhance your meals! Strong and distinctive flavours are the best way to adapt your recipes and create deeply rich layered flavours. I find that smoked paprika is perfect for replacing chorizo and a great way to add a rich Spanish flavour. Liquid smoke gives a fabulously smokey tastes to salads, beans, burgers sausages, dips, well anything really. Try it! Also, dried fruit and preserved lemons are great for creating that authentic North African and Middle Eastern flavour in stews and tagines. Indian food utilises an array of rich, warm and healing spices that lend themselves fantastically to vegan food. Veggie friendly umami flavours, chipotle, smoked paprika, harissa, garam masala. Of course the vegan umami flavours; mushrooms, fermented foods, sea vegetables, tamari and tomatoes are key in creating that all key satisfying flavour.
- Just leave the meat out and use more of an alternative ingredient. Don’t sweat the whole protein (most people actually get way over recommended daily amounts, even by eating JUST veggies) thing anyway but if you’re concerned about levels just add some nuts, seeds, beans, lentils, quinoa or dairy alternatives to cheese. Anyway, what about some scrambled tofu……
- Get bang into blogs. There’s lots of easy veggie recipes for endless inspiration in the blogosphere.
- Just let your creative side take over and get involved. Fill your plate with colourful produce and creative dishes. Some of my favourite meals have been on the spot, open the fridge and make it up as you go!
Converting to a plant based diet is a wonderful opportunity to experiment with flavours and get in touch with our creative sides whilst getting healthy and reducing harm to our environment and of course, the animals.
Can you believe I’d never even purchased smoked paprika, liquid smoke, chipotle chilis or nutritional yeast (the list is endless) before I went veggie. Gosh, I really was missing out! So if you haven’t already added a few meatless meals to your week, challenge yourself and see how easy, delicious and feel good it really is. Peace 😉