Vegan challenge: week one

Whilst the rest of the nation ponders what is the correct way for a party leader to eat a bacon sandwich, I’ve been pondering whether there’s hidden cheese or eggs in everything I eat. Here’s how the first seven days living it up vegan-style has gone… (note, I’m off eggs too – I have amended my blog on going vegan to make that clearer).

Day 1

Started off the day with homemade cashew butter on toast, and with a tub of spinach dahl packed for lunch, I thought this won’t be that tough. And then three birthday cakes were brought out during our team meeting… It took me a couple of seconds to remember that I’m eating vegan so reluctantly had to pass on the cake. Hurdle one overcome. Hurdle two: deciding where to eat out in a hurry in central London. Falafel wrap. Done. This is easy.

Day 2

And then a bank holiday weekend was sent to test me. A wander round Brixton Market looking for a snack or something to take away, taunted me with lots of delicious looking, but non-vegan, options, and the only vegan place was closed! Later, at Street Feast Model Market I realised that there is generally a lack of veggie street food options, let alone vegan ones. I went for Yum Bun’s mushroom shitake bun (partly cause I’ve had Mama’s Jerk bean cakes so many times – great vegan option though). I’m not a massive fan of mushrooms but this was simply divine – the walnuts gave it a superb crunch and I topped it with Sriracha sauce for some added kick. A win for the vegan diet as it made me try something I couldn’t normally opt for.  I even went back for seconds 🙂

Yo Bun
Mushroom bun on the left (T’s prawn one on the right)

Day 3

Out again for the bank holiday – this time at Land of Kings festival in east London. I was excited that Dalston Yard’s Street Feast had a Kimchinary stall – home to the dreamy Korean tofu burrito. However by the time we got there, that stall was shut and none of the other stalls open looked like they had vegan options (apart from Mama’s Jerk…). So we took a wander down Kingsland Road to find some falafel (I can see this becoming a thing). Instead we found one of Hackney’s many pide (Turkish pizza) places. These don’t all automatically come with cheese so a spinach, mushroom and pepper pide set me right up for a night of drinking in Dalston – and we didn’t even need to make any chip stops later on.

Day 4

I’m without soy butter, yoghurt and various bits to make my alternatives from until our shopping arrives tomorrow. So I woke up thinking, what can I make for brunch as I usually have eggs or something involving cheese. And then I had a (slightly hungover) brainwave. A veggie sausage sandwich using the tasty homemade rye bread I’d brought from the local German food van. Topped with grilled tomatoes, fried red onions and a bit of mustard this was a winning combo. In the evening we made a bit pot of bean and veg chilli which is one of our regular dishes anyway. No troubles being vegan today!

Day 5:

Shopping came so now have all my usual pulses, grains, tofu etc but also new items like soya yoghurt, soya spread, polenta, bulgar wheat and pearl barley. I found this really great vegan pantry list which helped inspire me. Once the shopping was in I made another batch of cashew butter. Tristan hadn’t tasted the last batch so I let him have some of this and he was pretty impressed: “it tastes just like peanut butter.” Kind of… Except it tastes like cashews. Day two on the bean chilli, this was beginning to feel easy!

Homemade cashew butter (batch 2!)

Day 6:

I had  muesli with soya yoghurt for the first time – I had forgotten how much soya yoghurt tastes like tofu (obviously), which can take a bit of getting use to, but to me it isn’t unpleasant. The sweetness of dried fruit helped balance out the taste. Back at work this week so the routine makes things pretty easy as my salads are usually vegan anyway. Today was cannellini bean and cous cous salad for lunch. In the evening it was another trip to Brixton Market – we honestly don’t eat out this much every week! – but this time we were looking for somewhere to sit in which gave many more vegan-friendly choices. We  opted for Yum-D – the eggless pad thai tom yum was pretty tasty, although it was lacking a bit on tofu. But beggars can’t be choosers, eh?

Day 7:

Week one is almost over. A third of the way towards the 21 days it takes to break a habit. I’ve realised that I don’t really miss having eggs, cheese or other dairy as much as I thought, but it’s become more savvy about hidden ingredients that’s more tricky. This guide for dummies has been very helpful. Who knew that glucose can come from animal tissue? Hardcore vegans, I’m sure. Tomorrow I’m off to Belfast for the weekend, so let’s see how that plays out…

Cannellini bean salad
Cannellini bean salad


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