Former carnivore Valerie O’Connor revels in new tastes after ‘Veganuary’.
One month in and I’ve done ‘Veganuary’, a form of madness, you may say.
It’s important at this point to say what sparked our motivation, as it wasn’t just me but myself and my 19-year-old son who embarked on this meat-free change in our lives, while the small fella, 17 and six foot five, stayed on the chicken and chips.
As former die-hard carnivores who ate meat like it was manna, to stop eating animals was a reach.
Meat cooks easily, just throw it in a pan or the oven and it’s done, tasty and interesting — vegan food takes effort.
The only way to ensure you won’t run out of good things to eat, is to spend many sessions in the kitchen prepping sauces, hummus, and fermented food and drinks, plus we are literally ploughing through fields of greens.
Anybody who switches to a plant-based diet says that one day you will have your penny-drop moment when your taste buds change, and I’ve had mine.
It’s a bit revelatory, only it keeps happening and ordinary things like apples can now taste really amazing, because they are amazing.
I’ve become the annoying friend who can’t sit in your house with the smell of cooking meat that’s been pumped full of chemicals and sugar - going into butchers shops isn’t what it used to be.
Eating more plant foods is never a bad thing, and now it’s a far cry from my veggie stint in my teens to annoy the parents. Back then broccoli was exotic and you could get sent home from school for smelling of garlic.
Even switching one meat-based meal in your week to non-meat is bringing more veg into your diet, no matter how you eat, more veg is always a good thing.
The easiest way to do this is to make ‘normal food’ like burgers with all the bits on the side like a good ketchup, crunchy lettuce and peppers, red onions and really good buns, bread is a vegan food after all.
Get as much nutrition on to your plate as possible and don’t just fill up on empty calories like pasta and tayto sandwiches, you can be a very unhealthy vegan too.
Old arguments about protein and iron not being available in plant food simply aren’t true, with world-famous athletes, including the Williams systers competing at their best on plant-only diets. The old Rocky Balboa adage that you have to eat six eggs for breakfast just doesn’t wash anymore and many athletes are turning to meat-free as a way to better performance and faster recovery times.
An unexpected bonus of eating no meat is that you will lose weight for sure, and totally without monitoring your food intake, you will be eating more fibre than before and good fats too, and probably stuffing your face with chocolate. The most common things for people to worry about when not eating meat, is a lack of calcium but you get plenty of calcium from kale, dried figs, brazil nuts and nut milks.
Beans and lentils are full of iron, omega 3s and 6s are in most nuts and seeds plus seed oils, and for a protein hit just have a peanut butter and banana sandwich. It is generally recommended that you take a Vitamin B12 supplement, or make like an Aussie and have a Vegemite sandwich.
Ditto for vitamin D, but that’s recommended for anybody living the in dark Irish climate anyway. It’s always a good idea to get blood tests done before you embark on any major diet changes so that you can see where the levels of these are in your system, they may already be too low, and keep and eye out over time for changes.
Happily I love cooking, though nobody wants to cook every day, so we now spend a whole evening once a week preparing food for several days to keep in the freezer, without doing this, you will surely lose your mind. This way it’s easy to throw meals together and you have stuff handy for lunchboxes too.
To keep life interesting you must have a few amazing recipes in your arsenal and variety is key, but you gotta have your fresh veg too to keep your digestive system ticking over nicely. With many supermarkets stocking a good range of organic fruit and veg you want to cook these in interesting and easy ways to make the most of them, as they do cost more.
I discovered this way of cooking broccoli and will never go back to boiling the life out of it ever again, you can do the same with cauliflower before adding it to a curry.
1 large head broccoli
Olive oil, Salt, Chili flakes (optional)
Wash the broccoli and slice it in approximately 1cm thick slices, they will of course vary in size as you chop through the head. Toss these into a bowl and drizzle over a little olive oil and coat them in the oil with your hands.
Heat a griddle pan on top of the cooker as hot as you can, tip the broccoli onto the pan and let in sizzle until there are black bits all over the edges, turn over the pieces with a tongs.
Slice a lemon in half and squeeze it all over the pan and sprinkle on some sea salt. You can add some chili flakes to this if you want to spice it up a bit. Break up the larger pieces into more bite sized chunks and dig in — broccoli just got sexy.
Cabbage and apple
This quick dish, imaginatively named, is afast and delicious way to get the sometimes dreaded cabbage down your gullet. The black onion, or Nigella seeds give it an interesting bite and the apple brings a subtle sweetness. Tastes great cold too. Ingredients
1 head regular cabbage, taken apart, spines removed from leaves, washed and finely shredded
1 sweet apple, peeled
2 tblsp coconut oil
1 tsp Nigella seeds
Sea salt and pepper
In a heavy-bottomed pot heat the coconut oil and add the cabbage, give it a good stir and let in sweat under a lid for five minutes.
Taste to see if it’s almost done, it should have a little bite. Now grate in the apple and sprinkle over the Nigella seeds, give everything a good stir and season lightly.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved