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Fabal lager with nuts for veganuary

Veganuary is tough!

Founder Hannah was keen to try something new this January and armed with a case of Fabal for courage, tells us about week one as a vegan.

So, it’s January 6th 2021 and we’re a bit on repeat aren’t we? A 3rd UK lockdown and not much new on the box so although it’s been a tough first week, I’m really glad to be trying something new this January. As someone who likes to think they live reasonably sustainably, I’m also curious about a vegan lifestyle and learning more about what it really means, so here goes! This is also my first blog post for our new Made of England website and I’m both nervous and excited. The business is at a stage where we need to generate more content and, while being in the limelight isn’t my favourite place to be (as much as I’d love to be anywhere right now), I do feel like the Hiver and Fabal communities are home and I know that you’ll be kind! Naturally, these musings are just me sharing my thoughts and experiences, so please feel free to challenge and offer me tips…I’m going to need help!

Given that I’ll be looking to share my experiences of Veganuary with you, perhaps I should start by telling you a little more about my normal eating habits. I love eating fresh food, but tend to be a one-pot chef and I like dishes that I can turn around in 20-25 minutes on a weeknight. I’ll enjoy a lockdown take away once a week; maybe pizza, fried chicken or Chinese dumplings. I have a very real love of mushrooms (any time, any meal, anywhere) as well as beans on toast (thanks Dad) with some curry powder as a quick, post-netball treat, but honestly, only Keen’s curry powder will do. Yum.

I’m lucky to have enjoyed a few trips to Japan, China and Taiwan over the past few years and through travel I developed a love of spicy hotpots, noodle broths and ramens, which I can now whip up from store-cupboard ingredients pretty quickly. I’ll normally have a mushroom ramen or a prawn pho a couple of times in the week and a roast or sausage and mash too. My fridge is never without a Spanish chorizo sausage, which I find adds quick and tasty flavour to anything from a ten-minute ‘veggie’ cous cous dish to some oily Spanish style fried eggs on toast for mornings when I’ve had too many Hivers at the Taproom the night before! I’ll regularly have batches of chilli con carne and lentils or dhals in the freezer after a Sunday afternoon of batch-cooking while listening to a podcast and mainly seek to avoid much washing up at all cost. I consider myself to be a flexitarian eating 2 to 3 vegetarian main meals in the week and tending to use meat sparingly outside of that. I drink black coffee except for the odd shop-bought flat white, compost what minimal food waste I produce and buy food from my independent high street.

Eating sustainably to me means buying locally both in terms of producer and produce. So even when I’m cooking up a ramen, I’ll use UK grown broccoli or pak choy and only buy in an avocado or an imported fresh ingredient as a treat once or twice a month. I’m sure I could be better at reducing my food miles even further but for now I’m happy to focus my efforts on local, seasonal, zero waste (as much as possible) and absolutely NOT buying food in plastic outers. So, there we go, that’s my eating habits just about laid out on a plate for you and with no further ado…here’s how I’ve found my first 6 days as a vegan.

Week one...I never knew I loved eggs so much. Bloody hell, I miss them! Eggs! I had no idea they were my easy ‘go to’ when I couldn’t be bothered to cook or when I needed a bit of extra protein in a veggie meal. It’s only been a few days and I’m amazed that it’s eggs that I’ve been missing, are there really a whole 25 days in the month to go? In other news though I have (mostly) enjoyed the food that I’ve eaten and I’ve more or less managed to stick to my usual sub 30 minutes in the kitchen after work. I am, however, conscious of the level of imported ingredients I’ve bought in for this first week of the month and I really am flying through my (now expensive) food shop quicker than normal. This is probably because I’m a newbie to veganism and haven’t found my flow yet but it’s on my mind as something to tackle as I go into week 2.

Lunch seems to be the trickiest meal for me at the moment and I dread to think how hard it would be to find on-the-go options if I wasn’t working from home. When I’ve searched for ‘vegan lunch ideas’ there are some lovely suggestions out there but as a sandwich gal, a lot of the recipes are quite in-depth. My time in the working day is limited so I’ve had a few lunches of of pan-fried tofu, onion, tomato, and pickle on toast this week, although I suspect that’s going to get repetitive quite quickly. Time-consuming recipes seems to be a bit of a trend with limited one-pot chef options and I’m finding the substitutes for even sustainable meat and protein sources to be very expensive in comparison as well as not providing many portions’ worth. Perhaps I need to find a store that specialises in vegan produce as it’s breaking my heart to spend £4 on a small block of tofu that’s packaged in non-recyclable plastic. There just has to be a better option out there! As we approach the end of week one, I’m finding I’ve had to empty my bin more than usual and even though much of it has been recyclable tins, there’s more heavyweight plastic in there than I’d normally use in a month.

I have, however, enjoyed some lovely meals and I was surprised by how tasty and simple a vegan Thai green curry from scratch was to make using sweet potato and aubergine for the filling – a dish that I’ll definitely be repeating. And I’ve no idea why I’ve never made hummus at home before! It’s so easy and tasty to make although (regular theme developing here) buying the Tahini in was quite pricey and it had been imported. I’d be interested to speak to a more experienced vegan about how they manage food miles and packaging waste and to get a better understanding of my vegan versus flexitarian footprint.

With the weekend on the horizon, I’m looking forward to experiencing a vegan take-away and I’m keen to have a stab at some Fabal beer pancakes...whose missing eggs now eh? Right, it’s time for a Fabal and a mushroom ramen....cheers!

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