When I think of a vegan diet, for some reason avocado, tofu and nuts/seeds automatically spring to mind.
A vegan diet is basically a plant based way of eating, including (ideally) vegetables, fruit, grains, beans/pulses, nuts, seeds and other foods made from plants. Vegans don’t eat foods that come from animals, including meat, dairy products and eggs and any foods that contain those as ingredients.
Many vegetarians make the decision to go further in their food choices by going vegan for various reasons. This may range from ethical reasons to dietary requirements eg dairy or egg intolerance/allergy or aversion to the taste/texture of certain animal foods, other health reasons or just because once you know (or think) the food choices have just been limited for you…well maybe it’s an incentive to get creative with all the other wonderful ingredients that are out there and get cooking! Healthy alternatives and substitutes can be found for replacing milk, cream, yoghurt and eggs in recipes.
However by cutting out animal products, a vegan diet is possibly at risk of being low in various nutrients such as iron, calcium, zinc, vitamin D, vitamin B12 and omega-3 fatty acids unless food sources are carefully selected and planned for in meal times to make up for these potentially missing micro-nutrients. In some cases supplementation may also be beneficial but of course that is very much on an individual case by case basis.
Wonderful vegetarian and vegan cafes and restaurants abound in many European and Asian cities. It takes a bit more digging to find one in Cork that isn’t just for a special occasion and one that does lunch without it being a plain bland pasta offering.
I recently discovered and started making tofu scramble and in fact have tried it out again in some tofu stir-fry and curry type dishes. Use the firm type of tofu for stir-frying, grilling and baking. There are many different brands out there. Tesco do a nice one in the chilled cabinet and it has never let me down although there is a bit of prep work to squeeze the excess water out. It is a very versatile food ingredient for vegans, good source of iron, calcium, manganese, magnesium, protein source (especially the firmer types of tofu).¹
Tofu has a reputation for tasting bland but it marries well with other strong flavours such as garlic, chilli, ginger for stir-fries and is perfect to use with a marinade. I think it depends how you cook it and what it is cooked with but the same may be said for some animal meats also don’t you think?
There are some great links to vegan food recipes in the ‘Favourites’ section of my website but I made Susan Jane White’s vegan Banana Bread and it was fantastic. Alright I ‘cheated’, I used an egg instead of the psyllium husks (egg replacer) but if you wanted to go fully vegan you know what to do.
There are options for replacing eggs in your home cooking. The eggs in a recipe are normally there to either add moisture, bind the ingredients together or to help the recipe to rise. When choosing an egg alternative it’s a good idea to consider the role of the egg you want to replace. Vegan cookbooks and recipe websites often have excellent egg-free dessert and baking ideas.
Instead of one egg, you can also use:
- 1 tbsp gram (chick pea) or soya flour and 1 tbsp water
- 1 tbsp arrowroot, 1 tbsp soya flour and 2 tbsp water
- 2 tbsp flour, 1/2 tbsp shortening, 1/2 tsp baking powder and 2 tsp water
- 50g tofu blended with the liquid portion of the recipe
- 1/2 large banana, mashed (this works great in pancakes)
To conclude, going vegan or vegetarian is not for everyone and I am not going vegan nor vegetarian but, I will continue my way of eating being quite happy to go meat-free a day or two or even three a week or in fact going meat free on two meals per day is quite doable. Once protein is there in some quality form then I’m happy. It’s cheaper on the wallet, kinder to the environment and healthier on the heart and waistline. However I would miss my diversity of meat, fish, sheep and goats cheese, and eggs too much. Cows milk I personally can do without but that’s another story…