My month as a vegan: how I survived and is it really worth it?


As a meat eater and keen carnivore I can’t deny that marrying a vegetarian has somewhat put a spanner in the works when it comes to mealtimes.

Sunday roasts aren’t quite the same; there’s no Chateaubriand for two on date nights, whilst my famous seafood linguine and homemade chicken Kievs have had to take the back seat at dinnertime.

My general attitude to cooking a quick midweek meal has changed dramatically and for the better. I can honestly say I feel far healthier (and thinner!) for a more plant-based diet. I’ve been challenged creatively with my dishes and have had to rethink and rework my usual repertoire to accommodate the lack of meat to create flavoursome and wholesome vegetarian dishes.

After feeling such a positive change in wellbeing so quickly, I decided to take things one step further and trial a month of veganism. The prospect of ditching the dairy was, although challenging, not completely daunting and I was keen to push myself in the kitchen creating exciting dishes that were 100 per cent vegan. Anyone that knows me will attest to the fact that two of my great passions are cheese and butter - and in vast quantities. Cheese is such an easy way to add rich flavour to so many vegetarian dishes.

I started out strong, determined and organised. I watched the documentaries that got me on board morally (Cowspiracy and What the Health) and cooked up some seriously good food; homemade pasta using silken tofu, rich garlic and turmeric daAls with homemade flatbreads, Mexican DIY style wraps, curries, Asian style broths, cashew cream ice creams, risottos, filo pastry pies. There were endless salads, roasted, charred and confit vegetables, vegan pestos...Things were going well. Even dining out was relatively painless with most restaurants being more than accommodating, especially if we gave them a heads up when booking.

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So did I last the whole month? The truth is no. Things were very much on track until we visited the Grandparents. I just couldn't tell my Nan on her 89th birthday that I wasn't going to eat her cottage pie. It’s the same cottage pie she would make for my brother and I the moment we were weaned onto solids and I’ve had hundreds since. As you can probably imagine, this isn't just an average cottage pie, it comes served with the hugest jug of mince meat-heavy, thick, rich gravy, garden grown green beans and carrots from the chap round the corner. I caved, kept quiet and enjoyed every mouthful. A small blip in an otherwise successful month.

My month long trial was a great experience. There's no doubt the vegan diet is trending; there's not a day where I don't see a new vegan product, restaurant or cookbook. I agree with the benefits that are preached. I felt healthier and less sluggish, my conscience was clearer and I enjoyed researching new and exciting dishes.

For now, I’m aiming to keep meals at home 100 per cent vegan and have the odd cheese binge or fish treat when I eat out. For me, a ‘Flexi-vegan’ or ‘Flegan’ diet feels like a challenge anyone can achieve with some simple planning and research. Why not give it a go?

The ultimate indulgent veggie weekend brunch


Anna Barnett's recipe for Truffled French toast with poached egg, confit artichoke & miso aubergine

This one isn’t a quick brunch fix but it's one well worth investing time in. Get prepped well in advance and this will be a feast worth every moment spent in the kitchen.

Truffled French toast topped with rich truffle hollandaise, poached egg, charred confit artichoke hearts and blackened miso and sesame baby aubergines. Delicious!

Confit artichoke hearts | Feeds: 4-6 | Preparation time: 30 minutes | Cooking time : 1hr

15 baby artichokes – trimmed and left whole - kept in water with lemon juice
1.5 litres of olive oil
Small bunch of thyme
1 tbsp black peppercorns left whole
Generous sprinkle of salt
3 fresh bay leaves
Whole bulb of garlic - peeled
Zest of half a lemon - left in large strips

Pat dry the artichokes before adding them along with all other ingredients to the oil and cook over a medium heat for an hour or until the artichokes are soft but not overcooked | Allow to cool and store in oil until ready to use.

Char whole or halved artichoke hearts on a hot griddle and serve with finely grated truffle, lemons zest and freshly ground black pepper.

Miso & sesame baby aubergine | Feeds: 4 | Preparation time: 5 minutes | Cooking Time: 20 minutes
8 small/baby aubergines
4 tbsp of white miso paste
Several generous glugs of mirin
Squeeze of honey
Small glug of soy

3 tbsp toasted sesame seeds
Several turns of black pepper
Several sprigs of parsley – finely chopped
Drizzle of rapeseed oil
Sprinkle of sea salt flakes

Begin by heating a griddle until almost smoking |
then place on the aubergines allowing to blacken on one side for about 3-4 minutes before turning and repeating on the other side | Once blackened and soft, slice down the middle | Combine the miso paste, mirin, honey and soy and spoon over aubergines then place under the grill at 200 degrees Celsius for 3-5 minutes | Serve with a sprinkle of toasted sesame seeds and a sprinkle of parsley | Drizzle with a little rapeseed oil, sprinkle with sea salt flakes and serve

Truffled hollandaise sauce
400g unsalted butter – clarified
4 free range egg yolks (Clarence Court)
1 tbsp lemon juice
2 tbsp Dijon Mustard
Generous pinch of sea salt flakes
Several turns of freshly ground black pepper
½ tsp finely grated black truffle/ drizzle of truffle oil

Start by separating the eggs
Place the yolks into a separate bowl | Melt 200g of unsalted butter in a small pan and once melted separate the milk solids, keeping just the clear clarified butter | Put the bowl of egg yolks over a pan of gently simmering water. Add one tablespoon of lemon juice and two tbsp of mustard | Whisk together thoroughly

Gradually add small splashes of butter to the bowl with the yolks, whisking well between each addition and continue until all butter is used

French toast and poached egg | Feeds: 4 | Preparation Time: 5 minutes | Cooking Time: 10 minutes
4 eggs – Clarence Court Cotswold eggs (for extra richness of colour)
Generous splash of full fat milk
1 heaped tbsp of plain flour
Generous drizzle of truffle oil
Sprinkle of sea salt flakes
Several turns of freshly ground black pepper
Tiger loaf – thickly cut on a slight diagonal
Olive oil/rapeseed oil for frying
4 eggs – Clarence Court Cotswold eggs (for extra richness of colour)

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and mix well |
Next soak the bread for 3-4 minutes on both sides in the mixture | Heat a frying pan with a generous glug of oil and fry over a medium heat until golden on both sides ensuring that you cook it for long enough that it’s cooked through | Your French toast can be fried just before serving

Tip: Keep an ice cube readily available at this stage. If you can see that the mixture is starting to split, drop in the ice cube and whisk it in. This can save the hollandaise sauce!

Once all the butter is incorporated you should have a smooth, thickened sauce | Loosen the mixture with some white wine vinegar if needed and added seasoning to taste along with your grated truffle Adding a splash of truffle oil works too

For the poached eggs first bring a pan of water to the boil and add a splash of vinegar | Swirl the water with a spoon before gently cracking the eggs one at a time into the boiling water. Cook for 3-4 minutes as preferred

To plate up first place your French toast in the centre of your plate and top with a poached egg | Drizzle a generous helping of truffled hollandaise sauce and serve with both the griDDLEd miso aubergines and confit artichoke for a truly decadent brunch








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