An important thing about any special diet, vegan included, is to keep it balanced.
The ‘ideal plate’ model, where half the plate is colourful veges, a quarter is carbs and a quarter is protein, works for every kind of diet. The pitfall can come when you take away one element – in this case the animal-based protein – and don’t replace it with a vegan-friendly alternative. It would be easy to increase the carbs and/or veges instead, in which case you’d be out of balance, in the first instance (and possibly likely to gain weight) or not quite satisfied, in the second. More veges is a great idea, but we need to keep our protein intake up to feel full and satiated.
There are a few good ways to get protein in a vegan diet. I’m already a fan of tofu which, I’ll acknowledge, not everyone is. But I’ve also rediscovered tempeh, a fermented soy product that’s firmer and ‘meatier’ in texture than tofu and stir-fries well. There’s also protein in beans and legumes, which are great for us, cheap, and can be used in a variety of ways. I’m enjoying creating and cooking interesting dishes using all of these.
I find I am tending towards Asian-inspired flavours. For example, I made a delicious stir-fry of tempeh and vegetables with ginger, turmeric and a quick peanut sauce (chilli peanut butter, mirin, soy, hot water). These are the kinds of dishes I like to eat anyway, so for these it’s simply a case of switching out the chicken or meat and doing what I usually do.
Some things are less straightforward. Walking home from an event tonight (a wine tasting, where I discover wines actually labelled ‘vegan friendly’ among the gold medallists), I decided I really felt like pizza. I had a vegan-friendly base already in the freezer (Home St), veges and nut cheese. The resulting pizza was tasty, although it’s hard to lose the taste memory of stretchy, melty mozzarella and piquant parmesan. I don’t think my pizza was really quite high enough in protein, though, which for me manifests as a desire for something else to eat after dinner. I’m not in the habit of doing this usually. It was an example of a slightly skewed ideal plate – a bit heavy on the carbs and low on the protein.
*Follow Niki’s journey on her Instagram account @nikibezzant