Having dipped our toes in the vegan way of life during a cleanse late last year, Belle About Town has decided to rise to the occasion and take on the challenge of Veganuary this month. Sixty thousand people registered their month-long participation in January 2017’s plant-based initiative, but the charity expects that figure to exceed 150,000 this time round. And with famous faces including Joanna Lumley, John Bishop, Sara Pascoe and our old friend Sarah-Jane Crawford championing the cause, we will be in good company.
Sarah-Jane told Belle: “My advice for those people thinking about taking part in Veganuary is ‘just do it! Why not?’ January is a time for new beginnings. People are doing dry January, maybe they’re not drinking, they’re kick starting their new years’ resolutions, so why not do something for yourself that could change your whole life?” Sarah-Jane turned to a vegan diet in May 2015 and says she has never looked back. She says of her decision: “It felt like everything came together at the right time and it just really resonated with me. It was almost like destiny for me because it just felt so good to do it. I had this new sense of empathy, compassion for animals that I’d never had before. Everything has changed.”
For some, trying vegan is an ethical decision; for others, it is about health. Studies have shown that, on average, vegans have a healthier Body Mass Index and have lower cholesterol levels. What’s more, by going vegan, you can dramatically decrease your greenhouse gas emissions by half! Whatever your reason for experimenting with veganism, January is probably a good time to try it as there is so much support out there through the Veganuary movement.
We fear it may be a long month, but we’re hoping a few recommended products and venues will help us though it…
Benefit Shakes are the UK’s first fruity almond “milk”– shakes. No more juicing, mixing and mess in the kitchen to get your perfect dairy-free fruit blend, these 250ml bottles of yum come chilled and ready to drink. Made in the UK by Lovely Fodder Ltd, Benefit Shakes are one of the first fruit shakes to combine the idea of a milkshake with natural fruit juices and vitamin enriched almond “milk”. The Blueberry & Acai version is vegan friendly and also counts as one of your five-a-day.
But if you fancy something a bit less fruity and more fizzy, grab a can (yes a can!) of Most Wanted slightly sparkling Pinto Grigio. Getting through Veganuary is hard enough for a first timer so there’s no way we’re combining it with Dry January! But did you know that most wines contain animal products? Luckily for us, not Most Wanted’s delicious Pinot Grigio, it’s keeping us going at the weekends!
The joy that is Quorn has developed from a niche brand into a way of cooking life for many of us. Whether you’re veggie or not, Quorn offers an appealing alternative to meat as it’s so low in fat but still provides plenty of protein. And now the brand has extended its range of vegan products, so you can now get anything from burgers and fillets to fajita strips and fishless fingers. The vegan line certainly lacks a chewiness, but is pretty tasty, and great to use as an ingredient in bigger dishes such as casseroles or enchilladas.
The Abel & Cole One Pot Wonder recipe box is well worth investing in. Devised by the established organic delivery specialists, the box you are sent (recipe changes each week) contains all you need to create a delicious vegan meal for six people – all in one pot. Brimming with goodness and flavour, the meal is 100% vegan and a few extra organic pieces of fruit are chucked in too for a healthy and nutritious pud! And if you save the recipe card each time you will soon start to build up a vegan repertoire for dinner parties.
If you’re a pasta fiend, do try Explore Cuisine’s pant-based range. Their selection of pasta from across the globe integrates beans, peas, lentils and rice to provide you with the basis for nourishing meals that are easy, quick, naturally colourful and most importantly delicious. Explore Cuisine’s range is a healthier alternative to traditional pasta that looks, cooks and keeps the same texture as regular pasta. Crafted from organic beans, chickpeas and lentils, unlike standard wheat pasta, these pastas are gluten-free, high in protein and high in fibre. Perfect for filling you up without the uncomfortable bloated feeling that often follows indulgence.
High Street chains are getting in on the act with vegan dishes available at favourites such as Pizza Express and Wagamama. Pizza Express offers the award-winning Vegan Giardiniera, which combines artichokes with asparagus, red onion, garlic oil, black olives and seasoning, on a classic dough and passata base. Not only this, but following feedback from their customers, requesting the Italian-made vegan mozzarella alternative, this cheese is now available to be used across all of their pizzas – making it a great option for those experimenting with Veganuary.
In London, La Suite West in Bayswater is home to the incredible Nosh Garden Kitchen, a dedicated vegan restaurant which offers everything from light bites to Afternoon Tea. More centrally, fine dining Japanese restaurant Ginza Onodera offers an incredible vegan sushi roll (pictured right) filled with endives, red pepper, cucumber, sorrels, pickled carrots and avocado, and garnished with Yoshinogawa seaweed and pumpkin and pomegranate seeds. Or head to Gauthier Soho, Ceviche in Old Street, and Lyle’s in Shoreditch for daily offerings of vegan meals that are bursting with flavour and goodness.
Out of town, try Home Bar and Kitchen in Ickenham which boasts an ever-changing vegan specials board, as well as gluten-free and organic options; Or Buckinghamshire’s Stoke Place which is celebrating Veganuary with a special set menu, with two courses at £19.99 .or £24.99 for three. Dishes include a carrot and cumin puree starter served with chargrilled pointed cabbage and lemon emulsion, a chestnut and sage crushed Butternut, butternut fondant served with crispy kale, oyster mushrooms, roasted pine kernels and butternut puree, and a wild mushroom quinoa complimented with charred broccoli, mushroom powder and roasted shallots. There’s also a choice of three desserts at the Michelin recommended restaurant, including a vegan chocolate brownie, poached pear, and a selection of sorbets.
If you’re giving Veganuary a real go, you might not have realised that your beauty regime could also be affected. While testing on animals is thankfully not so common with brands any more, many still contain animal-derivative ingredients. If the product is vegan – it will tell you. If it doesn’t it’s unlikely to be!
While more and more brands are joining the organic, vegan movements, not all manage to combine their ethical stance with product quality. However, here is our pick of the ones that do:
- For hair: Argan Oil of Morocco has a whole range of haircare products which contain the finest certified organic Argan Oil, which has been used for centuries by Berber women to naturally nourish, moisturise and restore shine and softness to the hair. And as well as being 100% organic, the range is also 100% vegan.
- For skin: Hempz is a certified vegan and cruelty free range which produces mositurisers, scrubs, masks and more. With 100% pure, natural Hemp Oil rich in vitamins and essential fatty acids, the Triple Moisture range provides intense, long-lasting nourishment for healthy, radiant skin. And it smells really good too!
- For face: Sukin is Australia’s number one natural skincare brand, and now it’s making its mark on the UK beauty landscape too. Suitable for vegans, there’s a range for every skin type. The products are light to the touch and easily absorbed. See the full collection here.