Fermentalist with a fetish for fatty foods. Don't listen to those looneys telling you that fat is bad for you. Love your gut, eat real food. Writer at Irish Examiners on Saturdays and Irish Independent and Sunday Times, Food and Wine Mag and Tourism Ireland
First things first, I haven't eliminated mammals from my diet for the forseeable because I've had a sudden crisis of conscience and can't bear to see the fluffy lambs turned into a fluffy roast. I'm always banging on about good fats and well-reared meat from good families. But for now, meat is off the menu, to see if I can do it for a month, to see if the vegan life is something I could ever consider for the long term. Because I love food and cooking, though, like all humans I get tired of it, I wondered if I can get by without all my favourite things; butter, butter and more butter. I love butter very much. Vegetarian living is eeeasy, hardly worth even a label as you eat eggs and get to have all manner of yummy cheeses, yogurts and cream. I was vegetarian as a teenager, just to annoy my parents really, and I ate fish constantly as fish was considered a vegetable. I've always been sceptical about food allergies, that's probably due to the burgeoning number of self-diagnosed coeliacs ruining it for the ones with that awful auto-immune condition. But turns out I've been allergic to dairy for years, probably forever. Since I've stopped eating it, the sinus headaches that I've had ever days for about twenty years have gone. That sinus problem had me using neti pots all the time and eating cayenne pepper for breakfast, no more :)
So things like that have me convinced to keep going, it's only been two weeks anyway. Meat cooking is easy, throw a chicken in the oven, go away, come back, chicken ready to eat. Meat eaters can claim that you can't get all their nutrition you need from a diet free from meat but that simply isn't true and most peoples diets are far from the ideal, being deficient in vegetables, fruits, pulses, good grains and a range of fats from olive to avocado, linseed to pumpkin. One of the things I really love about cooking like this is you are always working with colours so if Im feeling cranky and have to make dinner, chopping some vibrantly orange coloured squash and slicing broccoli, dicing vivid red onions and chopping bright yellow peppers, can really lift my mood. A slab of brown meat doesn't have the same effect and makes a very messy and greasy kitchen. But we eat tons of food now, endless veggie sausages are made, pots of tomato sauce bubbling to have with nut roasts or to make instant beans on toast, oh yes, bread is a plant based food!
The picture above, of yesterdays lunch is s perfect example of how food, in all it's colours and textures can lift your spirits. I invented the combo in my head as I lay in bed thinking of lunches for my son who is now back in college. It's so good we ate the whole lot in one day so I'm doubling the recipe here as it's worth making lots and keeping it in a tub for a few days in the fridge. Use this as a base and add toppings of crunchy sauerkraut with creamy avocado, or leftover roasted sweet potato and some yummy hummus. Millet is a highly nutritious grain and a slow release carb so it will keep you feeling full for ages. As I'm trying to use my fermented foods in tasty ways, the preserved lemons give the salad a sophisticated, deep and tangy edge. You can buy these in many good food shops. Lots of these things will be in your cupboard, cook extra grains to make lunches from any mish mash of stuff, this is a guideline, but it does taste amazing!
1/2 tsp each cumin, coriander and, if you have them, black onion seeds
2 garlic cloves
2 tins chickpeas, drained
1 red onion, diced
1 hands-full sundried tomatoes, rehydrated for 30 minutes in just-boiled water, drained and chopped
2-4 hands-full of mixed olives roughly chopped
2 preserved lemons, chopped (peel only)
2 large hands-full fresh coriander and parsley
50-100ml olive oil
Sea salt and pepper
First cook the millet in four times as much water, add the unpeeled garlic cloves, bring it to a boil with a pinch of cumin, coriander, black onion seeds and a pinch of salt, bring to a boil, clamp on a lid and reduce the heat to a blip. Cook for 15 minutes then take off the lid and let the steam out. Fish out the garlic and keep this for the dressing.
Turn on the oven to 180degreesC and pop the chickpeas onto a large baking tray, drizzle over a little olive oil, salt and paprika. Roast them for 20 mins. If you can't be bothered with this step then don't, but the roasting gives more flavour.
Get a really big bowl and tip in the millet, break it up with your hands and add in the chickpeas and all the remaining ingredients, mix really well.
Mash up the garlic cloves in another bowl and add the juice of the lemons and the olive oil, mix it up and pour it over the salad, seasoning with some freshly ground black pepper and sea salt.
This salad is so filling, pack it into a tub and take it anywhere.
What someone is putting in their mouth is always the most interesting subject, never mind world politics or global warming, what everyone wants to know these days is 'What are you eating?". So, I'm coming out. Die hard carnivore me has ceased to consume fellow mammals for at least a short amount of time. This decision, and the sharing of the subject with plant eaters that I used to ridicule, has caused me now to be ridiculed, pointed at and laughed at with such taunts as "You're vegan now?" Not to be confused with being a Trump supporter, to this I say "Yes, I've stopped my annual trips to Abra and don't do Denny's sausages anymore". My youngest son calls me a dirty vegan, just as well he didn't see me with my face full of full-cream banoffee pie last night, mmmm. But is was still December then and Debbie Reynolds had just died so I was consoling myself. I reckon if veganism is the worst I can do, it sets me up nicely for future follies of double homicide or stealing babies, should the whim take me.
Soo, why eat plants? Well they are easy targets really, just sitting there all vulnerable, having no legs they can't run away. Also their cheerful colours are so attractive and promising, green, orange, red, purple, yellow. How can you feel blue when you eat the rainbow? I grew up eating meat every day, then I fell in love with Paul Weller when I was fourteen and gave up meat in the hope that he would hear about that and come to Limerick and marry me. I know he likes them young but fourteen is just a bit, well, Bill Wyman. Back then fish was considered a vegetable so I enjoyed a pampering of salmon steaks and endless tuna sandwiches, but broccoli or garlic had barely been invented so vegetables were still just carrots and turnips. My staple dinner was a 'pie' made of layers of potato and tomato topped with breadcrumbs and cheese, which was actually really nice. Paul Weller never showed up so I went back on the meat wagon with gusto, consuming as many creatures as my hungry jaws could mangle. The I got into lifting weights, which I got out of after one year of going around showing off my muscles and feeling exhausted and eating so much meat I could barely keep up with my own appetite. Tai Chi is my choice of recreation now, and more recently, jumping up and down on a trampoline so these require less animal, to be honest I don't know if anything really requires animal, at least not the battery living, antibiotic filled substance meat we are being sold as meat these days.
Good meat costs much more because it costs much more to rear and care for. So good meat becomes a statement of economic status, sometimes it can cost as much as four times the price for non-GMO produce from a farmer that practices ethically.If you don't care about this stuff, groovey, if you do, you have choices; buy cheaper cuts, eat less meat and more veg. Meat is filling and I really wanted to eat more veg, so I have challenged myself to eat no meat at all for a month and then see how I go. I've been warming up to it over Christmas and did eat ham from Caroline Rigney (no comparison) on Christmas day. Turkey I can easily live without. When I first started prepping vegan meals my head was melted, it's so easy to throw a chicken in the oven and walk away. Now there are beans to soak and things to invent, and the chopping! So much chopping. So I tackled my kitchen after drinking several glasses of wine, (wine is a fruit) and chucked out a load of crap from the freezer. The next day I spent my Christmas money on a lot of tins of organic beans, bags of nuts, nut butters that are so expensive there must be crack cocaine in them, and boxes of medjool dates, the sex of the vegan world.
I got past the hummus and sourdough, olives, pesto, salads, dahls, veggie curries and grains (all of which I love anyway) and got to the sweet treats and snacks, naturally gluten free bounty bars, caramel tarts and chocolate milkshakes, (thanks to the Happy Pear for the support and nice photos of your abs to encourage me), so it's been a tasty time actually. Dinners were tricky but the upside is that if you make a bunch of stuff together, you can have days of food in the fridge to reheat. If you get enough veg, fats and good grains and don't rely on toast and spaghetti hoops, you can enjoy some really good grub.
Anyhoo, it's #veganjan for now. And my 19yo son is on it too and so are most of his pals because they are art students. Nobody likes a ranty vegan so I'll just pop out and murder someone to level things off.
Happy new year :))
Meanwhile, make these bounty bars from the double vision delight that are the Happy Pear.
3 Tbsp Coconut Oil 4 Tbsp Maple Syrup 1 Tsp Vanilla Extract 200G Desiccated Coconut 75G Ground Almonds Pinch of Salt 350G 70% Dark Chocolate
Place the Coconut Oil into a pan on medium heat and add the Maple Syrup and Vanilla extract
While these are melting , prepare your dry ingredients
Pour the dessicated coconut and ground almonds into a mixing bowl
Once the coconut oil has melted, add the heated mix to the dry ingredients and mix thoroughly
Next up…chocolate! Place your chocolate in a glass bowl of melt it over a pot of boiling water, stirring occasionally until it melts to a nice consistency
Place parchment paper onto a baking tray and spread the dry coconut mixture onto it
Shape and form the coconut into a square shape roughly 4×4 inches and 1 inch high
Place the baking tray into the freezer for 20 minutes to harden
After 20 minutes the coconut bars should be firm enough to cut into solid bar shapes
Use the best method you can to coat the bars in the melted dark chocolate (We have found that placing the bar on a large knife and pouring the chocolate over the bar with a ladle, seems to be a good tactic!)
Place the now coated bars onto parchment paper and onto a baking tray and pop them in the fridge for 10-15 minutes to allow the chocolate to cool and harden