Giving Veganuary a go this year? Folk Features asks a few of those in the plant-based business to share their vegan tales and tips
At River Green it’s pretty much just business as usual throughout January – everything is vegan, and everyone is welcome!
I moved to a vegan diet a few years ago (2016) from a meat-eating diet after hearing that cutting out meat and dairy products is one of the most effective things we can do to reduce climate change. I felt like the vegan market had increased so much that there were vegan alternatives available in most shops and restaurants, which made it much easier to make the change. One thing I’d say to people thinking of trying it is that you don’t really have to change your diet a huge amount if you don’t want to – there are vegan alternatives available for pretty much anything now! However, personally I really enjoyed a new sense of creativity that the move to veganism brought to my kitchen (I have always loved to cook and experiment with new recipes) – so much so that in 2021 I left my office job to become a chef at River Green and haven’t looked back since.
My biggest tip for anyone trying to cut out meat and dairy though is probably to make sure you have ingredients for quick and easy meals ready at home so that when you’re tired and hungry you don’t fall back into old routines. One of my regular quick go-to meals is a big hearty noodle soup with a deeply savoury, umami broth made from just a few store cupboard ingredients like soy sauce, miso paste, sesame oil, curry powder and stock (you can even get plant-based beef or chicken Oxo cubes now for an extra umami hit! And add coconut milk for a rich, creamy soup). You can add whatever protein you have on hand (tofu, tempeh, meat alternatives) and pack in lots of veg – I usually add in a big handful of whatever leafy greens I have in the fridge. And you can get creative with toppings like crispy chilli oil, spring onions, fresh coriander, sesame seeds, peanuts…
For me this kind of meal satisfies a lot of cravings, is filling, gets plenty of all-important veg in, and is ready in about 15 minutes.
Geoffrey Bligh is the co-founder of vegan fast food business Hank’s Dirty based in Ipswich, Felixstowe, Colchester, St Albans and Norwich (which recently opened in Castle Social, Castle Quarter):
‘The welcome to Norwich has been fantastic! It’s been very busy, and for the most part people seem to be loving the venue and Hank’s. There have been a few days where all the food vendors have been overwhelmed with customers, but I suppose that’s a good problem to have. It’s really great to see a 100% vegan food venue as one of the busiest food outlets within the shopping centre.’
Horticultural Broadcaster Ellen Mary, of Ellen Mary Gardening, is very much a plant loving vegan:
‘I’ve been vegan a number of years now, initially having been told it would help with my digestion issues. So, health was my priority but as time went on I found myself more and more interested in the benefits to the planet of plant based eating and decided I don’t want any animal to suffer for me. I’ve thrived off a vegan diet, I have more energy and am much healthier now as well. For anyone trying Veganuary I would say that the first month or so can be harder while you get used to the change but stick with it and have fun trying some new recipes, different foods to what you might usually eat and enjoy the adventure knowing it’s a positive move for you, the planet and animals.’
Victoria Petchey is the founder of social group Suffolk Vegans Club:
‘Every month is Veganuary for me, as it’s now a way of life. Eating a range of plant-based meals has never been easier. You just make a few swaps and adjust accordingly. Swap the animal milks to nut/oat/soya milks, stop eating cheese (it isn’t good for you anyway!), if you like the taste of meat, try a substitute. I used to love eating chicken and enjoyed the taste of it, but I couldn’t justify the death of a chicken to satisfy my selfish taste buds, so now I eat mock chicken substitutes without the guilt! Most of us eat vegan based foods already without even realising.
If people want to discover more vegan products in the local area, they can visit one of our markets this year at Beach Street Felixstowe on Saturday 1st July and Saturday 2nd December. They can also see our website for further details: suffolkvegans.club‘
Finally, a quote from Fitness Trainer Paul Kerton, AKA Hench Herbivore:
‘If I can live happily and healthily without harming another, why wouldn’t I?’
Fiona Burrage is the founder of Sop ~ Scents of place, a vegan, Norfolk-made bodycare brand:
‘Whether you’re taking part in Veganuary or would just like some new inspo, our team have collated some of our favourite cookbooks. We collectively agreed that during the week we tend to favour ‘One Pot, Pan, Planet’ as well as ‘The Green Roasting Tin’ but at the weekends we love to be a bit more adventurous and enjoy the process of cooking.
If you are interested in learning more about veganism, we recommend ‘Game changers,’ ‘Cowspiracy’ and ‘Seaspiracy’ as an introduction about the consumption of meat on the body as well as the effect on the environment. Sop is a proudly vegan and cruelty free, you can learn more about our products and ethos on our website.’
Visit Veganuary 2023
Featured image: Hannah Stroud, Sous Chef at River Green Restaurant