A Veganuary January
How are the New Year’s resolutions going? Still on the wagon? Managing to drag yourself out for a run every day? Or perhaps you’re congratulating yourself on being mid-way through Veganuary?
You may never even have heard of Veganuary but it has been around since 2014, a charity with an awful name but the simple and effective aim of encouraging people to go vegan for the month of January. Partly due to their efforts, the number of vegans has been growing in recent years. And when a movement is endorsed by a celebrity chef, as this one was last week when Jamie Oliver promoted it to his seven million Twitter followers, you know its time has definitely come. Oliver has a knack of putting himself at the centre of every major food trend (an Oliver vegan book can only be a matter of time) and this one is certainly gaining momentum.
Until recently, veganism was considered as something serious foodies couldn’t possibly consider. However, due to initiatives such as Veganuary and the global success of films such as Okja and documentaries like Cowspiracy, many of us have started to question the suffering of animals and damage to the planet and our own health that are a by-product of the meat industry.
Crucially, for its success, veganism has also recently become the fashionable food choice of the young and glamorous who fill their Instagram feeds with pretty vegan dishes and “compassionate choices”. Or as Glamour magazine put it, “Celebrity vegans who make eating more veg look seriously sexy”—Miley Cyrus, Ariana Grande and Jessica Chastain, to name a few.
In India, of course, a country which has more vegetarians than the rest of the world put together, there will be a certain amount of eye-rolling at the news that the rest of the world is finally embracing a healthy, balanced and varied diet without animal products. Even in India, though, where more people are now eating meat, many are starting to worry about the apparent connection between meat consumption and a range of health problems, from high cholesterol and blood pressure to some forms of cancer.
For Indians, it has always been easy to live the vegan life with the dazzling array of vegetarian and vegan dishes on offer. In the West, we are slowly catching up and becoming more adventurous in our cooking and eating of plant-based food. Glasgow, a Scottish city whose culinary references were traditionally of the deep-fried, animal fat variety, is now known as the most vegan-friendly destination in the UK. One of the well-known Glasgow vegan restaurant chains (a phrase you wouldn’t have heard a few years ago) recently opened a branch in Edinburgh. Sadly, I haven’t been able to get a table yet because the place is crammed with vegan hipsters but I’m going to try again in February when they’ve all flocked back to the pulled pork food trucks.
While I haven’t turned vegan, my diet has shifted dramatically in the last couple of years. I now eat meat only occasionally and find I don’t miss it at all, but, having just emerged groaning from a meat-laden festive season, I am ready to embrace something approaching a vegan diet for a while. Today’s dish is one I first ate and loved at a friend’s house some years ago in Delhi. We ate it this week, adorned with crunchy roast potatoes, instead of our traditional Sunday chicken. It is the perfect dish for anyone trying, for whatever reason, to wean themselves off meat in their diet because it arrives at the table with all the impact of a roast bird: plump, golden and inviting. None of us missed the chicken at all but agreed that the potatoes will always be non-negotiable.
Roast Whole Cauliflower with Spiced Roast Potatoes
Half a cup (about 125ml) yogurt (for vegan version, use coconut yogurt)
2cm cube of ginger, grated
1 clove of garlic, crushed
2 green chillies, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp salt
500g potatoes, peeled and chopped into 4cm pieces
Olive oil to coat the potatoes
1 tsp chilli flakes
1 lemon and fresh coriander leaves to serve
Remove the tough outer leaves of the cauliflower, leaving a few of the smaller leaves attached. Slice the base of the cauliflower so that it stands firmly. With a small knife, cut out some of the core from the base to help it cook more evenly.
Whisk together the yogurt, ginger, garlic, chopped chillies, turmeric, oil and salt. Turn the cauliflower upside down and put a little of the yogurt marinade in the cavity, then rub some more all over the base of the cauliflower. Place the cauliflower in a roasting tin large enough to hold everything. Rub the remaining marinade over the top of the cauliflower and set aside for 1 hour.
Preheat the oven to 200 degrees Celsius. Arrange the potatoes around the cauliflower and coat them with a little olive oil.
Season the potatoes with a little salt then sprinkle chilli flakes over the cauliflower and potatoes. Bake for about 45-60 minutes or until the cauliflower is tender and deep gold on top and the potatoes are browned and crispy. Squeeze over lemon juice and chopped coriander to serve.
The Way We Eat Now is a column on new ways of cooking seasonal fruits, vegetables and grains.
The writer tweets at @eatanddust
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