Jane Pikett dips her toe into veganism
So, here’s a thing – vegan food. Increasingly, I am cooking it at home because #1 Son and his girlfriend have skipped from vegetarian to vegan. In the process, they are that bit brighter-eyed, clearer-skinned, and springy in their step, so something’s good about it.
I know it sounds exhausting, but once you’re into it, it’s pretty simple. I’m still doing meat and fish alternatives half the time, but the base cooking has largely become vegan – so no more butter and cream, which is a bit of a blow, but good for us I guess.
I can’t get away with nut milks in tea, but you can get used to drinking it black with lemon, and non-dairy ‘butter’ is all wrong on toast, but some of them cook okay.
Much of the shop-bought vegan ‘cheese’ is inedible, but there are notable exceptions, and there have always been a lot of mung beans, chickpeas, lentils and coconut milk in our house, so a good deal of our diet is accidentally vegan anyway.
After a particularly stressful few days at work the aforementioned vegan son and girlfriend declared they were taking me out for dinner. “You seem to have had a busy few days,’ said sensitive son, presumably prompted by the cast iron frying pan which had flown perilously close to his head soon after I’d returned from work the previous evening to find the kitchen had turned into the set of The Young Ones.
Thus, I was whisked off to Newcastle’s Pink Lane and The Bohemian veggie/vegan kitchen. And it was lovely! I know this because we had nine tapas dishes, a couple of sides and a couple of puddings, plus lovely chats with the staff and even the lady who makes the vegan cheese, who just happened to drop by.
The biggest revelation – jackfruit. Who knew that you can substitute something called jackfruit for pulled duck and serve it up with pancakes, cucumber, spring onion and hoi sin sauce and it would be every bit as good as the non-vegan Chinese version round the corner in
Yes, I know how ridiculous that sounds – a fruit pretending to be a duck – but we loved it so much, we had two lots. It’s my new favourite thing and jackfruit our new must-have kitchen ingredient. Google it – everyone’s using it and I am beyond off-trend to have missed it!
What else did we like? The vegetable spring rolls were pleasingly crisp, and the quesadilla very good, complete with its vegan cheese (again, a revelation).
I didn’t like the pretend mozzarella on the caprese salad, but the kids did, and the no-egg onion rings were a crisp, class act. There was a cheesecake without cheese for afters and a cherry doughnut with a surprisingly good non-dairy custard.
No-one’s saying you have to be vegan, and if you do dip your toe in I think the trick is to suspend any expectation of what you’re eating being the same as non-vegan food. The Bohemian is a non-scary place to start, with its welcoming people who are happy to take daft questions from novices about jackfruit and vegan cheese.
You could also dip your toe in at the excellent Painted Elephant in Newcastle city centre, the Sky Apple Café in Heaton, and Tea Sutra, again in the city centre.
Oh, and that vegan cheese they use at The Bohemian is supplied by Tyne Chease and is handmade in Northumberland by lifelong vegan Ami Tadaa (another one with clear skin, bright eyes and a spring in her step, so it’s obviously doing her good) and you can get it online, so you can experiment all you like.
I’m going to feature Ami in this magazine soon. In the meantime, the kids and I are tasting a lot of shop-bought vegan dairy alternatives – some great, some inedible, but all part of life’s great culinary adventure.
The Bohemian, Pink Lane, Newcastle NE1 5DW, tel 0191 261 5423, www.iloveboho.co.uk
Try it – some vegan alternatives
It doesn’t hurt anyone to lay off the animal products now and again, but how to start? Try these hacks to get you started…
• Substitute jackfruit for meat or fish – buy it in tins, drench in the best quality BBQ or hoi sin sauce you can find and a little water, cook and shred
• Instead of whipped cream refrigerate coconut milk overnight and whip it up
• Use hummus or avocado instead of mayo in sandwiches
• In baking, you can substitute each egg with half a mashed banana
• Japanese miso is a wonder-ingredient – use it instead of salt and cheese in pestos and soups (always add at the end of cooking as heating it can kill its good enzymes)
• Replace the meat/fish element of your dish with a cauliflower steak pan-fried with ginger, turmeric and cumin
• All vegan: Oreo cookies, Marmite, Jacob’s Cream Crackers, Metcalfe’s Skinny Popcorn, Fry’s Chocolate Cream