Happy Veganuary from Crop Drop
We’re halfway through Veganuary, the annual opportunity for anyone vegan-curious to try out a plant-based diet in a supported way. While not all Crop Drop staff, volunteers and customers are vegan, Crop Drop is a plant-based business, with an obvious appeal to anyone following a plant-rich diet. We believe anyone can benefit from increasing the amount of locally sourced fresh fruit and veg in their diet, regardless of whether you’re a vegan, vegetarian, pescatarian or outright omnivore. We love Veganuary, as it helps bust common dietary myths and highlights the nutritional value and versatility of vegetables, legumes, grains and other alternatives (or additions) to animal products. If nothing else, it can inspire anyone to discover new ingredients and new dishes.
Whether you’re a long-time vegan, halfway through the Veganuary challenge or considering adding more fruit and veg to your diet this year, we hope the following tips and recipes will inspire you to explore some wonderful plant-based dishes.
Advice for new vegans
Kyra, our social media officer and one of our resident vegans started following a predominantly plant-based diet three years ago, after being vegetarian for 12 years. She offers some words of encouragement for those still finding their way.
“Remember that for many people going vegan doesn't happen overnight,” she says. “It's a process that involves finding the replacements that work for you, learning about the various reasons for switching (be it animal rights, health or environmental), as well as getting the nutritional bit right.
Veganuary is a great starting point as there's a glut of information about and a sense of camaraderie in taking up the challenge alongside thousands of others, but it can take months or even years to transition, so don't feel disheartened if you fall off the wagon.”
You can find out more about vegan nutrition on the Veganuary site, and there are extensive guides on the Vegan Society’s site, including detailed information about various sources of essential vitamins and minerals.
Kyra herself has introduced Brazil nuts into her diet for selenium, cooks with rapeseed oil as it’s rich in omega-3, and has a glass of orange juice, as vitamin C increases iron absorption, which is reduced by caffeine from tea or coffee.
Meat and dairy alternatives: yes or no?
Many vegans start their journey by swapping regular processed meat for meat alternatives, which helps it feel less like removing much loved aspects of your diet. This can make sticking to a vegan diet more personally sustainable, although not necessarily as sustainable as they could be in terms of environmental impact.
With such a huge variety of plant-sourced foods, though, we encourage you to think about what you’re adding to your diet, rather than what you’re taking away. You might find new favourites to fulfil both your nutritional and emotional need and find that you’re relying on processed food less and less.
“My Crop Drop veg bag has introduced me to a variety of veg I wouldn't find in the supermarket and inspired me to be more creative in the kitchen,” says Kyra, who recently decided to reduce processed vegan foods in her diet herself, apart from a few essentials.
“Alongside my veg bag, the vegan cupboard staples I couldn't live without include garlic, a good stock (Marigold Swiss Organic Bouillon is my go-to), B12 fortified nutritional yeast flakes and a miso paste (I use the organic one from Clearspring). Additionally, Harmless, the brilliant bulk buy store in Hornsey, stocks a huge range of vegan-friendly cheeses. Sticking to a plant based diet becomes a lot easier once you've got your dairy-free cheese fix sorted! ”
Vegan Baking Tips
One of the major stumbling blocks for those new to veganism is being able to enjoy cakes, biscuits, pancakes and other favourites, especially when most traditional recipes seem to include eggs and dairy products. Fear not! You can easily veganise your favourite recipes with the below tips.
What, No Egg?!
While most people think cake is not possible without eggs, it really is just traditional rather than essential. If you start to search the web for vegan cake recipes, you’ll find a whole post-egg world of possibility out there.
Egg helps to bind, rise and set cakes. However, the gluten in wheat flour is the biggest binding factor. Here are some egg alternatives commonly used in vegan baking:
- Milled flaxseed – 1 Tbsp = 1 egg. Stir 1 Tbsp of flax into 3 Tbsp water/milk until it becomes gloopy.
- Vinegar – by mixing vinegar with soy milk, it causes the milk to curdle, forming buttermilk. This gives your batter more air and once mixed with baking powder or soda, it fizzes and creates bubbles in the batter.
- Pureed Fruit – applesauce or mashed banana a great at helping cakes rise
- Egg replacement powder – we use Ogran “No Egg” 1 Tbsp = 1 egg. This helps to bind and set cakes.
This is your key binding component instead of egg. Always use it at room temperature, especially when using gluten-free flours.
Use neutral flavoured oils like vegetable, sunflower or coconut oil, or vegan margarine.
As a general rule, vegan cake batters are thicker. If they get too runny, they will struggle to rise and set.
Don’t over beat it
Just like normal cake, the less you mix a batter, the more air stays in the batter. If you mix it too much, you're beating the air out of it. Also the starch in wheat gets tighter the more you beat it, so to avoid a dense airless cake, beat it gently and only mix it until just combined. It’s ok to have some lumps in there.
Get it in the oven immediately!
Once your batter’s ready, get in it a preheated oven straight away. The longer it sits around, the more air escapes from the mix.
Word of warning: avoid the temptation to veganise an old favourite cake recipe of yours by simply replacing the eggs with one of the alternitvies above - often vegan cakes require a very different combination of ingredients, so best to find trusted vegan cake recipes and follow them religiously to avoid a disheartening cake fail!
If you're feeling more confident and experimental, you can try using the above tips for veganisng online recipes like our dessert recipes, although some (like these pumpkin muffins) are already vegan!
While many of us spent the last year learning to make new things in the kitchen, lockdown fatigue means some of you might have hit a plateau when it comes to cooking. Here are a few favourites from our extensive vegan recipe section to help you make Veganuary cooking more exciting.
Classic vegan mains
If you’re looking to swap your vegan burgers for something homemade, try these delicious swede burgers.
Another fast-food option is these yummy squash falafels.
We also love these easy vegan pasties that can be either a main or a snack.
Vegan sides and snacks
Vegan pancake recipes
Pancake day (aka Shrove Tuesday) is just a month away, which means now is the perfect time to up your vegan pancake game!
Try this vegan savoury pancake recipe, made with Korean kimchi (or other assorted veg), or these classic vegan apple and cinnamon pancakes. Apart from being perfect for Pancake Day, they’re also the perfect comfort food for a cold January.