Veganuary, and Sriracha-roasted Cauliflower

Two things happened last week: I got sick and I fell off the Veganuary wagon.

It was bound to happen, really, for the fall always comes after the high, right? Last weekend, I had the best time. Naomi, my friend and fellow devotee to afternoon drinking, threw a daytime party at her house to celebrate her birthday. Being with old friends, and some rather spectacular cakes (including this beautiful one made by Jassy) we ended up drinking quite a lot of prosecco. When we left, there were more corks on the draining board than there were people at the party. My brother had also come to visit us, so after the party we went off to do the things you do when you have a 21-year-old brother: bar hopping around Brixton and downing shots of Jager. Of course, I was never going to escape that kind of heavy drinking unscathed, so had a pretty sore head on Sunday.

As it turned out, this was the least of my worries, for on Monday night I came down with the flu bug that has floored me for almost a week now.

Being in the throes of illness is the worst time for me to stick to any food plan, restricted diet or exercise regime, as I channel all of my limited energies into feeling better. I was, of course, medicating with hot lemon drinks, bed rest and Netflix; but I was also, for some reason, incredibly hungry. I managed four whole days of sickbed veganism, then yesterday I caved and put some milk in my tea.

Then I made mushroom pasta with a load of creme fraiche. Of course, neither of these things have cured me of this lurgy, but I can’t tell you how restorative it is just to eat what you have been craving.

I managed 29 and a half days of veganism and, aside from this week, I have really enjoyed the experiment. The Veganuary website claims that 51% of participants in 2015 pledged to stay vegan and food writer Jack Monroe has also spoken of their intention to stay vegan beyond the end of January. I can understand why: changing your diet for a month really opens you up to a different kind of cooking, and a different relationship with food. It’s exciting and inspiring to use new ingredients and recipes, especially immediately following December, where food is all about tradition, glutton and excess. I thought I would miss meat, fish and dairy far more than I did (even poached eggs) and felt better by choosing generally healthier options for both cooking and eating out.

Being vegan for (nearly) a month has reminded me that I need to adjust my diet to a little less meat and a lot more vegetables, has given me a new-found love for lentil curries and has made me appreciate how the food we consume affects our environment. Remaining vegan is a great idea. There are hardly any downsides at all. Except one: Me.

When I got down to my lowest ebb this week, snivelling into my trash mag on the sofa, all streaming eyes and hacking coughs, I was miserable without the foods I felt would comfort me. Now I’m on the mend, it seems somewhat idiotic, but then I think back to the day I discovered that Oreos were vegan and promptly scarfed an entire pack. Yes, it’s probably what some would consider an unhealthy relationship with food, but sometimes I am powerless against cravings. Plus, I wouldn’t want my unhealthy relationship with booze to get lonely out there all on its own.

So my post-veganuary plan is this. Cook, eat and enjoy vegan food as much as possible, but not exclusively. Eat more fruit and vegetables, but allow myself treats; for cheeseboards, chocolate fondants, MEATliquor burgers, potted shrimps, poached eggs and rib eye steaks are also wonderful in moderation too.

Before I leave you, I wanted to share the recipe for one of the most brilliant discoveries of the whole of Veganuary: Sriracha-roasted cauliflower. Even if you’re not vegan, nor ever intend to be, I urge you to try this.

Sriracha-roasted Cauliflower

1½ tbsp olive oil
1½ tsp sesame oil
3 tsp soy sauce
2 tsp rice vinegar
4 tbsp sriracha
1 small cauliflower, cut into florets

Preheat the oven to 220°c.

In a large bowl, whisk together the olive oil, sesame oil, soy sauce, rice vinegar and sriracha. Tip in the cauliflower florets and toss until they are evenly coated.

Arrange on a baking sheet and roast in the oven for 20-25 minutes, turning once.

Serves two as a side dish. Adapted from I am a Food Blog.

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