Category Archives: Blog

Welcome to the Great Vegan University Challenge blog! Throughout February people taking part in the Challenge will be posting their thoughts, experiences and advice here, so check back regularly for updates. If you would like to contribute to this blog, please email veganchallenge@animalaid.co.uk.

Welcome to the Great Vegan University Challenge blog! Throughout February people taking part in the Challenge will be posting their thoughts, experiences and advice here, so check back regularly for updates. If you would like to contribute to this blog, please email veganchallenge@animalaid.co.uk.

Eating on the move – by Issie Hutchinson and Ben Martin

There was a time when vegan snacks were limited to crisps, fruit or nuts, but I’m glad to say that those days are long gone. Now supermarkets and coffee shops alike are embracing veganism, with most offering a selection of plant-based food to eat on the go.

HK_Central_IFC_Mall_night_shop_Pret_A_MangerSandwiches

Pret A Manger seems to be leading the way with several vegan sandwiches and wraps available in store. You can choose from their super greens & reds; cucumber and humous on rye; avo, olives and toms baguette; or one of their several vegan wraps. Both Caffè Nero and Tesco now have a houmous and falafel wrap on sale, and Marks & Spencer has just brought out two new vegan sandwiches. Another option, of course, is to go into Subway and ask for a Veggie Delite with no cheese.

Salad, pasta, etc

If you’re not a sandwich fan, there are still plenty of other options. You’ll find falafel, quinoa and lentil salad at Starbucks; vegetable pasta arrabbiata at Caffè Nero and no less than ten salad options at Pret A Manger. You can even find vegan sushi at Waitrose.

NakdbarsSugary snacks

If you’re after more of a sugar hit to keep you going, Starbucks has a raw raspberry & nut bar and a peanut & cashew bar, and Costa has a fruity crumble slice that is vegan-friendly and gluten-free. At Pret A Manger you’ll find chocolatey coconut bites, which are very much like bounty bars, as well as a cacao and orange pot. You’ll also find Nakd bars in most shops and supermarkets, which are all vegan and provide a slightly healthier alternative to cakes and chocolate. You can find more sugary snack suggestions here.

Breakfast

Got up late for lectures? It doesn’t mean you have to skip breakfast. You can get soy porridge at both Starbucks and Caffè Nero. Again, Pret A Manger has a few options, including apple and pomegranate overnight oats, dairy-free bircher, coconut porridge and an acai breakfast bowl that features granola and fresh fruit to get you off to a good start.

If all else fails, my go-to meal on the move is to buy some bread and dunk it in houmous – both of which you can find in most convenience stores.

The Save movement: A new kind of activism – by Issie Hutchinson

13938009_10154352999579277_2554725441177205115_oIf you’ve been exploring vegan Facebook groups over the last week or so, you’ll probably have come across the Save movement. You might have heard of Manchester Pig Save, Kent Animal Save, or one of the many groups now established across the world.

These groups are part of a powerful new kind of advocacy for animals. Their volunteers organise vigils outside slaughterhouses, where they witness animals on the final stage of their journey to slaughter, and try to show them some compassion before they are killed.

Despite their name, the Save groups do not usually manage to spare animals from their awful fate at the slaughterhouse. But the footage and photos they gather have an extraordinary impact for animals – exposing their suffering to the public and inspiring people to choose a kinder way of life. And by offering water and kind words, the activists ensure that these animals experience at least a moment of compassion during their short, miserable lives. That said, some vigils have resulted in slaughterhouses closing their doors for the day, arguably sparing animals, or at least giving them one more day of life.

13988224_10154352997024277_45791830553639974_oThe Save Movement began in December 2010, when Toronto Pig Save was founded. There are now more than 100 groups across the world, in countries including the UK, US, Australia, Canada, Italy, Brazil and Poland. You can read more about the Save Movement on their website.

At Animal Aid, we wholeheartedly support this essential work, and admire the bravery of the activists who attend vigils month after month. Back in August, we joined up with Essex Pig Save to film pigs on the final stage of their journey to Cheale Meats slaughterhouse in Essex. We filmed exhausted pigs in cramped, stressful conditions, some of whom were sick or injured. But all we could offer them was water and a kind word. It was truly heartbreaking to know that we could not save these animals from a brutal death, but the powerful footage and photos we gathered during the vigil resulted in more than 200 orders for our Go Vegan packs. You can view footage from the vigil below.

Tomorrow (14 Feb 2017), we are teaming up with Sheffield Animal Save to hold a peaceful Valentine’s Day vigil outside N Bramall & Son slaughterhouse, where we secretly filmed terrible animal cruelty taking place during a recent investigation. We will be asking the public to have a heart for animals by trying veganism, and we will have heart-shaped postcards for people to sign. We will also be bearing witness to animals being transported to slaughter. If you would like to join us, you can find the full details here.

Cruelty-free sweet treats – by Kate Fowler and Ben Martin

We should eat healthily, and meals made with fresh veggies and beans are fine, but we all need a little treat every now and then. Fortunately, going vegan doesn’t mean missing out on life’s little luxuries – far from it, there’s a whole world of plant-based goodies to be had – so here’s a rundown of just some of them…

group-shot-largeChocolate

Once upon a time, the only vegan chocolate you could get was plain, ultra-dark and likely to keep you awake all night if you ate it after lunchtime. But these days you can get milk-style vegan chocolate, truffles, soft centres, and even white chocolate and vegan Mars bars.

A good place to start is the ‘free from’ aisle of your local supermarket. Here, you’re likely to find goodies from Moo Free, Choices, Booja Booja, Fabulous Freefrom Factory and perhaps some own-brand dairy-free chocolate too. Head to the health food shop and you may find a better range of vegan chocolate, including Beech’s creams, a range of Vivani and iChoc bars, Seed & Bean, Organica and others too.

Online you will find specialist vegan chocolate outlets who stock things like the amazing Vego bars (probably the best chocolate in the world), as well as Go Max Go, who make vegan versions of Mars, Snickers, Bounty, Milky Way and Twix. You can find many of these, plus much more besides, on the Animal Aid online shop.

But if all these are a bit expensive for you, you can often find vegan treats in Poundland and other discount stores, such as Ruffles raspberry chocolate bars.

4u icecream croppedIce cream

If ice cream is more your thing, Swedish Glace and Alpro’s ranges are available in many supermarkets, offering vanilla, chocolate, raspberry, chocolate & hazelnut and coconut flavours. If you need something more exotic, check out Almond Dream’s Salted Caramel or Mint Choc Chip flavours, available in Waitrose and Asda, and online at Ocado.

Desperate for a Magnum? Try the Tesco own-brand version or the strawberry Swedish Glace one, which you can find in Sainsbury’s. And for those who love an ice-cream cornet, Tesco stocks strawberry and toffee flavours, while Morrisons has a Free From Chocolate and vanilla cone, as well as a strawberry one. And yes, they do have chocolate in the bottom of the cone, just as they should.

11151002_970412182999556_5066292877469617583_nCake

Cake is a little more tricky to find in shops, but not impossible. Sainsbury’s stocks Free From flapjack and granola slices as well as Mrs Crimbles Stem Ginger cake, which is lovely served warm with some dairy-free ice cream. But for those who love a rich, sweet satisfying treat with their cuppa, the Lazy Days range – Belgian Dark Tiffin, Ginger Tiffin, Millionaire’s Shortbread, and Rocky Road Slice – is hard to beat. Find them in Sainsbury’s, Morrisons and Waitrose. The Co-op’s jam and custard doughnuts are vegan, too. You might need some help from your friends to stop you from eating all five!

Desserts

Pudology makes a range of rich, delicious desserts – Banoffee Pud, Millionaires’ Pud, Chocolate Orange Pud – and these can be found in Waitrose, Holland & Barrett and on Ocado. And look out for Food Heaven’s lemon cheesecake, available in Asda and Waitrose.

Need Custard on that? Try Alpro’s or Oatly’s ready-made, or use Bird’s powder with your choice of plant milk – all widely available. Or cream? Again, most supermarkets stock soya or oat cream, or both. Alpro also makes a range of soya desserts – chocolate, caramel, vanilla – and these can be found in most supermarkets.

The truth is, this scarcely scrapes the surface of the amazing vegan treats available out there – so go forth and see what you can find!

Top 10 recipe websites – by Ben Martin

After more than a week of being vegan, you might be looking for a little culinary inspiration. Fortunately, there’s a whole world of vegan recipes online. If you’re looking to cook a vegan version of your favourite dish, simply google it and add ‘vegan recipe’ at the end and you’ll probably get more hits than you know what to do with. But if you’re looking to try something new and interesting, or just quick and easy, give these a try…

orange+cake1. Little Miss Meat-Free

Little Miss Meat-Free is the blog of cook, food writer and cookery tutor Katy Baskow. Her approach is that vegan cooking should be easy, tasty and nutritious, but that doesn’t mean all of her dishes are ultra-healthy. Alongside the recipes for seasonal veg and super-foods, you’ll also find cakes, desserts and pastries.

2. The Buddhist Chef

Whilst not all Buddhists are vegan, this one clearly is and has put together a wonderfully simple website with a range of recipes that are not only delicious, but also healthy and straightforward to prepare. Each recipe comes with clear instructions, as well as a step-by-step video, meaning you can’t go wrong. If you want professional looking, nutritious meals that are dead easy to prepare, this is the website for you.

3. Minimalist Baker

Despite the name, this site is not all about cakes, but includes savoury and gluten-free recipes too. However it is about simple cooking, with all recipes using no more than ten ingredients and generally being made in a single bowl or pot, so saving on the washing up too. There are both healthy and indulgent recipes, as well as dishes for all meals and occasions, so Minimalist Baker should have something for everyone.

Bit-of-the-Good-Stuff-Front-Cover-1000-243x3004. Cooking on a Boot Strap

I already mentioned this one in my Budget Veganism post, but it’s worth mentioning again. Jack Monroe shot to fame a couple of years ago for creating a series of ultra-cheap recipes for those affected by cuts to welfare budgets, particularly the ‘9p burger’, which was widely reported on in the press at the time. Now a Guardian columnist and anti-poverty campaigner, Jack continues to create low-cost recipes, including an extensive selection of vegan ones.

5. Bit of the Good Stuff

This is a great blog for those looking for something a little bit different. It’s full of fantastic recipes, often with a little twist to make them more interesting. Mostly centered around wholefood ingredients, there are main meals, breakfasts, sweet treats and much more. Be sure to look out for the Bit of the Good Stuff cookbook, which is out now and perfect for new vegans.

6. Parsley Soup

Don’t be fooled by the slightly amateur look of this website; it’s a real hidden gem full of recipes for good, honest, every-day food, made with good, honest, every-day ingredients. There’s no weird sounding seeds or beans you’ve never heard of that you’ll spend days trying to order online. You should be able to find most, if not all, of the ingredients for these recipes in your local supermarket or high street shops. And they’re super-reliable. I’ve used Parsley Soup for years and I’ve never had a recipe go wrong yet. I can especially recommend the cake section.

Not one for the easily offended, Thug Kitchen has become infamous for combining innovative vegan cookery with swearing to humorous effect. But bad language aside, the recipes on here are really good and so varied that there should be something for everyone.

8. BBC Good Food

Yes, before you say it, I know BBC Good Food is not a vegan website. But it does have a great vegan section and even some of the recipes that aren’t in this section are vegan or easily veganised. I must have used this apple crumble recipe a hundred times, for example, and just swapped the butter for margarine – easy. With simple instructions, nutritional info and print-friendly versions, I can see why people fought so hard to keep this website alive.

9. Oh She Glows

Leaning towards the healthy, ‘superfood’ side of vegan cooking, Oh She Glows is a wholefood-lovers dream and great if you are trying to up your nutrient intake or detox after a heavy one. That’s not to say it’s all completely wholesome; there’s a selection of dessert, cake and cookie recipes, but these tend to incorporate fresh fruit, nut butters and natural syrups. Expect to make a trip to your local health food shop for ingredients.

updatedfgvlogo10. Fat Gay Vegan

Okay, so this one isn’t really a recipe site, even if it has a small section on vegan Mexican dishes. But it’s still very much one to watch for news on what’s hot and what’s not in the vegan world. Fat Gay Vegan is the award-winning, light-hearted and often humorous blog of Sean O’Callaghan and covers everything from vegan cafes and restaurants, to cruelty-free clothing and travel. Basically if it’s new, vegan and worth knowing about, Fat Gay Vegan will have the details.

Vegan Valentines – by Ben Martin

rose-812765_960_720Although Valentine’s Day is still a week away, I’m sure many of you will be thinking about how to show your loved one how much they mean to you. But your first Valentine’s Day as a vegan can be a slightly daunting prospect. What will you do? Where will you go? What will you buy? So many questions! But don’t worry, we have the answers.

The date

Going out for dinner with your significant other is certainly the traditional option for Valentine’s Day, but it can be tricky finding somewhere that has options for both of you. Thankfully, technology has the answer to this one. Happy Cow allows you to find vegan-friendly restaurants near you and can even provide directions to get there.

You could also go for one of the growing number of restaurant chains that have vegan food available on their menus, including Zizzi, Pizza Express, Wagamama, Yo Sushi, Carluccio’s, and Las Iguanas. If you fancy something a little more romantic, then speak to a local independent restaurant and see if they could do something special for you. Italian and Asian restaurants are often able to adapt something to be meat and dairy-free.

4675605487_21efdf4039_bOr why not show your partner you love them by cooking them a quiet, candle-lit meal for two at home? You could go for an exotic Thai green curry, a simple butternut squash risotto, or delicious smoked tofu and spinach cannelloni. And either a decadent chocolate cheesecake or chocolate fondue to share would make for a perfect romantic dessert.

Meals aside, there are lots of things you can do together that don’t involve animal exploitation. You could catch a movie at the cinema followed by a drink; you could take a nice long walk in the countryside, arm-in-arm; go bowling; attend a gig; or even serenade your loved one with karaoke. Maybe you could help to share the love by volunteering together at a local animal sanctuary or donating the money you would have spent on a date to a charity and opting for a quiet night in instead.

Gifts

special-edition-gift-collectionChocolates are usually a fairly safe option for a Valentine’s gift and there is now a huge range of luxurious cruelty-free chocolates available. There are decadent Booja Booja truffles, which you can now find in most supermarkets and health food shops; not to mention Beech’s Creams, Pernigotti truffles and Happy Hippo truffles, too, all of which you can find on the Animal Aid online shop. Hotel Chocolat also stocks a range of amazing vegan goodies, all of which should be marked.

If your loved one would prefer some pampering instead, Animal Aid has the answer once more with a wonderful range of cruelty-free perfumes, aftershaves and toiletries. Lush Cosmetics also sell fantastic gift sets of bath bombs, body butter and much more. Not all are vegan, but those that are will be clearly labelled and staff will be able to advise you.

Single vegans

Of course, not all of us have someone to spend Valentine’s Day with. For those of you looking for love, there are now a number of online dating sites just for vegans and veggies that you might like to try:

Budget veganism – by Ben Martin

WP_20160219_19_54_50_ProIn our promotional video for the Great Vegan University Challenge, I promised that going vegan could save you money. And yet some of you will have noticed that vegan products are often more expensive than their conventional counterparts. This is basically due to the fact that vegans are still a small market, so products created just for us don’t have the same economies of scale that you get with more mass-market products. So is it really possible to live cheaply as a vegan? Simply put, yes it is.

Last year, my partner and I decided to demonstrate just how cheaply you can live as a vegan by feeding ourselves for just £1 each per day for five days. It was difficult, I’ll admit it, but not as difficult as I thought it would be. We still had three proper meals each day and they were pretty nutritionally balanced too. We even managed to squeeze a dessert out of our rations at the end of the week. If you’d like to read more about how we got on, check out my blog posts over days one, two, three, four and five.

Now, I wouldn’t recommend living on such an austere budget if you don’t have to, but it just goes to show that you can feed yourself on a vegan diet very cheaply indeed. So what reasonable measures can you take to live cheaply as a vegan? Well, here are my top tips…

Cook from scratch

Processed products – particularly meat and dairy substitutes – are probably the most expensive part of the vegan diet. Whilst they make a great occasional treat, they aren’t strictly necessary. So instead of using them, why not opt for making more meals with things like fresh vegetables, beans, lentils, rice, potatoes and pasta? They’re usually much healthier too.

There are loads of great recipe websites and Facebook groups for vegans on a limited income, so check them out for inspiration:WP_20160222_13_29_07_Pro

Animal Aid also produces a FREE booklet of cheap, vegan recipes called ‘Meat Free: Feed four for under a fiver’, which you can download as a pdf, or request as a printed copy.

Eat seasonally

The cheapest vegetables are often those produced locally and in-season, especially with the current shortage of off-season veg from Spain and elsewhere. Vegetables that are currently in-season in the UK include: onions, carrots, potatoes, cabbages, cauliflowers, parsnips, leeks, swede, Brussels sprouts and turnips – all of which go well in a chilli or casserole.

Go to the supermarket at the end of the dayreduced_items_scan

After about 5pm, most will usually have surplus fresh produce like fruit, vegetables and bread at reduced prices, often marked with yellow stickers. This can be a bit hit-and-miss, as you never know what they’ll have or how much, but you can often find some real bargains.

Shop around

Different shops have deals and offers on different products, so it might be worth your while to go to a few if you can. Aldi and Lidl, for example, often have very cheap fresh veg, but tend to be a bit rubbish on things like soya milk and margarine; you’ll have more luck in Asda or Morrisons for things like that. Independent green grocers and market stalls can also be a source of bargains, so give these a go if there’s one near you.

Bulk buy

Why not club together with a few friends or housemates to take advantage of multi-buy deals and the discounts on larger packs? Just divide the cost and the goods between you.

Grow your own

Even if all you have is a small windowsill, you can still grow fresh herbs or micro-salad leaves. You can even make your own pots out of juice cartons to save yet more money. If you’ve got a bit more space, you could grow tomatoes on a patio or balcony, and some universities have allotments or community food gardens, so look into that if you fancy lending a hand in exchange for some free veg.

Make soupWP_20160223_20_14_27_Pro

Instead of wasting vegetables by leaving them to go bad, chuck any surplus you have in a big pan with some vegetable stock and boil it up to make soup. If you can’t use it right away, put it in some tupperware and stick it in the freezer for an emergency.

Veganism might help to save animals, but there’s no reason it can’t save you money too.

How do I live without cheese? – by Ben Martin

americancheeseIf there is one product that people struggle to give up when they go vegan, it’s cheese. When I went vegan I thought it would be chocolate, but no, it was cheese that I had cravings for, and I’m sure some of you will feel the same. There’s a theory that it’s due to opiate-like substances in cow’s milk that are meant to help create a bond between mother and calf, which then become concentrated in the cheese-making process. But it could simply be that the high fat and salt content triggers pleasure centres in our brains, giving us a hit of dopamine. Who knows? But the fact is, cheese is addictive.

So, what can you do to tackle these cravings, if you get them? Well, instead of giving in and reaching for the nearest block of cheddar, try giving some of these a go.

397055bViolife

Now widely available in most supermarkets and health food shops, Violife comes in a range of different styles, including a kind that’s specifically for pizza, a parmesan substitute and pots of cream cheese.

Sheese

One of the longest-running vegan cheese-makers in the UK. They now supply both Tesco and Sainsbury with their own-brand dairy-free cheese lines, which are a great option for those on a tight budget, but also have their own hard and soft vegan cheese lines.

Cheezly

Generally only available from health food shops and other specialist food outlets in block form. Not the greatest, in my personal opinion, but fine grated on pizza and pasta or cooked into a quiche.

vegustoVegusto

Probably the best commercially available vegan cheese in the UK and my go-to option when I want a cheese and pickle sandwich. It is a little on the pricy side and difficult to find in shops, but you can order it directly from the company website.

Artisan Cheese

There’s a small but growing number of artisan vegan cheese makers around the UK producing high-quality products in varieties that are not normally commercially available. Most aren’t available in shops, but you can usually order from them online or buy them at vegan fairs and festivals. Here are a few that I know of:

Homemade

If you are an adventurous chef, you might like to try your hand at making vegan cheese for yourself. You can find a range of recipes online from the ridiculously easy, to the far more challenging, and there are several cookbooks devoted to it.

Remember the cows

If after trying all of these you still feel the need to eat real cheese, you might want to watch the video below. It’s not graphic, it simply shows what happens when a mother and her calf are separated so that her milk can be bottled for cheese-making or other human consumption. It’s clear from the video that the calf wants his mum much more than you want cheese.

They put what in alcohol? – by Ben Martin

oxford_landing_winesWhen it comes to going vegan, you’d think you’d be safe with booze, right? After all, wine is made from grapes, beer is made from barley and cider is made from apples. How could they possibly sneak animal products into any of those? Well, sadly they can and often do.

Many years ago someone found that if you add the swim bladders of fish (isinglass) to beer, it helped to make it much clearer and less hazy. The same thing happened with gelatine in wine and cider, and a whole bunch of other ingredients, including egg whites, blood and crushed crab shell. Ever since then brewers have been adding these things to their drinks to make them look better. However the effect is purely cosmetic; it doesn’t improve the taste and some argue that it actually mutes some of the flavours. But that doesn’t change the fact that it is a common practice and you will need to watch out for such drinks. That’s the bad news. The good news is that there are still plenty of drinks that are free of these horrible things and suitable for vegans. Let’s start with beer.

Beer

Thanks to historical German beer purity laws, most lagers are made without the use of clarifying agents, so are usually safe for vegans. Ales on the other hand, usually do contain isinglass, especially those dispensed from pumps at pubs (cask ales). Bottled ales are a safer bet, but many of these still contain isinglass. Some specialist beers even contain other animal-derived ingredients, such as milk stouts and oyster stouts.

pitfield-mixed-autumnVegan-friendly Lager

  • Carlsberg
  • San Miguel
  • Heineken
  • Stella Artois (but not their ‘cidre’)
  • Budweiser

Vegan-friendly Ale and Craft Beer

  • Samuel Smith’s (except the Old Brewery Bitter and Yorkshire Stingo)
  • Sierra Nevada
  • Meantime
  • Beavertown
  • Brewdog (with a few exceptions)
  • Pitfield
  • Brass Castle
  • Shepherd Neame (bottles only)
  • Black Sheep (bottles only)
  • Badger Ale (bottles only)
  • St Austell (bottles and cans only)

Wine

Much as with beer, animal ingredients are often used to clarify wine, but unless it states the ingredients on the bottle, it is often impossible to tell which ones are vegan-friendly. Here are a few to get you started:

  • Oxford Landing
  • Yellow Tail (red wines only)
  • Co-op, Sainsbury’s and M&S label their own-brand vegan wines

Cider

Most small-scale cider producers don’t use animal products in their drinks, but some of the larger ones do. Here are some of the ones that are vegan-friendly:

  • Thatcher’sWestons-CiderBottles-May2016-300
  • Sheppy’s
  • Savanna
  • Old Mout
  • Merrydown
  • Stowford Press
  • Westons
  • Orchard Pig
  • Brothers

barnivoreportfolioOf course this barely scrapes the surface and there’s much more vegan booze to be had out there, with micro-breweries and other small outfits leading the way. If you want to see what else is available, or check if your favourite tipple is vegan-friendly, visit Barnivore, which is pretty comprehensive. You can also download apps for most phone types, so that you can quickly check what’s okay and what isn’t when you’re at the bar or in the supermarket. And if you’d like to try a selection of fine beers safe in the knowledge that they are animal-free, you might want to get yourself along to one of the growing number of vegan beer festivals.

Vegan one pot wonders – By Ben Martin

Dirty dishesLet’s face it; cooking facilities in student accommodation can often be a bit basic. And if you and your housemates are all trying to cook at the same time, it can easily get crowded, not to mention potentially dangerous! So one way of saving on space – and washing up – is to cook meals that require only one saucepan, otherwise known as ‘one pot wonders’.

The simplest way to do a vegan one pot wonder is to cook something like a bean chilli, vegetable curry, stew or casserole and, instead of cooking rice, serve it with bread. I love having red lentil dhal with toasted pitta breads, for example, which contains all your essential amino acids in one meal. And vegetable soup with bread is a classic, as well as being a great way to boost your vitamin intake.

noodlesaladAnother option is to cook your carbs in the same pan as everything else. Risotto is a great example of this – you have your rice, vegetables and ‘sauce’ all in one, so you can just cook it and serve it up. Similarly, straight-to-wok noodles provide the perfect way of cooking a stir fry in a single pan. Amoy straight-to-wok noodles are usually vegan, and most rice noodles are animal-free too – simply throw them in once the vegetables are cooked and stir them around with the sauce. But one of the easiest ways to cook a meal in one pot is to boil some pasta, drain it, return it to the pan and stir in a jar of pasta sauce whilst warming it over a gentle heat. You can even chuck in some chopped sun-dried tomatoes and olives if you want to liven it up a bit.

Vegan meals don’t have to be huge culinary masterpieces that require half a dozen different pans bubbling away on the stove. Make it easy on yourself and keep it simple.

A vegan golden age – by Ben Martin

199340_4536268691_6551_nWelcome to day one of the Great Vegan University Challenge 2017!

Like you, I decided to try veganism when I was a student. It was 2005 and I was in the final year of a chemistry degree at the University of Bath (that’s me on the far left). I had got involved in activism and was becoming increasingly aware of the impact I was having on animals, the environment and people in less developed countries, so when I heard that going vegan could help to tackle all of those things, I decided to give it a go.

Bourbon_biscuitsTo begin with, it was just an experiment to see if I could do it. I didn’t really do much research, other than looking up some recipes, nor did I get in touch with any vegan groups for support. In hindsight, that was a bit of a mistake, as a I recall a miserable first shopping trip checking the ingredients of every product I would normally buy and having to put it back because it contained dairy or egg or something else I couldn’t have. It was only after I started talking to other vegans that things started to change. Then I heard that Linda McCartney suasages were okay (great! bangers and mash!) and I still smile when I remember the day that I found out bourbon biscuits were vegan-friendly – I ate a whole packet in one go. As time went on I learned more and more about what I could have and it quickly became much easier.

Thankfully, it shouldn’t be so difficult for you as things have changed dramatically in the last 12 years. When I started out, meat and dairy substitutes were limited and usually only found in health food shops, and most cooking had to be done completely from scratch. You could usually find soya milk in the supermarkets, but that was about it. These days, of course, you can find everything from vegan mince and burgers to dairy-free yogurt and ice cream on supermarket shelves. In just the last few months Sainsbury’s have joined Tesco in introducing an own-brand dairy-free cheese range, and restaurant chain Zizzi has not only introduced, but also expanded its vegan menu in the face of growing popularity.

CWiFnhNWEAAHh-LThis has largely been driven by a massive surge in the popularity of veganism. In the past decade the number of vegans in the UK has risen from 150,000 to more than half a million! Now there seems to be almost nothing that you can’t find a vegan substitute for – ‘fish’ fingers, white chocolate, cupcakes, cheese that’s as good as the real thing, even egg-free meringues and ‘pulled pork’ made from jackfruit. No longer do I have to order salad and chips when I go to the pub with friends – I can get a chickpea curry in any branch of Wetherspoons.

There really has never been a better time to go vegan – so welcome, you’ve joined us in a golden age for veganism!