Week One of Veganuary 2018 is done!
So far, the high points have been eating mincemeat porridge for breakfast (totally vegan) and having lunch at the delicious Curry Leaf Cafe in Brighton with my mum and dad. I also remembered that sriracha mayo is vegan and have been eating it with everything (no, not with the mincemeat).
I almost had a little wobble though. A new craft beer shop has opened on my road and I couldn’t help eyeing up all the delicious-sounding milk stout. Instead I plumped for a festive-looking Orange and Cardamon Spiced Porter from Tottenham-based Pressure Drop – in the spirit of both Veganuary and Tryanuary.
All of which brings me to the point of this post. Spices, and indeed variety, are a vegan’s best friend.
Spice Up Your Life
One of the things you realise VERY quickly when you’re immersed in veganism is that you have to make a bit more effort.
A friend once described cooking with chorizo as ‘cheating’, because it makes pretty much anything taste great. (See also, halloumi.) But who is the real star in chorizo? Yes, OK fine, it’s probably the pig, but the award for best supporting actor goes to a serious dose of spicy paprika.
Herbs and spices are the secret weapon in your vegan armoury. Cover anything in olive oil, fried garlic, salt and/or chilli flakes and I will probably eat it. Kale? Crickets? Cardboard? I’m in.
Not only do herbs and spices make your food taste amazing, they are often great for your health too. If you’re into science-based nutrition without the woo, check out the ‘Eat Colourful’ episode of my new favourite podcast, The Doctor’s Kitchen.
They discuss phytochemicals, the biologically active compounds found in plants, which have all kinds of benefits. They’re basically the reason you’re supposed to eat between five and ten portions of fruit and veg a day. And annoyingly, turmeric is as good for you as everyone says, apparently.
Plus, thinking about what you can’t have is a terrible way to live your life. Instead, concentrate on broadening the range of foods you can eat, and increase the benefit even more with your intake of new herbs and spices.
Tryanuary is all about trying new flavours of beer – why not do the same for food? (I’m assuming I can count the Cardamon Orange Porter as two of my five/ten a day.)
It’s the perfect time of year for a little spice too, as Veganuary falls in winter, at least in the northern hemisphere. While some might think it’s easier to go vegan in the summer when you’re filling up on salads, I much prefer the comfort food approach.
What better excuse to go nuts on fragrant curries, warming chillies and piles of herby, marinated roasted veg?
Chopping some veg, coating it in spices and whacking it in a pan or roasting tray is what passes for cooking in my house most days. I usually make it up as I go along but I do always have a couple of cupboard staples to turn to.
Curry Spice Mix
Cooking interesting and enticing food is is much easier if you have a couple of good spice mixes to hand. It’s quicker than measuring out spices each time, and it’s way cheaper than shop-bought pastes and sauces.
This curry spice mix is one I devised through long-term trial and error. You might want to try it as it is, or play around with your favourite spices!
Ingredients – Makes 1 small jar
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tiny pinch ground ginger
½ tsp chilli powder (optional)
1 heaped tsp garlic salt
1 heaped tsp ground turmeric
1 heaped tsp ground cumin
1 heaped tsp ground coriander
2 dessert spoons coriander seeds
¾ dessert spoon black peppercorns
1 dessert spoon cumin seeds
½ dessert caraway seeds
Seeds from 3-4 cardamon pods
1 dessert spoon crushed chilli flakes (depending how hot you want it)
I make mine with a nutribullet but you could go old school and use a pestle and mortar, it will just take a bit longer.
- Start by adding the ground spices to a small nutribullet flask.
- Next, dry fry all of the whole seeds, pods and peppercorns in a hot pan for a minute or two to release their aromas. Leave the crushed chillies to the end or they’ll burn.
- Add the toasted whole spices to the nutribullet flask (or mortar), and blitz (or pound with your pestle) everything with the milling attachment. Once you have a fine powder, transfer to a clean jar.
- To make it into a curry paste/marinade, add a few spoonfuls of spice mix to a little coconut or vegetable oil until you have a thick paste.