What I think you need to acquire for a plant-based larder.
If you’re going to go plant-based for all or part of the time the 1st thing you need are veggies! There’s no good looking into your fridge or cupboards and seeing a whole load of packets or tins of convenience foods. As a starting point, I would suggest the following:
- Mushrooms of any kind (a great meat substitute)
The above items don’t need to be organic, although I would strongly suggest for items such as spinach, kale, carrots, lettuces, tomatoes, cucumbers and celery there is undoubtedly a better flavour from organic items than from non-organic, plus these items that typically take up considerable amounts of pesticides, so organic choices are often better.
In my freezer, I usually have frozen peas and frozen sweetcorn along with some berries. I also keep some frozen spinach which I use when making green smoothies.
Okay, so the above are pretty obvious things if you’re going to go plant-based you need some plants!
What else do you need?
Well it’s all a question of degree, if you’re just going to do one plant-based meal a week following the American idea of “Meatless Mondays” you may not need a lot more than a few veggies. If you’re going to go the “whole hog”, so to speak (I couldn’t think of a plant-based alternative), then you need a lot more supplies.
Let’s have a look at some things you might need:
there are lots of alternatives to dairy milks. It’s a good idea to stock up on a number of these. Dairy milk has been linked with many adverse effects in the body and really cows milk should only be consumed by baby cows regardless of what the dairy industry says and all those blessed yogurt commercials full of smiling children and healthy adults. No, no, no – you do not need to consume cows milk. See: http://www.tcolincampbell.org/courses-resources/article/no-body-needs-milk/browse/1/?tx_ttnews
Soymilk is the common alternative although be careful that due to the high demand for these products there is a flourishing trade in GMO soy products, so it’s probably more worthwhile to buy organic, if you do buy soymilk. What is good is that soymilk is quite rich, again be ware that some are sweetened, so choose carefully. You can also get vanilla flavoured soy milk, which I love but I use as a treat because again it’s quite rich and quite high in calories.
Other milk alternatives include: oat milk, rice milk, almond or other nut milks including cashew. Almond milk does tend to have quite a strong flavour and can be particularly pronounced when used in tea and coffee.
One alternative is to make your own plant-based milks there are lots of recipes and instructions on the Internet just Google plant-based milk and you’ll find them.
Funny that whenever I say that I want to say Cheese – I think of “Cheese Gromit” from the Wallace and Gromit TV shows. Cheese is one of the most difficult things for me to replace, as it’s something that I was brought up on and have always really liked. I also think that it’s because whenever I’ve been on a diet cheese has been one of the things I’ve had to forego. When I met Jeff Novick (http://www.drmcdougall.com/misc/2009nl/jan/novick.htm) at the farms to Forks weekend he referred to cheese as “semi-solid fat”. I think that’s a really good way of looking at it. Would you eat a large lump of lard? Probably not? Almost certainly not? If you think about cheese in the same way, it does become a lot less appetising. However, I still crave that tangy salty flavour that seemingly you can only get from cheese.
One of things that I use a lot of is Nutritional Yeast http://www.ocado.com/webshop/product/Marigold-Engevita-with-Added-B12-Yeast-Flakes/71137011 particularly the one that has additional vitamin B12. http://www.ocado.com/webshop/product/Marigold-Engevita-with-Added-B12-Yeast-Flakes/71137011 It’s a really great store cupboard ingredient that can be used to create things like fake Parmesan and quite incredible cheese tasting cheese sauces. Nutritional yeast is basically similar to brewers yeast, it is deactivated and when fortified with vitamin B12 it’s a really useful source of a vitamin that many people who follow a plant-based diet are may be deficient in.
But now for the good news, there are some great ingredients that you can use to create that same taste and mouth texture that you get when you eat cheese. I will blog some recipes for cheese sauces and both soft and hard cheeses once I’ve tested them out.
You can also buy a range of replacement cheeses that are plant-based. I bought a few recently but found that they had little or no decent cheese flavour, they were hideously high in fat and they were highly processed. I think there are better ways of getting that cheese flavour than replacing it with something that is no better than the original.
Other larder ingredients for me would be replacements for:
Mayonnaise – there are many good commercial plant-based mayonnaises on the market although it’s really simple to make your own. Home-made ones can avoid high levels of oil which some of the commercial ones contain. In fact, I make one without oil at all and it is hard to tell that it is not “proper egg and fat laden mayonnaise”.
Salad dressings – again remember that the whole food plant-based diet is focused on the calorie density of the food and so what we want to do is to move away or if possible eliminate entirely our use of oils. Whilst you can buy good salad dressings I would urge you strongly to consider making them. Again I will share some recipes as soon as I’ve tested them out. What I would advise, is that you keep a ready supply of bottled lemon juice, balsamic vinegars and apple cider vinegar as well as some mustard all of which can be used to create easy quick salad dressings.
What came first the chicken or the egg? “who gives a….?” In our case it doesn’t really matter; in fact it doesn’t matter if the chicken was run over when it was crossing the road. We don’t need to have eggs, there are lots of egg replacers for a plant-based diet. Orgran has a commercial egg replacer http://www.orgran.com/products/174/ , or you can use chia seeds or flaxseed meal both as an easy alternative. There are also alternative recipes for things like scrambled egg using tofu and egg salad/egg mayonnaise which can be made using chickpeas. Again, I will blog them as we go along.
Cream and creaminess
That unique unctuous taste and texture of creamy pasta sauces, or luscious velvety chocolate mousse can easily be achieved through the use of tofu and the careful use of nuts. I say careful use in that one of the risks when you move to a plant-based diet, as I found my cost, is that you may consume a high quantity of nuts. Remember that nuts are very high in calories and whilst they do have a very high nutritional content they should be seen as an occasional treat rather than every day constituent of our meals.
Other things that I have in my larder:
Oats-Porridge oats are one food that I would find it hard to live without, they are such a versatile food and can be used in so many ways. Remember Heston’s Snail Porridge? I even discovered that I could use them this week to make a soft cheese.
Beans-it doesn’t matter what sort just get lots is my principal. I stock up on cans of beans every time I shop. Purists would say that you should soak your own beans and cook them. Sod that! My life is far too busy to do this so I buy canned beans throw them in a colander and rinse off any added salt under some cold water. Things I would recommend that you try include: red kidney beans; cannellini beans: flageolet: black eyed beans; black beans and my personal favourite chickpeas. In addition you should also keep a wide variety of lentils. These can be red, green, brown, black, pink or purple. OK – so I’m joking about the pink or purple ones, but there are such a huge range of lentils available. Red lentils are invaluable for making quick carries and soups as they cook without any pre-soaking so those are ones that have a place in my larder.
I also keep tins and packs of ready cooked lentils that I can use as well as some dried ones.
for any savoury dish, it’s important to use good quality stock in order that it has a substantial flavour base. We are all so busy nowadays that it makes sense to use any available healthy convenience foods and ingredients. One of my main staples in my larder is marigold bouillon powder. http://www.marigoldhealthfoods.com/ They produce a vegan version as well as a low sodium version.
it’s always important to have a ready stock of cans of tomatoes, I typically use chopped tomatoes. I also keep boxes of tomato passata which is basically sieved tomatoes. It’s fantastic stuff for creating a really quick and delicious sauce, or for use in a warming stew.
I always keep olives in jars which are packed in brine as they are useful ingredients in salads and various Mediterranean dishes.
Nuts and seeds
I keep a ready supply of RAW and UNSALTED nuts and seeds particularly almonds, cashews and walnuts, sesame, pumpkin and sunflowe seeds. These are really useful for giving richness and creaminess to dishes but it’s important to be aware that on a nutritional density scale they are very high in fats and so should be used sparingly.
This is a table sauce, similar to soy sauce, and I keep it alongside (no-sugar added ketchup & Worcester Sauce). I use it to create a fantastic recipe called OMG Walnut Sauce (from the E2 Diet team) which I first tasted at the Farms to Fork event. The sauce is really easy to make and you blend tamari with walnuts, garlic and a little water. It is so zesty and rich and makes a perfect topping to any steamed greens.
Ok – So that’s the lot for now. You can get the above items over time, but I will be mentioning them as I blog my recipes.