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How to go vegan: top tips from Beanies for Veganuary

Beanies Wholefoods share their expertise to help anyone who is venturing into the world of veganism this January.

Beanies Veggies
Beanies Wholefoods

Many people have signed up for ‘Veganary’ this month, pledging to eat only plant-based foods for the duration of January. For some people it’s a chance to explore a healthier diet. For others it’s an opportunity to reduce their carbon footprint.

There’s so much choice if you’re looking for vegan menus when eating out and you’ll find high street stores will often have a vegan range when it comes to the food shop. You can read more about places to try in our short guide to being vegan in Sheffield.

Whatever your reasons are for venturing into plant-based eating, we can help with some recipe inspirations and top tips. We spoke to Gwilym at Beanies Wholefoods in Crookesmoor to get practical advice to help you get started with a vegan diet.

Beanies have been part of the fabric of Sheffield’s food scene for over 35 years. Their shop offers organic and non-organic fruit and vegetables, with a huge range of seasonal and specialist produce. You’ll also find a wide range of vegan and vegetarian wholefoods and products from ice cream, chocolate, cheese to bread and pastries from Gerry's and Depot Bakery.

For anyone new to vegan food, what advice would you give to get started?

The range and availability of vegan food, especially fast food and snacks, has increased enormously in the last few years. Even five years ago, as a vegan you were well advised to always carry snacks. Now you can nip into almost any shop and find something, sweet or savoury, which is free from animal products.

In terms of planning, it helps to be able to identify vegan products quickly and easily. Although this is improving, many ‘accidentally’ vegan-friendly items still aren’t labelled as such, so you’ll become adept at doing a lightning-quick scan of the ingredients list. Provided an item doesn’t contain milk or eggs you’re generally good to go.

It’s important to think about your health too. Whilst the old myth that a vegan diet is nutritionally lacking has been well and truly debunked, it still pays to make sure you’re getting enough of the things you need. To help with this, we love Liz Cook’s beautiful and handy wall charts, which are available at Beanies.

Can you share a few simple recipes for breakfast, lunch and dinner?

Breakfast: Muesli with oat milk, marmite or avocado on toast with Naturli spread, porridge or overnight oats, tofu scramble with Tofurkey sausages, or vegan American-style pancakes.

Lunch: At Beanies, we’re all big advocates of making enough tea the night before to do leftovers for lunch the next day. Failing that, here’s a few more ideas:

  • Sandwiches or wraps - TLT (tofu, lettuce and tomato), vegan che*se and pickle, V-bites ‘ham’ and local lettuce or vegan pesto and tomato.
  • Soups - make-your-own pot noodle with fresh spring onions, mushrooms, instant noodles and soy sauce… The list is endless.

Dinner: You can start off with loads of dishes that are already vegan. There’s a huge variety of vegan recipes including curries, noodle soups, spicy bean fajitas and pasta with vegan pesto. After you’ve got that down, you can move onto veganising other dishes – more info below.

What are your favourite vegan ingredients?

It’s easy to get distracted by vegan mayonnaise and fake cheese. There’s definitely a time and a place for them, but like any great cooking, great vegan cooking starts with good quality ingredients, and we’ve got the best offering of fresh, local and organic produce in the region. Our staff will point you toward what’s particularly tasty at the moment and that’s a solid place to start.

Beanies Wholefoods

Once you’ve got some tasty seasonal veggies in, you’ll need some store cupboard basics. Engevita nutritional yeast will make sauces or pie fillings richer, healthier and more satisfying, and it’s much cheaper than adding tons of vegan cheese. Naturli spreadable is delicious melted onto crumpets or toast and the Naturli block makes excellent pastry. Sojade plain soya yoghurt is tasty with fruit and granola, but also works in savoury recipes, such as flatbread dough or for making raita or any yoghurt dip.

How can you veganise popular dishes?

A simple Google search for “vegan x y z” will throw up good results for almost any meal. You can go as elaborate as you like, making your own seitan steaks (easier than you might imagine) or just swapping minced lamb for soya mince, for example.

It’s good to have a few basics in, like vegan margarine, vegan yoghurt and a decent vegan cheese alternative.

Where would you suggest people go for vegan inspiration?

Meera Sodha’s most recent book, East, is a fun way to get a load of different recipes under your belt, and most of them are vegan or veganisable. Many of her recipes have also appeared in The Guardian, so you can find them for free there.

There are a few brilliant vegan blogs which we go back to again and again, particularly for baking, We haven’t found a dud amongst them yet: Domestic Gothess, Loving It Vegan and Veggie Desserts. And then there’s the recipes section of the Beanies website, which has a bunch of our favourite vegan recipes all in one place.

What are your eating out recommendations for vegan food in Sheffield?

So many! We always try to support other independent Sheffield businesses.

The Hop has just opened down the road from us and they offer a dazzling array of vegan cakes and pastries, as well as a choice of plant-based milks.

We really enjoy Patisserie Lisboa’s vegan pasteis de nata (Portuguese custard tarts), as well as their vegan palmiers.

For dinner, we’re really into Paesani in Crookes, which has a good selection of vegan pizzas. V or V in Kelham Island and, if you feel like flashing the cash, then Koko on Ecclesall Road has excellent service and the best vegan sushi we’ve ever tried.

Finally, if you want a brilliant-value takeaway with heaps of fun vegan options (think mock duck pancakes with hoisin sauce), try Wild Rice on London Road.

Have you got any final comments about veganism?

As a workers’ co-operative and community-focused shop for over 30 years, we’ve always put animal and workers’ rights at the heart of what we do. Excluding animal products is an important part of veganism, but for us it’s not the only part; it’s about striving for a more ethical supply chain, from start to finish.

Veganuary is great for raising awareness of animal rights and environmental issues, but it’s also a time for international megacorporations with terrible track records on workers’ rights and the environment to profiteer from food trends. For us, veganism is about working towards a more equitable and ethical world, for animals and for each other.

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