Veganism or plant based diets have been hot topics for a while now, whether for environmental, animal or ethical reasons or issues of health and nutrition.
We talk about our menus at The Bridge Inn and the Devonshire Arms having a great repertoire of vegetarian and vegan dishes, dishes that are great for coeliacs and any number of challenges that people face, and we have tried to be accommodating with what we think are some great options.
But what if we had to live by these dishes? how would we feel about them if we couldn’t have a meat or fish option?
Then we watched the Netflix documentary about people citing real differences to their lives by going plant based, top athletes, world class cyclists, power lifters, and firemen. People were telling me about this documentary as if it was the most revolutionary thing they’d ever watched and how it will change your life, so I watched it - yes it’s one sided, however it’s quite compelling - lets be clear here, Game Changers is purely based on nutritional benefits.
So with all that in mind we decided that despite all the distractions and the ease of nibbling off cuts, the piece of pork crackling, the spare pig in blanket, all the delicious cheese, the extra slice of iberico ham, those amazing prawns, those bubbling meatballs - no meatball subs for a week, gosh i’m hungry now, I’ve digressed - the point is we committed to going plant based for a week.
We threw some ideas around we wanted to test the menus, try some new dishes and also to see if it had any effect on our bodies, we spoke to a regular guest, he is a GP and he was as interested in our little challenge too, so he said he’d check our blood pressure and cholesterol before and after 7 days to see if it made any difference - like Gamechangers alluded to, the firemen who were not in great shape showed a big improvement in a week and none of us were quite that unfit!
Friday 3rd of jan 2020, new year new me bullshit and here we are having our blood pressure and cholesterol checked and i was a bit alarmed, higher on both than i expected, it rocked me a bit i can’t lie.
i like to think i don’t eat much rubbish, yes i am a chef and i like great food so maybe i shouldn’t be so surprised, i like to be active and i love cycling but if i’m honest with myself i don’t do enough of that when its dark, cold and wet.
let’s see how my week went….
Day One Friday
Fruit for breakfast - satsuma and banana, green tea - fairly usual for me, always in a hurry in a morning, 4 children, school run, drop off my wife at work before i start my day. the green tea is not usual, i like a coffee but i wasn’t interested in alternative milks so settled for a hot drink that i could take without the milk - no compromise!
I wasn’t particularly hungry and snacked on an apple and had some of the bridge inn’s spicy lentils for lunch, delicious and filling so far so good, its actually difficult in a kitchen to get a break and eat proper meals, but i did manage to eat a little tapas meal of the new and improved pan con tomate and a portion of ratatouille, plenty of water - again normal, need to stay hydrated when you work long hours on your feet in a warm environment and a few cups of green tea. day one done, easy, anything is easy for one day
Day Two Saturday
Saturday, is busy day in a restaurant…. so started my day with bananas and satsumas and green tea at home, but thought we could do better, so i picked up supplies and set about making brunch for those participating, i slowly roasted some plum tomatoes seasoned with rapeseed oil, malden salt and some hot smokey paprika, sautéed some chestnut mushrooms, served them on seeded toast, used romesco sauce ( amazing sauce made from roasted peppers, roasted tomatoes, almonds garlic and paprika a little Brock & Mortem rapeseed oil and a little sherry vinegar) from the bridge as “butter” sprinkled the finished dish with toasted pumpkin seeds and coriander micro herbs, now i appreciate that’s more effort than a bacon butty or porridge but so worth it, filling, flavoursome and interesting. I’ll be having that again!
Next challenge - i needed to eat later, but so did the team, and not everyone was going plant based so i made a vegetable Thai green curry, again enough food, but also satisfying in terms of interest and flavour, i added some mushrooms sautéed in our chilli and garlic oil that we make from Brock & Mortem rapeseed oil and finished with some toasted sesame seeds, the mushrooms giving the earthy umami punch i thought we’d need as meat replacement, turns out the were just bloody delicious and ill be having this meal again vegan or not, it also went down well the the carnivores!
Day 3 Sunday
Day off with an early start, my son and i had to be in Sheffield for 10 to watch the new Star Wars film, a new year tradition, Harry said he’d try the challenge with us, so as we hadn’t really prepared breakfast we had a quick baked beans on granary toast, sunflower spread and added some jalapeños from the fridge, not as exciting as yesterdays break fast but quick and easy, jalapeños make everything better
So here’s the trouble with tradition, normally when we go to the cinema (not that we get chance to go very often) is when we come out of the film around lunch time we often go to 5 Guys for a burger, but now we can’t, its a little treat, we don’t eat fast food only when situation dictates we have no other option, five guys is pretty good and i think it was the occasion i was missing rater than the burger
C’est la vie 3 days in and that’s my only disappointment so far, we passed on lunch, i wasn’t interested in having another chain restaurants version of vegan food, remember no compromise, i”m eating for pleasure not for convenience
We had a pretty busy day and hadn’t really planned anything for dinner, it was the end of the busy Christmas period w’ed spent the day test driving cars for our son, taken the christmas tree down etc, so in the end i called Maazi in Hathersage to see if they could help me out, no problem they sent us some vegetable pakora starters, and some Bangan aur tamatar - a rich smokey aubergine dish with a tomato masala sauce, and Balti palak aloo dahl - spinach lentils and potato dahl very tasty and of course rice and naan bread poppadoms, really enjoyable (probably not all that healthy) but like most meals i was discovering there was no crash, no sudden urge to have a nap i felt energised, like id been fuelled, not hampered by my meal
Day 4 Monday
the kids are on an inset day so they have to come to work with me for the morning, the team are always great when i bring them in and offer them sausage sandwich for breakfast, i had a quick roast tomato, mushroom and spinach baguette, honestly it was ok, nothing memorable just food, so much like anything in life if no real effort is applied then mundane results will follow, id already had fruit for breakfast so it didn’t matter to honest
later in the day i had some dishes from the bridge menu, patatas braves with our vegan aioli, pickled guindillas, olives and some cauliflower hot wings - cauliflower florets coated in a spiced gram flour batter, baked and served with sriracha and mojo sauce - mojo is a coriander garlic, cumin and green chilli sauce, not hot more refreshing, sriracha is a fermented chilli sauce quite hot all delicious, a theme is appearing here, turns out that eating a ‘fad diet’ is a easy when its enjoyable and satisfying .
Day 5 Tuesday
Fruit for breakfast, apple and banana
Early lunch time at work and we sold a couscous salad, odd as it was freezing cold day and they don’t sell all that much at this time of the year, so i made more than i needed and had a little portion as a snack, really very good, spiced couscous, pomegranate, fresh orange, mint, radicchio leaves and pistachios.
For lunch id already planned on making the team a miso soup, a vegetable broth enhanced with brown miso paste (fermented soy bean paste rich in umami) packed full of veg, sliced chestnut mushrooms, sliced carrot, spring onions, ginger garlic, chilli, coriander, finished with a dash of soy sauce and mirin, a potent highly flavoured soup, and although a very thin stock based soup - not a thick soup, there was enough vegetables and richness to provide the satisfaction, the kind of meal that you know if going to be good for you
Dinner became a little tapas fest as i was working at the bridge, it was quiz night David, Samantha and Lin had come in for dinner so i had a little of what id cooked for David, padron peppers with our lemon vegan mayonnaise - the magic of aquafaba! some spiced lentils, slice of pan con tomate the new way we will be doing it on the new menu and some ratatouille, really happy with all of that
Day 6 - nearly there ….
Not at work today, so fruit for breakfast as usual, then i went on a cycle around Chatsworth, a ride I’ve done many times before, so i was expecting to be sluggish, struggle even like the first ride after the winter usually is, but i couldn’t have been more wrong, i wasn’t struggling up the climbs not feeling like i needed to coast on the downs and when i got almost home, i took a left and headed off to extend the ride, i was amazed to find when i got home that on my data logging app id posted 10 top 3 times from my history on a route I’ve ridden many times in different levels of fitness, even a few PB’s on some sections.
For lunch i had leftovers from the previous night my son had made a red kidney bean curry for himself and obviously some spare for everyone to try, really good, must be something in his genes!
Dinner i made a vegetable ragu with mushrooms, tomatoes, lentils carrot, onion and garlic, just before i served it added shredded kale and served with cooked dried pasta (no egg in dried pasta it would seem) i enjoyed the ragu but not the pasta, I’ve been spoilt with fresh pasta too often i guess but so far that’s about the only thing I’ve been a bit M’eh about - and i would have felt the same had that have been with beef Bolognese.
Day 7 working at the Devonshire today,
Fruit for breakfast,
I had a second late breakfast just before lunch of porridge with water fresh berries and honey ( happy to explain this another time)
Work was a bit manic and i missed lunch not uncommon in my line of work
Dinner i ate the plant based burger at the dev with guacamole lettuce and tomato, added a few jalapeños, also the house slaw and a few fries
Did i miss meat and fish - no
Did i miss having coffee with milk - a little bit i drank green tea throughout
Did i miss cheese - more so
Did i enjoy the food we ate, absolutely and genuinely
I felt better, more of a spring in my step, more consistent energy levels, the cycling performance improvement
Now for the acid test, the GP revisited us to see if there were tangible improvements and there were, i lost 2.8kg, reduced my cholesterol ratio by 25% and lowered my blood pressure IN ONE WEEK, makes you think….
So beyond the week, I’ve carried it on, not full time we’ve had birthdays to celebrate and other stuff going on - basically i had some great cheese in my fridge that wasn’t going to go to waste! however i believe i’m going to try and eat plant based as much as i can and to really think about what i eat and when, I’ve always believed in quality produce and to be as ethical as you can, but now ill think even more it might just change my life!