Sugar and spice and all things nice


Ginger-cake BBQ style. I blame poor lighting.

I recently heard someone say on the radio that cooking with a meat-substitute e.g. fake bacon ('Fakon' dahling) to recreate your much-missed meaty faves is like telling your partner you want them to dress and smell exactly like your ex. Awks. It seems that going plant-based for some people means finding a way to continue eating the same flavours, but without the added worries of higher cholesterol content, animal welfare, or the longevity of life on our lovely planet with all those grazing cattle pumping out methane left right and centre. Well, whatever your reasons for exploring plant-based eating, luckily it's easy to access some pretty mind-blowing recipes to conjure up meat-free alternatives of classics like beef wellington, the humble BLT sarnie, and even chicken nuggets (yes friends, really).


Gone are the days of meat and two veg, and yet it's not all nut roast (every vegetarian meal at university, *shudder*) or goats cheese tart (nut roast replacement if the nuts had gone off). If you're shy and looking to broaden your plant-based horizons, then a great place to start is BOSH! As if the fact their name is in capitals isn't enough to attract you, they have the best videos on YouTube and you can check out some of their yummiest offerings here. Come on now, Supreme Seitan Tacos sounding like some crazy fiery initiation food (it actually is pronounced 'satan'; please please can I say "Oh sure, I just love Seitan" in a restaurant one day? I reckon it would clear the room faster than an ice cream van's music outside a microbiology lab), and just look at their chocolate cake, like a fudgey alligator emerging from the swampy depths of the Everglades. Edible, obviously. Ha!


Of course there's another option, which is to explore new flavours and go a bit exotic, but you might need a little help from the internet, online bookstores such as www.bookshop.org or your local library (don't worry you can still borrow books during lockdown via click-and-collect, hooray). In fact you may have seen that two of my adult recommendations in 'Book Nook' are recipe books. Woah, hang on, these are certainly not adult in terms of top shelf, I mean what do you take me for?! Ok don't answer that. Hmm. Anyway, there's also recipe kits, and quite a few do plant-based options. It was a lot of fun reading about these - particularly to find that so many wonderful companies are also taking the trouble to reduce their plastic. More about this another time (*winks*). Have a look at Eat Dishy and Grubby. I'll be honest, I'm generally totally won over by anyone who has a FAQ that begins "how do you make your packaging and operation sustainable?". Why can't all big companies do this? It's very frustrating and I plan a long and annoyed-sounding tirade on Twitter later as this is a huge problem in the NHS. Oops, and I promised to save this for another post. Sorrrrry!


Anyway, the point is I like food. And I love cooking! It's creative and colourful and very hands-on. Perfect for a GP! My home is full of recipe books. Yes of course there are old Observer Food Monthlys and other food magazines in certain places where people might like to sit and read. Haha! But recently I've been trying the third option mentioned above: tonight's dinner, Matthew, was meant to be...a Jamaican feast! Well, the smells were certainly wonderful, though (shhh) I overdid pudding and ended up with a quite obviously blackened ginger cake. But luckily the deep spicy Caribbean flavours surpassed the very definite sooty notes. And in any case it was a lot of fun making the entire meal, which was from a fantastic company called The Spicery. As luck would have it, they do a 'Meat Free Magic' range, to which a lovely friend subscribed me, as a Christmas present. Each letterbox sized carboard pack contains a recipe card (they really are fool-proof despite my ineptitude today, honest), and plenty of exciting little packets of delicious and aromatic spices to add when prompted.


So far I've also had Hungarian Lecso (which got me an extra point on The Chase - who knew that paprika was Hungarian? My family are looking at me pityingly right now) and a Sri Lankan curry, which went perfectly with a massive naan bread from one of my favourite York local heroes Zam Zam. If you think eating a naan the size of your torso might be a challenge, then let me reassure you it really isn't. The drizzly butter. The nuttiness of the toasted sesame and kalonji seeds. The jolly chef who stands at the tandoor with his paddle and a line of cute little dough balls waiting to be transformed into something very magical. There's nothing quite like walking home, the smell of warm bread drifting temptingly up from your bag (for life) and feigning "nowt to do with me" naivety with a carefree shrug, to mask your inner smugness when passers-by sniff jealously at the air around you. If you aren't driven to repeated nibblings en route, then you probably aren't human. It really is a sine qua naan; the naan to rule all naans. Trust me, this will be your Gollum moment.


Maybe you've done Veganuary and are looking for an amusing and culturally-trending portmanteau for our shortest month? 'Veguary'? That's it. That's literally all I can come up with. Honestly whilst writing about that delicious naan, half my brain went into sulk-mode that that supermarket is closed and the window for those Kurdish baked goodies is now firmly fermée. Try them sometime and tag me in your photo @greenlifeGP, that is, if you have the (dough) balls for it...

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