It’s a new year, and we feel like it’s the perfect time to try something new. So at ASK Italian HQ, a group of us are trying vegan for January! We feel like there might some favourite foods we'll miss but we're up for the challenge and excited to discover new ones.
After all the indulgence at Christmas we think that going vegan for a while will give us the opportunity to be a little more conscious about sustainability, and of course it's the perfect excuse to try everything from our dedicated vegan menu.
With freshly prepared dishes using simple delicious ingredients, we’ll still get our cheesy pizza fix with our vegan mozzarella alternative. And the Spaghetti Bolognese with mixed vegetable and lentil ragu on our vegan menu is already a firm favourite... the perfect hearty classic for the cold January weather.
And because there’s always room for dessert, we’ll be indulging in our Blood Orange & Chocolate Tart – winner of PETA’s sweet treat 2017 award.
If you’re interested in seeing how we get on, keep an eye on this page. We’ll be trying out all our vegan dishes, and also testing some recipes at home.
Get in touch if you too are giving Veganuary a go and share your tips from recipes to your favourite ASK Italian vegan dishes and perhaps even a few 'accidentally vegan' products you've come across! You can find us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
A few of us in the office have now spent a week eating vegan, and comparing experiences has been fun and very eye-opening. We’ve agreed that trying vegan for January has got us thinking much more about what we eat.
Breakfast has been a good time to try an array of plant-based milks and our overnight oats and porridge have sparked extra creativity in the morning, topped with berries, seeds, and nut butter (and even edible flowers, we’re in LOVE). And with the new found milk alternatives, cereals such as Weetabix are more satisfying than ever. Oh, and did we mention nut butter? On. Everything.
On the menu at lunchtime have been leftovers from home cooked dinners, or supplies from the supermarket. Wouldn't life be so much easier if there was a vegan aisle…? Or at least if products were marked as ‘vegan’ to avoid spending so long studying ingredients and wondering about the process they have been through to end up on the shelf.
The wet and windy weather in London has left us craving warming, hearty food, and we’ve been experimenting with flavours. Curry seems to be a winner, which can be made nice and creamy with coconut milk alongside lots of spices and pretty much any veggies. Delicious topped with a handful of coriander and toasted cashews.
One afternoon we popped down to our local ASK Italian for a late lunch. Some of our usual favourites are worthy of the 'accidentally vegan' Instagram account (lifesaver) and we couldn't be more pleased! Italian Olives, Rosemary & Sea Salt Bread and dough balls are all great to nibble on before mains. The vegan Spaghetti Bolognese is always a big hit with a rich tomato and lentil ragu sauce - filling and protein-packed. We tried a vegan pizza to see how the vegan mozzarella alternative compared to its regular counterpart. Although different in texture, it was creamy, smooth, beautifully melted and most importantly delicious on the pizza. And of course, we couldn’t resist a slice of the vegan Blood Orange and Chocolate Tart. [Hint: check out our full vegan menu here].
It's becoming one of our favourite things to do, getting friends and colleagues to try our vegan food and watching their reaction when they find that it's surprisingly tasty.
Eating out at the weekend was a bit more intimidating; it’s hard to identify what actually is vegan on some menus and it certainly left us reliant on advice from restaurant staff - something we know is really important in our restaurants. We're becoming more confident in our choices and look forward to continuing the journey next week.
This week we had a food photoshoot, which always makes for a fun week! Usually a food shoot is a great opportunity for us to try all the new dishes that are going to be added to the menu at the next menu launch.
This time around though, there was lots of temptation to break our veganuary pledge as we were surrounded by delicious new dishes! Luckily, we were also shooting lots of our Vegan range, and some brand new vegan dishes, which gave us the opportunity to taste lots of what’s on the menu.
To get that all important chocolate fix, we could finish lunch with the Vegan Blood Orange and Chocolate tart, which I still can’t believe is actually vegan.
At the shoot, we were also getting used black coffee, and mint tea, to avoid having cow’s milk. I’m still missing a cappuccino though, so we’re excited to tell anyone who also avoids cow’s milk that at the spring menu launch we’ll also be introducing the option of soya milk in our hot drinks. Nobody needs to miss out!
Outside of work this week, Laura made some vegan brownies, which were delicious; really chocolatey and moist! I was also impressed by how my families getting into the swing of vegan cooking – my dad even made a delicious vegan risotto for a family dinner… this time last year I’m not sure he would even have tried cooking vegan!
I also went out for dinner this weekend, and I was pleased to discover that all the vegetarian dishes on the menu were also vegan, which made the whole meal really stress free!
We’re getting into the swing of eating vegan – we’re more confident in knowing what we can have, and although still missing cheese, not feeling too hard done by!
We'd love to hear how you're getting on - the challenges, the revelations and any top tips!
They say it takes 45 days to form a habit, but I think here at ASK Italian HQ we’re well on our way to making our vegan diets habitual. At the beginning of the challenge we were really needing to think about everything we ate… what could we have, what couldn’t we? We’d be wanting to keep stocked up with Vegan snacks, and needing to eat anything at all we found out happens to be vegan. This is probably because we weren’t confident in choosing food yet, and because we were all anxious not to make a mistake.
Now we’re into our third week it’s interesting to think about the overall impact veganism has had, on our health, if any. People reported such a range of things about the benefits and also the apparent issues with eating vegan, and it has to be said that for us it’s probably too early to call out any real effects.
Putting more thought into what we eat, has to be a good thing, and I definitely feel better for it. That’s not to say that eating vegan is the cause… it’s more the lack of grazing on treats every day, needing to plan meals, and just eating more vegetables. All simple things that can easily be done on any diet.
That’s not to say it’s been super healthy all the time, as we can still have treats! There are loads of options in supermarkets, if you keep your eyes open. And if you're a fan of baking there are lots of recipes for vegan cakes, and experimenting is always fun! This week we tried some vegan cupcakes for a birthday; they were delicious, and we'll definitely make them again (even after Veganuary)... I don’t think the non-vegan’s even noticed a difference!
So we’ve nearly made it! There are just a couple of days left until the end of January, and bar a couple of minor mistakes (who knew there’s anchovy paste in Worcester sauce?!) we’ve all stuck to our vegan diets for the month.
For the most part it’s been a great exercise, especially to help us to think more about the food that we eat, and where it comes from. Being Vegan this January has helped us discover new ingredients and recipes, and whilst it’s sometimes been challenging, overall we've had fun. The best thing about the month health-wise was probably the fact that it’s meant eating less processed food, and cooking from scratch using lots of fresh ingredients!
On the flipside though, lots of the treats that do happen to be vegan aren't exactly healthy. And whenever we’ve found these, it's easy to end up overcompensating and having a few too many! Also, we’re all having to be much more aware of trying to eat a balanced diet and mindful of getting enough protein.
There actually aren’t too many things we’re craving, although it will be nice to be less restricted come February. Really good cheese seems to be one thing that just doesn’t have a vegan version. The alternatives are actually great to cook with, but not so good alone.
So, whilst I’m not planning on becoming a full-time vegan, I’m aiming to continue basing more meals around fresh veg. I’d also like to try and stick to planning meals more, and having enough leftovers for a nice lunch in the office, rather than a quick sandwich.
Other vegan habits we’d all like to stick to include avoiding cow’s milk – there are so many alternative milks, and we seem to have grown to prefer them now. Great timing for us, as there will be soya milk available at ASK Italian soon!
On that note… roll on the 1st of February. You’ll find me celebrating with a cheese board… Antipasto Classico anyone?