It’s ‘Veganuary’. The annual promotional campaign to persuade us all to go vegan for a month and see if we like it, writes Countryphile James Waller-Davies.
It will come as no surprise to regular readers of this column that I am not a vegan – the recent spate of game recipes is a bit of a giveaway.
I was, however, a vegetarian for six years, stemming from the BSE episode back in the late 1990s and the subsequent revaluation of meat production in the UK.
Probably for the first time, I thought seriously about the food I’m prepared to eat.
How is it farmed? How is it processed? Does the person selling it to me know where it comes from? All good questions to ask about your food, and having satisfied myself with the answers, I returned to eating quality British meat with a provenance I could trust.
Neither am I any kind of dietary evangelist, other than as a general rule of thumb, feeling that food that comes from local producers is generally fresher, cheaper, better quality and supports the local economy.
A vegan diet is also not without its pitfalls either. A recent tweet by a well-known environmental presenter and campaigner who is trying Veganuary featured a breakfast of avocado and almond milk. Given the negative environmental impacts of the crops on rainforest deforestation and water shortages in their respective parts of the world, it does beg the question if a more locally sourced breakfast alternative might have been a more sustainable and environmentally-friendly option.
And so to this vegan burger. It is cheap to make, healthy, contains no animal products whatsoever and is very tasty. So far, so ethical, and as part of a balanced diet it ticks all the boxes. But, and a significant ‘but’ as we question what we eat: the tomatoes and spring onions, because it’s January, come from Spain, the chillies from Kenya, the avocado for the guacamole came from Peru. The red cabbage was from the UK, but the only information on the beans and lentils was that they were packaged in the UK – I doubt they were grown here.
Always so much to think about with food.
1 tin kidney beans; 150g cooked green lentils; 1 medium onion; 5 cloves garlic; 2 medium chillies; 40g breadcrumbs; 1 tsp tomato puree
1 tsp peanut butter; 1 tsp Marmite; 1 tsp mustard; ½ tsp cumin; 1 tsp parsley.
Finely chop the onion, garlic, chillies and fry gently in olive oil until soft.
Put all the ingredients into a blender, season with salt and pepper, and pulse until well mixed, but still retains texture. Be careful not to over-blend into a puree.
Form into burger patties and fry in a non-stick pan until hot and browned on each side.
Serve with guacamole, tomato and onion salsa and red cabbage slaw.