For a girl who used to quite happily down a pint of milk, regularly extol the virtues of poached eggs and consider cold frankfurters to be the best snack in the world, a month of self-enforced veganism for non-ethical reasons might seem like a baffling choice to make. However, my vegan April consisted of the most culinary exciting thirty(ish) days of my life, and more importantly has changed the way I think, eat, look and feel.

BP BV (Before Veganism)

To put it all into a bit more context, last summer, I had one of those ‘Weight-Watchers penny drop’ moments. Staring, dumbstruck at a picture of myself on a family holiday, I didn’t recognise the overweight, grey-faced and tired person reluctantly looking back at me. I’d become a bit (too) comfortable and lazy with my diet and lifestyle, and it showed. So I decided to sort it out. Granted, it took a while to kick off my new life order (I dithered around a bit for the rest of the year, went to the gym but kept eating more or less what I wanted), but by January, after a zen-like peaceful and reflective holiday, I began the year refreshed, positive and ready to make some changes. And that started with my diet.

Now, I love food and cooking. Ninety per cent of my Facebook posts, Instagram photos and tweets feature recipes, food blogs, articles about food, restaurants, kitchen experiments and photos of cookbooks. Probably too many photos of cookbooks. And I love food so much that I’ve always eaten all of it – I’ve never been a picky eater (liquorice aside, blurgh). So if I wanted gluten-rich, marmitey toast, oozingly juicy burgers, stinky to the point of being fruity blue cheese, peanut butter milkshakes, nettle risotto or spongy sea urchin, I’d just go ahead and eat them, with little thought about how my body might feel about that. I mean I generally ate what I considered a ‘healthy’, balanced diet but didn’t really deny myself anything. Life’s too short, right?

If there was a lobster and Mick Hucknall sanwhich, I'd probably have eaten that.

Unlike life, Mick Hucknall is of average height (about 5ft 10 inches), but after that seamless segue I’m just making the point that if there was a lobster and Mick Hucknall sandwich, I’d probably have eaten that.

But it was clear that what I was eating was denying me a few things – predominantly the ability to fit into about 50% of my wardrobe. And basic logic dictates that if you put good stuff into your body (in relatively smaller quantities), you’ll get good stuff out. However, the prospect of cutting certain foods out of my daily intake was a fairly daunting one.

I started by more or less eliminating most dairy (milk, yoghurt, cream) from the start of the year, aside from chocolate a bit of cheese and now and then. And it felt good. I felt noticeably less bloated and came round to the idea of soya hot chocolates pretty quickly. I also started juicing daily, which made a massive difference to my energy levels and general well-being.

Next, I gave up cheese for Lent, which I found surprisingly painless, aside from the dreams about swimming in a bath of melted stilton.  So, inspired by how much better I was starting to feel, and on the quest for a new challenge, I decided to go vegan for a month.



no animals

I laid down some strict ground-rules, including all the obvious: no meat, fish, seafood, milk, yoghurt, butter, chocolate, cheese, cream, eggs, etc. but also ‘no honey’ and ‘no eating non-vegan one day and then adding another day onto the end of the month’. My one allowance was my daily cod-liver and omega 3 oils. Yes, I know you can get vegan-friendly alternatives but as this was my personal challenge I allowed myself one personal treat (if you can call swallowing cod liver oil a treat?!).

I also kept a daily food diary, logging everything I ate and drank and, just as importantly, how I’d felt that day and any particular experiences or observations.




After gorging myself on chocolate eggs on Easter Sunday, I approached 1st April with some trepidation, and a craving for a crème egg. Hungry for most of the day, I went shopping to prepare for my first of many ‘vegan feasts’ (a big dinner of several delicious vegan courses) and without thinking, bought a bottle of fish sauce. My flatmate had to point out was not allowed and suggested I put it at the very back of the cupboard so as to resist temptation… Not to worry though, the feast – straight from the pages of Ottolenghi’s ‘Jerusalem’ – made up for this schoolgirl error. Stuffed onions (IN.CREDIBLE), leek and beetroot salad (UH UH, YEAH) and okra stir fry (EMEZING).


For the rest of the week I explored the dietary options available to me whilst struggling with an overwhelming craving for cakes and chocolate, which are always in abundance in my office. I wistfully walked towards a packet of quails eggs in Sainsbury’s before snapping back into focus, was surprised to discover that even tomato cup a soup contained milk protein and resisted the delights of prawn crackers when I went out for dinner with friends. But enough of the deny deny deny – on the plus side, I was introduced to the deliciousness of curried patra (an Indian dish best served fried and in a pitta with salad a bit of basil), opened my eyes to the world of vegan-friendly chocolate, and indulged in an incredible veggie curry and super food salads.

My final challenge for the week came on Sunday night when my flatmate made cheese on toast, and I had to practically hold my nose the whole time she ate it. Argh.



I got into the swing of things in week two. I was still fairly reliant on Ottolenghi for exciting main dishes (kicked off the week with an old favourite and established crowd-pleaser:  soba noodles with mango and aubergine from ‘Plenty’), but also got heavily involved in Linda McCartney sausages, polenta and vegan-friendly banana bread. Oh MAN. The beauty of dairy and egg-free cakes is that that slightly sickly ‘I’ve eaten too much cake’ feeling just doesn’t really kick in. Ever.


I love these guys.

I love these guys.

The major challenge for this week was avoiding burgers at my friend’s birthday drinks. We went to the USA Hells launch at Camden Town Brewery and the combination of beer + socialising + amazing street food was excruciating. There was a veggie burger option available that came with blue cheese dressing, and despite ordering the burger without the dressing, it still came with blue cheese sauce slathered all over the bottom half of the bun. I sniffed, I salivated, I murmured/whined “bluuuueee cheeeese”. And then, summing up all of my slightly tipsy willpower, I peeled off the cheese-sauced bit of the bun and lettuce and gave it to my friend with all the reluctance of a five year old kid that has been allowed to hold a sickeningly cute little puppy in the pet shop and then been made to give it back by their mum. It was HARD. In order to try and make up for it, I popped into Chicken Cottage on the way home and got a bag of chips, which I stuffed my face with on the tube home.

But the lure of the blue cheese temptress aside, being vegan was feeling really good. By default I was eating piles of vegetables and pulses and was feeling the benefits.




Kale kale kale. Kale is my best friend. I loved kale before my vegan challenge, but now I want to marry it. I had a pretty busy week, so dinners mainly consisted of steamed kale, baked beans, Linda’s (Linda McCartney Sausages), sesame oil and chia seeds. Sounds a bit boring but but tastes awesome, thanks to the dark green, irony, super-lovin’ freshness of kale. Love the stuff, and if the mood takes me I’ll whack it in the juicer every once in a while (though it’s a bit dry and doesn’t give you a lot of juice).

One downside to the week was an awful run during my lunch on the Tuesday. Maybe I just hadn’t eaten enough energy-boosting food, but it was a real struggle and definitely made me think more closely about making sure I was getting enough carbs and protein into my diet.

Also, as a quick aside, a couple of weeks in, and my, erm – toilet traits – caught up with my diet. There’s no delicate way of putting this (well, there is, but I’ll get to the point), I was pooping a LOT. I’m talking four times before 10am. A quick Google reveals that this is quite a normal part of vegan life – and it makes sense, given the increased intake of fibrous vegetables I was devouring. Also, as flatmate Hoz pointed out, it’s like a natural colonic, getting all the toxins out.



On Monday, I stood next to a sausage roll in Tescos that smelt really good. That was quite hard.

I ramped up my exercise this week, making the most of the nice weather with runs outside and splashing about in the lido. As I result, I was starving for most of the week, despite wolfing down jacket potatoes, big veggie stir fries, tagine and generous helpings of Turkish bread. Still, I was also feeling energised and buzzing. Kale and I were still spending a lot of time together in the kitchen, but I was also starting to get a bit lazy, defaulting to hummus and potato waffles as my experimental enthusiasm and bank balance waned as I headed towards the end of the month.

Once again the weekend was a challenge – I met my parents for lunch and had to eliminate most of the menu at Wahacca from my choices. On Sunday I was catered for beautifully by friends – afternoon tea with (vegan) cupcakes at one house before going to another for dinner. I felt a bit bad about being the inconvenient  vegan in the corner as the dinner-maker was cooking for a few of us, but thankfully the sausage and bean stew he made was easily adapted to be vegan (just take out the sausages).



I did it, I did it! I have a slight confession to make though…I did end my veganism one day early, but with valid reason. I had a work lunch at the River Café, and the prospect of dining at a Michelin starred restaurant with certain dietary restrictions was just a bit too much for me to bear. So I had sea bass. And it was beautiful.

But I was still proud of myself. As you can probably gather, I did find veganism tough at times, but by and large it was an  eye-opening, game-changing experience. If I’m honest, I also kind of enjoyed the challenge, and impressed myself with my willpower – which extended in to my dreams, judging by this post from one of my last food diary entries…

Dreamt about eggs last night. Sarah and I boiled an egg each and were making a recipe where you mixed the yolk with lots of porridge oats. Then I suddenly realised and was like “IT’s an EGG! I can’t eat it!”. Sarah said “YES YOU CAN!”. But I was strong and didn’t eat it.



So – there it is. My month of vegan living. And did I love it? Would I recommend it? Would I do it again? Has it changed how I eat now? Hell yeah. I can honestly say that my body had never felt so cleansed and alive. I lost weight, my skin started glowing again, I had loads more energy and loved researching and testing out vegan recipes. I’d totally recommend giving the animal-free diet a crack. Whilst I have since gone back to eating fish, meat, the occasional bit of cheese and chocolate, my experience has made me value them as treats, not staples of my diet, which has made me appreciate their deliciousness even more. As a general rule of thumb, I eat meat and dairy sometimes when I dine out, or go round to friends’ houses but I don’t really  buy or cook with them at home. And – strangely, considering my angst-ridden experience at Camden Town Brewery – burgers are now totally off the menu for me. I just don’t fancy them. Well, unless they’re veggie/bean/mushroom patties of course.



  • Silken tofu falls apart when you try and stir-fry it. But on the upside, it does make a good scrambled egg alternative. See below.


  • Vegan cakes are INCREDIBLE
  • If you include the suggested FIVE TABLESPOONS of crushed black peppercorns in this recipe it will blow your mouth out of your head and make the meal quite unbearable. Sorry Yotam.
  • Nutritional yeast may look and smell like fish food but it makes great gravy
  • Eating out as a vegan is challenging, but not impossible
  • Waiters will sometimes roll their eyes a bit when you ask about three times if something on the menu is vegan friendly



There are so many inspirational and informative vegan blogs out there, but these are my favourites:

The lovely Ella of Deliciously Ella fame

The lovely Ella of Deliciously Ella fame

  • Deliciously Ella – Inspirational blog from the lovely Ella. I want to make ALL the recipes this girl posts, probably helped by the beautiful photography, and in particular can recommend the quinoa pizza and cashew and almond yoghurt. Also great for juice and smoothie recipes.
  • Oh She GlowsIncredible vegan blog from Canadian Angela Liddon. The sheer volume of recipes in the archives of this one woman tour de force’s blog is staggering.  A recipe book is in the works.
  • This Rawsome Vegan Life – Another excellent Canadian vegan/raw food blog from Emily von Euw. Taking things one step further, Emily lives a vegan and largely raw food lifestyle. Specialising in raw vegan desserts and juices, she also has a cookbook coming out. Her raw vegan lasagna is one of the best things I’ve ever put in my mouth.
  • Ambitious KitchenNot strictly vegan, but some brilliant recipes, many of which are vegan-friendly. The crunchy cashew thai quinoa salad with ginger peanut dressing  is the absolute bomb.
  • Thug KitchenHilarious, unique, in your face thuggin’ vegan blog. Amazing.

Other good sites/places/resources that I frequent (some are a bit North London-centric, soz):

  • Whole Foods – Standard default shop for vegan ingredients – basically my favourite shop in the world. But I don’t buy my veggies there (far too expensive!).
  • Stoke Newington Green, grocers on Church St, Stoke Newington. THIS is where I buy my veggies, and where I first met medjool dates. Mmmmm. I could write a whole other blog post about how amazing this place is, but thankfully someone else has already done it.
  • Arsenal Food & Wine, Blackstock Road, N4 – Right round the corner from house, this Aladdin’s cave stocks a surprisingly vast range of organic, vegan-friendly staples and produce.
  • Wild Juicery, Covent Garden – mind-blowing juices & smoothies, and great vegan treats
  • Ottolenghi (the books and the website). Love.
  • Banana Tree – they have a whole veggie/vegan section to their menu!

And finally – check out my Vegan April (and onwards) board on Pinterest for some more recipe inspiration!