Best vegan pesto recipe…

Here’s a recipe I found on Food 52 for a delicious vegan pesto.  I make a huge vat of this on the weekend and use it all week on pasta, in baked potatoes, drizzled on tomatoes, in sandwiches, wraps, on toast, crackers – anything basically.  The kids love it too and you’d never know it was dairy free as the nutritional yeast gives it a deep cheesy kick!  It’s packed full of flavour so a little goes a long way.

Simple Vegan Pesto

Makes 1 generous cup

  • 2 cups tightly packed fresh basil
  • 1/2 cup walnuts or pine nuts
  • 1 to 2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped (to taste)
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • Sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 1tablespoon lemon juice
  • 3 tablespoons nutritional yeast
  1. Place the basil, walnuts or pine nuts, and garlic in a food processor. Pulse to combine, until the mixture is coarsely ground.
  2. Turn the motor on and drizzle the olive oil in a thin stream. Add the sea salt, pepper, lemon, and nutritional yeast, and pulse a few more times to combine.


World’s best guacamole recipe…

Thanks Flicka for this insanely delicious guacamole recipe.  Tried and tested it today and it is indeed the world’s best guacamole!

3 garlic cloves, 1 to 2 chillies depending on fire requirements, 1/2 large red onion wizzed up so its in tiny chopped pieces, so you can still get some crunch but it flows through all avocado beautifully

2 avocados whipped up in the processor with juice of 2 small limes or 1 very large lime, this keeps the guacamole its vibrant bright green colour even after sitting in the fridge for a day

1 ripe mango fairly finely chopped

handful of very finely chopped coriander leaves

2 large ripe, smelling gorgeous tomatoes ,quartered, deseeded and chopped into fine little squares. Keep middles for bean stews etc.

decent sprinkle of Himalayan salt and some freshly ground pepper.

drizzle of E.V.O oil

mix together and serve with pittas etc, or cos lettuce leaves for guacamole boats.

Domestic Vegan Goddess!

So I cooked up a vegan storm last night and am feeling a touch smug this morning.  I should mention ahead of my smug gloating that I am not a good cook.  I can’t make anything without a recipe and nothing I make ever looks like the picture and most times that I do go to great lengths to make something entirely from scratch I end up wondering why I didn’t just call on Lloyd Grossman or his brethren for a far less stressful, quicker, cheaper and tastier cooking experience!

Anyway, this was a rare occasion where I did everything from scratch and it was totally worth it – knocked the socks of Mr Grossman and I danced around the kitchen dreaming of my own vegan cooking series… ‘Tasty Tempeh’ or ‘Hemp Happiness’ perhaps…?  Hmmm… can work on the title – meanwhile back to what I actually cooked:

So we started with a fiery guacamole and toasted pitta – dead easy, dead delish.  Then sat down for the most creamy and delicious Malai Kofta with brown basmati rice:

Chandra malai kofta vegan recipe.

The sauce was thick and creamy, the dumplings were zingy and tasty and even held their shape (a revelation!), the rice was soft and fluffy (never get brown rice right usually) and it even looked delicious on the plate with a flourish of coriander from the garden – oh stop it now you’re showing off!  Plates were licked clean, seconds were proffered and taken and pleasant noises were murmured all round.  Success!

Then we had the Pièce de résistance –

10 best Chocolate and pecan tart

This chocolate and pecan tart.  Homina homina homina.  And so easy to make that even I couldn’t f*** it up!  Bloody ruddy yummy.

Gogo was most helpful…

torte torte1 torte2

Recipes for you here:

Chandra malai kofta

(Serves 4)
For the kofta:
½ x 425g tin chickpeas, rinsed and drained
½ cup slivered almonds
1½ tsp cumin seeds
225g courgette, shredded
¼ cup finely chopped fresh coriander
1 tbsp minced fresh ginger
2 cloves garlic, minced
½ tsp salt
Several pinches of freshly ground black pepper
1¼ cups Panko breadcrumbs

For the sauce:
1 cup cashews, soaked for at least 2 hours
2 cups vegetable broth
1 tbsp refined coconut oil
1 medium yellow onion, very finely diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp minced fresh ginger
1 tbsp mild curry powder
1 tsp garam masala
1 tsp ground cumin
1 400g tin lite coconut milk
3 tbsp tomato paste
1 tsp salt
1 cup frozen peas

For everything else:
Refined coconut oil, for frying (2 tbsp or so)
Cooked basmati rice, for serving
Fresh coriander, for garnish (optional)

Prepare the kofta mixture
In a medium bowl, mash the chickpeas until they are mushy but not quite pureed.

Preheat a large, heavy pan over a medium heat. Toast the almonds for about 7 minutes, tossing frequently, until they are golden and browned in some spots. Transfer immediately to the bowl containing the chickpeas. Next, toast the cumin seeds for 3 minutes or so, until fragrant and a shade or two darker. Transfer those to the bowl as well.

Add the courgette, coriander, ginger, garlic, salt, and black pepper, and mix well.

Now add the breadcrumbs and use your hands to mix and mush until it holds together. Cover with plastic wrap (or a plate) and place in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.

Prepare the sauce
Drain the cashews and add to a blender along with the broth. Blend until very smooth. This could take from 1-5 minutes depending on the strength of your machine, so give your blender a break every minute or so and test the sauce for smoothness. It should be very smooth, with only a slight graininess. Scrape down the sides with a rubber spatula to make sure you get everything.

Preheat a pan over a medium heat and add the coconut oil. Saute the onion in the oil for about 3 minutes, until translucent. Add the garlic and ginger, and cook just until fragrant, 15 seconds or so. Add the curry powder, garam masala, and cumin and toss for a minute or so, just to toast the spices a bit.

Add the coconut milk, tomato paste, blended cashews and salt. Bring to a low simmer and let cook for 15 minutes or so. It should thicken up nicely. Add the peas and let them warm through. Taste for seasonings, then turn off the heat and cover until ready to serve.

Cook the kofta
Preheat a large cast-iron pan (or any pan that is nonstick and good for frying)over a medium heat. Line the counter with some parchment paper to keep the formed kofta from sticking. Scoop up a scant ¼ cup of the mixture. Roll between your hands to pack it well, and then roll into a football shape. Set on the parchment and continue to form all 12 kofta.

When the pan is hot enough, add some coconut oil and make sure it coats the bottom of the pan. Now add the kofta, rolling each one around in the pan when you add it, making sure to coat all sides. Use a little extra oil, if needed.

Fry them for about 7 minutes, rolling them around in the pan to get them browned on all sides. They don’t have to be uniformly browned; just do your best. Once browned, turn off the heat.

To assemble
Scoop some rice on to each plate, place 3 koftas on top of the rice, and cover with sauce. Garnish with coriander, if you like, and serve.

• This recipe is taken from Isa Does It: Amazingly Easy, Wildly Delicious Vegan Recipes for Every Day of the Week by Isa Chandra Moskowitz, published by Sphere, price £20.

Chocolate and pecan tart (from Jordan Bourke,

The rich fruitiness (and extra vitamins) provided by the avocados, dates and coconut oil here add hidden depth to this chocolate tart. Best served from the fridge, within two days of making it.

Serves 8
150g pecans, plus extra for decorating
10 dried pitted dates
125g oatcakes
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 tbsp maple syrup
2 tbsp extra virgin coconut oil, melted
3 tsp cocoa powder
Pinch of sea salt

For the filling
3 large ripe avocados, peeled and destoned
6 tbsp pure maple syrup
3 tbsp date syrup (or more maple syrup)
6 tbsp cocoa powder
2 tsp vanilla extract
½ tsp sea salt
5 tbsp extra virgin coconut oil, melted
100g dark chocolate, minimum 70% cocoa solids

1 Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/gas mark 4 and roast the pecans for about 4 minutes, or until they are a shade darker and aromatic – watch them carefully as they burn very quickly. Leave to cool completely.

2 In a food processor, blitz the dates for a few seconds, then add the rest of the ingredients for the base and blitz until everything is very finely chopped and sticks together when pressed between your fingers. Very firmly press the mixture into a 20cm-diameter springform tin, so that you have an even, smooth and compacted base for the tart. Place in the freezer to set for 15-20 minutes.

3 For the filling, place all the ingredients into a food processor, apart from the coconut oil and dark chocolate, then blitz until completely smooth, scraping down the sides as you go. This could take a few minutes, depending on the strength of your machine.

4 With the processor still running, pour in the melted coconut oil until just combined. Pour the mixture on to the set base and smooth out the top. Place in a fridge to set for at least 4-5 hours.

5 When ready to serve, remove the tart from the springform tin and place it on a large white plate. Liberally grate the chocolate over the tart and scatter with extra pecans.


10 great recipes to cook non-vegan friends…

So we’re going on holiday in a weeks’ time with some great friends of ours who aren’t vegan.  They’re cool folk and have never been anything other than inquisitive and supportive of our decision to switch to a vegan lifestyle.  On a practical front – she is an amazing cook so isn’t remotely phased by the challenge of vegan cooking so that is half the battle won.  Most friends’ look of abject horror when we tell them we’re vegan, isn’t actually a reaction to our choices but more a panic-stricken reaction to wondering what the hell they are ever going to cook us when we come for supper.

So we’re conscious that we want to be able to cook really tasty, hearty, healthy meals which don’t leave them craving rib eye steak and a chicken bucket by the end of the week! 

Here’s a recent article from the Guardian website with 10 vegan recipes which I’ll be printing off and taking with me as they all look delicious and remarkably straightforward to make:


10 best Chocolate and pecan tart

Watch the pecans carefully while they bake, as they burn very quickly. Photograph: Tamin Jones for the Guardian

Chocolate and pecan tart (above)

The rich fruitiness (and extra vitamins) provided by the avocados, dates and coconut oil here add hidden depth to this chocolate tart. Best served from the fridge, within two days of making it.

Jordan Bourke,

Serves 8
150g pecans, plus extra for decorating
10 dried pitted dates
125g oatcakes
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 tbsp maple syrup
2 tbsp extra virgin coconut oil, melted
3 tsp cocoa powder
Pinch of sea salt

For the filling
3 large ripe avocados, peeled and destoned
6 tbsp pure maple syrup
3 tbsp date syrup (or more maple syrup)
6 tbsp cocoa powder
2 tsp vanilla extract
½ tsp sea salt
5 tbsp extra virgin coconut oil, melted
100g dark chocolate, minimum 70% cocoa solids

1 Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/gas mark 4 and roast the pecans for about 4 minutes, or until they are a shade darker and aromatic – watch them carefully as they burn very quickly. Leave to cool completely.

2 In a food processor, blitz the dates for a few seconds, then add the rest of the ingredients for the base and blitz until everything is very finely chopped and sticks together when pressed between your fingers. Very firmly press the mixture into a 20cm-diameter springform tin, so that you have an even, smooth and compacted base for the tart. Place in the freezer to set for 15-20 minutes.

3 For the filling, place all the ingredients into a food processor, apart from the coconut oil and dark chocolate, then blitz until completely smooth, scraping down the sides as you go. This could take a few minutes, depending on the strength of your machine.

4 With the processor still running, pour in the melted coconut oil until just combined. Pour the mixture on to the set base and smooth out the top. Place in a fridge to set for at least 4-5 hours.

5 When ready to serve, remove the tart from the springform tin and place it on a large white plate. Liberally grate the chocolate over the tart and scatter with extra pecans.

Sprouting kachumbar salad

10 best Sprouting kachumbar salad

This super-quick salad proves on one flavour-packed plate that the supremely healthy can also be incredibly delicious. If you’re making it for lunchboxes, put the dressing in a separate container and drizzle over just before you eat.

Meera Sodha,

Serves 6
For the salad
250g baby plum tomatoes, chopped
200g radishes, topped, tailed and finely sliced
½ cucumber, deseeded and finely diced
A bunch of spring onions, finely sliced
40g coriander, chopped
2cm ginger, peeled and finely cut
250g sprouted mung beans and mixed pulses

For the dressing
2 tbsp rapeseed oil
1 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
2 tbsp wholegrain mustard
Juice of ½ lemon

1 Toss all the salad ingredients into a bowl.

2 Combine all the dressing ingredients in a separate bowl. Whisk with a fork and drizzle over your salad just before serving.

Peanut butter cheesecake with maple bananas

Free-from products are widely available in supermarkets and health food shops. Vegan desserts don’t always have to be virtuous – just add a dollop of dairy-free ice-cream or coconut sorbet. Make sure you check the biscuit packet, as some digestives are vegan, others are not.

Andrew Dargue, Orchard Vegetarian Kitchen,

Serves 4-6
50g dairy-free margarine
100g dairy-free digestive biscuits, crushed
50g dairy-free dark chocolate, finely chopped
225g dairy-free cream cheese
30g soya milk
25g icing sugar
270g crunchy peanut butter

For the bananas
4 bananas
4 tbsp maple syrup
Smoked paprika, for sprinkling

1 Gently melt the margarine in a saucepan over a low heat. Mix the biscuit crumbs into the margarine, stir, then fold in the chocolate.

2 Line a 15cm loose-bottomed or springform tin with baking paper, then add the crumb mix. Use the back of a metal spoon to spread and press down the crumbs to form a base. Allow to cool while you make the filling.

3 Combine the cream cheese, soya milk and icing sugar. Fold the peanut butter in lightly so as to keep a marbled effect. Add the mix to the base and spread evenly.

4 Put the cheesecake in the freezer and leave until firm, but not fully frozen. This should take around 30 minutes, depending on your freezer. When set, remove from the freezer and slice into portions immediately.

5 Set aside for around 10‑15 minutes at room temperature, to let it soften a little before serving.

6 Meanwhile, insert a knife just under the skin of each banana and make an incision from one end to the other. Prise open the banana so the fruit is exposed, but keep the skin on. Spoon 1 tbsp syrup into each banana, making sure they are well coated. Sprinkle a pinch of smoked paprika along the length of the banana and syrup. Wrap the bananas in foil, but scrunch it up so the syrup stays in the bananas. Make sure the foil is well sealed.

7 Bake the bananas at 180C/350F/gas mark 4 for 15 minutes, then carefully remove the foil and serve with the cheesecake.

Poppy seed and black onion crisps

10 best Poppy seed and black onion crisps

These are fast to make, and last for up to a week in an airtight container. Try serving them with a tomato-based dip.

Bread, Cake, Doughnut, Pudding, Justin Gellatly (Fig Tree)

Makes about 50
200ml rapeseed oil
290ml water
4 tsp black onion seeds
4 tsp poppy seeds
2 tsp fine sea salt
2 tsp caster sugar
600g plain flour
2 tsp baking powder

1 Whisk the oil and water together in a large jug or bowl. Add the other ingredients to another bowl, add the liquid and mix. Once it has become a dough, turn out on to a floured surface and knead until smooth. Wrap in clingfilm and rest overnight, or continue.

2 Heat the oven to 200C/400F/gas mark 6 and line two large baking trays with parchment.

3 On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough to 3mm thick. Cut into 4cm rounds. Roll out each round until 1mm thick. Brush off excess flour and bake for 8-10 minutes, until golden brown. Watch them, as they turn from golden to burned quite quickly.

Lime and turmeric tofu steaks with fresh chilli sambal

Many people think they hate tofu, but it’s an absorbent ingredient – so as good as the flavours you give it. This zingy marinade will wash away any previous bad experience.

Fired Up Vegetarian, Ross Dobson (Murdoch Books)

Serves 4
60ml lime juice
60ml rapeseed oil
¼ tsp ground turmeric
600g firm tofu, divided into four equal portions
Lime wedges, to serve

For the sambal
1 tsp vegetable stock (bouillon) powder
2 makrut lime leaves, thinly sliced
2 lemongrass stems, pale part only, finely chopped
2 bird’s eye chillies, finely chopped
1 banana shallot, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tbsp lime juice

1 Combine the sambal ingredients in a bowl, then stir until the stock powder has dissolved. Cover and set aside for 30 minutes, or refrigerate overnight.

2 Combine the lime juice, rapeseed oil and turmeric in a bowl and stir until the spice has dissolved and the oil is vibrantly coloured. Coat the tofu with marinade. Set aside for 30 minutes.

3 Preheat the barbecue or a grill to high. Cook the tofu for 2–3 minutes on each side, or until heated through and slightly crusty. Serve warm, with the sambal spooned over and lime wedges on the side.

Linguine with edamame pesto

Edamame (soya beans) are available in the freezer sections of supermarkets, but if you can’t find any, you can also use frozen peas or broad beans.
Isa Chandra Moskowitz, Post Punk Kitchen,

Serves 4
300g spinach linguine or other pasta
1 tsp olive oil
Small red onion, thinly sliced
200g chestnut mushrooms, sliced
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
Salt and black pepper
Basil leaves, torn, to serve
Olive oil

For the pesto
2 garlic cloves, chopped
A large handful of basil leaves
A small handful of coriander leaves
400g frozen edamame (soya beans), thawed
100ml vegetable stock
2 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp olive oil
1 tsp salt

1 To make the pesto, pulse the garlic and basil in a food processor. Add the remaining ingredients and blend until relatively smooth. Scrape the sides with a spatula to make sure you get everything. Add more stock if needed.

2 Cook the pasta to al dente, following packet instructions, while you cook the mushrooms. Fry the onion slices over a medium heat for 5 minutes until softened, but not browned. Add the mushrooms, garlic and season. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

3 When the mushrooms are cooked, add the pasta and pesto to the pan. Heat through, stirring, for a couple of minutes; if the pesto is too thick (not spreading out and coating the pasta) add a little water. Check the seasoning, then serve immediately with the torn basil leaves sprinkled over the top.

Cinnamon pull-apart brioche

This brioche takes a little time to make, but is more than worth it and freezes well. Try serving with fruit salad or drizzled with maple syrup for brunch.

Celine Steen,

Serves 6-8
1 tbsp cornflour
120ml water
120ml full-fat coconut milk, at room temperature
3 tbsp granulated sugar
½ tsp salt
250g flour
1 tbsp fast-action yeast
50g dairy-free spread
Vegetable oil, to grease the tin

For the filling
2 tsp ground cinnamon
75g light brown sugar
Flour, for rolling out
Water, to brush the rolled-out dough

1 Put the cornflour in a small bowl. Add 30ml water and stir to dissolve. Add the remaining water, and boil in a small saucepan until slightly gelatinous and cloudy, which takes about 1 minute. Set aside to cool completely.

2 Combine the cooled cornflour mix with the milk, sugar and salt in a large bowl. Add flour and yeast, then knead either in a mixer for 2 minutes, or by hand for 4 minutes.

3 Add the dairy-free spread, 1 tbsp at a time, as you knead the dough. Once all of the spread has been slowly added, knead in the mixer for 4 minutes, or by hand for 8-10 minutes. The dough will look like batter, be sticky and not form a ball, even after this much kneading.

4 Put back in the bowl, cover with clingfilm then allow to rise for 45 minutes. Punch the dough back down, cover with clingfilm again then chill for 2 hours, until cold and stiff.

5 To make the filling, mix the cinnamon and sugar in a bowl, then set aside. Generously flour a work surface, then roll the dough into a 20x30cm rectangle. Lightly brush with water, then sprinkle with the cinnamon sugar.

6 Using a sharp knife, cut the dough lengthwise in four strips. Place the strips on top of each other, sugared-side up. Cut into six stacks, width-wise. Transfer the stacks into a greased 900g loaf tin, with the cut edges facing up.

7 Cover with clingfilm, and let rise for 1 hour in a warm place, or until doubled.

8 Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/gas mark 4. Remove the clingfilm. Bake the brioche for 40 minutes. Cool slightly before serving.

Sweet and sour courgettes with sesame noodles

10 best Sweet and sour courgettes with sesame noodles

You can swap the courgettes for other crunchy green veg when not in season, or serve them simply with steamed rice.
Rosie Reynolds, The Cook Team

Serves 4
1 tbsp vegetable oil
2 garlic cloves, sliced
4cm piece ginger, peeled and shredded
3 courgettes, chopped
1 tbsp caster sugar
1 tbsp cider vinegar

For the noodles
250g medium rice noodles
4 tbsp tahini
2 tbsp agave syrup
1 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp toasted sesame seeds
4 spring onions, shredded

1 Cook the rice noodles according to packet instructions until just tender. Drain and refresh under cold water.

2 Combine the tahini with the agave syrup and soy sauce. Toss the noodles through the sauce, scatter with sesame and spring onions.

3 Heat the oil in a wok, or frying pan, once hot add the garlic and ginger and sizzle for a few minutes, stirring frequently until golden. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside.

4 Add the courgettes to the pan and fry for 4-5 minutes until they start to colour and soften. Sprinkle in the sugar and vinegar. Toss the pan to dissolve the sugar. Return the garlic and ginger to the pan and heat through. Serve the noodles with courgettes.

Aubergine jambalaya

A Deep South classic with all the spicy Creole flavours, but none of the meat.

Leon Fast Vegetarian, Henry Dimbleby and Jane Baxter (Octopus)

Serves 4
1 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1 red pepper, finely chopped
2 sticks of celery, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 bay leaf
A pinch of dried oregano
A pinch of dried thyme
A pinch of dried chilli flakes
1 tsp sweet smoked paprika
220g long-grain rice
1 aubergine, cut into 1cm dice
1 tbsp tomato puree
1 x 400g tin chopped tomatoes
400ml vegetable stock
Salt and black pepper

1 Heat the oil in a large pan, then add the onion, pepper and celery. Cook for 5 minutes over a medium heat. Add the garlic, herbs and spices and cook for 2 minutes.

2 Add the rice, aubergine, tomato puree and tinned tomatoes. Stir well, season and cook for a further 2 minutes.

3 Add the stock, bring to a simmer, then cover the pan and cook for 20 minutes. Turn off the heat and leave to steam for 5 minutes. Fluff up the rice and serve with a green salad.

Lentil and apricot soup

A winter favourite gets a summer makeover. This recipe also freezes well, so you carry the sunshine through to colder months.

Three Sisters Bake, Gillian, Nicola and Linsey Reith (Hardie Grant)

Serves 6
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 white onion, roughly chopped
2 large white potatoes, scrubbed and chopped
4 carrots, chopped
2 celery sticks, tough strings removed, chopped
1 large leek, topped and tailed, chopped and rinsed
200g red lentils, rinsed until the water runs clear
200g fresh apricots, de-stoned and chopped
1 tbsp vegetable bouillon powder
Salt and black pepper
2 tsp finely chopped flat-leaf parsley, to serve

1 Fry the veg for 10 minutes until soft. Add the lentils and apricots, then cover with water and bring to the boil. Add the bouillon and stir. Reduce to a simmer for 25 minutes, uncovered. Top up the water halfway through, if necessary.

2 Check the lentils are completely soft before removing from the heat. Allow to cool a little.

3 Liquidise with a blender until smooth, then taste and adjust the seasoning, if needed. Stir through the chopped parsley and serve.

The week Giles and Esther went vegan (article from today’s Times magazine)

Here is an article published in today’s Times Magazine, written by the gorgeous Esther Walker.  I’ve scribbled my thoughts below it….

Giles Coren and Esther Walker photographed at home in London. Photographed by John Carey

Esther Walker loves a burger, and her husband, restaurant critic Giles Coren, eats anything and everything for a living. So how will they survive giving up meat and dairy?

Are you or aren’t you? Lily Cole is. So is Brad Pitt. Beyoncé and Jay-Z were  (for 22 days). Chris Martin and Gwyneth Paltrow are (on and off). Jamie  Oliver is rumoured to have dabbled. And Jamie Hince was (until he walked in  on Kate Moss in her knickers making him a bacon sandwich).

I’m talking about veganism, obviously. Along with the 5:2 diet, it’s the new  food mantra. The off-duty A-list accessory used to be a milky Starbucks to  go; now it’s a green juice.

Veganism was once just for crazy hippies or obsessive-compulsive Californians,  but now it’s busting into the mainstream. You can join in with Veganuary –  going vegan for January – the Movember of the dieting calendar. There are  even glossy vegan cookbooks. Once they were just cheap, picture-less  paperbacks. Now they have actual photos and shiny paper. Last year’s It’s  All Good by Gwyneth Paltrow and the new The Vegan Pantry by Dunja  Gulin and Leon: Fast Vegetarian by Henry Dimbleby and Jane Baxter are  all glossy, all lifestyle.

And if vegan is just too hardcore, you can mix’n’match. The New  York Times food writer Mark Bittman wrote VB6, a book praising a  “flexitarian” diet – ie, eating only vegan food before 6pm and then whatever  you like.

The strict diet once based on an animal-loving ideology (no honey, no leather  shoes) has been hijacked by the A-list, and veganism is now well and truly a  fad.

So I decide to do it. One week as a vegan. How hard can it be? My husband,  Giles Coren, restaurant critic of The Times, is game for anything,  though he has always found vegans or vegetarians or any extreme dieter  sinister. Hitler, he always points out, was a vegetarian. “It’s a short step  from nut cutlets to Belsen,” he will say loudly to anyone who will listen.

But if he had his way he’d eat mostly plants at home. If I ever go out in the  evening, he will make himself a bowl of edamame beans or braised kale – and  nothing else – for dinner. He is fanatical about not getting fat, which as a  restaurant critic is a major occupational hazard. “Veganism isn’t about  eating sugar and bread in the place of meat,” he says. “It’s about just  eating lots and lots and lots of veg. And adding more salt. You just have to  think like a vegan. It’s like being kosher – it’s a diet that emerged from  working with what’s available. The trouble with being vegan here, now, is  that there’s too much available. Imagine you live in a forest surrounded by  mostly nuts and berries…”

I am a self-taught cook and one lesson I learnt early on was that almost  anything is delicious if you cover it in a lot of butter and salt and  cheese. I like eating meat but I think I could eat less and not miss it.  It’s butter, yoghurt, cheese and milk I will miss. Frothy coffees, bircher  muesli – farewell, dear friends.

It’s all right for Beyoncé and Jay-Z, who went vegan briefly towards the end  of last year: they don’t have to think about the practicalities of whatever  new diet they fancy. They can just skype their personal chef and say, “We’re  vegan now,” and then be presented with completely edible, thoughtful, vegan  food three times a day. If I’m going to be vegan, I can’t just do an  “instant shop” at my online grocery shop. I am going to have to make an  effort. Urgh.

So I know being vegan will be hard, but I don’t think it will be awful. I am a  good cook. I am creative. I can do this.

I didn’t think I would find myself, as I do, sitting at my kitchen table at  7.15pm on my first day of veganism, crying (just a tiny bit) and eating a  bagel covered in cream cheese, while drinking a (non-vegan) beer. Yes, there  are some non-vegan beers. Didn’t you know? There’s a fish oil, used in  beer’s clarification process, called isinglass, and so for the truly vegan,  these are out.

It all started out fine. The first morning I have muesli with soy milk and  then soy milk in my tea. Not terrific, but never mind. The rest of the day  was a lot like being on any old tedious weight-loss diet. Handfuls of nuts  here and there, fruit, chopped veg and miso soup for lunch.

“It’s going to be a long old week,” I think at about 4pm as I am cling to my  children’s tea: fish fingers in butter for Kitty, 3; sweet potato, spinach  and cheese purée for Sam, 6 months. Lucky them. It all smells amazing.  Normally, I fall on their leftovers like a fox on a bin. Not tonight.

Tonight, dinner for Giles and me is a seaweed salad with ponzu dressing and  then a vegetable broth of my own creation made with garlic, chilli and soy.  It will be plain, I tell myself, but delicious. I always order seaweed salad  in Japanese restaurants because it is my favourite thing.

But the seaweed that I have bought from my local health-food shop, and which  is now boiling in a pan on my stove, is just an evil, stinking, horrible  mess. It’s like alien intestine. Not food. Simply not for eating.

“Phew, what’s that smell?” says Giles, coming into the kitchen.

“Seaweed. It’s disgusting,” I say, carrying the still steaming pan out into  the garden, dumping it on the compost and returning to the stinking kitchen.

The broth is no better. It tastes of nothing, like spicy hot water with some  veg floating in it. The rice noodles I add at the last minute taste like  very fine shoelaces. Giles covers the whole lot with salt and declares it  “perfectly OK. It’s just underseasoned, that’s all.”

But Giles, as discussed, will eat pretty much anything as long as it is hot  and he can cover it in salt.

I can’t finish mine; I still have the death stench of the revolting seaweed in  my nostrils. “I look forward to my dinner all day long,” I whine to no one  in particular. “I am tired. I’ve got two children. Having a nice dinner and  a glass of wine is pretty much what keeps me going during the 800th  rendition of Itsy Bitsy Spider and bloody bathtime.”

I feel cheated and upset. So I gobble down a huge onion bagel, covered in  cream cheese, and wash it down with the beer. As soon as Giles is out of the  room I let out a few tears of disappointment and frustration. Then I chase  the feeling away with a bar of Dairy Milk. Then I hate myself for the rest  of the night.

It’s just an emotional attachment to animal fat, I think next morning as I  spread Flora on a piece of rye toast. It’s like trying to give up smoking.  You think cigarettes are your friends. Cheese and cream are not my friends!

Just as elevenses rolls around I happen to be eating an apple and wheeling Sam  past a Pret A Manger; from inside I can hear a flat white and a pot of  bircher muesli jumping up and down and screaming, “Drink me! Eat me! Yummy  yummy!” I resist. But only just. Giles often looks horrified at how much  dairy I consume – he would turn green at the thought of drinking a huge  frothy coffee followed by a pot of yoghurt. “All that sloshing around in  you. No wonder you’re knackered all the time. And, you know…” He pats his  hips. Maybe he’s right.

I feel trapped without animal fat to fall back on. It’s a simple, essential  building block of taste, of flavour. I didn’t think I cared much about food.  I didn’t think I had an emotional relationship with it. I pride myself on  being unfussy, on eating anything from a cold jellyfish salad in an obscure  Chinese restaurant to a McDonald’s cheeseburger, and finding merits in both.

When I’m on a diet I can tune out the world and snack on hazelnuts, apples and  carrot juice. But not all day long. Not for ever. At some point I will go  insane and shoot up the high street in search of a cheese sandwich.

“Just make a big salad,” nags Giles. “A big crunchy salad. Your salads are  delicious.” Yes, I want to reply (but don’t, because I value my life), my  salads are delicious because I make the dressing with about a pint of  mayonnaise and snip in bits of bacon or chicken – or, at the very least,  some cheese.

Giles has become competitive about all this. I explained at the start that he  didn’t have to be vegan all day, just that he would have to eat vegan  dinners with me. But now he is coming home declaring, “Well, I had a fully  vegan day today. I feel great.” I don’t want to say that I had a fully vegan  day, too, and I just feel empty and bored. Maybe he is a natural fanatic,  like Hitler. (I don’t say this, either.)

We are having some friends round for dinner, who are warned that it will be  vegan.

I was going to wing it again with tofu curry but I have lost my nerve. I ring  up a friend and beg for his two best vegan curry recipes.

Both use, in the place of animal fat, a lot of nuts; both use curry pastes of  the usual garlic, chilli, ginger and spices with additional sesame seeds,  cashew nuts or peanuts. I am so down on veganism by now that I am convinced  both will be disgusting and that I will have to run out for pizza. But they  are both absolutely terrific. We all clean our plates and drink some strong  red wine and talk about how, actually, this vegan thing is OK. “This is  great stuff,” declares Giles. “We should eat like this all the time.”

But, later, I find him eating a ham and peanut butter sandwich by the light of  the fridge. “Look,” he says, licking something off a greasy finger, “you  can’t possibly be a vegan if you’re pissed.” He burps richly and then heads  towards Match of the Day.

After the successful vegan curries, I make vegan tortillas. I am pleased as  punch with these, which use a fresh tomato, cucumber, avocado and sweetcorn  salsa. I make a batch of Gwyneth Paltrow’s famous “Mexican green goddess”  dressing – an entire herbaceous border put in a blender with some vegan  mayonnaise, which is not as nasty as it sounds. Giles is not as crazy about  these because he is an even bigger carb-dodger than me. After four flour  tortillas he boings his hands off his tummy and says, “I feel like I’ve been  blown up with a bicycle pump.”

Overconfident now, for the next dinner I make a different nut-based curry (as  a vegan, without nuts or curry you are a bit lost), but something goes  wrong. Although it works well and is more than edible, I feel bloated and  perfectly sick for the first half of the next day. I can barely face my  falafel lunch until about 2.30pm.

At the end of the week I don’t feel better and I’ve put on weight. Before I  started I was 9st 9½lb; now I am 9st 10lb. Cheers for that.

Veganism is, if you ask me, just not necessary. We should all be more mindful  of what we consume, eat more plants and less meat. And, if you do feel  non-specifically ropey all the time, then an exclusion diet such as veganism  can locate gluten or dairy as the culprit.

But the faddism and freakiness (real or invented) of celebrities and their  diets knows no bounds; it is just an externalisation of their rampant  solipsism. This kind of craziness is simply not meant for the likes of you  and me. The key to a healthy life, as everyone knows, is everything in  moderation. And that’s the hardest thing of all.

Besides being very amusing – this article is really frustrating!  There is absolutely no reference as to the many very important reasons why someone might choose to go vegan – Esther’s only reason for trying it seems to be because some celebs are doing it and that she seems to eat a lot of dairy and worries that it might be sticking to her thighs….  If these are your only motivations for going vegan then no wonder she was buried in a cream cheese slathered bagel by the end of day one – I’m surprised she got that far actually.  I know how little resolve I’ve had in the past for half-hearted fad diets in an attempt to shift my semi-resident love handles.  I rarely got past eleven I clock without leaping into the biscuit tin.  But I managed to go vegan over night and haven’t looked back once. 

How?  What’s the difference?  Well just about everything.  You can’t compare veganism with a faddy weight-loss diet in any way shape or form! Veganism is about soooo much more than trying to shift a few pounds (although weight loss is a lovely bonus!).  But to change your entire eating habits over night on a momentary whim is of course going to end up in failure and tears!  Veganism is about eating in the most compassionate, sustainable, environmentally-friendly way that you can, and if done properly and carefully, it is also an incredibly healthy way to live.  But I would happily admit that one of the biggest downsides by far of veganism is having to give up many of your favourite foods but the thing that makes it all worthwhile and enables you to carry on, is knowing that you are no longer a part of something which is having such a devastating effect on the environment in so many different ways; that you are no longer part of the evil hideousness that is factory farming; that you are no longer a tiny cog in the cruel, pointless and wasteful wheel of the dairy industry; that you are no longer contributing to the mindless slaughter of millions and millions of innocent animals every day.  Now that’s what makes people persevere with tofu over tuna, lentils over lamb and mushrooms over mince!   

Do vegans care less about taste, flavour and food?  Of course not!  Usually the exact opposite in fact – most vegans I know are huge foodies.  I certainly use a far bigger variety of flavours, spices, pickles, sauces, marinades, herbs and oils now than I ever did before.  My pestle and mortar has never been so battered and bruised, or my chopping knives needed sharpening so often!     

Do I miss croissants, nutella and slow roast belly of pork?  Sometimes.  Enough that it tempts me to give in occasionally? No. Am I now used to vegan mayonnaise and veggie bugers?  Yes.  Have I grown to actually love them even?  Yes.  Have I now got a plentiful supply of really delicious vegan meals up my sleeve? Absolutely.  Do I have as much choice on the average restaurant menu?  Hell no.  Over all is it worth it?  100% yes. 

But maybe that’s just me.