The Burr Family did a bit of a vegan experiment this week and really enjoyed it. We surprised ourselves with what we missed. It’s inspired a lot of baking for me too.
My eldest daughter is doing a baking topic at school at the moment, which is right up my street. There are so many subjects it can overlap into. For example, we’ve been using fractions to scale recipes up and down together and when I do baking demos for kids I always talk about the maths behind it all. I took a day off work this week to go with her on a school trip to an 18th century local mill, Mill Green in Hatfield. The kids made bread in their teaching kitchens (Daughter #1 showing hers off above) and then learnt about the milling process. I bought a 6kg bag of their organic wholemeal flour to play with at home but I need to buy some razor blades this week to slash different designs into my bread more accurately. If you want to put different designs in your own loaves, do it after the second prove with a very sharp knife or razor blade just before you’re putting it in the oven.
The marathon enthusiasm from last week wasn’t a flash in the pan. Our Baker’s Dozen team of past Bake Off contestants are all really excited about the challenge and we have set up a Whatsapp group to share training plans and support each other. I’m so glad we’ve agreed to do it and it’s been a great way for those of us from different series to get to know each other better. It’s definitely got me more active already. Enwezor mentioned that he’d gone out and run 20 miles yesterday(!) so I’ve been trying to warm myself up with a few 5Ks on the treadmill this week. It’ll be a while until I’m thinking about 20-milers but don’t forget, the London Marathon ballot for places opens tomorrow. I’m feeling a bit more inspired now I’ve realised I’m the same age as Wladimir Klitschko. Watching last night’s incredible fight with Anthony Joshua, on the one hand I was in awe of Klitschko’s fitness for a 41 year old, but on the other hand, there’s no amount of training in the world that would see me get in a boxing ring with Anthony Joshua! I’d be happy to take him on in a bricklaying contest though – my Flemish bond is pretty impressive.
We’ve had a really healthy week as we set ourselves a vegan challenge in the Burr household. The token vegan in our lives, Charlotte, went from vegetarian to vegan back in January but as someone who doesn’t cook very much, four months in she’d run out of a bit of inspiration. But she’d also been extolling the benefits of veganism to us (as vegans tend to do!) and after a while, some of it sinks in. We wanted to see how easy it would be, how the costs would compare to a normal week, what we’d miss and how it would make us feel. We also wanted to cook for Charlotte each night and show her how simple the food would be to make herself – particularly to batch cook and freeze. In terms of ease, it took a bit more planning than a usual week but only because we had to think harder about the different meals, but it definitely worked out cheaper. We always have dinner with the kids and they eat what we eat. They really enjoyed all the meals and had so many different fruits and vegetables over the week. Our meals included lentil ragu; sweet potato and chick pea curry; baked potatoes with ratatouille; and our favourite Sabrina Ghayour recipe for bulgar wheat salad (at the bottom of this post), served with loads of other salads too. The kids ate whatever they wanted for school dinners and the younger two had normal milk all week as well.
Milk was a bit of a sticking point for the family. It was definitely the thing that my wife Sarah and eldest daughter missed the most, but we bought every alternative milk we could find (above) and tested them all in tea and cereal. Sarah swapped to herbal teas for the week. I was surprised that I didn’t miss dairy at all and I’m going to try and make the switch to regularly drinking more alternative milks – I actually preferred soya milk in coffee. I do think we’ll be reducing the dairy we buy after this week and trying to buy organic milk when possible. I missed eggs quite a bit, but it was a pork chop I started dreaming about towards the end of the week. Sarah missed chocolate and our middle daughter missed sausages too. I think we’ll be reducing the amount of meat we consume now and limiting it to a few times a week rather than nearly every day. In the meantime, we need to build more vegan meals into our weekly repertoires.
The main impact for me was on my baking this week. I’m going to spend time developing more vegan baking recipes as after the popularity of my vegan carrot cake (recipe here), I’ve had so many requests from people for more vegan bakes. And I know a lot of people who are lactose intolerant, or don’t eat eggs or dairy for religious reasons, so vegan baking works well for them too. These recipes take a little longer to develop as I have to test them a few times over to get them right (makes for happy guinea pigs around me), but I’m going to experiment with some vegan doughnuts this week and when I’ve worked them out, I’ll blog the recipe. In the meantime, if you’ve got any favourite vegan recipes, send them my way. Until next week, Happy Baking!