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A Beginner’s Guide to Veganism

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Thinking about trying veganism? Nice one! Here’s a little guide with some Exeter-themed advice to help you along the way…

I’ve lived in Exeter all my life and have been vegan for around three and a half years. It all started with signing up to Veganuary in 2015 for reasons of health and curiosity. From being a regular meat-eater to a successful and enjoyable month of veganism, I then went pescatarian for a few months – mainly due to social pressures around me. With the help of powerful documentaries, informative articles, online resources and the lovely local community, I went vegan in August 2015 and never looked back – and can honestly say it was the best decision I’ve ever made.

Start following positive vegan accounts and hashtags for constant motivation

KNOW YOUR ‘WHY’

For your health. For the animals. For our planet. Whatever your reason for trying veganism, stay focused on this motivation. If you feel your commitment faltering, go back to the reason you started and re-focus. Write it down and keep it with you, so if you’re confronted by a moment of weakness, you can easily remind yourself why you’ve made this pledge.

REINFORCE THAT MOTIVATION

There are loads of brilliant resources out there to help you get informed and to strengthen and increase your motivation to go vegan. If documentaries are your thing, you’re in luck:

Viva!, Veganuary and The Vegan Society all have helpful websites with lots of resources, and you can sign up to Veganuary’s daily emails for regular tips and inspiration.

British vegan activist Earthling Ed also has some really brilliant resources that are all free, such as his e-book ’30 Non-Vegan Arguments And How To Respond To Them’, plus his 30 Days 30 Excuses video series – short videos confronting the most common excuses not to go vegan – is well worth a watch.

Yes, you can still eat cake! Just like these almond butter brownies from Naturally Bread.

PLAN AHEAD

The huge growth in veganism in the last few years means it’s so much easier to shop and eat out these days, but there will probably still be occasions where you need to plan ahead and go prepared. Whether you’ve got a dinner party, work conference or day trip coming up where the catering arrangements are unclear, do what you can to make the situation as easy for you as possible – such as bringing your own dish, calling up venues in advance and always carrying snacks with you!

DINING OUT: Luckily, Exeter is full of incredible vegan options. From independents like Rabbit Vegan Cafe, Cavern Cafe and The Flat to chain restaurants like Zizzi, Wagamama and Comptoir Libanais, your main problem is going to be deciding on which to choose! If you’ve been invited somewhere for a birthday or an event that doesn’t have a vegan option, ring up in advance to let them know you need a vegan meal – most places will be happy to create something for you if give them notice.

SUPERMARKET PREP: Planning alternatives to your favourite meals before you go shopping will ward off any likelihood of a breakdown in the middle of the aisle on a crowded Saturday morning. Are you going to try veggie mince or make a mushroom and lentil ragu for Wednesday’s spaghetti bolognese night? Does your regular supermarket sell Quorn’s fishless fingers or do you fancy whipping up crispy battered tofu for Friday’s usual fish and chip night? It might seem like a minefield to start with, but once you’ve decided on the swaps you need to make, food shopping actually becomes quite simple as you can start avoiding large sections of the supermarket immediately!

VISITING SOMEWHERE NEW: If you’re planning on staying somewhere new, a little advance planning can help you discover the best vegan food in that area. Other than doing a simple Google search, find local Facebook groups to ask for recommendations before your visit, check out what’s listed on Happy Cow and search through Trip Advisor for places that have reviews containing ‘vegan’.

GET INSPIRED ON SOCIAL MEDIA

Creating your own online world of tips, inspiration, advice, discussion and information is invaluable when trying veganism. If you’re a regular user of Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, etc., start following positive vegan accounts and hashtags for constant motivation. Once you find a few, you’ll open a whole colourful new world of inspiring recipes, chefs, activists, bloggers…! Here are a few recommendations to get you started:

FIND YOUR SUPPORT NETWORK

If you have friends or family who are already vegan, ask them for support and advice – chances are they’ll be thrilled to help. Join local vegan Facebook groups for inspiration and ideas, check out the Exeter Friends For Animals (EFFA) website for local information and support in going vegan and go to Exeter Vegan Market on Saturday 19th January for a friendly welcome, delicious vegan food and a huge range of vegan products to browse. Vegan cafe Mooplehog in Okehampton are hosting weekly meetups on Saturdays for those doing Veganuary and there’s no doubt plenty of restaurants will be doing Veganuary specials to look out for!

Don’t be hard on yourself. If you slip up accidentally, that doesn’t mean you’ve failed.

DISCOVER #VEGANEXETER

Discover a new and exciting part of your local area that you didn’t know existed by spending some time getting to know the best vegan-friendly places around, find out where to get vegan takeaways, visit your local vegan mini supermarket Seasons and join in the local conversation online. Join EFFA to sign up to their mailing list and keep in the loop with any local news and events. Get following #veganexeter, #exetervegans and local Instagram accounts to become part of the community. As well as following RootedExeter, here are some others to add to your list for a variety of local plantbased content:

Check out our Winter Guide from 2017 – go to page 16 for a map of some of Exeter’s finest vegan eateries!



BE PATIENT…

  • …with your taste buds. You will learn to love all these new foods and you will stop craving cheese – I promise! – just give it time.
  • …with other people and the world around you. Although the growth of veganism has skyrocketed recently and it’s become a lot more mainstream, there’s still a lot of preconceptions and misinformation (on both sides!) out there, and it’s possible you’ll come across those ill-informed people who will question what you’re doing and try to bring you down, online or offline. If you’re up for a potentially heated discussion then great, but remember it’s not your job to try to convince them that what you’re doing is right for you, for the planet, for the animals – whatever your motivation – so don’t feel as though you’ve failed if you’re not armed and ready with all of the answers all of the time. Refocus on your motivation, rely on your support network – you’ve got this!
  • …with yourself. You’re introducing a big lifestyle change and there will be challenges and obstacles, so don’t expect it to be an easy, overnight transition. Don’t be hard on yourself. If you slip up accidentally, that doesn’t mean you’ve failed. We all slip up, we’re all human. Being vegan isn’t about being perfect.

Good luck on your vegan journey and remember – one of most common regrets of any vegan is wishing they had started earlier!

The Coombe Cellars: something special in South Devon

I had been wanting to visit The Coombe Cellars for a while now – the promise of a delicious-sounding vegan menu with a beautiful view to admire was rather inviting.

This charming gastro pub has recently been fully renovated and it looks stunning. An extravagant flower wall, sparkling gold finishes, sleek atmospheric lighting and a chic cushion collection make for a beautiful, Pinterest-worthy dining experience.

I was very excited to be invited along for a complimentary meal at their press night, ahead of its official opening to the public. Heading down for a late evening meal in February, I’ll have to return in the daylight to appreciate the beautiful views over the River Teign – although the dense fog that night made sure any views didn’t distract from the gorgeous interior.

At the start of the evening, we were served a colourful mezze platter in the comfy bar area. This nourishing and tasty mix of flavours featured a refreshing coconut tzatziki and slightly fiery miso sesame aubergine, alongside beetroot hummus, warm falafels and plenty of soft flatbread to dip in. It disappeared rather fast.

To start, I chose the Pan-fried Mushrooms while Mark went for the Roasted Lentil Falafel after enjoying it so much as part of the mezze platter. Both starters were enjoyable, however the red peppers that took over my dish were a little undercooked, plus for a starter with mushrooms in the title, I would’ve preferred a lot more mushrooms…

For our mains, I couldn’t resist going for the Plantbased Burger, with Mark choosing the more saintly Caramelised Onion Tart. I took one bite of the burger and looked at Mark with wide eyes – the flavour, the texture – it was just delicious! The added tzatziki kept it nice and light rather than heavy and stodgy like lots of burgers can be. I was very impressed, especially after finding out the meat-style patty is their own recipe. The onion tart, a very tasty lentil mix sitting in a crisp pastry case, went down well with Mark.

Two desserts jumped out at us from the menu straight away. Never one to turn down a chocolate-based treat, Mark went for the Chocolate Tart while I chose one of my favourite puddings, a Treacle and Pecan Tart. Both were super scrumptious – Mark’s eyes rolling with every bite said it all!

We left feeling rather full and very satisfied, keen to return as soon as possible to sample more of their tasty menu. Top marks to The Coombe Cellars for a dazzling renovation as well as a delectable and wonderfully varied vegan menu.

www.thecoombecellars.co.uk

Comptoir Libanais: Vegan Feast for Veganuary

If the first few weeks of January are anything to go by, 2019 is going to be a pretty great year for veganism. With a huge new plant-based range at M&S, the Greggs vegan sausage roll gaining national coverage and even Gordon Ramsay opening up to a greener way of eating, this year is gathering a lot of momentum. As well as new ranges in supermarkets, restaurants all over are rolling out new vegan options left right and centre, making it easier than ever to go vegan.

Among those restaurants is Lebanese canteen Comptoir Libanais in the centre of Exeter. By no means newbies to the veggie game, Comptoir have been a high street favourite among many vegetarians and vegans for a while now, with a menu containing several fresh and vibrant Middle Eastern plant-based options. In celebration of Veganuary, Comptoir have a Vegan Feast on offer – three colourful courses for just £12.95. We were invited along to the Exeter restaurant to try it out for ourselves.

To start we tucked into a generous serving of irresistible Red Pepper Hummus with pita bread, alongside a very refreshing Quinoa Tabbouleh. Made up of mostly fresh herbs, the Tabbouleh was almost too refreshing, so we saved most of it to have on the side of our mains.

To headline your feast, choose from a rich, warm and comforting Aubergine Tagine or a fresh and crunchy Couscous salad for your main course. The Tagine was utterly delicious – baby aubergine baked beautifully in a tomato and chickpea sauce, with a sprinkling of crispy pomegranate seeds on top, served on perfectly cooked rice. On the lighter side, the Couscous salad was enriching, nutritious and full of texture. The soft and flavourful roasted butternut squash combined wonderfully with the crunchy mixed nuts.

A sweet and silky Coconut Mouhalabia with mixed dried fruit finished off the feast with it’s syrup-drenched goodness, along with a pot of rose mint tea – expertly poured – to cleanse our very satisfied palates.

If you’re keen to explore something different to the typical pizza or veggie burger or if you’re looking for a dining out experience that’s a little less stodgy and a little more satisfying, then the Vegan Feast at Comptoir Libanais is probably just what you’re after.

Vegan Bake Sale success

Yet another successful vegan bake sale left many happy customers with bags full of tasty treats, while also raising money and awareness of important causes. Held on Saturday 14 April at St Stephen’s Church on the High Street, the market featured a range of independent vegan bakers, offering a whole host of delights from Naturally Bread’s cheezy breadsticks to Little Wing Treat’s brownie cake pops.

Organised by Exeter Friends for Animals (EFFA) and Fairfoods, who catered the event with their typically delicious fare, the vegan bake sale was bustling all day with eager taste testers. The regular ‘Bake Sale Table’, from which every penny made was donated to animal charities, was crammed with mouth-watering options, including snickers cupcakes and a beautifully decorated Victoria sponge from Sweet Vegan.

All Kind’s purple trike was also serving shoppers with a selection of luscious ice creams such as Booja Booja and Miiro, plus a range of chocolatey goods could be found at Chococo’s table. Something a little different was on offer at From Nature UK’s table, who hail from Taunton, with some delectable handmade cheese, chick’n crisps and roast seitan available.

The day also included helpful and engaging talks, plus EFFA t-shirts were on offer at a one-off special price for the day. Also available was the opportunity to experience the iAnimal virtual reality headsets from Animal Equality, which immerse users into factory farms and slaughterhouses.

The bake sale was part of EFFA’s Go Vegan in 2018 campaign, which has more exciting events coming up – EFFA’s first ever fundraising gig at Exeter Cavern on Sunday 6 May (don’t worry, it’s a bank holiday weekend!), plus the ever-popular vegan Sunday carvery at The Farmer’s Union on Sunday 29 April. Get your tickets for the gig here (vegan food will be served!) and make sure to book a table at the carvery to ensure you don’t miss out!

ODDFELLOWS Vegan Sunday Roast

Diving into Exeter’s Oddfellows to escape the busy High Street, you can expect a warm welcome, cosy atmosphere and a well-stocked bar. Their main lunch and evening menus have a small handful of vegan options between them, but their Sunday roast is the main reason to visit this quirky and eclectic gastro bar. Taking an unusual twist on the traditional Sunday roast, their veg wellington is a sumptuous mix of seasoned English vegetables all wrapped up in filo pastry and drenched in red pepper sauce. Served with all the trimmings you’d expect, including perfectly crispy roast potatoes.

theoddfellowsbar.co.uk

BOSTON TEA PARTY

Perched opposite the Queen Street Dining quarter in the centre of Exeter, you’ll find the homey hangout that is Boston Tea Party. With several vegan breakfast options, the cafe also offers a couple of mains and usually at least one freshly baked plant-based cake of some kind. The large, airy upstairs dining room provides plenty of space to relax amongst the mis-matched furniture with a soy latte. As it’s such a firm favourite among students and locals, however, it can get crowded at busy times.

You can also find a BTP in Honiton, Plymouth, Bath and Bristol, as well as several others around England. While Boston Tea Party is technically a chain, with 18 establishments in total, it’s a refreshing change from the Starbucks on every corner – especially as BTP pride themselves on putting efforts into being environmentally-friendly and using sustainable ingredients.

bostonteaparty.co.uk

LAS IGUANAS: Latin re-written

With a lively, South American-themed dining experience, Las Iguanas has a separate vegetarian menu, marked where dishes are vegan or can be prepared to be. Soft tacos, a creamy coconut curry, sizzling fajitas, a warming chilli and a couple of fresh salads (of course) are ready for sampling at Exeter’s Queen Street venue, along with a couple of 2-for-1 cocktails perhaps?

See the menu here: lasiguanas.co.uk

PHOENIX CAFE BAR

With art exhibitions, film screenings, a variety of workshops and regular live music, Exeter Phoenix is the city’s hub for all things creative. What you don’t want to miss is the awesome vegan food they serve every day. From breakfasts to burgers, you’ll find a great selection in a relaxed setting. Their vegan fish finger butty with homemade mint pea sauce is deliciously indulgent with top notch chips on the side, and the crispy bean burger is packed with flavour.

exeterphoenix.org.uk/about-the-cafe-bar

THE FARMER’S UNION: An unsuspecting vegan heaven

A short walk from the city centre you’ll find a traditional pub with some untraditional food. Don’t be put off by the name of this place, as the talented vegetarian head chef at The Farmer’s Union provides a huge variety of amazing vegan options (on a separate menu), from cheesy potato skins to vegan fish and chips with mushy peas. On top of the extensive regular vegan menu, a plant-based roast dinner can be devoured every Sunday at their busy carvery. A lively, airy setting, friendly atmosphere and a large selection of food awaits – have fun trying to decide what to order!

facebook.com/TheFarmersUnion

 

 

BOARD – Exeter’s game cafe

If you’re after something a little different for an evening out, grab some friends and head to Board, Exeter’s board game cafe bar. For a small, niche place, their menu has a surprising amount of vegan options, including two mains, a dessert, snacks, milkshakes and vegan-friendly cider.  From household favourites to more obscure card games, there is something for everyone here, and with friendly service and a relaxed atmosphere it’s great to know a bite to eat can be grabbed here too.

boardexeter.co.uk   /   facebook.com/BoardExeter   /   instagram.com/boardexeter

THE OLD FIREHOUSE: For legendary vegan pizzas

On the edge of Exeter’s main shopping district, The Old Firehouse is massively popular with students and locals alike – for very good reason. Touted as one of the best ale and cider pubs in the region, this historic building also provides some of the greatest – and biggest – vegan pizza money can buy (just trust us on this one), as well as a hearty and varied main menu, which includes a vegan burger, baguette and chips topped with bean chilli and cheese. If you head there on a Sunday you’ll find the main menu replaced with more than one vegan option for a very tasty roast dinner. Adorned with twinkling fairy lights, flickering candles and colourful bunting, this place combines that cosy and rustic country pub atmosphere with bustling city bar perfectly. Added liveliness comes from regular live music and a wide selection of reasonably priced drinks – including clearly labelled vegan options. Even with a courtyard, three floors and a second bar, this place does get very busy during the evening and especially at weekends, but that’s always a good sign of a well-loved and good quality establishment.

oldfirehouseexeter.co.uk   •   instagram.com/the_old_firehouse   •   facebook.com/Old-Firehouse-Exeter