Hurrah! The weekend is here! This means I can indulge myself with a bit of cake and glass or two of wine. But if you’re a vegan it seems life isn’t quite as simple as this. Suddenly the weekend looks like it’s going to be a very sober and healthy one.
So let’s deal with the wine issue first. At the start of the week I was thinking that wine, being made from grapes, would be free from animal products. It seems I was wrong. Apparently there isn’t a market for cloudy wine so all wine is filtered through a ‘fining agent’ and quite often these can be products derived from animals. The PETA website provides the following definition:
“Popular animal-derived fining agents used in the production of wine include blood and bone marrow, casein (milk protein), chitin (fiber from crustacean shells), egg albumen (derived from egg whites), fish oil, gelatin (protein from boiling animal parts), and isinglass (gelatin from fish bladder membranes).”
Fortunately, if you Google vegan wines from a particular supermarket you can get a list from veggiewines.co.uk or you can visit barnivore.com for a listing of vegan beer and wine. A lot of the supermarkets are good at labelling the suitability of their wines for vegetarians or vegans. I paid a quick trip to M&S and bought myself a bottle of the pink stuff so that was the wine crisis averted. Now all I had to do was figure out how to fit cake into my vegan diet.
Luckily help was hand in the form of Jojo from Operation Icing. Operation Icing is a non-profit making vegan bakery based in the North Laine area of Brighton. All of the profit they make is donated to animal charities. They produce some amazing flavours like Peanut Butter Bombshell and Matcha Green Tea. Unfortunately, I haven’t got time this week to make a trip to Brighton so I need to rely on some home baked goodies.
Initially, this didn’t bother me too much. Logically you can replace butter in any baking recipe with the same quantity of vegan margarine (blocks are a safer bet than spreads as the latter sometimes contains buttermilk, but you need to check the ingredients to be sure). What I really wanted to know is how to get a light and fluffy cake without eggs?
“A light and fluffy cake without eggs involves a little trial and error,” explains Jojo. “I use a splash of apple cider vinegar in with my soya milk to make a buttermilk which helps and then egg substitutes such as applesauce or mashed banana help too.”
I trawled through my vegetarian cookbooks to see if could find some recipes that I could easily veganise. As luck would have it I came across one for an Apple & Pear Cake in Leith’s Vegetarian Bible which contains no eggs. All I needed to do was replace the butter with marg. The recipe intro states that it is a “close textured cake” and the final result is more akin to a malt loaf than a sponge, but that’s fine by me.
Jojo also recommends the Post Punk Kitchen website for vegan baking recipes. As I had been lent a copy of Isa and Terry’s book Veganomicon I decided to try their Chocolate-Chocolate Chip-Walnut cookies. At this point I should say that chocolate seems to be a bit of a grey area in the vegan world. Although dark chocolate shouldn’t contain any milk it may have been produced in a plant where milk is used for other products. Therefore, a lot of dark chocolate isn’t labelled as being suitable for vegans. It’s similar to products that are produced in the same factory where nuts are used and are are labelled with “may contain traces of nuts”. If you are a strict vegan you may want to avoid all chocolate accept those that are labelled as being suitable for vegans. I bought the dark chocolate for this recipe from Big Life Organics so I’m happy that it is vegan enough for my requirements. Anyway, the cookies are lovely and I don’t think anyone would suspect that butter and eggs are absent from the ingredients.
So, with both problems solved I can look forward to an indulgent vegan weekend after all.