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Vegan eats

Chioggia Beetroot Slivers, Acorn Vegetarian Kitchen

Veganism may have once been a marginal alternative food movement but new research to mark World Vegan Month shows that more than half of UK adults are now adopting vegan-buying behaviours.

With one in five Brits cutting down on the amount of meat they buy, and nearly one in eight now choosing meat or dairy-free options when eating out, Britain is more vegan-friendly than ever before. It is reflected in the number of restaurants across the UK adding more meat-free options and, in some cases, even introducing special vegan menus.

At Suffolk pub The Hadleigh Ram, the dedicated vegan menu changes with the seasons. A winter meal might feature chestnut and pumpkin risotto with pumpkin seeds and thyme cress or roasted Portobello mushroom and root vegetables with piccolo parsnips, cavolo nero and redcurrants.

Belfast’s Il Pirata restaurant may be best known for rustic Italian dishes such as shellfish linguine or duck ragu gnocchi, spinach, red wine and truffle oil but vegan visitors fare just as well as carnivorous customers. Running alongside the extensive main menu, the vegetarian and vegan choices include Sicilian penne alla Norma, aubergine, capers and basil, and mushroom and celeriac ragu, walnut and crisp polenta.

Colin and Louisa Le Voi opened Cockermouth’s Quince & Medlar in 1989, making the Cumbrian restaurant one of the GFG’s longest-running meat-free entries. The majority of dishes on the menu can be served vegan and these include roast aubergine, Brussels sprouts and shallots, pan-fried spätzle, halloumi, toasted pine nuts and a chunky plum tomato relish.

According to a tongue-in-cheek strapline on its website, Simon Rimmer’s Manchester restaurant Greens has been ‘terrifying carnivores since 1990’ with its innovative global vegetarian dishes, most of which are also vegan. At the Didsbury restaurant, a starter of meatless spiced ‘black pudding’ pakora with sweetcorn chilli salsa and borlotti bean salad might be followed by roasted cauliflower tikka, black lentil dhal with a mango and pineapple chutney.

Vegans visiting Brighton have been spoilt for choice for years thanks to the veteran vegetarian restaurants Terre à Terre, which opened in 1993, and Food For Friends, which was first established 12 years earlier. Not that either restaurant show any signs of ageing thanks to inventive vegan dishes like Terre à Terre’s cheeky take on a KFC (that’s Korean fried cauliflower with sweet and sour sesame, onigiri rice, soused shiso daikon and kohlrabi, pickled mirin ginger jelly and green leaf salt dried chips finished with chestnut purée) and the cauliflower falafel, hemp and bulgur wheat tabbouleh, hummus, turmeric pickled cauliflower, padrón peppers and piquillo Romesco sauce on the menu at Food For Friends.

Housed in one of Bath’s oldest buildings close to the Abbey, there’s certainly nothing dated about the Acorn Vegetarian Kitchen. Among the creative meat-free dishes are pea soup with truffled cashew rolled in cep powder, fresh peas and pickled celery, and garlic dhal with onions and fried rice fritters with lime gel and a lime foam.

To mark World Vegan Month, London’s Foxlow has introduced a vegan menu for lunch and dinner at its four London restaurants. As the younger sibling to the award-winning Hawksmoor steakhouses, such a meat-free menu might come as a surprise but the addition of vegan dishes to the menu is simply a reflection of how Foxlow’s owners and chefs like to eat. They say it’s a reaction to how difficult it is finding great vegetarian or vegan food when the mood hits them.

Foxlow’s vegan dishes this month include carrot hummus with carrot top pesto and chilli; roast acorn squash pie with vegan gravy, and a much-talked-about aubergine ‘steak’ with wild mushrooms, onions and vegan béarnaise. And if the dishes prove to be popular, many of them will remain on the menu after World Vegan Month finishes at the end of November.