We bet the organisers of Veganuary feared the worst when the Government announced lockdown 3.0 this month.

The same could be said about the charity Alcohol Change UK, who are behind Dry January.

Given January is always the most miserable month of the year, global pandemic or no global pandemic, you could forgive people if they decided to continue eating meat and drinking alcohol, if only to get them through a month of lockdown and probably longer.

After all, when you are feeling down comfort eating and drinking can help to alleviate stress, anger, fear, boredom, sadness and loneliness – all things that many people have gone through over the last year.

And it’s made even worse when you are still getting up to darkness and coming home from work in darkness, although the latter now means looking outside your window at home at 5pm. Ah, the joys of home working and schooling.

But, despite all this, we’re pleased to see that this is not the case. At the time of writing, over 500,000 people have pledged to take the 31-day vegan challenge in January, surpassing 2020’s total of 400,000.

And Alcohol Change UK say around 6.5 million planned to give up the booze this month.

We think this is down to the amazing alternatives people now have in both cases. We have talked in previous blogs about the fantastic range of vegan food on our supermarket shelves these days, along with the well-known, global brands who jumped onboard too.

Last year we had Greggs’s vegan sausage roll and steak bake and in 2021 we have Vegan Krispy Kremes, Magnum’s Vegan Sea Salt Caramel ice cream and Domino’s ‘Chick-Ain’t’ Pizza to name just a few.

And the non-alcoholic stakes have also been raised from the days when the best you could hope for was a bottle of Kaliber (Google it!). Now, most of the main craft beer brands, along with wine, gin, whiskey and vodka makers etc, also offer alcohol-free alternatives, and they taste, well, ok.

So, if you are going to give a vegan diet a go, or knock the booze on the head for a while, there’s never been a better time.

On the subject of comfort food, here is this week’s recipe.

Vegan butternut squash chili mac and cheese

  • 1 butternut squash
  • 1 red chili deseeded and finely diced
  • 1 large shallot finely diced
  • 30g extra virgin olive oil
  • 30g vegan butter
  • 2 cloves of garlic minced
  • 260g soy milk
  • 150g vegan Goats cheese
  • 30mls of white wine
  • 1 bag of vegan certified macaroni (cooked in boiling salted water till just al dente)
  • 150g white breadcrumbs
  • 150g vegan mozzarella (plus extra for topping)
  • Salt and pepper

Preheat your oven to 200oc. Top and tail the butternut squash, deseed and peel, then dice up into chunks and place into a bowl with salt and pepper and the olive oil and coat well. Spread out on a baking tray and bake till the squash is golden and tender.

In a frying pan heat up the vegan butter and add the shallots , garlic and chili and cook till the shallots are golden brown and caramelized then add cooked butternut squash, soy milk, white wine, salt and pepper. And cook for 5 minutes then transfer to a kitchen blender and blend till smooth.

Transfer back to a pan and add the cheeses and gently cook till the mix is cheesy and glossy. Mix in the macaroni and check for seasoning. Transfer to an oven proof baking dish and top with bread crumbs and the extra vegan mozzarella. Bake at 200oc till the cheese is golden and bubbling.

Serve with a non-alcoholic drink!

Chris Brown
About Chris Brown
Sous Chef of SK Foods.
Your food. Our Passion.