Suma wrestle with our taste buds again

Suma’s Baked Beans and Vegan Sausages (reviewed here: https://veganonadesertisland.com/2016/09/11/review-suma-baked-beans-with-lincolnshire-style-meat-free-sausages/) in a tin received a lot of publicity when they first went on sale, their new Meatballs in a Bolognese Sauce and Baked Beans with Vegan Burgers were released quietly on to the market – but they have been noticed by vegans lucky enough to have an independent health food shop nearby. I am such a vegan

Suma is one of the biggest ethical companies in the UK, so I’m always pleased to sample their products and support their business.

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The meatballs excited me most as I love vegan meatballs and often have them with pasta.

These make it quick and easy to cook such a dinner. You simply heat through and throw it on the pasta – taking care not to splash it all over your white shirt of course.

They do have that food in a tin taste – it’s hard to explain, but I swear it is a thing. The meatballs are nothing spectacular, but they are nice – just not overly spiced. You can solve that by throwing a few chilli flakes into the sauce yourself – I added some veg to bulk it out because you can’t have pasta without mushrooms. But those who dislike spicy food will be pleased with them as they are.

The Bolognese sauce has hints of tomato – which shouldn’t really come as a surprise, and it works. The meatballs are small – but they come trapped in a tin, so what do you expect until they invent Tardis tins?

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The same goes for the burgers – they’re more like baby birds with awesome baked beans. In fact, the baby burgers’ ingredients don’t differ greatly from the meatball ingredients, but I preferred the Bolognese sauce to compliment them over the baked beans. The beans come in a rich sauce and the burger bites are meaty and not overly spiced, but they’re nice – just not as enjoyable as the Vegan Sausages and Baked Beans – but nothing in a tin comes close to that!

What this does do is give students, those in a hurry and vegan campers a choice of three different meals in a tin and that has to be a good thing.

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Baked Beans with Vegan Burgers ingredients
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Vegan Meatballs in Bolognese Sauce ingredients

http://www.suma.coop/

Peterborough’s Vegan Christmas Fair

Thrive pic

If writing a blog isn’t self-indulgent enough, I am now going to blog about something I’m helping to organise – the ultimate in self-indulgent blogging – and I’m not sorry.

Peterborough (UK) has a thriving vegan scene and, come November, it’s going to have a thriving Vegan Christmas Festival. Not only is this the city’s first Christmas Vegan Festival, but it’s also the city’s first vegan Festival or fair full stop.

In short, this is the biggest vegan event in Peterborough so far – and I’m helping to organise it – so, of course, I’m going to shout about it.

It will be held at the Fleet – a community centre in Fletton, one of Peterborough’s townships – on Sunday, November 25, 2018, from 10am until 5pm and, hopefully thereafter.

There will be stalls – lots of stalls, from independent traders to larger, more established vegan companies, workshops and speakers. You can register to book a stall by emailing Peterboroughvegans@gmail.com with the subject line Vegan Fair Stalls detailing the type of business (independent, a sole trader, or an established firm), what you will sell and a contact name and phone number.

The idea was put together by Kim Coley, who runs the city’s Soul Happy Wellness Centre (soulhappy.org.uk) which hosts the Peterborough Vegetarian and Vegan Group’s (https://www.facebook.com/PeterboroughVeg) monthly Food share (despite the name, all the food is vegan) – Kim and I run the group – or help to run it, all the members have a say in what we do and how we do it.

We decided that towns much smaller than our (albeit baby) city were hosting vegan events, so we should too. After all, Peterborough is very central, has fantastic transport links and the venue itself has a large car park.

Peterborough already has Resist Vegan Kitchen (https://www.facebook.com/resistvegankitchen/) serving vegan street food from its base at the Ostrich Pub (https://www.facebook.com/ostrichinn/) a very vegan-friendly bar. Resist also cater at many events in the area. I’ve blogged about them before (https://veganonadesertisland.com/2017/10/29/vegan-pop-up-kitchen-with-punk-ethics/ )

There is also a new jazz bar/vegan restaurant in the city ( https://www.facebook.com/WhenPollyMetFergie/ ) and a new stall providing vegan street food is heading for the city market ( https://www.facebook.com/bekindkitchenvegan/ ) and let’s not forget Backyard Food (https://www.facebook.com/backyardfoodpeterborough/ ) a small shop at the Green Backyard community garden selling eco-friendly stuff for the house, body and belly. I bought vegan cookies from there today.

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Cookies and crisps from Backyard Food

Anyway, a small group of us from the vegan group is helping to organise this vegan extravaganza and as we put it together we will be on the lookout for volunteers, suggestions and any help in publicising the event.

Jodie has already designed the awesome event poster/banner.

We look forward to seeing you there.

Iceland’s vegan gamechanger

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Iceland has launched its extended range of vegan products in the UK.

What’s more, most of them are a pocket-friendly £2 a pack. Couple this with the chains pledge to eliminate plastic packaging from all its own products (https://www.theguardian.com/business/2018/jan/15/iceland-vows-to-eliminate-plastic-on-all-own-branded-products) and Iceland is probably the most vegan of all the supermarket chains right now.

Don’t get me wrong, I personally still champion independent shops over big chains – Backyard food in Peterborough (https://www.facebook.com/backyardfoodpeterborough) and Holbeach Wholefoods (https://www.facebook.com/Holbeach-Wholefoods-129572517136021/) being the two which spring to mind for me – but many vegans still like convenience and use supermarkets – and I’d be lying if I said I was supermarket-free. Plus, actually, these new products excite my taste buds in wonderful and exciting ways.

 

Yes, vegans are everywhere, the big brands are taking notice – the rest of you might as well give in and join us.

In fact, the new range is so extensive I couldn’t buy everything in one go – so, if you wish to review any of the missing products, feel free to comment below.

I reviewed the original No Bull Burgers when they were introduced (https://veganonadesertisland.com/2018/04/09/no-bull-its-a-bloody-vegan-burger/) – and they have become more popular than cat pictures on Facebook.

So, what does Iceland have to offer?

No Bull Tofu Burgers (£2)

No Porkies Sausages (£2)

No Bull Asian Burgers (£2)

No Chick Fillets (£2)

No Bull ‘Meat’ Balls (£2)

No Porkies Chorizo Slices (£2)

Not reviewed here:

No Chick Vegan Paella (£2)

No Bull Vegan Mince (£3.50)

No Bull Jalapeno Burgers (£2)

No Bull Green Vegetable Balls (£2)

No Bull Vegan Chilli and Rice (£2)

No Chick Vegan Strips (£3.50)

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Wow – that’s some choice, right?

Of those I’ve bought, the sausages and meatballs are both wheat-free and all can be pan-fried in less than 10 minutes – so they’re brilliant for a quick meal. You can oven cook any of them as a healthier alternative – but I didn’t become vegan for my health.

So, what do they taste like?

The No Porkies Chorizo Slices have a nice texture, they crisp up very quickly in the frying pan and have a pleasant taste and texture – they’re a little crunchy if you fry them well! The taste is very distinctive, but not overly spicy – they don’t pack a strong punch, more of a child-like jab – but that means the aftertaste is surprisingly pleasant too. I think they work well cold as a sandwich filling too – especially with Vegenaise. The spicy kick is actually more prevalent when they’re eaten cold and Vegenaise counters that perfectly. They would also work perfectly as a vegan pizza topping.

Onto the bangers, No Porkies Sausages are smaller than many vegan sausages, but they cook more quickly and do taste better than many brands. Taste-wise, they’re not a million miles away from Linda McCartney’s classic sausages. They’re mildly spiced and don’t leave an aftertaste. Linda McCartney’s sausages are often seen as the go-to vegan product, so the fact these are in the same ballpark is no mean feat.

The No Bull ‘Meat’ Balls are divine! Yes, they are smaller than some other balls, but size isn’t everything! Like the little sausages, they cook very quickly and these have a very meaty taste to them, again they are not over spiced and so have no strong aftertaste. They are very moreish and their size means they’d work perfectly in pasta sauce with spaghetti.

But, the No Bull Asian Burgers are glorious. The chewy texture, the spicy – but not too hot taste and the not too evasive aftertaste all combine to make these utterly delightful. There isn’t much more I can say really – just try them, they will make your taste buds thank you.

Just as delicious are the No Chick Fillets. These totally wowed me and I wasn’t prepared for how nice they are. I believe they do taste like chicken – although I can’t actually remember what chicken tastes like. Again, they have a taste all of their own – and what a wonderful taste it is. Unlike the Asian burgers, they are not spicy, but the crunchy coating works brilliantly with the delectable, chewy body of the fillet.

No Bull’s Tofu Burgers are, like all of the burgers in that range, bulky and filling. However, tofu can be a bit bland, and these are no exception, despite the presence of a few vegetables. The exterior tastes nice and means all is not lost. They are not horrible, they are just not as memorable as the other offerings from Iceland.
They don’t fall apart like some tofu products, but they are still my least favourite of the products reviewed.

One thing to note is that, as with the original No Bull Burgers, it’s advisable to cook them for the maximum time mentioned – at least.

https://groceries.iceland.co.uk/frozen/vegetarian/c/FRZVGT?q=:relevance

 

My vegan journey – a blogger’s story

It’s quite an egotistical thing to write about yourself I guess.

But writing a blog in itself is a bit self-indulgent, so I thought I’d explain a bit about how I came to be a vegan on a desert island.

My journey began before the internet – yes, people did exist before social networking, and people were actually able to think for themselves – although networking, marketing and sharing news and ideas took a bit longer, there was more actual talking to people face to face.

You see, not all vegans hate people. It’s true that some people do indeed suck, but not all of them. I like to shy away from huge generalisations, social media has been awesome in that it helps to spread the message, but the online bullying of vegans (sometimes by other vegans) has been very demoralising.

I digress.

I don’t know when I turned vegan. This is a shocking revelation in itself in the days of Veganversaries, but it’s true. I know I was somewhere between 28 and 30 at the time, but that’s as near as I can get,

Sorry. It just happened and so I didn’t really think about it. I’m 46 as I write this though, I do remember that.

I also remember turning vegetarian. I was 16, so it was the September of 1988. I know this because I had just started college in Boston. I was shy (I’m still very shy and get crippling anxiety in social situations – if I have to walk in a pub/party alone, I sometimes don’t turn up), quiet, unpolitical and not at all punk rock – although I did like Napalm Death.

Anyway, one of my new friends was vegetarian. He took us into the college library and put on a video tape (ask your mum) about the ALF (Animal Liberation Front). I went home and said I was vegetarian. That simple.

Friday was chppy tea night, so that night I had a big bag of chips instead of fish and chips.

And that was it. There was, and still is, a health food shop in Holbeach (the rural town in which I grew up), but supermarkets, in general, sold very little in the way of vegetarian food. I remember dried packets of Vegetarian Casseroles and Stroganoff and Lind McCartney did veggie pasties as well as pies. Dried soya chunks were the only real meat substitute.

I tried the one brand of soya milk available in the shop – it was horrible and that put me off veganism for the time being. Although, I do remember one of my father’s non-veggie friends asking me why I ate eggs when they contained baby chickens. I didn’t have an answer.

As a kid, we used to play games around being shipwrecked on a desert island – I think Robinson Crusoe type films were popular at the time. We made bows and arrows out of sticks. I remember only wanting to pretend to kill old and infirm animals to eat while “surviving”. Now I’d probably live off nuts, berries, roots and plants.

Also, the pioneering animal rights film The Animals Film (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Animals_Film) was shown around this time. Not only is this film better than all other animal rights films in my view, it included the Animal Liberation Front and hunt saboteurs in it as well as scenes of animal abuse, it was actually shown on mainstream television. Yes, it was part of Channel 4’s third night of transmission in 1982. So, this could have been the film (or part of it) I saw in the library – I may have taken it out on loan, or I may have seen a repeat – I can’t quite remember – obviously, I was only 10 when it was broadcast.

So how did I make the transition from vegetarian to vegan?

I just thought about it.

I remember I was living in Louth, in Lincolnshire at the time. There was a health food co-operative nearby and vegan food was becoming more readily available – although I started buying punk vegan recipe books. I loved anarcho-punk, and bands like Conflict and Subhumans had strong animal rights messages in their lyrics so that helped. But there was no social media. However, I know that part of my thought process centred around how it was unnatural to drink the milk of another species.

People kept saying to me “it’s natural to meat”, yet how could nicking milk from a calf be natural? So, in a way, meat-eaters turned me vegan.

And that was it. Did I stray? Yes, a couple of times by accident, and in New York when I struggled to find vegan food – but I wouldn’t now, and I am glad it’s so easy to spread the message and help people go vegan. Outreach is very important.

The title of my blog, while referring to the old cliché vegans often hear, “what would you do if you were stranded on a desert island?”, is also relevant in that my change and transition was a solo journey – as if my mind was on a desert island.

 

I’d rather jack – the meat substitute that’s actually a fruit

Pulled jackfruit sandwhich

Jackfruit has been heralded as the king of vegan meat substitutes for a while now.

But, more recently, I’ve noticed that the humble tin named “Jack” has gone mainstream. Yes, no longer is this delight solely found hiding in the corner of your local Asian food shop, but now it’s found its way on to the shelves of the supermarket giants too.

But what exactly is it?

Well, Jackfruit is a relative of the fig and it grows in the tropical bits of Southeast Asia, Brazil and Africa. It also holds the honour as the national fruit of Bangladesh and Sri Lanka and the state fruit (whatever that means) of the Indian states of Kerala and Tamil Nadu.

The flesh of the fruit is a starchy source of dietary fibre. Its pulp is composed of 74% water, 23% carbohydrates, 2% protein, and 1% fat. So now you know! According to Wiki (so it must be true), a 100-g portion of raw jackfruit gives you 400 kJ (95 kcal) and it’s a rich source of vitamin B6. It also contains moderate levels (10-19% DV) of vitamin C and potassium.

Unlike animal sources of protein, jackfruit contains no saturated fat or cholesterol, it’s light in sodium, and is also low in calories – so, in short, it’s better for you than meat!

Despite looking like a giant testicle and being a “fruit”, it is an amazing meat substitute – and a natural one at that, mainly because, while relatively tasteless, it is awesome at absorbing other flavours – so marinade and spice it up until your heart’s content.

Recently, our mate Jack the Fruit has become available at more and more takeaways and restaurants as the vegan option – and this is great news for those of us bored with veggie burgers and chips.

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You can even buy pre-prepared jackfruit as a processed vegan food at Sainsbury’s now if you prefer the lazy, over-packaged option. But, hey, I guess it’s offering up more options to the vegans out there who struggle with the recipe for beans on toast.

However, sweet and savoury don’t mix – ask those who hate pineapple on a pizza – so make sure you get the young green jackfruit in brine, not the one in syrup – although, I’m told jackfruit does work well as a dessert – I guess most fruits do (except tomatoes – tomatoes and custard is just wrong). I shouldn’t be too harsh on supermarkets though, jackfruit, to me, deserves its tasty reputation, whereas that other vegan darling – the avocado is a tad overrated (the thing is 40% skin and 30% stone for crying out loud).

Gareth, from Peterborough-based Resist! Vegan Kitchen told me: “We use Jackfruit in our menu as most of our alternatives and items are gluten-based so this allows us a gluten-free option that does the job perfectly.”

This is a valid point in a world (including my world, it has to be said) that’s gone seitan crazy, the humble jackfruit flies to the rescue of the gluten intolerant.

So, what do you do with it?

Well, I drain it, wash it, boil it for 45 minutes, boil it again in fresh water for another 30 minutes and leave it to marinate in a mixture of spices and barbecue sauce and then fry it with onions and mushrooms in a little more barbecue sauce for a few minutes and then eat it in a roll.

However, there are a number of recipes out there, but I like Resist!’s BBQ Jackfruit, and now Gareth has exclusively revealed the secret to how to cook jackfruit to perfection to the readers of veganonadesertisland.

Resist logo

Resist! Slow cooked BBQ Jackfruit

Ingredients

  • 2 cans of green or young Jackfruit (rinsed and roughly chopped)
  • 2 tsp olive oil (and extra for the frying)
  • 1 tsp Cumin
  • 1 tbsp Brown sugar
  • 1 tsp Salt
  • 1 tsp Smoked paprika
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1 yellow onion
  • 3 garlic cloves (crushed and pulled apart only)
  • 1 1/2 cups vegetable stock (gluten-free if required)
  • 1 tsp vegan Worcestershire sauce
  • 60ml apple cider vinegar
  • A couple drops of liquid smoke
  • 170ml of your choice beer/lager (gluten-free if required)
  • 240ml of your favourite bought BBQ sauce (we use homemade)

Method

Toss the Jackfruit, salt, pepper, cumin, paprika, brown sugar and olive oil in a bowl and leave for 5 minutes.

Heat the extra oil in a large pan, wok or whatever large metal thing you want to cook in.

Add the Jackfruit mix, garlic and onion. Cook the jackfruit on one side for 5 minutes until it’s lightly brown and then repeat on the other side.

Pour in the liquids (Vegetable stock, Worcestershire sauce, cider vinegar, liquid smoke and beer).

Cover and simmer on a medium heat for 90 minutes, or until all the liquid has been absorbed.

Using a fork or wooden spoon, break up the Jackfruit to appear ‘pulled’, or roughly mashed as we say in the ghetto.

Preheat your oven to 190 degrees.

Spread the jackfruit mixture across a lightly oiled (or non-stick) oven tray and bake for 20 minutes.

Remove and cover the jackfruit with half the BBQ sauce, mix in and spread out again and cook for a further 20mins until the edges start to become blackened.

Give it another mix and cook for a further 10 minutes.

While waiting, think to yourself how the letter ‘A’ doesn’t appear in any number until one hundred and one.

Remove from the oven (the jackfruit, not the letter “A”).

Pour the cooked jackfruit into a bowl and cover with the remaining BBQ sauce (add more if required).

Add slaw or whatever topping you require.

Now throw some of the cooked mix into a fresh sub or baguette and toss it into your gaping jaws!

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Resist! Vegan Kitchen at The Ostrich Pub, in Peterborough, UK. Photo by Gareth Ellison of Resist! Vegan Kitchen

Vegan in the meat aisle

My initial reaction to the news that Sainsbury’s would be stocking new vegan products in the meat aisle was one of overwhelming cynicism.

In Australia, when a similar idea was tried, the country’s MPs actually hit out at the plan – https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2018/jun/18/not-mincing-words-nationals-denounce-vegetarian-product-in-meat-aisle

The UK saw the move debated on vegan forums, and I was adamant that I didn’t want to go for a walk down the aisle of death – a place I had never actually frequented in my life (I was still living with my parents when I became vegetarian 30 years ago), but I’m not the intended audience for these new products.

It has been well documented that the number of vegans has exploded in the UK and worldwide over the past few years – and, I guess, many of those will miss meat. Therefore, companies have been striving to make vegan products as “meaty” as possible.

Fair enough, but will it tempt meat-eaters back to their old ways? Personally, I doubt it – and maybe that’s the idea behind this – a little bit of compassion in the aisle of death can’t be a bad thing, can it? Many people who turn vegan don’t dislike the taste and texture of meat, they just dislike the fact that living beings are killed unnecessarily in order to provide it – surely, this must cater for such vegans? But will stocking it in the meat aisle alienate long-term vegans? I guess that’s up to the individual, but it is a possibility.

Iceland was the first supermarket here in the UK to introduce a “bleeding” vegan burger with their No Bull patties (https://veganonadesertisland.com/2018/04/09/no-bull-its-a-bloody-vegan-burger/)

Personally, I love the No Bull taste and texture, but, as I said in the review at the time, I can’t actually remember what meat tastes like, so I have no idea how “authentic” they are. Iceland stock these with the rest of the vegetarian products.

Baps

How did I find the new Sainsbury’s range? Well, I held my nose, held my breath and walked down the meat aisle. Luckily, I came across the Naturli burgers very quickly – there wasn’t many left and no mince left at all – as you can probably tell from the main picture. At £2.25 for two pretty big patties, they aren’t badly priced – but they did stick out like a cat in a dog show. All on their lonesome in the middle of what, to vegans, is a graveyard of animal corpses, were two bright rays of (reddish) hope. I popped them in my trolley and made a dash for the safety of the vegetable aisle – a rainbow of delights to counteract my trip to the dark side.

Would I put myself through this again? Possibly. I still prefer the No Bull burgers, but these are very good. They look like meat, cook very quickly (a huge advantage over No Bull) and they fill you up at £1.12 and a half pence each. I am old enough to remember when a half pence coin was actually a thing.

They are not strongly seasoned and have a rustic feel to them – which I guess means they’re pretty “burger-like”, it also means they go well with burger relish, vegan cheese and fried onions. It also means they will probably work brilliantly on a barbecue.

The fact they are not strongly flavoured doesn’t mean they are bland and does mean that I would recommend them for younger or less adventurous palates. This is the point really isn’t it? People who are cynical about veganism may be persuaded to give them a go. Maybe that’s what got the farmers in Australia so riled up?

It’s a shame I couldn’t try the mince, but, to be honest, they are plenty of vegan minces out there and I tend to use they in spag bog, so the authenticity of the original taste would probably be lost on me – but if anybody else wishes to share their thoughts on that, please feel free.

Pack

Ingredients

E’s are good, E’s are bad

When it comes to animal ingredients, the increase in the use of “suitable for vegans” label has certainly made things easier while shopping.

However, where things are not labelled in such a helpful manner, it’s the additives that make our lives more difficult – especially if, like me, you have a sweet tooth.

If you look at the list of E-numbers in food, it’s impossible to remember every single one and know exactly what they all are. And it’s quite often things like sweets that they’re likely to live inside – things that are more likely to lack informative labelling.

Thankfully, the list of definitely animal-derived E-numbers is relatively short. Sadly, the same cannot be said for the “might be animal-derived” list – which can make things a bit tricky.

The ones to definitely avoid are:

E120 – Carmine Dye – it comes from crushed up Cochineal Beetles and is used as a red food dye.
E441 – Gelatine – from ground animal bones and skin – one to look out for in sweets.
E542 – Edible Bone Phosphate – What it says really, ground up animal bones that helps keep food moist.
E901 – Beeswax – Used as a glazing agent – it’s wax made by bees.
E904 – Shellac – Another glazing agent – this time secreted by the Lac Bug
E913 – Lanolin –  sheep wool grease  – lovely right? It’s often used as Vitamin D3 (confusingly, there are vegan sources of that too). Look out for it in make-up, vitamin pills and anything fortified too.
E910, E920 and E921 – L-cysteine – You can find these evil triplets in bread. It’s made from animal hair and feathers (yummy, right?). Apparently, they’re used as a proving (or raising) agent”
E966 – Lactitol – As its name suggests, this one comes from milk. It is often used as a sweetener.

This list of those which may be animal-derived is much more extensive – hence why things become so complicated.

E101/E101a, E104, E153, E160a, E161b, E161g, E236, E237, E238, E252, E270, E304, E322, E325, E326, E327, E422, E430 – E436, E442, E445, E470a & b, E471, E472a-f, E473 – E77, E479b, E481 – E483, E491 – E495, E570, E572, E585, E627, E631, E635, E640, E920, E966, E1105, and E1518.

A lot of them isn’t there? A rule of thumb would be to air on the side of caution if there’s no vegetarian/vegan label – it can also help to look at the allergens list as many would fall under that category. There is also a good guide to E-numbers at http://ukfoodguide.net/enumeric.htm

One of the alarming things which come from looking at that list is the number of E-numbers banned in certain countries. That, to me, suggests that avoiding them altogether – whether animal-derived or not – may not be a bad thing. There is certainly evidence that many of them provoke adverse reactions in some children and adults.

 

Let’s go (coco) nuts for vegan cheese

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I remember when Sainsbury’s launched their range of vegan cheeses

(reviewed here – https://veganonadesertisland.com/2016/10/02/the-great-gary-review/ ) that they were marketed as being based around coconut oil, so it’s only natural that Koko – a company specialising in a coconut milk alternative – should launch their own “cheese”.

The two new offerings – a cheddar alternative and a soft/cream cheese are available in Waitrose’s new dedicated vegan section – it’s all on special offer at the time of writing – so get in there quick!

Coconut is healthy and, of course, cruelty-free, so seeing more products swell the continuously growing vegan market is great – and a dedicated vegan section in a mainstream supermarket – well, that’s just wow!

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The soft cheese is indeed very soft – which means it spreads with ease without tearing up your bread. There is a coconut smell around both products. This should have come as no surprise really, but it does distract a little from the savoury nature of the food on offer.

However, once spread, there seems to be no coconut taste at all – or any taste really.

Yes, I’m afraid it’s a little bland for my palate. It isn’t horrible, and it goes quite well on toast – it just lacks that “wow my taste buds are having a party in my mouth” factor.

I can imagine it’s a good way to jazz up a jacket spud or add to a pasta dish. As it is, I prefer the Tesco spreadable cheeses on my toast in the morning.

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The cheddar though is a different story.

At last, a vegan “cheese” that doesn’t come in a plastic coffin – full marks to Koko for this most basic of packaging success (the soft cheese comes in a recyclable pot too) and it also helps with actually getting at the product and storing it for future use – if you haven’t devoured the block in one gulp anyway.

It also slices easily. It doesn’t crumble in a frustrating manner like many vegan cheeses, but it slices effortlessly – ten out of ten for that too Koko.

Taste-wise, there is an air of coconut around this one, but there’s a noticeably stronger taste than many of its competitors and, dare I say, it has more of a “cheddary” taste about it (how I would imagine cheddar to taste anyway). In other words, it has a nice strength. It has a distinctive flavour, something other cheeses usually only achieve by flavouring the product with chilli, caramelised onion etc.

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It isn’t a “knock you out” wow taste, but it is nice and distinctive. It also possesses a nice creamy texture. It isn’t too hard, not too soft and it works perfectly in a cheese and tomato roll.

But the big question is: Does it melt?

In a word, yes.

Although it appears to “split” a little when grilled, it does melt properly and, in doing so, the flavour is really pushed to the fore. The slight coconut smell is still there, but, for me, it’s the perfect vegan cheese on toast.

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So, how much does it cost?

Well, normally the cheddar is £2.29 for a 200g pack and the cream cheese £1.99 for a 150g pot.

https://www.kokodairyfree.com/

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Wagamama’s new vegan dishes reviewed

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Wagamama’s vegatsu curry has been making waves in vegan circles – so I was excited to try it when I was invited to the Peterborough branch on behalf of the Peterborough Vegan Group.

My partner in vegan admin crime and I actually tried the whole vegan menu – but I’ve reviewed the kare burosu, yasai steamed gyoza and dessert in a previous blog – https://veganonadesertisland.com/2017/11/26/a-vegan-meal-out-at-wagamama-food-review/

It must also be said that the yasai katsu curry is newly vegan on the menu – originally, the salad dressing meant it wasn’t – that has been replaced with seasoning.

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The harusame glass noodle salad is also new to the menu – don’t worry, the noodles aren’t made of real glass.

It must be said that Wagamama has the Vegan Society accreditation – this is only possible through having a separate vegan fryer in the kitchen. When dishes are ordered they actually flash up white, green for veggie or orange for vegan on the kitchen’s order screen.

I love how the vegatsu and the mixed mushroom and panko aubergine hirata steamed buns are marked with a “vegan hero” symbol – both actually tasted heroic -although, I do wish they would use capital letters on the menu – as a former sub-editor, this offends me greatly (even if the food still rocks).

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I actually fell madly and passionately in love with the, now vegan, the mixed mushroom and panko aubergine hirata steamed buns (£5.50) as a starter. As a huge mushroom fiend (I love them – I’m not a monster with a fungi head), these were always going to appeal to me – but the buns are so soft that they just melt in one’s mouth. They are stunning.

The edamame beans (£4.50) and wok-fried greens (£4.50) are also fine – but not as fine as mushrooms or dumplings (previous blog again).

We washed these down with the new nix and kix (£2.75) drinks – the cucumber and mint tasted predominantly of cucumber and the mango and ginger of mango – so, I preferred the latter. Both contain cayenne pepper to boost the metabolism – you couldn’t taste this though. All 163 Wagamama branches now use paper straws, incidentally, so there’s no damage to the environment here.

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So, how was the vegasu (£10.75)? Pretty damn fine actually. I sold my soul to seitan a while ago and the devilish wedding between the gluten steaks and panko (Japanese breadcrumbs) works well here. The diner is served up a satisfying crunch before they taste the tender delights of seitan. The mound of sticky rice and mild curry (think chip shop curry sauce with class) and accompanying salad (a pleasant light vinegar hit) complete this dish.

A dish not to be upstaged? I thought so until I tried the yasai katsu curry (£9.75). The dish is a replica of the vegasu, except, instead of seitan, you get sweet potato, aubergine and butternut squash dressed in a coat of golden panko. And it works a treat.

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The soft veg compliments the panko gloriously, again working with the rest of the flavours on the plate to serve up a divine dish.

A mixture of flour, water and oil is used to coat the veg or seitan in order to make the panko stick, incidentally, thus veganising the dish.

 

The other new dish, harusame glass noodle salad (£9.50) comes with nice firm tofu, light noodles and a delicate vinegar hit. Again, this works well, especially in the summer months (what we get of them in the UK), and it’s nice to try tofu that actually has some flavour to it.

Elsewhere on the menu, the yasai pad thai (£9.95) is now vegan thanks to the use of rice noodles. The lime taste shines through here and I adore the fresh coriander leaves. This one uses silky tofu and has a nice sticky texture to it.

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The yasai yaki soba (£8.75) has a wonderful ginger hit – and the fried shallot garnish works a treat for me – I like onions almost as much as I like mushrooms! The substantial wheat noodles are a joy to devour too.

If you like things a little spicier, you could do worse than the yasai itame (£10.75). This contains a strong chilli kick and a lovely taste of coconut. The two work very well together to create a “wow factor”. This soup contains chunks of tofu and veg including bok choi – an underrated vegetable in my view.

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It would have been rude not to try the saki as they’re both vegan-friendly. The sho chiku bai (12%) is the cheaper option (£3.50)  and the mio (5%) is equally as nice, but more than twice as expensive (£7.25). Both a light and deceptively mild, although the former does have a strong alcoholic kick. The latter is a sparkling wine equivalent and is actually more refreshing and palatable than it’s more alcoholic sister.

I guess my only complaint is that I’d like to see more choice on the dessert front. While the two sorbets on offer are very nice, a more indulgent vegan offering wouldn’t go amiss.

But, in a city such as Peterborough, which lacks a fully vegan restaurant, the expanding range available at Wagamama is very welcome indeed. They also offer takeaway and delivery services.

https://www.wagamama.com/

 

Don’t get bitten or burnt this summer

Going on holiday this year? Head down to Holland and Barrett and grab some incognito protection. I first noticed the brand last summer before one of my walks in the Fens.

incognito is launching a new improved Second Skin Suncream this month (May). According to the company “the newly formulated triple action 3-in-1 sun cream, insect repellent and moisturiser now provides SPF 30 UVA and UVB (broad-spectrum) protection and is clinically tested to be 100% effective for over 5 hours against mosquitoes that can carry dengue, chikungunya and Zika.”

Sounds good – and a bit scientific, eh?

When holidaying or travelling, the best way to be protected is to use an insect repellent to deter mosquitoes and other biting things combined with a sun cream as protection against being zaped with cancer-causing sun blasts.

incognito Second Skin Suncream Repellent is a triple action, 3-in-1 sun cream, insect repellent and moisturiser that provides SPF 30 UVA and UVB protection, naturally. It is also water resistant – so you can go wild swimming in it too and be totally natural!

incognito CEO Howard Carter comments: “We are amazed at our new suncream insect repellent.  We have listened to feedback on our SPF25 and have improved the formulation so it’s now even more effective and has a higher SPF. Uniquely, it also provides 100% protection from mosquitoes for over 5 hours and 88% after 8 hours according to scientific testing. These are hitherto unheard of results and Team incognito are very proud.”

The cream has a non-greasy formulation with a citrus fragrance and is suitable for children aged 2+. It is COSMOS natural certified, assuring quality, plant-based, non-GM, irritant-free ingredients, and no animal testing. The active-ingredient, PMD, is recommended by WHO, NHS, Public Health England, NaTHNaC and, and is the same as that used in the incognito spray and roll-on.

An added benefit is that it helps lighten the load, with three products in one saving you luggage space. Plus it works in conjunction with the other products in the range; incognito Second Skin Moisturiser/after sun and Hair & Body Wash. Using complementary skin care products means there are no competing fragrances and smells which could negate the effects of the repellent.

The Suncream is packaged in renewable source sugarcane plastic, which significantly eliminates the carbon footprint of the product – every kilogram produced prevents 4.6kg of carbon dioxide entering the atmosphere. It is produced by an ethical and environmentally conscious company that donates 10% of its profits to charity, such as Enactus Edinburgh projects, Bethsaida Hermitage, and partners with the Travel Foundation charity.

incognito Second Skin Suncream retails at £25 for a 150ml tube. It will be available from Waitrose, Holland & Barrett, independent chemists and health stores, on 020 7792 8687 and from www.lessmosquito.com

Ingredients:Aqua (water), caprylic/capric triglyceride, zinc oxide, PMD (eucalyptus maculata citriodora), sorbitan laurate, propanediol, glycerine (organic), isostearyl isostearate, polyhydroxystearic acid, titanium dioxide, polyglyceryl-4 laurate/succinate, tocopheryl acetate, magnesium aluminium silicate, decyl isostearate, aloe barbadensis (aloe vera) leaf extract (organic), leontopodium alpinium (edelweiss) extract, pelargonium graveolens (geranium) oil (organic), isostearic acid, aluminium stearate, alumina, xanthan gum, citric acid, dehydroacetic acid, benzyl alcohol, sodium benzoate, potassium sorbate, citral, geraniol, linalool, citronellol, limonene. All blended together in a unique secret process.

incognito Factor 30 Second Skin Suncream Lifestyle 6