Iceland’s Veganuary Gamechangers

The amount of vegan product launches just in the first week of January 2020 has been utterly overwhelming.

As higher numbers than ever take up Veganuary, one must congratulate the marketing staff at the UK’s major food outlets – the vegan pound now has substantial power.

But it was the release of Iceland’s No Cheese pasties which excited this seasoned vegan most of all.

As someone who is currently financially challenged, the bargain-basement products and the old fashion notion of cooking from scratch have never appealed more, but, for a treat, this “must-have” item appeared in my social media feed last week.

I remember my time as a vegetarian (many of us were one once) catching the train home to Leicester and stopping at the chippy on the way home for a cheese and onion pasty and chips.

Ironically, around four years ago, it was in that very city that I was able to finally taste a vegan version of said delight. I can’t remember the name of the independent shop which sold me this cooked delicacy, but I was very impressed indeed – I wanted more.

Fast forward to 2020, and Iceland promises to end my search for the perfect partner to accompany the lonely chips on my plate.

My first attempt failed, there was none left in my local branch. However, gut-crushing disappointment was lifted with a beckon of light in the shape of No Bull Steaks – they had mushroom steaks. My excitement levels went through the roof – I just had to try those too!

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And I wasn’t disappointed. As far as meat-replacement products go, they are the best I’ve tried so far. The fact that I’m an absolute mushroom fiend may help. Although the length of the ingredient list may put some off, the darkness of the “meat”, the rich flavour and the distinctive hit of mushroom will please others like myself. Dab on some English mustard and drown it in gravy and you have the perfect star of a roast dinner.

Again, as a vegetarian, I remember some rather tasty Linda McCartney fake meat steaks – but I haven’t seen those in years and I have found nothing similar to them over the years, until now.

My only criticism is that they are not very big, so my advice would be to have a whole packet to yourself.

Anyway, back to the cheese and onion pasty. As an aside, I will mention that I’m not putting exclamation marks around cheese or steak, because it annoys those who continually comment “it can’t be steak if it isn’t meat” or “vegan cheese isn’t really cheese”. I doubt many of these self-appointed guardians of the English language actually take their “expertise” any further down the supermarket aisle than the vegan section.

The pasty is nice. I have no idea why Iceland has stripped the onion part of the product from the title, but I can assure you that they are very much present – in fact, they are the only lumpy bits inside. Yes, there could be more, but crumbs, the powerful cheese flavour is utterly divine.

Iceland No Cheese Pasty cooked

You must be careful though, the sauce which fills the inside of the pastie can scold your tongue in a volcanic burst of molten vegan cheese. You do not want your taste buds burnt to a cinder, believe me, they need to experience the immense power of the flavour which makes this product a must-buy. For me at least.

Now, the ultimate test of a good pasty is how it tastes cold.

No-one can resist a cold pasty in their lunchbox, and I’m pleased to say that these more than do the job.

The cheese may remain runny, which is a little disappointing, but the taste remains solid, just be careful if you’re eating it while wearing a new tie!

I must add, that it’s nice to see the addition of the No Yolk mayos on Iceland’s shelves too, they really have upped their vegan game once again.

Vegans take over the world

As we race into 2020 and another promising start to Veganuary, it seems that retailers are falling over themselves in a bid to get some of the vegan pounds – especially since 300,000 people have signed up to take part this year. That’s in addition to the vegan army already marching through the world’s supermarket aisles.

With Greggs receiving most of the publicity in the new year for their Vegan Steak Bake the predictable response on every Facebook thread was “It’s not a steak bake if it’s vegan”. One would think that non-vegans are becoming seriously obsessed with all things vegan – their displeasure is seriously good publicity though, I think Piers Morgan alone drove Greggs Vegan Sausage Roll Success Van.

Iceland Vegan Products

For me personally, it was the Iceland Vegan Cheese and Onion Pastie I was most excited about. As a vegan of 20 years, that is the thing I still miss and I was heartbroken that my local branch had sold out this afternoon. I had one from an independent vegan shop in Leicester a few years ago and that one was divine, so I’m hoping for more of the same from Iceland. I did notice, however, they now have No Yolk Vegan Mayo and Piri Piri Mayo, which I can’t wait to try and they’ve added mushroom steaks to the range too. Mushrooms are my favourite food in the world – so I’m excited about these too.

In the battle for publicity pixels, KFC has been biting hard at Gregg’s heels with their Vegan Chicken Burger. And, while this means that young vegans can eat fast food with their meat-eating friends without feeling left out, it also provokes fierce debate on vegan forums. Personally, I’d never eat in KFC or McDonalds, their direct link to the meat industry makes it hard for me to stomach, but not all vegans agree with me.

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Something else which excited me was the Tofish and Chips addition to MArks & Spencer’s Plant Kitchen range, Sadly the vegan fish is tasteless and you get about seven chips with it. I had half a packet of their Dirty Fries with the meal too and I was still left wanting more. Some vegan meals are better than others.

It does seem much easier to eat a vegan diet these days, but it’s also much easier to live on processed food alone. This article is about the mass of new lines on supermarket shelves this Veganuary.

When I became vegan, you could only really get processed vegan food from the local health food shop and I’m sure many vegans cooked from scratch out of necessity. So it was the launch of Jack Monroe’s Veganish which excited me most. I’ve long been an advocate of cheap and easy vegan cooking and Jack’s recipes are absolutely spot on in that respect. Very tasty too.

I am optimistic about the growth in veganism but would like to see more people using smaller independent fully vegan traders.

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