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/

 

Cleaning up vegan style

Bathroom

Gone are the days when people used to say “you eat shoes?” when I mentioned the search for vegan-friendly footwear.

Now, it’s generally realised that being vegan goes beyond diet and means doing as little harm as possible.

I personally have been looking for more environmentally-friendly bathroom products. Plastic is killing our ocean life, so this is certainly a vegan issue. I have done away with bottled shower gel and replaced it with vegetable-based bars of soap.

I was horrified by the difficulty of finding a shaving brush not made with badger hair. In the end, I plumped for a kit from www.twaburds.co.uk I found safety razors to be very expensive, so have bought a Preserve razor for Animal Aid – it’s made from recycled materials and it helps a worthwhile cause – http://www.animalaidshop.org.uk/household/preserve-razor-triple?cPath=20 They also have a toothbrush available. http://www.animalaidshop.org.uk/household

I’ve also noticed an increase in non-packaged bath bombs and soaps at vegan markets and festivals – so it’s all good – and, of course, Lush has a great range of vegan products. Or you could make your own bath bomb – I found this recipe with a simple Ecosia (ethical alternative to Google) search – https://www.bathbombfizzle.com/blogs/news/all-natural-bath-bomb-recipe-that-is-vegan-with-essential-oil

Superdrug is great for products with the leaping bunny logo too.

Why in the 21st century are companies still testing on animals when there are so many alternatives available?

To get around EU regulations, companies test household products abroad. So, when it comes to household cleaning, it can be a dirty minefield out there.

Recently, Method and Ecover lost their Naturewatch accreditation due to a takeover by SC Johnson – who test on animals. Basically, if you buy a product, it helps to make a profit for that company’s parent company – profit which helps funds animal tests elsewhere in the business.

The good news is that it’s so easy to pick up alternatives on the High Street – Astonish is a well-known and well-loved brand of vegan cleaners – they are available in many pound shops and Asda – a full list of stockists is available here – https://www.astonishcleaners.co.uk/stockists/

There is also Marks & Spencer, Co-OP, Waitrose and Ecozone. Look for the leaping bunny symbol – but, be careful, that symbol means the company will not use any newly-derived ingredients tested on animals after a fixed date. This means testing on animals now and in the future is frowned upon.

The Compassionate Shopping Guide from Naturewatch has lists of companies which are and aren’t endorsed as being cruelty-free. Get one here – https://naturewatch.org/compassionate-shopping/compassionate-shopping-guide

Peta also have some useful PDFs available online – http://features.peta.org/cruelty-free-company-search/index.aspx

Of course, there’s still the issue of plastic packaging and chemicals – so why not make your own products? Baking soda and white vinegar are the staple ingredients of most DIY cleaners and they work very well. Simply Vegan magazine recently published a “one mix to clean them all” recipe. This included 1 cup of Castile Soap, 2 cups of purified water (filtered or boiled then cooled), 1 cup of apple cider vinegar, 1 tbsp of baking soda, juice of a lemon, 5 drops of tea tree oil, 5 drops of orange oil, 5 drops of eucalyptus oil and 5 drops of lemongrass or lemon oil all mixed together in a spray bottle.

Naturewatch also sells a household cleaners recipe book – https://naturewatch.org/compassionate-shopping/homemade-household-cleaners

There are also some good tips and recipes here – https://wellnessmama.com/6244/natural-cleaning/

I’m sure many of you have tips and recipes too – I’d love to read those.

 

No Bull, it’s a bloody vegan burger

 

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The Iceland No Bull vegan burgers were eagerly anticipated thanks to the PR machine going into overdrive on social media.

Sold as being “meat-like” and being “bloody” (well beetroot juice bloody anyway), they were marketed as vegan burgers for those who miss meat – or vegan burgers for non-vegans I guess.

I fell into the “why do you want it to look like meat?” camp when I first heard about them. But, as others pointed out online, new vegans and vegetarians may miss the texture and look of meat and want something a little more authentic than seasoned vegans such as yours truly.

 

 

Package

I do like the rustic packaging – that gives it a “meat feel” from the word go – but plain, to me, says “better for the environment” more than anything else – so that’s a thumbs-up.

I also like the ingredients list – which, for a processed food item, is pretty small really – that, to me, suggests less nasty additives, which is always a good thing.

Ingredients

At £2 for a pack of two quarter pounder burgers, the price is right too. By their size, the four to six- minute cooking time quoted on the pack is optimistic at best. I’ll try cooking them in the oven next time as there’s a real risk of burning the outside before the middle is done – I had to microwave mine to add heat.

They certainly look and taste meaty. I can’t remember what a beef burger tastes like, but I doubt it’s as good as this. It does look red too – it doesn’t exactly bleed, but it does look like a meat burger – whether this is a good or bad thing is up to the individual.

They’re both tender and succulent and they really do melt in the mouth – without falling apart while cooking – an issue with some veggie burgers.

The important thing is it’s a substantial meal and while it looks and tastes rustic, it packs a flavour punch way beyond its bargain price tag. They have a hint of spice and you can’t taste the beetroot – although I’m sure it adds to the overall flavour of the impressive meal.

I bought mine from an Iceland Food Warehouse and was impressed by their vegan selection – as well as these and the usual Linda McCartney offering, they had a few Frys and vegan Quorn products as well as the new vegan-friendly Indian range recently introduced.

A Wicked vegan pizza review

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Ever since Tesco announced a vegan marriage to Wicked Kitchen I’ve been curious to try one of the resulting offspring.

I have now had the opportunity to eat one of their babies and share my thoughts on the meal.

Vegan pizza seems to be a thing at the moment. I reviewed the very tasty Goodfellows offering here: https://veganonadesertisland.com/2018/02/25/review-goodfellas-vegan-stonebaked-falafel-pizza/ and thought it a good idea to give my loyal blog readers an opinion on a competitor.

At £4 for a 280g pizza, it’s more expensive and smaller than the falafel pizza reviewed in the link, so, I do think it’s quite a pricey offering.

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As you will see from the photo, there is a rather long ingredient list, but everything on it does seem pretty natural – although I don’t like sugar, inverted sugar syrup and black treacle all being on there – but I guess, there is an underlying sweetness to most pizzas.

I must say that, again, this is a cheeseless pizza – I will endeavour to review a pizza topped with vegan cheese in the near future.

I used to make pizza toasties as a kid – so I was intrigued by a bread base pizza. It works pretty well – it’s crispy and tastes like a normal pizza base – however, there is too much base and not enough topping for my liking – especially for four quid.

The tomato sauce is, for me, the basis of all pizzas, this product does have that, so it does taste very pizza-like – always good for a pizza.

I also like the idea of shredded king oyster mushrooms as the “meat”. I’ve seen a few posts online using this as a replacement for pulled pork – and I’m a huge fungi fan, so it’s a win-win situation for me.

The mushrooms did remind me of pulled jackfruit, so they definitely work as a meat replacement. I would have liked more of them – but I will look out for the mushrooms themselves to use in my own recipes.

The overbearing taste here is one of chilli heat. If you don’t like spicy food this pizza is definitely not for you. I actually thought the chilli distracted from the other tastes – it hid the mushroom taste too much for my liking. I like chillies – but I like mushrooms more!

But if you are a chilli fan – and plenty of people are – this pizza will definitely not disappoint.

It’s nice that we have more and more vegan options and this is a nice offering – but I still prefer the Goodfellows pizza – it’s bigger and cheaper too!

https://www.tesco.com/groceries/en-GB/products/298910498

 

Veganism doesn’t have to be expensive

As inflation rises and wages continue to stagnate the price of vegan processed food has recently become more and more noticeable to me.

I have been grateful for the fact so-called “budget” supermarkets have been embracing veganism too for this very reason – I will be visiting Iceland very soon, and I reviewed a new vegan-friendly line from Farmfoods a while ago – https://veganonadesertisland.com/2018/02/05/farmfoods-veggie-kitchen-products-reviewed/

However, of equal concern has been the rise and rise of recipes on social media that call for about 25 different ingredients – including many hard to get or quite pricey ones.

Of course, there are a few simple replacers we can use for some ingredients – vegetable oil works as well as olive oil, table salt as well as Himalayan Pink Salt and so on.

When I mentioned my concerns on Facebook, I was inundated with recipe ideas and suggestions for cheap vegan-friendly ingredients.

Obviously, I wondered about the prices of meat in comparison. I haven’t eaten animals for 30 years, so I honestly had no idea how much a body costs. I was shocked – life really is cheap. Cheese for £1 a block, 50 mini-sausage rolls for £1, a whole chicken for £3, eight tinned hot dogs for 50p…. This was all in my local Tesco Express, but no wonder people see veganism as a “middle-class thing”.

It’s easy for us to say “but isn’t it worth it to save lives?” But that’s a very patronising attitude towards someone in food poverty who is really struggling to make ends meet – the reality for many families today.

Put simply, there aren’t enough budget vegan-friendly items on sale.

Vegan-friendly ingredients, however, are another thing. Vegetables – especially if you eat seasonally (something I recommend for the good of the environment too) can be very inexpensive.

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However, the “from scratch” approach is much more budget-friendly – and it isn’t necessarily as time-consuming as one may think. You can get a kilogram of Textured Vegetable Protein mince for a fiver from Amazon, but my local health food shop sells it and the chunks loose – so you can scoop as much as you need pick ‘n’ mix style. The pictured chilli I made was produced using this – it’s much cheaper than a packet of frozen soya mince from the supermarket – I just hydrate it for five minutes in vegetable stock (water from boiled veg counts as stock too). I gently fried two carrots and a large onion in garlic and cayenne pepper and then added passata. I added a tin of drained kidney beans, chilli powder and then broccoli and mushrooms (any veg will do. Tasted for spice levels and cooked for 20 minutes.

I did enough to keep for a second evening meal – maybe with a jacket potato this time. The passata was 35p for a carton, the beans 30p for a tin, the spices and veg were in my store cupboard. A really useful media link is https://cookingonabootstrap.com/category/vegan-recipes/website

Writer Jack Monroe has the prices in pence of each recipe and has a section of the site dedicated to vegan recipes – the link will take you straight there.

There are cookbooks aimed at the budget vegan too, such as https://wordery.com/students-go-vegan-cookbook-carole-raymond-9780307336538?currency=GBP&gtrck=TFFaVzRkM1BPK2pGc0lVTlN6NVVIQ0NpM2tCcFNkcXIxL2hPaU1zYmxKMllXLy9lMFdlYkVhR0pPUDFLZE1PZ0ZKZlo1d2Z4K2JpY0FTYXZvbjNWTEE9PQ&gclid=EAIaIQobChMIvcjq8piJ2gIVyLftCh0mdA5JEAQYASABEgIDbfD_BwE

 

 

I also bought a steamer basket from Wilkos to cook veg in a healthier manner. At £4.50, it was much cheaper than buying a steamer itself. You put the vegetables in the basket, stand it in boiling water, and Bob’s your uncle. Well, he would be if I could adult properly. The first time I used it, I nearly burnt the kitchen out as I let the pan boil dry – a bad, dangerous and smelly mistake. But, hey, we live and learn – or learn while being burnt to death!

Dahls, soups, home-made burgers (I struggle with getting them to bind, I will admit) and spag bog were all suggestions from friends and group members on Facebook. Stew and dumplings was a favourite too. But, make a spag bog on Monday, add chilli powder the next day and you have a slightly different offering for the next night. It was also pointed out that Poundland sells cashews for £1 – well worth remembering for making nut cheese recipes.

One social media comment that did spark my interest was from Alison Hawtin, who said: ”I just made a soup…roasted a cheap butternut squash and some garlic, cooked some leftover carrot and celery sticks on the hob with water, added some dried herbs and then whizzed this up. Added to the deskinned squash, mashed in a pan, add more water and/or soya milk and salt/pepper and Bob’s your uncle!”

I used to use a similar soup recipe years ago – I didn’t even whisk it up – just cooked it in a pan as a kind of chunky soup. I got the recipe from a punk zine- there used to be a lot of cheap vegan punk recipe ideas.

Another tip is, of course, to look for reduced items – or visit markets at the end of the day – I used the latter idea as a student in Leicester in the 1990s. The market traders would often try to get rid of produce at a reduced rate late in the day. But supermarkets often shift salad bags cheaply – also damaged tins etc – all perfectly useable.

EM Charlie’s stew and dumplings post also resonated with me: “Completely wholesome and balanced and delicious! My favourite meal! Red lentils (dried), celery, carrots, onion, leek (or basically any veggie that you enjoy), butter beans (or any bean) simmer for 40 mins with 2 veggie stock cubes, then combine half the amount of vegetable suet to flour with water for dumplings and add in balls to the stew. Let simmer for another 20 minutes. Serve with optional crusty bread and butter! Will last for 3-4 meals minimum.

Again, I used to make a variation of this years ago.

I guess I have become lazy since buying a freezer and having a greater choice of processed foods to hand. But I now aim to reduce my intake of such products (except for review purposes ha ha) and rein in my food bill. I see it as a healthy challenge. It should also help to improve my relationship with the food I eat.

 

It’s vegan festival season

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As the number of vegans in the UK grows, so does the number of vegan festivals and events on offer.

They’re a great way of meeting fellow vegans and finding products that may be difficult to get hold of on your local High Street. I also find them fantastic for discovering new (to me) independent vegan retailers and connecting with grassroots animal rights groups.

Vegan Events UK is one group with a busy festival calendar this year.

There’s something for all ages at their forthcoming vegan festivals this spring. These popular events, held at venues up and down the country include a feast of mouth-wateringly delicious food, a wide range of fantastic stalls, world food caterers, exciting cookery demos, inspirational talks, interactive workshops, yoga and children’s activities running throughout the day.

Food on offer includes a varied and exciting array of plant-based hot and cold dishes, including Asian, Mediterranean, Indian, Greek, Hotdogs, Burgers, Street Food, Raw Food and Gourmet Food! There will also be a huge range of pies, cakes, chocolates, cookies, doughnuts, sandwiches and salads to take away as well as alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks, juices, smoothies, tea and coffee.

There will be a great selection of non-food stalls at the event selling a wide variety of items including fashion, footwear, jewellery, beauty and skincare products, candles, crafts, clothing, footwear, homeware, gifts and charity merchandise.

As well as stalls to look round, there will also be a wide range of free food samples to try, live music, inspirational talks, live cookery demonstrations, workshops and children’s activities.

Vegan Events UK organises over 20 of the largest vegan festivals and events across the UK. Events this spring are being held in Essex, Portsmouth, Shoreditch, Manchester, Glasgow, Leicester, Liverpool, Nottingham and Dorset.

Festival Organiser Victoria Bryceson says: “With the vegan lifestyle really starting to go mainstream there’s a massive demand around the country for vegan-friendly events. Our festivals are set to be a fantastic day out whether you’re vegetarian, vegan or simply vegan-curious. The idea behind the festivals is to educate and inform everyone about the vegan lifestyle and offer support to anybody who would like it.”

Going vegan has transformed Victoria’s life: “I’ve never felt happier and healthier,” she says. She started the festival with the aim of promoting animal welfare and how to live a more ethical and healthy lifestyle.

“There will be several animal welfare charity stalls raising awareness of their causes. For anybody who would like to get involved with volunteering this is an ideal place to talk to lots of different charities and gather information, and all the stall holders are happy to talk to people and answer any questions.”

The festivals are run in partnership with animal welfare charities including Miracle’s Mission. “It’s all about trying new things and opening people’s eyes to new possibilities,” continues Victoria. “Cutting out meat and dairy from your diet is easier than you might think and many people are increasingly looking for alternatives as they want to live more healthily and ethically. They want to find out more about the new innovative foods and recipes now available and want to do it affordably. Our festivals will educate people on how to do all of this.”

The festivals being held in spring 2018 are:
• Shoreditch Viva! Vegan Festival on Saturday 17th March and Sunday 18th March
• Northern Vegan Festival (Manchester) on Saturday 7th April
• Glasgow Vegan Festival on Saturday 14th April and Sunday 15th April
• Leicester Vegan Festival on Saturday 21st April
• Liverpool Vegan Festival on Saturday 5th May
• Nottingham Viva! Vegan Festival on Saturday 12th May
• Dorset Vegan Festival on Sunday 20th May

Entry into each of the spring festivals costs just £3 (under-16s free), which includes entry to all areas and activities. Standard tickets are purchased at the door on the day. VIP tickets, costing £15, include fast-track entry and a goody bag full of vegan products, samples, discounts and offers can be purchased in advance but sell out quickly.

For more information, please visit www.veganeventsuk.co.uk or www.facebook.com/VeganEventsUK

Review – Goodfella’s Vegan Stonebaked Falafel Pizza

 

The rise in vegan products on supermarket shelves has meant a race to get new and interesting products out there recently.

Pizza seems to be the latest battleground for those fighting for the vegan pounds.

I grabbed (literally) this the falafel pizza out of the Sainsbury’s freezer faster than you can say “hummus aisle”. The price of £2.50 for a normal-sized pizza helped too!

Facebook comments when I posted a picture seem to centre around “why does everything revolve around falafel?” I can sympathise with that view – I’m actually not a huge falafel fan – they can be a bit dry!

On close inspection of the ingredients list, it seems there’s also a “hummus drizzle” – falafel and hummus make the perfect go-to vegan marriage – and that coupling alone will take many to vegan heaven – what a threesome: pizza, falafel and hummus!

To be honest, I didn’t really notice the hummus drizzle – I think it’s more of a trickle than a drizzle. But, on the whole, the pizza is nice.

Pizza whole

There’s lots of topping – it’s especially heavy on the falafel (it is a falafel pizza after all) and the red pepper. There seemed to be a fair bit of spinach too – so you can tell your friends that it’s a slightly healthy meal! It looks very colourful too.

The base is nice and crispy – and certainly not too thick. The falafel is the dominant flavour, but there’s a mild to medium spicy kick. It’s not overly overpowering, but it raises the taste stakes above the bland.

And it needs that kick – the falafel alone isn’t enough to captivate my taste-buds’ interest, but the not-too-powerful kick gives it an extra layer of much-needed flavour. It isn’t too fiery, and I think most people will be able to handle it – I’m certainly not a “the hotter the better type person in the heat stakes.

It isn’t a messy pizza eating wise. This is probably due to the fact there’s no vegan cheese. It relies on the falafel as its main selling point – and I think this works – to an extent. But there’s nothing to stop vegans adding their own toppings to liven things up! For me, a pizza is naked without mushrooms – at least one Facebook friend added vegan cheese to hers and many will miss tomato slices. Garlic and chilli peppers could be an addition for those who do like to taste more spice.

All in all, it’s nice, but it didn’t fill me up. I do eat a lot – if I’m honest – so a side of onion rings or chips makes it the perfect Saturday evening meal.

Finally, I must also add that there are a lot of independent vegan firms now producing pizzas – they may be slightly more expensive, but we all want to support our local health food shops, don’t we?

Pizza ingredients