Let’s talk iodine

Let’s talk about iodine

Why? Well, the Press and non-vegans seem to think it’s a problem for us vegans – isn’t it nice how they worry more about our health than we do?

Until recently, I, probably like many of you, hadn’t even heard of iodine, let alone wondered about its absorption into my body – so what is it?

In the words of the Vegan Society, “Your body uses iodine to make thyroid hormones. These hormones control how fast your cells work. In the UK, the recommended iodine intake for adults is 140 micrograms per day. Every vegan needs a reliable source of iodine in their diet.”

So now you know!

Earlier this year, there were a couple of articles about concern vegans weren’t getting enough of the stuff. There are always articles about what vegans lack (I lack tolerance for stupid comments made by non-vegans, for example), but I wondered how many people had actually heard of the stuff? So I decided to blog on it – because it’s important nutritionally. Iodine deficiency affects mental health and alertness and can cause fatigue and stunt mental growth in children – it’s vital pregnant women get enough (incidentally, breast milk is another good source). In the words of Wiki: “It may result in a goiter, sometimes as an endemic goiter as well as cretinism due to untreated congenital hypothyroidism, which results in developmental delays and other health problems. Iodine deficiency is an important public health issue as it is a preventable cause of intellectual disability.”

In other words, it’s important.

So, why is it a vegan issue? Well, some believe (wrongly) that animals are the only source of iodine – or the only reliable source anyway.

The best source is some seaweed (kelp, nori, kombu, wakame). But, the Vegan Society warns: “Although seaweed is a rich source of iodine, there are several reasons why it may not be the best option. The iodine content of seaweed is variable, and sometimes too high. Also, some types are contaminated. Iodised salt is not a good option because public health authorities recommend that we cut down on salt.”

They argue that a supplement may be the best option.  The Vegan Society markets a daily vitamin and mineral supplement designed for vegans called VEG 1, providing reliable intakes of vitamins B12 and D, iodine and selenium. Please discuss the use of supplements with a health professional to help ensure that they are suitable for you. Read what they have to say on the issue: https://www.vegansociety.com/resources/downloads/iodine

Personally, I adore samphire – I love foraging for it and cooking it – most of all, I love eating it! In fact, I wrote about it last year: https://veganonadesertisland.com/2017/07/23/foraging-for-samphire/

But it is rich in iodine. The amount of iodine in veg varies so widely because it comes from the soil in which they grow – and the amount in soil varies wildly. Therefore, the dairy and eggs supposed to be strong sources, also vary according to the amount of iodine the cows and chickens themselves receive.

The Vegan Society explains: “During the last century, farmers started supplementing animal feed with iodine because research showed that this could make their businesses more productive. This also resulted in a huge increase in the iodine content of cows’ milk, particularly during the winter months when grass is limited. Disinfectants containing iodine also contribute to the iodine content of cows’ milk because they are used to clean teats and tankers. It is probable that supplementation of animal feed boosted the iodine contents of meat and eggs too.”

In other words, animal agriculture is only a reliable source because the products are supplemented with it – hardly natural!

It also needs to be said that you can get too much. ODing on iodine causes thyroid issues and weight gain – so be careful with the supplements. The NHS online says taking a 0.5mg or less supplement a day is unlikely to have any adverse effects.

 

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

Farmfoods Veggie Kitchen products reviewed

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It seems that a there isn’t a week going by without a new vegan product launch these days.

One the one hand, it’s great news there are so many products from which to choose, but, it does mean that with so many supermarkets fighting for the vegan pound, our independent health food shops have difficulty in competing. As someone who always bats for the small guy, I find myself torn between trying the new ranges and supporting small businesses.

Farmfoods isn’t generally seen as a big player as far as supermarkets go – but it is good for those on a budget – when I bought products from their Veggie Kitchen range, I got three for a fiver!

I decided to try all of the vegan-friendly products in the Veggie Kitchen range because it really didn’t cost me very much to do so.

Sausages. The sausages are of a similar size and texture to Linda McCartney’s famous veggie sausages – the benchmark by which vegan-friendly sausages are usually measured if we’re honest.

The Farmfoods effort has a similar rusky taste, but they have a herby hint that’s very pleasant indeed. I prefer them to the Linda McCartney ones – and they are certainly value for money – you get eight in a box!

Meatballs. These seem to lack the seasoning hit that their sausage sisters provide. You get a hefty pack and a meaty texture, but they are just a little bit bland. However, this does mean they soak up other flavours well and are great in a passata with pasta or in a nice onion gravy as part of a roast dinner.

We have to remember this is cheap processed food, so sometimes you need to spice things up a little with sauces or seasoning.

Mince. You get a substantial pack of soya mince to use in your spaghetti Bolognaise or shepherd’s pie. Again, the mince alone is a little bland, but then, who eats mince on its own?

It works perfectly in a good spag bog, and that’s all you need really. It doesn’t have a dominant flavour, and, I guess, that’s the point really. You get a lot for your money, meaning it can be stretched across several tasty meals.

Burgers. The Veggie Kitchen burgers have a meaty look and texture. By meaty, I mean substantial – they don’t look or taste like a dead animal – I feel the need to make that clear in our Veganverse. These also lack seasoning, but bung them in a bun with some salad and relish and you have a great burger. They also go brilliantly with gravy.

I have to point out, that while not exploding with taste, none of the products are offensive to the tastebuds – none of them are horrible and none of them are overly disappointing.

Southern Fried Chicken Poppers. These are my favourites in the range. The coating gives them a slight crunch and provides a mild peppery taste – one that’s very agreeable too!

The texture is gorgeous. They almost melt in the mouth – while, again, not having a powerful flavour. But they are perfect with ketchup, which, importantly, means they are very kid-friendly and they get the thumbs-up from me.

All-in-all, if you’re after cheap, quick, processed food, or freezer staples, you could do worse than popping down to Farmfoods.

https://www.farmfoods.co.uk/

 

The inevitable Veganuary backlash and the desperation behind Februdairy

As Veganuary comes to an end, we don’t know how many “new vegans” have been created this year, but we do know it has been a total success. More people than ever are doing Veganuary this year and there have been so many newspaper articles on the event, I have lost count. Papers such as the Guardian even published supplements of vegan recipes. But, predictably, there has been a little bit of a backlash.

But, take heart, there always is when something is successful. People in the UK seem scared of success, so the backlash against Veganuary is just a testament to its rise. Of the three anti-vegan article links I can remember, two are discussed below. The third was about the problems of soya and is probably an old link.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/food/article-5239137/The-hidden-downsides-trendy-dairy-free-coffees.html

The article does admit “Veganism is officially no longer a fringe lifestyle, with more people opting to cut out animal products from their diet altogether.”

But apparently Oat milk is the most “calorific” and a skimmed milk latte is the least fattening – all of which misses the point by a million miles.

  1. Many vegans aren’t vegan for health reasons.
  2. Other health benefits of going dairy-free are ignored by the article
  3. Detrimental health effects of dairy are ignored by the article.

Early in January, the Mail also published this: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-5227331/RICHARD-LITTLEJOHN-says-Veganuary-gimmick.html

Richard Littlejohn writes: “Meanwhile, the rest of us will shrug our shoulders and take no notice whatsoever,” and then goes and writes a whole smug, predictable article about it – oh the irony Richard!

Right-wing commentators are more obsessed with veganism than vegans are. The backlash just proves how popular veganism is becoming.

Then there’s this from the Sun: https://www.thesun.co.uk/news/5405801/veganuary-ditching-dairy-iodine-deficiency-drop-13-iq-points/ which claims you lack calcium and iodine by going vegan – kale, broccoli and fortified plant milk are all calcium sources – the article claims (wrongly) that non-dairy milk isn’t fortified.

Iodine is something you need very little of and can get through seaweed – but natural iodine is hard to come by – some fruits and veg have a bit, depending on how iodine-rich the soil they are grown in is, so a supplement can be a good bet. Iodized salt is also a source – it is important during pregnancy. The article states that dairy is the best source – that’s only because it’s added to animal feed – it isn’t a natural source.

And as Veganuary careers towards a successful conclusion, we have news of #Februdairy – an attempt to silence the dairy industry’s critics – they say impersonation is the sincerest form of flattery. Here’s what a farming paper says about it: https://www.fginsight.com/news/news/support-your-dairy-farmers-februdairy-launches-to-silence-industry-critics-50675

But it does show veganism’s rise is now a financial threat to the dairy industry – they are desperate to prove they’re not cruel – we, however, know different.

Of course, Veganuary has grown beyond vegans’ wildest dreams over the last four years (the charity was formed in November 2013 – ready for January 2014), so, the biggest surprise is that it’s taken the dairy industry four years to respond. The fact it has responded is a testament to the growing power of veganism! You, of course, can still visit the Veganuary website: https://veganuary.com/ to see what the fuss is all about.

 

 

 

 

Sunday dinners, Veganuary and plastic

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Review – V-Bites Meat-free Meatloaf

A vegan meatless meatloaf had to be worth a try post-Christmas.

Being vegan doesn’t mean you have to automatically skip traditional Sunday meals, and I’m always on the lookout for new and exciting dishes to throw into the mix.

V-Bites came up with the goods on this occasion.

As part of their VegiDeli range, I was excited to find this in my local Holland and Barrett – and even more excited to give it a try.

I have liked the Cheatin’ roasts and love Macsween Veggie Haggis – my favourite roast substitute as it’s totally natural and very filling – but like a boy in a vegan sweet shop, I get excited by new vegan foods.

As Veganuary rumbles on, the hunt for “meaty” replacements to tempt new vegans grows, and this is certainly “meaty” – maybe too much so for some vegans.

The main problem I had with my Meatless Meatloaf was actually getting into the thing. You need to remove the tight plastic casing to cook the thing – it’s harder to get into than the Free Masons – mainly due to the metal clips at each end!

Also, plastic is bad – its affect on the environment is directly deadly for many animals – so, V-Bites, how about dropping that bit? To be fair, a lot of processed vegan food comes in a plastic prison and it’s something we really should be pulling companies up on – it simply isn’t cool!

Once you’ve got into it, it takes a fair while to cook – definitely closer to 50 minutes than 45 (the packaging says 45-5o minutes) – but, on the plus side, it is a chunky beast – I reckon you could get three good servings from it.

So, how does it taste?

It’s OK, in short. Personally, I thought it could do with a little more seasoning – or some seasoning really. A few herbs would have certainly livened it up – or maybe I’m too used to plenty of herbs and spices in vegan dishes – but many meat dishes are powered by these plants to make them taste better too!

It has a nice meaty texture, look and is certainly tender. The taste reminds me a little bit of some vegan minces on the market – so a good gravy, tomato sauce or mustard certainly adds a welcome flavour punch to this substantial and filling dish.

You can buy online here: https://www.vbitesfoods.com/product/meat-free-meatloaf/

But what’s your favourite vegan Sunday dinner? Please comment below – or in the social media thread which brought you here. I also welcome your recipes for vegan dinner dishes.

Also, I’m after your Veganuary stories for future blogs, so please get in touch.

Vegan Star Wars – the animal rights messages in The Last Jedi

Warning: Contains spoilers!

There a couple of strong animal rights messages in Star Wars: The Last Jedi – this is in addition to the new Viva ad being shown before the showing I attended.

Luke Skywalk shoving a beaker into the breasts of a dinosaur-like creature and gulping down its milk had many in the audience gasping. It’s not a huge leap to realise that this is the reality of milk – one species, stealing the breast milk of another species – milk meant for the babies of said other species.

The docile-looking creature in the Last Jedi certainly looked as if she was pregnant – and Rey reacted with distaste – as many people do when presented with the realities of the dairy industry. Animals are, of course, forcibly made pregnant in order to produce milk for us. Luke’s taking of a wild creature’s milk, directly from her mammary glands, produces a revulsion we should all feel at the taking of a mother cow’s milk directly from her udders – after all, that’s what we’re drinking – it’s just that a machine is stealing it from her.

Then we had Chewbacca coming face-to-face with a porg as he is about to tuck into what looks like a roasted porg. The cute little creatures mirror our reactions to the thought of eating dog or cat – when they are no different to cows or pigs – the latter two are certainly as intelligent as domesticated animals.

Chewie is surrounded by dozens of sad-eyes porgs as he can’t bring himself to chow down on his victim – this creature had a family and friends – it lived and is now dead. Chewie is hungry, but their eyes and reaction of the porgs convey a strong message to the audience.

Further on in the film, we have a strong liberation message in a thinly-veiled horse racing metaphor.

The fathers, are bet on in a Vegas-style setting and forced to race. These horse-like creatures are seen thundering around a greyhound stadium style track. But they are liberated by rebel heroes as a distraction – brilliant!

Again, it’s the audience reaction which is important – and their realisation that living animals are forced to race for human entertainment – while being held captive away from their friends and family.