Plant Kitchen makes its mark

Much has been written of the new (ish) Marks and Spencer (M&S has always sounded too much like S&M to me – sex and shopping really don’t mix) vegan range. Apparently, there are more than 60 new plant-based products in the imaginatively titled Plant Kitchen. (https://www.livekindly.co/marks-spencer-launches-plant-kitchen-60-vegan-meals/ ). I couldn’t buy them all – well, I probably could as most are reasonably priced, but it’d take me a month to eat them all, so I bought an armful and decided to review that arm’s contents for my lovely readers.

The first ever supermarket vegan coleslaw has been a hit on social media, as has their potato salad – but, to me, you just shred some cabbage and bung it with vegan mayo for the former and do the same with potatoes for the latter – so I didn’t purchase those.

However, it has to be said, that at two or three quid a pop, most of these products are pocket-friendly as well as vegan-friendly – something I like very much, as I’d always viewed Marks and Spencer food as something middle-class officer workers buy during their lunch after grabbing some new pants from the clothing department – I think some of their pants are vegan-friendly too, incidentally!

The first product I tried was the No Chic’N Nuggets. So, Marks and Sparks have become the latest vegan product producer to try and pun their take on a meat-based meal. But, for some reason, I always feel attracted to fake chicken products above all other fake meat products. And these didn’t disappoint – not too much anyway….

Nuggets

They have a nice strong texture; thick and, dare I say, meaty? But there is no hint of a taste explosion here, I guess nuggets are made for dipping in your barbecue sauce, ketchup, mayo or whatever takes your fancy (I don’t recommend these for dunking in your cup of tea though). They have the ability to absorb flavours, they appeal to kids and work as a good nugget should. They are soy-based, so if you’re soyaist, I don’t recommend them.

No Chic’N Chunks are similar to the nuggets, except not nugget shaped and not coated like nuggets – in other words, they’re meant for curries, stir-fries, salads etc. They perform that job very well and can be promoted above some of their more expensive rivals in my view.

Again, they’re mainly soya, but if you’re OK with that, give them a go.

The No Pork Sausoyges are a pun too far, but they don’t taste as bad as they sound. You’ve guessed it, they’re another soya-based delicacy. Soya is, of course, a plant, but it isn’t the one I immediately think of when I read the phrase “plant-based”, but to be fair, Marks and Spencer do use other plants in their range – plants which are much more interesting than the humble, over-used soya bean.

 

Sausages

Back to the sausages. They’re good. They look like how we’re taught sausages should look, with their meat sausage-style skin and they taste pretty damn good. To me, they’re to sausages what No Bull Burgers are to burgers – in other words, head and shoulders above most of the competition. The seasoning is just right, boast a nice texture and taste lush with gravy.

The Beet Burgers are the only soya-free product I tried and they’re also the prettiest. Aesthetically, I love the red look of beet products – just as I love the satanic black look of charcoal products – but like those, the red doesn’t actually bolster the taste at all – they don’t taste red, although I have no idea what red tastes like. Black, I guess, should taste either burnt or evil – I’m told charcoal buns taste of neither – and beet burgers don’t taste of, well, much at all really.

They actually contain more chickpeas than beet and they are pretty substantial offerings, so good value really, they just taste a little bland to me. To be fair, I’ve found the same issue with other brands of beet burgers, so it isn’t something that’s solely down to Marks and Spencer – it’s just that beetroot lakes a bit in flavour when it comes to using it as a burger ingredient.

Burger

But, all in all, it’s great to see another High Street giant giving busy vegans an ample choice of processed food to fill their weekly shopping baskets.

https://www.marksandspencer.com/c/food-to-order/adventures-in-food/plant-kitchen

 

 

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.

2019 may well as well be known as the year of the vegan sausage roll! Everyone seems to have been at it – new vegan-friendly sausage rolls have been popping up everywhere – and Farmfoods have got in on the act too.

As with many of their products, these no-frills mini-rolls do the job. They’re rather lacking in a herb or spice hit, but they’re certainly not horrible – and I’ve bought them more than once – which is an endorsement of sorts in itself.

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/

 

All hail the kale! Strong Root Kale & Quinoa Burger

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Both kale and quinoa have been called super foods – so this should make these burgers super super!

Well, they are quite nice. And, it’s always nice to find new vegan foods that sound pretty awesome – in a healthy way too! Although, these go perfectly with chips – should you wish to not overdo the healthy thing.

Who doesn’t love kale right? Kale crisps are the perfect homemade vegan treat – health and quick, and for immune system boosters – well there isn’t a better food on the planet.

Crumbs, vegans even wear T-shirts with Kale written on – you don’t see that with potatoes!

But let’s not underestimate Queen Quinoa! Oh no! She is a complete protein and an awesome wheat-free alternative to grains – in other words, you don’t need to feel guilty when chowing down on these burgers.

So what are they like? Well, inside they are very green – kale green in fact – surprising that!

They come in a pack of six, so they are pretty small – a strapping young (ahem) like me needs three with a meal! But, as they’re pretty healthy, I’m not complaining – and no animals have been harmed in making these burgers – I don’t emphasise that fact enough on here!

The coating lacks crunch, but adds flavour – I will happily forego crunch for flavour – and they only take 15 minutes to cook in the oven – bonus!

They taste – well, natural!

They aren’t over-seasoned – or seasoned much at all, it seems – although salt does feature on the ingredients list!

They are soft, delicately flavoured and complement most dishes – so, overall, a thumbs-up from me.

 

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The great plant-based ‘milk’ debate

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The rise and rise of plant-based dairy alternatives seems to be getting the farming community hot under the collar.

I guess it proves those who say “going vegan won’t change anything” wrong.

In June, the Court of Justice of the European Union ruled that vegan alternatives cannot use words like milk in product descriptions.

The case was brought by the German Competition Authority against TofuTown (sounds like my kind of place).

The EU Court ruled plant-based alternatives cannot be described using the terms ‘milk’, ‘cream’, ‘butter’, ‘cheese’ or ‘yoghurt’, as these are reserved by EU law for animal products. Finally, a reason for supporting Brexit (although there’s plenty of other reasons for being a ‘remoaner’).

Truth is, the dairy industry is panicking about the fact it’s losing sales to healthier, more ethical (not hard) to vegan-friendly alternatives. ( http://vegfestexpress.co.uk/tabs/blog/2017/02/dairy-free-plant-milks-market—the-future ).

In almond milk etc as “milk” on their websites – and to even stop stocking it next to dairy milks – maybe they’re scared dairy buyers will catch a conscience as they browse the shelves?

So, it seems as vegans up the ante in criticising the dairy industry, it is resorting to desperate measures to fight back. Remember, it is also pressure from the dairy industry that has led to the badger culls in the UK – despite the fact there is no evidence at all that badgers spread BOVINE TB ( https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/jul/13/badger-cull-expansion-flies-in-face-of-scientific-evidence ). So, quite rightly, activists have drawn parallels with the dairy industry. Quite simply, buying dairy milk leads to dead badgers.

The furore follows last year’s great Gary Facebook debate, when Sainsbury’s launched their own brand of vegan cheese ( https://veganonadesertisland.com/2016/10/02/the-great-gary-review/ )

Sainsbury’s had some free marketing over that one – somebody thought that it was wrong to call the product “cheese”. It seems the desperation goes on and one…

So, why can’t market forces just accept that ethical living is on the rise? Big supermarkets are getting in on the act, major multi-nationals are making money out of veganism and the “middle class” vegan has a huge part to play in the economy? Or, are those of us who are anti-capitalist just too prominent in the vegan movement? Revolution cannot be allowed to happen – remember!

Personally, I think there are too many rich and powerful players in the animal agriculture industry for politicians to allow it to fail – despite the fact we could feed the world many times over if we all went vegan tomorrow. So, while veganism was “allowed” to exist as a niche product line, the fact the number of vegans has exploded beyond even our wildest hopes as kicked the meat and dairy industry (it is one combined industry if we’re honest) into attack mode.

I’ve read posts on Facebook in the past about reserving the words burgers and sausages for meat products – but they’re just shapes! You get different meat varieties of sausages and burgers, so why not meat-free versions?

I have noticed in the numerous stories about veganism on national news sites that non-vegans in society as a whole now feel it necessary to go into attack mode in the dreaded comment sections. Does this come from a sense of guilt or a fear that their cosy lifestyle (of pain and suffering) is under threat?

 

A Cauldron of vegan taste

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Cauldron’s vegan burgers and sausages reviewed

Cauldron Foods (https://www.cauldronfoods.co.uk/) follow in Quorn’s footsteps by introducing a vegan version of their popular vegetarian products.

To be fair, Cauldron already had a couple of vegan-friendly delights on offer – their marinated tofu pieces have long been a favourite of mind – who doesn’t hate chopping tofu – right?

Anyway, since Cauldron has made the effort to up their vegan game, I thought it’d be rude not to give their new products a review on Vegan on a Desert Island.

I found the Vegan Wholefood Sausages and Vegan Wholefood Burgers on offer at £1.50 a pack in my local supermarket – what a perfect excuse to break out the chips and take these offering for a test munch.

Obviously, the vegan burger market is getting a bit flooded these days, and Morrisons’ own brand burgers are cheap and very nice. Frys are the king of the taste bud tantalisers for my money and Quorn’s Hot and Spicy Burgers do pack a mean-coated punch – but the underlying Quorn is as bland as ever!

As for sausages, will anybody ever bring out a more popular banger than the Linda McCartney range? Frys (again) give a great account for themselves, and Vegusto really are the daddies if you want an extra special treat!

So how do Cauldron’s offerings munch up? Well, they are vegetable, not soya-based, which is great news – in fact, they appear soy-free. The burgers have “cauliflower, aduki beans, spinach and chipotle chilli”, while the sausages are sold on the basis that they contain “grilled Mediterranean vegetables, haricot beans and tomato pesto”. That all sounds good to me.

You get two burgers in a box, or six sausages. The bangers are average banger size, but the burgers seem a bit on the small side – although, they are very thick too.

The sausages, smell stunning while cooking – the tomato certainly dances around your nostrils screaming “eat me” very loudly.

The sausages are my favourite of the two. While reminding me of traditional vegetable sausages a little, the tomato hit real is an overwhelming joy. It’s the dominant taste and the one which will be the hook that draws most people towards these rather impressive vegan offerings. But they are packed with veg too – so you feel healthier devouring them, and they look as good as they taste.

The fact that both products only take 12 minutes under the grill to cook is obviously a big advantage too.

The burgers are a little dry, but they make up for this by containing a decent spicy punch of heat. While they are basically bean burgers, the spice and spinach do manage to make them stand out from the crowd.

Overall, a nice addition to the range of vegan products on offer – and that can only be a good thing.