Gosh, these vegan sausages are natural

IMG_4018

Gosh Naturally Fee-From 6 Sweet Potato and Black Bean Sausages reviewed

One look at the ingredients tells you these are jam-packed with natural goodness. Although, reading the ingredients, or, indeed, the cooking instructions, is a challenge in itself. The horrible white on green print means that less than perfect eyes, or less than perfect lighting, renders the back of the packaging illegible.

The big plus, however, apart from the natural goodness, is the fact that this product is both gluten and soya-free – in other words, they are suitable for almost anyone – which is great news.

Now, the name might imply blandness – I have to say that this is deceptive. Tucked away at the end of the ingredients list is two words that completely annihilates all thoughts of blandness – and also disperses any taste of sweet potato (27 per cent of it, according to the packaging) that may have been there when the sausages were first formed!

“Just tell us the words,” I hear you scream. Well, they are chilli flakes! Two innocent words that spice things right up when it comes to sausages. In fact, the heat is the overriding taste that takes control of your taste buds with every bite.

The fact the packet neglects to mention this means you’ll either be pleasantly surprised (like me) or utterly horrified. Let’s face it, not everybody likes spicy food, so the fact the box says “with a hint of lime”, rather than “with a kick of chilli” is a bit perplexing to me – especially as I failed to detect the “hint of lime”.

However, I could taste the black beans (25 per cent of the ingredients) – something which was a huge plus for me – I’m a big fan of beans, and sausages and beans are, of course, natural bed fellows.

They sausages are very dry, so a brush with oil before cooking is a good idea – as is covering them in gravy (especially if you wish to lessen the chilli hit), but they have a soft texture and a rusk-like taste and feel to them – again, this is a plus in my book as it makes them more sausagey (yes, I did just make that word up).

All in all, a pleasant surprise for me, but not one for those who dislike spicy food.

I got mine from Morrisons, and they are, at the time of writing, priced at £2.47 on their website – https://groceries.morrisons.com/webshop/product/Gosh-Sweet-Potato–Black-Bean-Sausages/389798011 – which seems more than reasonable to me.

 

The only vegan in the office

orange-287179_1280

Being a vegan at work can be hard, well, work.

Even with the 4 billion per cent rise in veganism (figures curtesy of the Leave Campaign and Diane Abbott), many people just don’t “get it”.

“But what do you eat.” Food mainly.

“You can’t even eat eggs?” Even eggs? Most people don’t actually die from a lack of egg consumption.

“Don’t you miss bacon?” No I don’t miss a fried slice of pig skin too much.

And so on.

To be fair, many people do try hard.

My former employers used to ask about vegan options on the menu for Christmas meals out. One restaurant forgot to get vegan cheese in and offered me a vegan alternative – and a free round of drinks for my table! Everyone wanted to be friends with the vegan that night.

But I did once go to an Italian restaurant whose vegan option was a pizza without cheese – that actually turned out to be a base with tomato sauce on it and two bits of asparagus. I like asparagus, but two pieces a pizza topping do not make.

But people do forget that it goes beyond diet sometimes. We won’t bet on the Grand National, go dog racing, give to Cancer Research etc etc.

Sometimes explaining these things can get a little bit tiresome – but when that happens, remember that it gives you an opportunity to explain your stance. In effect, you are being asked to be a “preachy vegan” – so go for it. You never know, you might open someone’s eyes.

I asked people on social media for their experiences. One Facebook friend mentioned how friends were raising their child vegan and said this on the ill-informed response she received: “Apparently, it’s ‘borderline child cruelty to impose veganism on someone who can’t think for themselves.’ Like animals can think for themselves, yeah?”

Somebody else had slightly more positive experiences: “People at my office are generally pretty good – and interested in talking about veganism. My boss is ace and has sourced me Vego bars for Easter and vegan cider for Xmas. However, I wasn’t able to go to the Xmas meal as they had a really rubbish vegan option – so it’s not always at the forefront of people’s minds. Also, people always bring in cake for their birthday and I can never eat it.”

Personally, I like the response from one office worker, who said: “My boss’s response “well there must be other normal vegans out there because you’re quite normal”.”

You see, we are normal!

Canteens were another issue, with many vegans bringing in packed lunches even when this facility is available in a workplace. One worker had this to say about company-provided food: “For the last company event I asked in advance if a vegan option could be possible. They ordered me 6 dry bread rolls. Compare that to the treatment I got when I recently visited our sister company in Sweden – they had informed the hotel in advance, arranged a vegan lunch for me every day and had informed the restaurant where we had an evening function that a member of the party was vegan and planned a menu for me.”

To be fair, the first time I ever encountered avocado was at a training event where a vegan meal was provided for me.

Several vegans I asked on Facebook said they were known as “the vegan” at work – something I find a bit laced with prejudice, although it can be done affectionately.

The most blunt response I received was from a builder friend: “Try telling someone you are vegetarian or vegan on a building site it’s almost as bad as telling them you sh***ed their granny the night before.” Quite!

It was also pointed out that “Case law has shown that veganism is a protected belief.” Something that is worth remembering if you get bullied or singled out in the workplace.

One respondent in charge of tea and coffee had been using soya milk instead of cows’ milk for months before anybody noticed… It’s worth checking that nobody has a soya allergy before doing this, however, the same applies to nut milks.

It is a bit difficult when someone brings a smelly McDonalds into work, the same applies to Tuna or egg, all of them smell like hot death to a vegan’s sensitive nostrils. To the death eater, we are a bit weird. Being a bit weird is generally OK you know – especially considering the alternative.

The seasoned vegan

img_3914

Eating seasonally should go hand-in-hand with veganism.

Eating vegan is the ultimate commitment to sustainability and, therefore, low-impact living should be high on every vegan’s agenda.

Of course, animal welfare is the primary driving force for many (including myself) vegans, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t care about our planet too.

Following a vegan diet is the greenest thing you can do. Animal agriculture is, in short, war on the environment. Think about it, we feed grain – that humans can eat – to animals so we can kill them and eat them, when all that grain would feed a vegetarian planet many times over. But that shouldn’t stop vegans from doing even more to preserve the planet’s future – and eating local is another way you can do this. Eating local, means eating seasonally.

Much has been written and talked about the weather decimating vegetable crops in Spain. People are running scared because they can’t get aubergines, courgettes and iceberg lettuce in the middle of the British winter. Less is written about what you can get.

My local market has plenty of purple sprouting broccoli – a more than adequate replacement for the green broccoli everyone is suddenly missing… the purple variety is in season too! In fact, purple sprouting broccoli will be sprouting on to our dinner plates for several months yet, so why not make the most of it? It’s even better if you buy it in a paper bag from your local market, or farmers’ market as most supermarkets seem to bury it in a coffin of plastic – gripping the poor veg tight enough to choke all the life and flavour out of it.

Muddy veg that comes from up the road is obviously tastier than veg that is tired out from a trip halfway around the world, and it lasts longer too. In other words, why should what the weather’s doing to this year’s veg crop in Spain impact on our dinners in the UK?

This isn’t some anti-foreign veg, pro-Brexit rant, it’s quite simply a matter of being kinder to the environment, taking veganism to its logical conclusion and, hopefully, eating more cheaply too.

Squashes are in season – what could be more warming than a winter squash stew? You could turn the leftovers into a delicious soup – wasting veg is another big no-no when it comes to sustainable living.

Personally, I’m a huge fan of Brussel sprouts. I know one can feel very lonely when making such an admission – but, if cooked right, they really are a delight to devour.

I don’t boil them. I shop them up into little bits and stir fry them with onions, black pepper and garlic for about three minutes – the perfect sprout.

Eating seasonally shouldn’t be scary, it just adds a new dimension to your cooking; it means that you vary your meals to fit in with what’s available – how exciting’s that?

Save

Nuts about vegan desserts

img_3911

A review of two coconut-based vegan desserts.

I’m a huge fan of Koko’s dairy-free coconut milk. It is my vegan milk of choice, therefore when I spotted coconut desserts waving at me from the supermarket shelf I just had to give them a try.

Somebody had actually recommended the Coconut Collaborative dessert in a Facebook share of a previous blog, so it’d be rude not to give that a try too.

Koko’s Dairy-free Strawberry Dessert weighs in at £1.25 for two 125g pots.

It’s quite creamy, but the coconut hit is so slight that it’s almost non-existent. Whether or not this is a good thing depends on where you stand on coconut taste-wise. My guess is that if you don’t like it, you probably wouldn’t be buying a coconut-based dessert. I could be wrong. And, to be fair, you don’t need to like coconut to like this offering – and, alternatively, you won’t necessarily like it if you do like coconut.

To me, the whole product doesn’t have a distinctive enough taste to wow me either way. It’s light, fairly sweet (it does contain sugar) and there are a few small pieces of strawberry to brighten things up a little.

I didn’t hate it – but I didn’t love it either. It works well as a more interesting cream-alternative poured over something rather than a stand-alone dessert in my view. Worth checking out if you’re a vegan (or dairy-free) looking for an alternative to the many soya-based desserts on the market.

 

I did, however, love The Coconut Collaborative Blueberry Yoghurt Alternative. A more luxurious offering than the Koko dessert, it will cost you around £1.50 for a 120gm pot. I think it’s worth it.

You can smell and taste the coconut in this one.

It’s creamy too, and, it contains a good helping of fruit. The blueberries add a nice colour to brighten up the dessert too.

Like the Koko offering, it’s soya-free, but this one only contains natural sugars too – that’s probably why the coconut taste is more prominent, this dessert does not have the sweetness hit like its competitor. I, personally, like that.

Not only that, but the blueberries add a slight sharpness to the taste party too.

I find strong coconut flavours a little chalky, but we don’t quite stray into that category here.

Coconut fiends will adore this one.

A Cauldron of vegan taste

img_3904

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.

Veganism in Veganuary and beyond!

veganuary

I love the Idea of Veganuary (https://veganuary.com/) – asking that people should go vegan for the month of January.

Many people who try it don’t go back to a meat-based diet and, with this in mind, I ask what better New Year resolution than trying Veganuary? After all, veganism is better for the animals, the environment and your own health.

I decided to ask some relatively new vegans about their experiences of converting to veganism – some even came to it through Veganuary.

I hope the answers will help other prospective vegans and show new vegans how easy it is to choose a compassionate diet. It may even help some new vegans over the issues those making the change may face.

Those questioned are all members of the Facebook group Vegan Friends UK – there is so much support for new vegans on Facebook and other social media sites.

My participants are:

Scott McKie, aged  21, from Glasgow

Karen Clarke, aged 51, from , Dorset

Lee Cash aged 44, from Brockley, South East London

Katey, aged 22, from Norfolk (now living in London)

Christina. aged 31, from near Preston

Nikki, aged, 44, from Gloucestershire

Rebecca Bamsey, aged 24, from Lampeter, Ceredigion, Wales.

What made you turn vegan?

Scott: “I started listening to punk rock when I was like 13/14 years old and started identifying with “punk” subculture etc, and through that became aware of political, social, environmental etc issues. After a while of supporting animal rights and things of that nature I found it harder and harder to justify eating meat to myself. I tried going vegetarian for a month to see how I found it, went back to eating meat, then decided I’d try going vegan for a month around a year after my last experiment. I thought it would suck changing from my normal, omnivore diet to a strictly vegan diet, so I went vegetarian again for two months running up to my vegan month. Although I then ate dairy and eggs after my vegan trial month the next year (in the month where I would traditionally challenge myself) I decided I would commit to being completely vegan with the aims of it being for good this time. Nearly one year on and there are zero signs of me going back to animal products. A much longer and more drawn out process than I’d have liked but going from being someone who consumed so many animal products, I think the gradual shift over the years has made it so much easier for me to maintain a vegan lifestyle now. I feel better about myself knowing I’m lessening my contribution to the destruction of the environment and to the suffering of non-human animals.”

Karen: “My husband and son are vegans and had been nagging me to make the jump from vegetarianism. I agreed to do it for a month and see how I felt.”

Lee: “I watched Cowspiracy.”

Kayey: “I went vegan in the house and still ate omni when going out for dinner for about four months before Veganuary because I watched conspiracy and I studied environmentally sensitive design at university and they pointed out how bad the animal agriculture industry is and I learnt the science behind our actions against the planet and I couldn’t stand it anymore. I couldn’t stand knowing I was contributing towards the deterioration of our planet.”

Christina: “I was vegetarian since birth. Then I turned vegan after seeing baby goats taken away instantly from there mums and being fed by bottles stuck on to a wall on Countryfile. The more I looked into it the more I was disgusted by the whole dairy and egg industry.”

Nikki: “Animal welfare, having my buried head removed from the sand after 36 years strict vegetarian.”

Rebecca: “I was already a vegetarian and had put on a bit of weight during freshers in uni so I thought it was a good way to drop the pounds if I were to do it for a month. During this month, I began researching veganism and uncovered the issues with the dairy industry. My moral compass wouldn’t allow me to live with the hypocrisy of being a veggie but turning a blind eye to these issues so the ‘diet’ became a lifestyle change.”

 

What made you try Veganuary? Did you think you would still be vegan after Veganuary?

Katey: “I tried Veganuary because my friend Sophie is a vegan activist and through exposure to her views and information I decided to give it a go. I knew afterwards that I would stay vegan because I got involved in the vegan community and I used to suffer from an eating disorder and to my surprise, it changed my entire perspective and relationship towards food. It saved my life.”

Christina: “I didn’t do Veganuary, but Viva had something similar where they sent you emails every day for a month with a day’s food menu. I knew I would continue to be vegan after the 30-day period.”

Rebecca: “I tried Veganuary the previous year to becoming a vegan after seeing a Facebook add, I think it was more curiosity and challenge than actually recognising the ethics of it. ‘Did I think I would still be vegan after Veganuary?’ Not really, I guess I thought it was too ‘extreme’ or quite impossible to sustain in the long term.”

 

Have you noticed any physical/mental changes since you became vegan?

Scott: “Since turning vegan I’m far slimmer/leaner and (predominantly since dropping meat from my diet) my general immune system seems to have improved, and I regularly feel less sluggish and groggy.
Karen: “I have felt much more mentally alert, less fatigued and my asthma has improved. I’ve also lost weight without trying and still eating what I fancy.”

Katey: “Yes. Like I stated previously, it saved me from self-destruction. I feel ten times better. I also suffer from celiac disease and damages to my stomach and bowel from all the abuse I did to it during the dark times of my ED – veganism has made it so much better. I’m more awake, I feel better in myself. My hair has actually started to grow back from when it fell out when my eating as bad. It’s just amazing!”

Christina: “Physical differences much more energy and psoriasis cleared up. Mental differences I was quite sensitive beforehand when it came to animals but much more now and I seem to be much more aware of the suffering in the world (can be quite depressing) it has also helped me with mental issues with food as I no longer feel guilty whilst eating. I struggled at first until I found out everything and since then there’s no going back.”

Nikki: “Yes, I dislike people more. I feel healthier, although I did gain weight at first.”

Rebecca: “I’m not the most observant of my own health. However, I do get a lot less sick (I used to get colds and flues quite regular), I have lost weight and I get a lot less lethargic.”

 

Has there been any times when you’ve found it particularly difficult to stick to veganism?

Scott: “Veganism for my ‘trial month’ was pretty difficult, but since going completely vegan I have had very few difficulties apart from odd cravings here or there. Strangely I did get meat-anxiety dreams for a little while where I’d dream I was eating a burger or something like that and then feel really bad once I realised what I was doing but they didn’t last for very long.”

Karen: “The hardest bit for me is giving up cereals as I haven’t got my head round eating cereal with milk alternatives yet. Apart from that I have found it much easier than I thought. I am a master at seeking out vegan alternatives and I make food from scratch most of the time.”

Lee: “Early on in my vegan journey I had a get together with friend that was organised at a steak house. I got drunk and ended up eating some steak and was ill the next morning. That was the only time I ever struggled. Now I find the thought of eating animal flesh repulsive.”

Katey: “Yes, but not due to veganism itself. Just when I go out for dinner with my friends or try to get food on the go. As I’m gluten-free too it makes it extremely difficult to find anywhere that provides food to those dietary requirements however I’ve gotten used to it now and just call ahead.”

Rebecca: “The hardest is when I’m in a rush looking for food on the go, I definitely should have learnt my lesson to prepare lush by now!”

 

Were you surprised by the range of vegan options available?

Scott: “Part of me is surprised by the amount of vegan options there are but Glasgow is very good for vegans. My more rural hometown of Dumfries in southwest Scotland is a little tougher but still very manageable.”

Lee: “Yes. Especially the fact that vegan bacon is so great!”

Katey: “I was surprised by the development of vegan options in supermarkets – especially over the past 12 months. Makes life a lot easier! Although, I’ve always shopped in the free-from section so I’ve known about a lot of the vegan options for a while.”

Christina: “The vegan options have grown massively in just the 2 years I have been vegan. It’s amazing now.”

Nikki: “Yes, veganism is the future, and it’s showing out there in the shops/restaurants.”

Rebecca: “Yes, definitely! It’s about knowing what things are ‘accidently vegan’ that makes life so much easier (mmm Oreos and bacon rashers).”

 

How “vegan friendly” is the area in which you live?

Karen: “Our area is good for vegan food, a number of restaurants and shops plus two vegan fish and chip shops and lots of takeaways with excellent options and vegan menus.”
Lee: “Very.”

Katey: “In London, pretty much everywhere is vegan-friendly. but back in Norfolk not so much. However, I am seeing a massive increase in vegetarian cafes and restaurants!”

Christina: “I still struggle eating out if with friends and family as not everyone wants to eat at a veggie/vegan places. But just have chips or salad. There’s not many restaurants close by, but plenty in bigger cities near me and can get most of what I need from a supermarket and a health food shop. If not, one can always order things online.”

Nikki: “Pretty good.”

Rebecca: “There is a lovely vegetarian whole foods shop, just a few houses away from where I live with all the vegan treats and essentials I could ever wish for!”

 

How did your friends and family react to your change in diet?

Scott: “A lot of my friends and family at first didn’t understand or didn’t think I’d stick with it, and were probably quite shocked that I have given how much I used to enjoy meat, but I think they all more or less get it now.”

Karen: “Most of my family are vegan or veggie and as we have all been veggie for years the omnis are used to it. Did get some non-vegan presents like biscuits etc. But I genuinely think they didn’t realise. I’m quite a strong character so not many people would be brave enough to say to my face anything negative.”

Lee: “Mine have been mostly supportive.”

Katey: “Some of my family members are farmers so they thought I was being silly but none of them were surprised. I was vegetarian for four years when I was at secondary school and then stopped because my ED got bad and the doctors forced me to eat meat to build up my calorie intake. However, my mum and brother have been incredibly supportive. They’d never be vegan but they always cater for me and accept my decision completely.”

Christina: “Friends and family thought it was a phase and used to try and tempt me to eat cheese again, but now they know I’m serious everyone is very supportive of me I did split up with a long-term boyfriend over it though, as he was extremely unsupportive and hated that I had gone vegan.”

Nikki: “Totally disrespectfully, unhelpful, insulting comments.”

Rebecca: “I had a varied reaction! My dad loves it and I think he boasts about me somewhat. My mother rolled her eyes and chuckled at me, she can’t quite understand it, I don’t think, but is still supportive. My partner didn’t react at all really. He engages in philosophic debate with me quite regularly, but he is now giving up beef and milk so I think he might agree somewhat.”

 

From a nutritional standpoint, do you watch what you eat?

Scott: “I don’t particularly watch what I eat in terms of health or nutrition, I’ve never been overly health conscious about my diet at all.”

Karen: “I make sure everyone eats a balanced diet which consists of tons of fruit and veg, juice and smoothies. Plus, we take B12 as a supplement. I believe in gentle conversion and do it through suggestion and humour.”

Lee: “Not particularly but I plan to in 2017.”

Katey: “Yes I do. I’ve learnt so much about nutrition and where to get nutrition from. That’s why it makes me laugh when people say “where do you get your protein from?” Well if you educate yourself you’ll find out where!”

Christina: “I do watch what I eat (sometimes better than others) but also take supplements to ensure I get what I need.”

Nikki: “I try to.”

Rebecca: “Not at all! My ethos is- If it’s vegan, I’ll eat it. Although I do eat a lot of junk food I don’t feel as though I’m lacking any nutrients, not that I am a professional, but I’m sure I’d notice if I was.”

 

Have you converted anyone else to veganism/asked anybody to try Veganuary?

Scott: “My girlfriend and I turned vegan together and have converted a few people to vegetarianism, as well as got more people considering veganism and approaching vegan dishes and lifestyle with a more open mind.”

Karen: “I have had a lot of genuine interest and I’m hopeful……..will encourage Veganuary too.

Lee: “Yes. My fiancée also went vegan shortly after I did.”

Katey: “I’ve managed to convert about four people so far, and got a lot of people to reduce their meat intake. My best friend is now a full vegan and is as much of an activist as I! It’s great!”

Christina: “I’ve planted the seed in a few people but none have gone fully vegan (one is now veggie) and won’t watch documentaries as they are happy being ignorant (their words) I have converted at least five people to drink plant milks instead and made people more aware of where food comes from and what’s it in it (like gelatin, lanolin, cochineal).”

Nikki: “Converted yes, although I don’t think they continued after we split up.”

Rebecca: “I converted a friend over the summer, although I’m not sure if he still is vegan. I shared a Veganuary post and stated if people wish for advice then to drop me a message. So far, I have had two people message me about it and also my partner is making a step in the right direction cutting out beef and milk (all about small steps, right?).”

A vegan at Christmas

img_3891

 

When I was a child, the humble nut roast was seen as the staple of veggie Christmas dinners everywhere.

These days, of course, a vegan can go through life without ever going near a dry and dull nut roast. There are of course people who enjoy nut roasts – just as there are people who enjoy watching Elf – I, personally, prefer self- flagellation!

OK, there are some great recipes to make the humble nut roast less humble and slightly more edible, but there is a wealth of alternatives in the world of the 21st century vegan.

I am going for a Vegusto Roast this year, as I’ve become rather bored of grabbing a Celebration Roast at every given occasion – although, price-wise the two are very similar.

Many will forego the processed option completely and make their own Mushroom Wellington, vegetable roast, or even, God preserve us, nut roasts. A simple Ecosia search, or walk through Facebook’s Christmas Wonderland will provide suggestion after suggestion. Recent issues of vegan and vegetarian magazines also provide plenty of suggestions.

Many Christmas puds and mince pies are vegan by default. The news that Iceland’s own brand of mince pies are vegan-friendly is great news for those doing Christmas on a budget. They cost £1.50 for a pack of 12. I, however, already have some Foods of Atherny Mince Pies as I snapped them up at the Animal Aid Christmas Fair. A great event in early December every year for stocking your cupboards with everything you need for the big day (or the looming nightmare of forced consumerism – Veganonadesertisland caters for all vegan beliefs).

This very day, I found a Christmas pud in Morrisons for my table. Their own brand Rich Fruit Christmas Pudding is vegan-friendly and contains booze! Alpro do a widely-available Single Soya Cream (or a custard – an item also produced by Oatly if you prefer soya-free) and vegan squirty cream is now widely available online and at vegan fairs. This year, Coasta is selling some rather nice vegan-friendly slices of Christmas cake in their shops – I thoroughly recommend giving that a try.

 

I have already reviewed the Tesco selection box and they also produced a dairy-free Advent Calendar this year – it’s a bit late for that now though – unless you wish to devour the first three weeks’ chocolates in one go – which is actually quite tempting! I have added a Moo-Free selection box to my Christmas shelf as their chocolate is divine. But if you want something a little more luxurious, you can’t beat Booja Booja products. But online stores like Animal Aid have a huge range of vegan products available.

Holland and Barrett have many nibbles in their fridge and freezer – I have picked up some Bites VegiDeli Spicy Bean Bites and the absolutely massive VegiDeli 48-piece Party Pack (also sold at H&B) has gone down well in previous years – but you need a huge freezer in which to house it Remember the one in the film The Shining? Well one about that size should do it)!

Obviously, things like vegetable spring rolls, onion bhajis and veggie samosas are available all over, as are the staple favourite Linda McCartney Sausage Rolls. You can, of course, always make your own and enjoy a truly sustainable festive lunch. After all, it’s a time for family – and what could be better than cooking together at the family time of year?

A couple of my previous blogs deal with vegan cheeses – another popular evening or afternoon snack – especially nice with strong pickled onions!

Many stuffings are accidently vegan and so are many gravy brands – including Bisto!

Away from the meals themselves, being vegan can be a bit of a nightmare if you’re the only vegan in the family (or indeed the village). But letting family know to the things to avoid when buying you gifts can help – otherwise you end up with leather gloves, a woolly hat and bubble bath tested on rabbits! Not to mention dairy chocolate and gelatine-based sweets….

Avoiding meat can be difficult at this time of year – I hate the smell so choose to eat separately from those who have a “traditional” Christmas lunch. The other festive traditions of fox hunting, shooting, parading or showing reindeers and horse racing also horrify me – but there are demonstrations up and down the country against the former on Boxing Day – and serve as a reminder that Christmas isn’t really an animal-friendly festival – despite the John Lewis ad!

Many animal sanctuaries – including Hillside – offer “in lieu” presents, where you can buy hay or carrots for the animals and let your loved-ones know through a certificate and, in Hillside’s case, a small calander.

Just because the occasion itself neglects our fellow species, it doesn’t mean that we have to as well. Enjoying a vegan Christmas is easier than saying “pass the sprouts”!

 

That’s a vegan wrap! Co-op Falafel and Houmous Wraps reviewed

 

Vegan options are springing up all over the place – Pret’s tasty offerings, for example, have received plaudits from across the social media world.

It’s well-known that supermarkets have also been quickly introducing ranges to tempt vegans to part from their tallow-free cash in recent months – so I decided to try out Co-op’s perfect vegan-friendly lunchtime snack offering.

Famous for being the “ethical supermarket”, the Co-op has received particular praise from vegans for their jam and custard donuts. At two packs for a quid, these have long been a staple of vegan junk food addicts up and down the country. Their Falafel and Houmous Wraps are, I’m guessing slightly healthier than their sugar-laden shelf fellows.

I, personally, find falafels a little dry, so pairing them with creamy houmous is the natural thing to do – they go together like Friday nights and chips! I also prefer the hummus spelling of the dish – but the CO-OP has chosen to go with “houmous”, so I’ll stick to that for accuracy’s sake.

At £2.65 for two, you certainly get enough for the savoury side of your lunch, but I would have liked to have seen a little more houmous thrown in if I’m honest. But what there is does its job and means the wraps are not too dry – they’re not too wet either, which is probably why they haven’t been over-generous on the sauce.

A word of warning, the wraps are chilli wraps and, while mild, they do add a little heat and possess a pleasant spicy aftertaste. When mixed with the natural spice of the falafels, this can produce a satisfying taste to those of us who dislike bland food. But, if you don’t do spicy, you won’t like these.

They have a nice crunch to them too – perfectly provided by the lettuce, red cabbage and small pieces of carrot. So, as well as feeling that your hunger pangs have been satisfied, you come away with the smug feeling that you’ve eaten something relatively healthy while on the go.

Veganism vs “veganism”

World Vegan Day was first celebrated in 1994 to mark the 50th anniversary of the Vegan Society. So, here in the UK, we can be proud of the fact that it all started here.

Marked on November 1st each year, it gives us vegans a chance to celebrate our diet and promote it to others. In the age of social media, that is becoming more and more easy.

But, as the number of vegans grows beyond what anyone could have imagined back when the Vegan Society was first born, I have to ask, has complacency set in?

I read about the big animal rights march in London, the weekend preceding World Vegan Day, where 2,000 vegans marched through the capital. Veteran animal rights campaigners remarked that 20 years ago that figure was 20,000 on some animal rights demonstrations – and that was at a time when the number of vegans wasn’t a patch on the figures we see now. I also read a piece by the Countryside Alliance remarking that the number of protesters at fox hunts each weekend was very much fewer these days than it was 20 years ago – and that’s before the Hunting Act, before the law gave a degree of protection to “sabs”.

This is where the difference between “veganism” and “animal rights” is highlighted most starkly. Many people debate the word “vegan” online, coupling it with “animal rights”, but, if we’re honest, people who follow a plant-based diet are, by the dictionary definition of the term, “vegan”. Newspaper articles highlight the fact that many people go vegan for health reasons, others do it for compassionate reasons, but aren’t what is seen as the “activist” type. Others are what many like to term “armchair activists”, and being an “armchair activist” has never been so easy. Social media means that we can sign petitions all day long – but does it make any difference? Well, yes and no, is the straight answer – as straight as you’re going to get anyway!

No, I haven’t gone all politician on you, but, it’s true, petitions do make the Press, they do make people aware as they pop up in people’s Facebook newsfeeds, but, on the whole, politicians tend to ignore them – look at the recent “Ban Grouse Shooting” petition – it got debated, and the MPs decided to totally ignore the will of the people. Politicians ignoring the people they serve? Never! Sadly, it was thus, and it is time and time again.

 

I have said before, and I stand by the fact that to be a vegan is to be an activist – you are saying “no, using animals as products is wrong”, and you aren’t adding to the death toll in slaughterhouses and on dairy farms – but do you need to do more? That, my friends, is a question only you can answer.