A Lincolnshire sausage for a vegan Lincolnshire lad

Linda McCartney Lincolnshire Vegetarian Sausages

The widely-available Linda McCartney Vegetarian Sausages are considered the benchmark in veggie sausages. This has pleased many who, up until the last couple of years, have found they’ve been the only vegan-friendly product in the supermarket freezer.

Since 1991, Linda McCartney foods has been the major player in vegetarian processed foods. They are the go-to vegan staple for barbecues, unimaginative relatives and, to be fair, vegans who want cheap bangers and mash or vegan breakfast.

The Red Onion and Rosemary variety is even nicer – and I adored the Red Onion and Rosemary plait and I was absolutely gutted when it disappeared from the shelves.

The Chorizo sausages were the last new vegan sausage product I tried from Linda McCartney, and they’re divine.

I had heard about the legend that is the Vegan Lincolnshire Sausage from the kitchens of Linda McCartney but had yet to find said bangers.

But a trip to my local Morrisons has changed all that.

They were just staring at me from the freezer – and the only cost £2 for a packet of six – I was sold.

The reason for being obsessed about finding the sausage grail is simple – I’m a Lincolnshire lad.

Linda McCartney Lincolnshire Vegetarian Sausages

The first thing to notice is that they’re made of pea protein and soya-free is you have an allergy.

The pea protein gives them a softer interior to the other sausages – this offers a very pleasant sensation when eating them – as does the nice, but not overpowering hit of spice once you bite into them.

The skin is very much a Linda McCartney sausage, but the inside is very different – in a good way, a fantastically brilliant way in fact – it’s soft and delicious but gets very hot – temperature-wise. It’s the delicate hit of black pepper that does it for me – they are my new favourite sausages.

The Linda McCartney brand has pledged to go plastic-free by 2021 and its products are 96.4% plastic-free according to its website with a commitment to make the plastic they do use compostable – they also have a commitment to sustainable palm oil.

Linda McCartney is, of course, one of the big players when it comes to vegan and vegetarian food, so the fact they have serious eco statements on their website is great news.

https://lindamccartneyfoods.co.uk/our-food/vegan-range/

Linda McCartney Lincolnshire Vegetarian Sausages ingredients

Budget vegan pies – in a tin!

Fray Bento Vegetable Balti Pie in a tin

Fray Bentos Vegetable Balti Pies reviewed

Now you can even get vegan pies in a tin!

With the announcement that Pie kings Fray Bentos had dipped a toe into the vegan market, those of us who love cheap pies were dancing in the kitchen and hunting down our tin openers in anticipation.

Not only is this another option for vegan pie lovers, it’s also cheap and requires no freezer – or even a fridge – for storage. Plus, and it’s a big plus, they only cost £1 (when I got mine) at B&M or Morrisons – it’s wonderful that veganism on a budget just gets easier and easier! It must be said however, this isn’t specifically marketed as a vegan product, it’s sold more as a veggie option and they’ve left it to us to publicise the fact it’s also vegan-friendly.

Before you start, you do need a strong tin open to prise off the lid – but once you’ve got that far you just throw it in the oven for 25 minutes – no baking tray needed! Plus, the tin design means the packaging is 100% recyclable and the best before date is an impressive 18 months away – so you can really stock up while they’re on offer! Obviously, unless you wish to blow up the kitchen with a pretty fireworks display, you can’t microwave it – but whoever heard of microwaving a pie anyway? Soggy, radiated pastry? No thanks.

Cooked Fray Bentos pie

The first thing to note after the pie is cooked is that it isn’t particularly pretty. If food aesthetics is your thing, then this is not the product for you. The top of the pie on mine looked like it had been blown up with a foot pump with the filling making a desperate attempt at freedom from the pastry prison – but it didn’t affect the taste in the slightest. It is also a little difficult to get the thing out of the tin and on to the plate – but even Linda McCartney pies have that issue in removing them from their foil home. And, crucially, it doesn’t really stick, so you can get all of the pie out rather than throwing vital bits of pastry away when you’ve finished serving up.

But what about the taste?

It’s good. As a curry-based delight, it isn’t too spicy, there is a slight kick, but nothing overpowering.

Although, I have some sympathy with those vegans that complain about how all vegan options seem to come with some degree of spicy kick or heat these days – and not all vegans are spice lovers like myself.

The pie’s sauce is pretty thick and meaty for a vegan offering – and I really appreciated the abundance of vegetables available – especially the peas! I’ve felt for a long time that peas have been the most under-appreciated of all the vegetables in a vegan’s cupboard. I put peas in everything and I’m glad they’re well represented here.

The pie is a nice big unit too – many vegan offerings just aren’t big enough and throw in a couple of portions of chips and you can even feed two with Fray Bentos’ foray into veganism.

The pastry itself is also rather tasty. It’s crispy on top and melts in the mouth through its reaction with the sauce, which it complements perfectly.

The list of ingredients is rather long, which isn’t always a great sign, but most of what is on the list is natural and there’s a nice long list of spices. In short, there’s very little to fault here.

Another win for vegans on a budget.

Fray Bento Vegetable Balti Pie ingredients list

A vegan at Christmas – Star Wars, nut roasts and mince pies

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I saw the Viva ad promoting veganism at a showing of Star Wars: The Last Jedi today.

Sadly, it was followed by several supermarket ads showcase all the meat available this Christmas. For me, that sums up Christmas as a vegan. Although we are growing in number and share our stories, finds and views in vegan groups on social media, many of us will spend Christmas amongst meat-eaters.

I’ve often said that the festive period is a bad time for the animals – many millions are consigned to dinner plates – and worse…the bin when too much meat is purchased! We also have the festive fox hunts, reindeer cruelly paraded in a foreign climate, unwanted puppies dumped and wildlife left to freeze to death.

However, there are many positives to being a vegan at Christmas too. The local animal sanctuaries, for instance, often receive generous donations at this time of year (donate to Brook Farm sanctuary at http://www.bfas.org.uk/ or Hillside at http://www.hillside.org.uk/ in the UK). Plus, we have Veganuary (https://veganuary.com/ ) to look forward to and there are more and more vegan options to make your Christmas feast delicious as well as compassionate.

I usually buy a Vegusto roast for my Christmas lunch (https://vegusto.co.uk/) They are natural, vegan and soya-free. You do pay a little more than some other roasts, but I think they’re worth it – and great for cold cuts. Being a mushroom addict, I’ve gone for the Porcini Mushroom Roast. They do a great starter pack too – which is a fantastic introduction to their range of fake meats and cheeses.

I have had Tofurkey before too – this seems to be the favoured “meat” of choice for many – and I can’t blame them. It’s available at your local Holland and Barrett and many other health food shops. Again, it seems expensive – but you can feed a family from one roast. The outer layer can get a little tough when it’s roasted, but, other than that, it’s very tasty.

I’ve also tried the Cheatin’ Celebration Roast – also available for Holland and Barrett or http://www.vbitesfoods.com I had this a number of times so you can tell I enjoyed it! It comes with vegan sausages wrapped in vegan bacon – so you get a proper Christmas feeling from it – the roast itself is already sliced too – an added bonus! It comes with gravy too. Of course, you can buy nut roasts in many places, including Tesco – https://myvegansupermarket.co.uk/product/tesco-festive-nut-roast-mulled-wine-cranberry-480g/ – or make your own – there are many recipes online, and people have their own takes on this classic too.

There are many posts in vegan groups about finding vegan-friendly cakes and puddings over Christmas – and specialist websites often stock them – but I got my mince pies from Iceland and my Christmas pudding from B&M. It’s often a case of just looking through the ingredients – something vegans have become very good at over the years. As I get older, I’m finding I have to keep my glasses on while I shop so I can read the ingredient small print of products!

Many supermarkets now stock vegan custard and single cream and Sainsbury’s now stock a vegan Whipped Cream in a spray can – and, again, you can buy it in a can or carton at many health food shops anyway – even Amazon stock it! I must give Costa’s vegan-friendly Christmas cake slices the thumbs-up too – well worth a try if you’re popping in for a coffee over Christmas.

Linda McCartney now produces mini-sausage rolls and “chipolata-style” sausages for that Christmas tea – and you may have seen the posts about the Violife cheese platter available at Sainsbury’s.

There are festive selection boxes available everywhere – I saw a vegan one in Morrisons yesterday – or you could splash out and go for a box of Booja-booja – very nice for indulgent vegans.

The point is, there are so many vegan products now available, it’s impossible to cover them all in one blog. I, personally, love my traditional veg – the best festive products to consume on a budget. I fry my sprouts – chop them up tiny, fry with diced onion, garlic, lemon juice and black pepper for about three minutes – they are tasty and still have a nice crunch to them for 30 minutes also works well.

It’s easy to get downhearted by the obvious contradiction in celebrating through what vegans see as death and destruction of animals. But, just by showing off the vegan alternatives you are opening people’s minds to the possibility of another way of marking the occasion. We can buy ethical presents, eat ethical foods and drink ethical drinks – but we don’t have to spend a fortune in doing so.

For me, it’s good to remember that Christmas doesn’t have to be extravagant, the DIY experience brings joy to the cooking and present-making process and strips away some of the stress – after all, Christmas is supposed to be merry for everybody – whatever the species.

As for the film, well Star Wars has been a festive treat for many of us over the past couple of years – and this one has several vegan undertones!

 

Gosh, these vegan sausages are natural

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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.

 

Vegans love treats too

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There is a popular myth that vegans have a very bland diet.

That is about as accurate as electoral polls – most vegans I know devour junk food and treats even more greedily than their omnivore friends.

Of course, there’s different types of vegan treats – there’s natural treats, accidently vegan treats and, of course, treats specifically marketed at vegans.

Natural-wise, you can just tear up some kale, stick it on a well-oiled (and I don’t mean drunk) tray season it with salt and pepper and roast it – and you have kale crisps – and very good they are too. Of course, you can eat fruit, roast other thinly sliced veg as crisps and munch on nuts. I spent last Sunday morning in my friend’s garden eating raw beans straight from the pod – and very nice they are too.

But, these are all very healthy options, and, sometimes, the point of treats is to be less than healthy. Although, vegan treats are, in general, more healthy than non-vegan treats. But some things like Oreos and Space Raiders are marked under the banner of “surprisingly vegan” – in other words, they just happen to be vegan. An added advantage with Space Raiders is that they are still only £1 for a packet of 10. The pickled onion variety is still vegan and still utterly divine – it’s not as though you’re eating real alien faces.

It also has to be said that quite often meat varieties of crisps are vegan, but salt and vinegar are sometimes not – it is always worth checking.

If you want post crisps that are vegan and sound a bit healthier crisp-wise, then Eat Real (http://eatreal.co.uk/) have some great offerings and they’re widely available.

Their Hummus chips are a personal favourite, as are the Lentil Chilli and Lemon Chips.

This weekend, I tried the Quinoa and Kale Jalapeno and Cheddar Puffs. The Quinoa Puffs have more crunch than other types of puff crisps, and these pack quite a punch. The kale taste certainly cuts through, but the jalapeno hits you with a nice heat that certainly leaves a memorable taste in your mouth. The various ranges all contain a range of flavours and they are well worth checking out.

As it’s summer, I have to mention the 4 U Free From Chocolate and Vanilla Cones from Morrisons. There are quite a few varieties of vegan ice cream out there now, but these are the first chocolate Cornetto-style ones I’ve tried – and I’m impressed. The chocolate hit is lovely and it complements the vanilla very well, but, they aren’t as luscious as the Tesco Strawberry and Vanilla Cones – the Tesco cones actually retain their crunch, something the 4 U cones lack – the Tesco ones have a bit of chocolate at the bottom of the cone too – a bit of chocolate at the bottom of the cone goes a long way in my view.

I am also a huge fan of the devilishly moorish Lazy Day range of goodies (http://www.lazydayfoods.com/) Their Millionaire’s Shortbread is utterly divine, as is their Belgian Chocolate Rocky Road. The chocolate on the latter is divinely rich and the marshmallows yummily sweet – eating it is a truly orgasmic experience. The Ginger Tiffin is another favourite – the hit of stem ginger will not disappoint any ginger lovers. The only problem with this taste of luxury is that a box is disappears very quickly – a pack can vanish before you’ve got through a whole episode of Dr Who.

I’ve mentioned the Tesco Fondant Truffles before – and they still stand up as a cheaper version of the Choices chocolates, but I must mention Panda Liquorice. I am a huge liquorice fan, and Panda’s Blueberry Liquorice is soft, sticky and very addictive – the perfect vegan sweet.

So there you have a brief overview of vegan treats – and I didn’t even mention Vego bars once…

A vegan at Christmas

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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”!