Are vegan meat replacements too real?

Vegan burger which looks realistic

There seems to be a never-ending race to create vegan burgers which resemble meat in taste, texture and look.

The Guardian calls them “meat-a-like” foods in the following article:

https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/shortcuts/2019/jul/02/im-paranoid-its-meat-the-rise-of-vegan-conspiracy-theories?fbclid=IwAR2MTm5HO65XPz5ONwS0IC4PhZMltOK-Jh5Slu6X6xbVNGwqQNAmkJzTx28

The following comment sums up how realistic things are getting: “”I always get paranoid when [fake meat] tastes so much like the real thing, that one day it’s all going to come out on the news that we have been tricked into eating real meat this whole time,” reads one comment on the Facebook group. In February, a commenter posted a picture of Greggs’ vegan sausage roll, seeking reassurance that it wasn’t real meat. “Had to stop eating,” they wrote. “Please tell me it’s safe.””

One phrase which vegans hate with a vengeance is “but bacon”, however, over the years there have been a number of bacon substitutes on the market. It seems that here too the alternatives can be super realistic, as highlighted in this article:

https://www.mirror.co.uk/money/shopping-deals/super-realistic-vegan-brand-tricks-17910556

There are a couple of interesting comments in this particular article. The first paragraph states: “Looking to reduce your meat intake but can’t tear yourself away from the idea of from a weekend bacon sandwich, or a roast chicken?”  So, are these products even aimed at vegans?

It seems not! These are vegan products not targeting vegans, and that does actually make sense.

I became vegan because I don’t believe it’s right that animals have to suffer and die to provide for me. The environmental and health benefits are something I discovered after turning vegan, but they are reasons why people are not starting to either turn vegan or reduce their intake of animal products. The article also says: “The Isn’t Bacon even have half the salt of conventional bacon, no cancer-causing nitrates and zero saturated fat – so it’s even better for you.”

So, you see, the health-conscious vegans are part of the target audience here – and that is why there is such a desire to make products so realistic.

Meaty-looking vegan burger

While many die-hard, long-term vegans hate the idea of anything which resembles meat, those looking to reduce their intake or new vegans may crave a realistic substitute. There is also the fact that vegans dining with meat-eating friends or family may wish to have something which will have their meal companions say: “Wow, I can’t believe that’s vegan!” Although the potatoes, carrots and cabbage on their plate also happen to be vegan!

The Mirror article also includes the line: “It’s also more sustainable, as it uses 90% less water and 70% less CO2 emissions than meat.”

The environmental impact of animal agriculture has been in the headlines a lot recently and meat production’s impact on the planet cannot be underestimated.

Exact facts and figures are hard to come by, but this Guardian article from 2018 is a pretty balanced look at the issues:

https://www.theguardian.com/news/2018/may/07/true-cost-of-eating-meat-environment-health-animal-welfare

Its conclusions are pretty similar to those which vegans have been highlighting for some time now.

I tried the Beyond Burger with cheese a couple of weeks before writing this piece and I was shocked at the realism. I have pointed out before that some supermarkets have started stocking vegan foods alongside meat products on their shelves:

https://veganonadesertisland.com/2018/07/15/vegan-in-the-meat-aisle/

As I pointed out then, I am not the real target audience for these products – but it’s undeniable that the growing number of vegans will also buy them – and maybe buy them for meat-eating partners, children or friends who come to dinner.

I do like the No Bull Burgers a lot, and I love that they have added beetroot juice, I don’t think this makes them look or taste like real burgers particularly, but then I don’t really know what “real” burgers taste like. I do know what they smell like, however, and I despise it.

I didn’t despise the Beyond Burger, I just felt it was a little “too real”. I understand that people don’t turn vegan because they dislike the taste, look and texture of meat, but because of the suffering behind the meat. That’s me really, but I have grown to dislike the idea of meat so much that the thought of its taste repulses me. But others are different and they are also catered for by such products.

Of course, the fact that these products are controversial means lots of debate and therefore free marketing for the companies behind them.

I personally prefer veggie burgers to have bits of vegetables in them – but I’d love to hear what you think.

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

 

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/

 

Moo-ve over for the Vegans at Easter

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You can’t move for vegan-friendly Easter Eggs these days, if I were to attempt to review them all on here, I’d need an overdraft and a new wardrobe of clothes.

However, after my first blog on Easter eggs, I felt duty-bound to buy and, more importantly, eat more for your benefit.

This time, I went for the Moo Free Cheeky Orange Egg with Buttons (http://moofreechocolates.com/) and, as before, the buttons were in the packaging, not inside the egg as Easter tradition dictates.

However, I’m a big fan of chocolate orange, so I was also disappointed to learn that this does not count as one of my five a day – it’s got orange in it, so why not?

Moo Free have been one of the standard bearers for vegan confectionary for several years. They set the bar high before the supermarkets began to smell the money in veganism. While the choice is very, very welcome, please do check out the full Moo-Free range – I’m a big fan of supporting vegan businesses where possible.

Anyway, time to start on the egg. It tastes like chocolate with orange in it.

Is that enough, or do you want more? OK, well, the orange is actually infused into the chocolate through orange crystals, so as well as a subtle burst of sweet orange, you also get a satisfying crunch – lovely. I think “cheeky” is the right word, as the chocolate has a light texture and taste and a substantial sugar-hit, but the orange is not over-powering at all. It’s a nice understated addition to the taste that renders the egg very moorish.

While the buttons are small, and there aren’t a huge number of them, they are a nice, rich, chocolatey after treat – they don’t have the orange crystals, but this adds a nice balance to the whole package in my view.

It’s nice to have a milk chocolate alternative which is so tasty and the packaging and sweetness are both very child-friendly.

But while we’re on chocolate treats, I’m going to throw in something for the adults – the Vego Bar.

If you’re vegan and not familiar with these, where have you been? These beasts are available all year round, but Easter gives you a good excuse (should you need one) to tuck into a Vego.

They are thick hunks of chocolate filled with yummy hazelnuts. The nuts add bite and flavour, but, really, the chocolate chunks are so thick and creamy, they are an utter delight full-stop. Most vegan fairs, online vegan shops and many independent health food shops stock them. Go try.

 

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Vegan fondant delights

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Tesco Free-From Fondant Truffles

It’s brilliant how many new vegan products are gracing the shelves of supermarkets across the UK.

With Easter fast approaching, I have already seen a mass of vegan-friendly Easter eggs screaming “eat me” as I walk down the aisles in search of naughty Saturday night treats.

Seeing the new to me Tesco “Finest” free-from truffles when I only went in for Almond milk made this vegan’s heart skip several beats. I don’t mind admitting, I’m a secret chocoholic. Not so secret now eh?

These chocolates are perfect for those with a sweet tooth. You certainly get a strong sugar hit from them and they are very moreish. I can certainly see why people say you can become addicted to chocolate or sugar, eating one chocolate at a time really isn’t an option here – but do let me know if you have the willpower to pull that off!

The fondant centre is actually quite thick and carries an additional, albeit lighter chocolate hit. It certainly can’t be described as unpleasant.

The base is firmer than the rest of the chocolate, but is by no means hard. This gives the sweet a little more bite, something else I like very much.

Something else I like very much is tea. I’m a huge advocate for enjoying a cuppa and chocolates together and these offerings from Tesco do compliment a good cup of tea very well.

The obvious comparison is Choices Caramel Chocolate. Choices have long been a favourite of mine and I can devour a box within half an hour.

Obviously, the Tesco chocolates are fondant truffles and not caramel chocolates, but the idea is the same, if not the centres. I guess there’s enough of a difference to buy a box each – but the Tesco fondants are less expensive.

A box of Tesco Free-From Fondant Truffles costs £2 for 156g, whereas Choices Caramel Chocolates are £3.60 for 125g. A big difference then? Yes, but Choices still have the edge taste-wise – for me at least anyway, however, the Tesco chocolates are very nice and are certainly more than an adequate replacement at a lower cost.

I posted a photo of the Tesco chocolates in the Vegan Friends UK Facebook group and the comments were 100% positive, so it’s clear I’m not alone in being a big fan.

You can buy them online from http://www.tesco.com/groceries/product/details/?id=293818980

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Screenshot of people reacting to a photo of the Tesco Free-From Fondant Truffles in Facebook group Vegan Friends UK

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.

The great own brand vegan chocolate review

The rise in supermarkets catering for vegans has been phenomenal over the past few months. The Sainsbury’s vegan cheese release created such a stir, that I wrote my most popular blog thus far on the subject. So I decided to follow it up with a look at something sweet.

There has been a wide range of vegan-friendly chocolate bars on sale for many years, but, recently, supermarkets have picked up on that too. Many dark chocolates are already “accidently” vegan, so I decided to have a look at supermarket equivalents to milk chocolate treats. Most of them are pretty cheap too, at around 40p for a small 35g bar.

 

Sainsbury’s Deliciously Free From… Choc ‘N’ Orange Bar

I love the way Sainsbury’s have decided that their Free From range is “delicious”, the name is slightly presumptuous, but, in this case, pretty accurate. The orange hit here is very strong and is the prominent taste – as should be the case. The fact the chocolate is also quite creamy in texture makes this one a double hit with me.

 

Sainsbury’s Deliciously Free From… Choc ‘N’ Crispie Bar

I quite like the crunch of little rice krispies in chocolate and this one works very well. In fact, it’s the perfect partner for an early evening cup of tea. It certainly doesn’t skimp on the rice pieces and, like it’s orange sister, it has an impressive level of creaminess.

 

Tesco Free From White Choc Bar

I was so excited when I first saw this. One of my earliest memories was getting a Milky Bar Easter egg as a child, and so, without realising it, I decided I had actually missed Milky Bars – and now there’s a cruelty-free alternative available in many local branches of Tesco! It has a very sweet smell about it and, in fact, also tastes very sweet – but creamy too. It’s quite heavy and indulgent, but I like that, especially in such a cheap bar. My favourite of all the bars in this article.

 

Tesco Free From Choc Bar

Another nice and cheap bar. This one is a little hard when you bite into it, but many people like the crunch effect. It does have an overpowering sugar hit, but isn’t really creamy enough for me. That isn’t to say it isn’t nice, it is a nice treat, it just doesn’t have the chocolaty taste that some of the other possess.

 

Morrisons Free From Choocy Bar

I love the name of this – it will certainly appeal to younger vegans. It’s quite a chunky bar too – impressively so. It’s another one that offers a strong hit of sugar and an overpoweringly sweet taste. This means, again, that the creamy taste is lacking somewhat, but there is still a nice taste of chocolate hiding beneath the sweetness.

The Great Gary Review

Veganism is big business on social media.

Stories connected to vegans automatically get multiple shares and provoke debate on news posts, therefore, the Gary/Vegan Cheese debate shouldn’t really come as any surprise. It certainly hasn’t done Sainsbury’s any harm. You couldn’t buy this much advertising! Several national news outlets even picked up on the debate and it went viral quicker than many cat videos.

If you missed it, basically, Sainsbury’s has released a number of own-brand vegan cheeses – something which got the vegan community instantly excited – it doesn’t take much with us lot! Anyway, one less than vegan social media user became upset over the term “cheese” when it comes to dairy-free products and posted a long rant to this effect.  She ended with “call it Gary or something”. So vegans did. Instantly, and hilariously, the ranter’s joke backfired and sent the products’ new moniker viral. I’m sure non-vegan Garys are over the moon.

It all proves two things: Vegans do have a sense of humour and new vegan products sell themselves in the world of social media.

Personally, I don’t care what you call it. I see it as rather petty to get offended over what a product is named. In fact, Sainsbury’s haven’t actually labelled them “vegan cheese” on the packaging – instead they are presumptuously called “Deliciously Free-From…” then Cheddar Style etc.

 

Much of the publicity surrounding the release centred on the fact that the cheeses are coconut-based. The cheeses actually contain between 22 per cent and 24 per cent coconut oil and they are not soya-free. So if you don’t want soya, you’re better off with Violife or Vegusto. Personally, it doesn’t bother me and claims soya gives men boobs and the such-like are pretty nonsensical – it is certainly no quick fix for sex-change patients. Also, many meat products also contain soya and many animals bred for meat are fed on the stuff.

 

I decided to try the new products, including a cheese spread and new lasagne, so I could share my thoughts with you lovely people.

The lasagne was something I was very excited about, but it really isn’t as good as some of the home-made offerings I’ve tried. It is, however, vegetable and not soya mince-based. It also says it “serves one”, which in supermarket terms, means serves one with chips, a salad, garlic bread and pudding!

I avoided going down the lazy microwave route and cooked it properly. But it still stuck to the bottom. Once out of the plastic dish, It was still a little watery and doesn’t have any real spice kick. But there is a fair amount of tasty veg and the pasta tasted nice and creamy. I’d have it again – probably with lots of chips.

 

The Garlic and Herb Soft Cheese is a lovely breakfast treat on toast. It certainly doesn’t skimp on the garlic, it has a real kick and a nice, light texture. It’s delicious in fact. And, as with the cheeses themselves, there is no underlying coconut taste or, indeed, after-taste. Plus, it’s actually softer and more spreadable than many similar products on the market.

 

Now let’s look at the cheeses themselves. I’ll start with the

 

. This is a white cheese with a creamy taste and soft texture. It has a medium-strength hit and would work very well in a salad. I can’t actually remember what “real” cheese tastes like, so I have to judge the products on their own merits.

The Cheddar Style is probably the most traditional alternative, and I would say it has a cheesy taste given what I’ve said above. It’s the kind of vegan cheese I would have in a sandwich with pickles.

 

I approached the Wensleydale Style with Cranberries with some trepidation, as I, generally, don’t like sweet and savoury mixed. But I was pleasantly surprised. It’s certainly colourful – it looks like ice cream, but the sweet aftertaste isn’t unpleasant and it’s another creamy one. This is something that would work well on crackers.

 

Finally, comes the best – Cheddar Style with Caramelised Onion. This is the one that made angels dance around my mouth and spread glitter over my tongue! The powerful onion taste is to die for, making this one that would rule over the cracker kingdom.

 

At £2.25 each for a 200g pack, they are cheaper than many other vegan cheeses and they come in re-sealable packaging – which is always a bonus. All in all, they are certainly a hit with me.