E’s are good, E’s are bad

When it comes to animal ingredients, the increase in the use of “suitable for vegans” label has certainly made things easier while shopping.

However, where things are not labelled in such a helpful manner, it’s the additives that make our lives more difficult – especially if, like me, you have a sweet tooth.

If you look at the list of E-numbers in food, it’s impossible to remember every single one and know exactly what they all are. And it’s quite often things like sweets that they’re likely to live inside – things that are more likely to lack informative labelling.

Thankfully, the list of definitely animal-derived E-numbers is relatively short. Sadly, the same cannot be said for the “might be animal-derived” list – which can make things a bit tricky.

The ones to definitely avoid are:

E120 – Carmine Dye – it comes from crushed up Cochineal Beetles and is used as a red food dye.
E441 – Gelatine – from ground animal bones and skin – one to look out for in sweets.
E542 – Edible Bone Phosphate – What it says really, ground up animal bones that helps keep food moist.
E901 – Beeswax – Used as a glazing agent – it’s wax made by bees.
E904 – Shellac – Another glazing agent – this time secreted by the Lac Bug
E913 – Lanolin –  sheep wool grease  – lovely right? It’s often used as Vitamin D3 (confusingly, there are vegan sources of that too). Look out for it in make-up, vitamin pills and anything fortified too.
E910, E920 and E921 – L-cysteine – You can find these evil triplets in bread. It’s made from animal hair and feathers (yummy, right?). Apparently, they’re used as a proving (or raising) agent”
E966 – Lactitol – As its name suggests, this one comes from milk. It is often used as a sweetener.

This list of those which may be animal-derived is much more extensive – hence why things become so complicated.

E101/E101a, E104, E153, E160a, E161b, E161g, E236, E237, E238, E252, E270, E304, E322, E325, E326, E327, E422, E430 – E436, E442, E445, E470a & b, E471, E472a-f, E473 – E77, E479b, E481 – E483, E491 – E495, E570, E572, E585, E627, E631, E635, E640, E920, E966, E1105, and E1518.

A lot of them isn’t there? A rule of thumb would be to air on the side of caution if there’s no vegetarian/vegan label – it can also help to look at the allergens list as many would fall under that category. There is also a good guide to E-numbers at http://ukfoodguide.net/enumeric.htm

One of the alarming things which come from looking at that list is the number of E-numbers banned in certain countries. That, to me, suggests that avoiding them altogether – whether animal-derived or not – may not be a bad thing. There is certainly evidence that many of them provoke adverse reactions in some children and adults.

 

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…

Vegan Choices at Easter

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Choices is a very apt name for vegan Easter eggs these days – there really is a huge variety to choose from.

That said, Choices is seen by many as the vegan Easter egg God – which means they can be a little more difficult to track down in the last week before chocoholics everywhere get an excuse to indulge without feeling guilty.

I chose the old favourite – a Choices egg with Caramel flavoured Choices – sweets that battle Vego bars for the kings of vegan chocolate. There are Choices white chocolate eggs and an egg with Rondellos also available. My favourite. It costs £4.60 from http://www.alternativestores.com – I got mine from Sainsbury’s, however.

The main problem here is that with three caramel-flavoured chocs, it isn’t going to last very long.

I love Choices caramel-flavoured chocolates, and you can buy boxes for £3.89 from Holland and Barrett online – http://www.hollandandbarrett.com/shop/product/choices-dairy-free-caramel-flavoured-choices-60006419?&utm_medium=cpc&&utm_medium=cpc&utm_source=bing&utm_adgID58700001086330938 – or get them when you’re out shopping.

They are devastatingly moreish – incredibly sweet chocolate, with a thick fondant caramel centre that takes you to heaven on the back on a unicorn with butterflies circling your head every time you take a bite. I warn you, that devouring a whole box in one go is highly likely once you’ve eaten one…

 

The egg itself is also a joy to munch – for that too is flavoured with the divine elixir of caramel flavour. Sweet and creamy, it’s like a fairy’s embrace and offers a total escape from the trash on TV over the holidays. If it rains, you will forget your disappointment within a second of tasting this wonderful egg-shaped chocolate taste of wonderment.

It’s nice, OK?

I really did save the best until last in my brief series of vegan Easer egg reviews.

There are far too many available now – if I reviewed them all I would be unable to move for a month and would have kept the tooth fairy in overtime for a month.

This is great news people – veganism has gone mainstream, and it’s only going to grow.

Happy Easter.

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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Egg-citing times for vegans

The One problem I have with modern Easter Eggs  – vegan or not – is probably age-related, but when I was a kid, the sweets or chocolates that came with the egg were actually inside it – not in a little bag at the bottom of the package.

I feel this new modern way of selling Easter Eggs steals the magic from the Easter Bunny’s basket – for me anyway.

However, one thing that has changed for the better is the number of vegan-friendly Easter Eggs crammed on to shelves up and down the land.

I have decided I should review some, and I’m going to start with a Sainsbury’s one today (http://www.mysupermarket.co.uk/sainsburys-price-comparison/Boxed_Chocolates/Sainsburys_freefrom_White_Chocolate_Egg_65g.html).

The Free From White Choc Egg and Buttons instantaneously made me regress to my childhood and dance with unicorns in my head. The 65g one is quite small, but only costs £2.50.

It contains Sugar, Cocoa Butter, Inulin, Maltodextrin, Maize Flour, Coconut Oil, Emulsifier (Soya Lecithins) and Flavourings and has 12 or so buttons – so a pretty good buy really.

It smells nice too – but I love the smell of vegan white chocolate in the morning anyway.

I also love the taste. It delivers a powerful sugar-kick which dances nicely with the inviting sweet smell that lures unsuspecting non-vegans in for the ride.

The delightful buttons are more of the same really – neither the egg nor buttons lasted very long with me – always a good sign.

I am, naturally, a big fan of the creamy white chocolate from Tesco, so this egg seems a natural place for me to start my Vegan Easter Egg review journey.

I have asked people in vegan groups on Facebook to offer up their own views on various eggs – I suggest you do the same, and I’ll use them in forthcoming blogs.

But, for a start, on Facebook, Leanne Bisson stated: “I’ve had the Tesco finest caramel one and the uh can’t remember plain one from Holland and Barrett so far.. Tesco wins for taste.”

Aldi bunny

While Sam Robinson commented: “I had a chocolate bunny from Aldi it was soo good didn’t even taste like dark choc.”

Eleanore Duggan, said she makes her own and shared her recipe with me….

  • 50g cocoa/cacao butter
  • 3tbsp Cocoa/cacao powder (the taste will vary slightly depending on if you use cacao or cocoa)
  • 1 and a half tbsp liquid sweetener e.g agave, maple etc.

Melt the butter, add the other two ingredients, pour into mould (silicone ones are easiest to use) and chill in freezer or fridge straight away. I’ve never tempered my chocolate during making as chocolatiers do and the texture is still fab. Double or triple up the amounts as necessary and add essences like hazelnut, mint, orange or vanilla or nuts, dried fruit etc for variations.

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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

Every Little Helps for a vegan Christmas

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Tesco Selection Box review

 

Time was, Christmas was a complete horror show for vegans – a dry nut roast for the festive lunch and an apple to follow. Of course, sweets and chocolates were politely declined.

But now, vegans are big business and there are festive vegetarian magazines, an array of festive roasts in supermarkets and health food shops (I noticed one with a used by date of December 17 last week) and chocolate, boy do we have an array of chocolate to choose from!

People have still been excited to see the appearance of Tesco’s own-brand Free From Cho Selection Boxes however, because, now, we have truly hit the mainstream.

Despite the fact it’s only November, and I personally believe the word “Christmas” should be banned before December 24th, I decided to brave the commercial madness on behalf of you lovely people and bought one.

It cost me two quid, which, looking at the contents, is about right. You get three Choc bars – the normal Choc one (a milk chocolate alternative), a Choc ‘N’ Crispie and a White Choc, plus two small packets of choc buttons – a normal milk alternative packet and a white choc packet.

As all of these normally sell for 40p a throw each, it doesn’t take a maths genius to work out that the price is very fair. All the products are palm oil free too, which is important to many vegans.

There’s a small spot the difference game on the back, as, after all, my guess is these a generally not marketed at 40-something cynical blokes.

This is also borne out by the tiny number of buttons in the packets – but with the white ones being sweeter than sugar itself, that may not be a bad thing. The choc ones could be used on cakes as they too are medium sized – those ones are quite creamy, but still carry a noticeable sugar hit. But, again, we need to remember they are aimed at children, and they will absolutely love them.

The Choc ‘N’ Crispie bar is probably the best of the bunch as the crspie bits helps to detract from the sweetness. This means it has more of a creamy taste than its Choc counterpart – I prefer it to the Sainsbury’s equivalent I reviewed in an earlier blog. Talking of which, I have reviewed the other two chocolate bars from this box before too. But here’s a quick reminder for those who are new to my ramblings….

The White Choc Bar 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.

The Free From Choc Bar 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 bars around possess.

All in all, it’s a good value stocking filler for the young and not so young vegans this Christmas and it’s great to see vegans getting more and more recognition on the High Street.

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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.