How dare you call a vegan burger a vegan burger?

Non-vegans have a strange obsession with what we call vegan food.

Maybe it’s part of the “outrage culture”, maybe it’s because vegans have to be attacked on social media for, well, being vegan really, or is it because the rise and rise of veganism is considered a threat to those who profit from animal products? Equally, those who don’t wish to give up their carnist habit feel uncomfortable at the status quo tree being shaken by the relentless production of new plant-based foods.

In October 2018, news of a vegan fish and chip shop opening in Hackney, London provoked love from vegans and the predictable “you can’t call it fish” comments on social media. (https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/food-and-drink/vegan-fish-chips-london-daniel-sutton-a8569006.html)

Predictable because we’ve heard it all before. But, let’s be honest, “fish and chip shops” sell sausages, beef burgers and mushy peas – none of which are made from fish. Vegan fish and chips often use battered banana blossom (https://www.finedininglovers.com/blog/food-drinks/banana-blossom/) as the “fish” – much better for you, the ocean and fish in general. At a time where everybody is shouting loudly “stop using plastic to save fish”, vegans yell back “stop eating fish to save fish”. So maybe, just maybe, we should applaud a vegan fish and chip shop very loudly indeed!

In April, this article caused widespread shock in the vegan world: https://www.newfoodmagazine.com/news/66326/france-meat-labelling/

The French law claims to protect consumers by doing away with misleading labels by banning calling veggie sausages veggie sausages. Personally, I thought sausages, burgers etc were a description of a shape – after all, you get beef, pork and veal sausages and burgers too. Oh, and vegan cheese is no longer vegan cheese and plant milk is no longer milk,

What does all this say to me? It tells me that the meat and dairy industry are worried by the rise in veganism – but trying to (and succeeding here and in Missouri) lawmakers to follow their biased business-influenced thinking is rather sinister.

The French move means food producers and retailers will face a €300,000 fine for attempting to market the likes of vegetarian sausage or vegan burgers. It was spearheaded by Jean-Baptiste Moreau, an MP and a farmer. Tweeting after the vote on April 19, Mr Moreau said: “It is important to fight against false claims: our products must be designated correctly. Terms like cheese or steak will be reserved for products of animal origin.” He’s not biased at all then!

In Missouri, a similar law has also been passed (https://www.marketwatch.com/story/in-missouri-you-can-now-go-to-jail-for-calling-tofu-meat-2018-08-29)  – so the threat is real. But is it a threat? Will this really stop people consuming plant-based products?

I doubt it. Nobody is really confused into thinking that oat milk comes from a cow or that vegan chicken burgers have any chicken in them – it’s a nonsensical distraction from the belief we vegans hold – meat and dairy production is cruel and unnecessary. But society likes to cook up irrelevant diversions to steer people away from the real issues. Social media is particularly good at this – as are politicians!

I like nuggets and meatless balls and some vegan sausages, and in this throwaway society, having vegan processed foods and meals available is essential in meeting consumer demand.

I do remember the days when veganism meant soya or black when it came to coffee and “vegan” cheese was a concept dreamt up somewhere over the rainbow. I love living over the rainbow now – and I do get a secret thrill from laughing at meat eaters “lose it” over stories such as the vegan fish and chip shop opening.

The other point is that we are moving beyond soya. It isn’t so long since newspapers were proclaiming how great jackfruit is as a pulled pork substitute (https://veganonadesertisland.com/2018/08/10/id-rather-jack-the-meat-substitute-thats-actually-a-fruit/) and seitan is getting a really good reputation as a versatile and tasty meat substitute – although gluten isn’t gluten-free – since stating the obvious seems to be the whole reasoning behind my need to write this post.

 

Suma wrestle with our taste buds again

Suma’s Baked Beans and Vegan Sausages (reviewed here: https://veganonadesertisland.com/2016/09/11/review-suma-baked-beans-with-lincolnshire-style-meat-free-sausages/) in a tin received a lot of publicity when they first went on sale, their new Meatballs in a Bolognese Sauce and Baked Beans with Vegan Burgers were released quietly on to the market – but they have been noticed by vegans lucky enough to have an independent health food shop nearby. I am such a vegan

Suma is one of the biggest ethical companies in the UK, so I’m always pleased to sample their products and support their business.

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The meatballs excited me most as I love vegan meatballs and often have them with pasta.

These make it quick and easy to cook such a dinner. You simply heat through and throw it on the pasta – taking care not to splash it all over your white shirt of course.

They do have that food in a tin taste – it’s hard to explain, but I swear it is a thing. The meatballs are nothing spectacular, but they are nice – just not overly spiced. You can solve that by throwing a few chilli flakes into the sauce yourself – I added some veg to bulk it out because you can’t have pasta without mushrooms. But those who dislike spicy food will be pleased with them as they are.

The Bolognese sauce has hints of tomato – which shouldn’t really come as a surprise, and it works. The meatballs are small – but they come trapped in a tin, so what do you expect until they invent Tardis tins?

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The same goes for the burgers – they’re more like baby birds with awesome baked beans. In fact, the baby burgers’ ingredients don’t differ greatly from the meatball ingredients, but I preferred the Bolognese sauce to compliment them over the baked beans. The beans come in a rich sauce and the burger bites are meaty and not overly spiced, but they’re nice – just not as enjoyable as the Vegan Sausages and Baked Beans – but nothing in a tin comes close to that!

What this does do is give students, those in a hurry and vegan campers a choice of three different meals in a tin and that has to be a good thing.

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Baked Beans with Vegan Burgers ingredients
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Vegan Meatballs in Bolognese Sauce ingredients

http://www.suma.coop/

Iceland’s vegan gamechanger

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Iceland has launched its extended range of vegan products in the UK.

What’s more, most of them are a pocket-friendly £2 a pack. Couple this with the chains pledge to eliminate plastic packaging from all its own products (https://www.theguardian.com/business/2018/jan/15/iceland-vows-to-eliminate-plastic-on-all-own-branded-products) and Iceland is probably the most vegan of all the supermarket chains right now.

Don’t get me wrong, I personally still champion independent shops over big chains – Backyard food in Peterborough (https://www.facebook.com/backyardfoodpeterborough) and Holbeach Wholefoods (https://www.facebook.com/Holbeach-Wholefoods-129572517136021/) being the two which spring to mind for me – but many vegans still like convenience and use supermarkets – and I’d be lying if I said I was supermarket-free. Plus, actually, these new products excite my taste buds in wonderful and exciting ways.

 

Yes, vegans are everywhere, the big brands are taking notice – the rest of you might as well give in and join us.

In fact, the new range is so extensive I couldn’t buy everything in one go – so, if you wish to review any of the missing products, feel free to comment below.

I reviewed the original No Bull Burgers when they were introduced (https://veganonadesertisland.com/2018/04/09/no-bull-its-a-bloody-vegan-burger/) – and they have become more popular than cat pictures on Facebook.

So, what does Iceland have to offer?

No Bull Tofu Burgers (£2)

No Porkies Sausages (£2)

No Bull Asian Burgers (£2)

No Chick Fillets (£2)

No Bull ‘Meat’ Balls (£2)

No Porkies Chorizo Slices (£2)

Not reviewed here:

No Chick Vegan Paella (£2)

No Bull Vegan Mince (£3.50)

No Bull Jalapeno Burgers (£2)

No Bull Green Vegetable Balls (£2)

No Bull Vegan Chilli and Rice (£2)

No Chick Vegan Strips (£3.50)

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Wow – that’s some choice, right?

Of those I’ve bought, the sausages and meatballs are both wheat-free and all can be pan-fried in less than 10 minutes – so they’re brilliant for a quick meal. You can oven cook any of them as a healthier alternative – but I didn’t become vegan for my health.

So, what do they taste like?

The No Porkies Chorizo Slices have a nice texture, they crisp up very quickly in the frying pan and have a pleasant taste and texture – they’re a little crunchy if you fry them well! The taste is very distinctive, but not overly spicy – they don’t pack a strong punch, more of a child-like jab – but that means the aftertaste is surprisingly pleasant too. I think they work well cold as a sandwich filling too – especially with Vegenaise. The spicy kick is actually more prevalent when they’re eaten cold and Vegenaise counters that perfectly. They would also work perfectly as a vegan pizza topping.

Onto the bangers, No Porkies Sausages are smaller than many vegan sausages, but they cook more quickly and do taste better than many brands. Taste-wise, they’re not a million miles away from Linda McCartney’s classic sausages. They’re mildly spiced and don’t leave an aftertaste. Linda McCartney’s sausages are often seen as the go-to vegan product, so the fact these are in the same ballpark is no mean feat.

The No Bull ‘Meat’ Balls are divine! Yes, they are smaller than some other balls, but size isn’t everything! Like the little sausages, they cook very quickly and these have a very meaty taste to them, again they are not over spiced and so have no strong aftertaste. They are very moreish and their size means they’d work perfectly in pasta sauce with spaghetti.

But, the No Bull Asian Burgers are glorious. The chewy texture, the spicy – but not too hot taste and the not too evasive aftertaste all combine to make these utterly delightful. There isn’t much more I can say really – just try them, they will make your taste buds thank you.

Just as delicious are the No Chick Fillets. These totally wowed me and I wasn’t prepared for how nice they are. I believe they do taste like chicken – although I can’t actually remember what chicken tastes like. Again, they have a taste all of their own – and what a wonderful taste it is. Unlike the Asian burgers, they are not spicy, but the crunchy coating works brilliantly with the delectable, chewy body of the fillet.

No Bull’s Tofu Burgers are, like all of the burgers in that range, bulky and filling. However, tofu can be a bit bland, and these are no exception, despite the presence of a few vegetables. The exterior tastes nice and means all is not lost. They are not horrible, they are just not as memorable as the other offerings from Iceland.
They don’t fall apart like some tofu products, but they are still my least favourite of the products reviewed.

One thing to note is that, as with the original No Bull Burgers, it’s advisable to cook them for the maximum time mentioned – at least.

https://groceries.iceland.co.uk/frozen/vegetarian/c/FRZVGT?q=:relevance

 

No Bull, it’s a bloody vegan burger

 

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The Iceland No Bull vegan burgers were eagerly anticipated thanks to the PR machine going into overdrive on social media.

Sold as being “meat-like” and being “bloody” (well beetroot juice bloody anyway), they were marketed as vegan burgers for those who miss meat – or vegan burgers for non-vegans I guess.

I fell into the “why do you want it to look like meat?” camp when I first heard about them. But, as others pointed out online, new vegans and vegetarians may miss the texture and look of meat and want something a little more authentic than seasoned vegans such as yours truly.

 

 

Package

I do like the rustic packaging – that gives it a “meat feel” from the word go – but plain, to me, says “better for the environment” more than anything else – so that’s a thumbs-up.

I also like the ingredients list – which, for a processed food item, is pretty small really – that, to me, suggests less nasty additives, which is always a good thing.

Ingredients

At £2 for a pack of two quarter pounder burgers, the price is right too. By their size, the four to six- minute cooking time quoted on the pack is optimistic at best. I’ll try cooking them in the oven next time as there’s a real risk of burning the outside before the middle is done – I had to microwave mine to add heat.

They certainly look and taste meaty. I can’t remember what a beef burger tastes like, but I doubt it’s as good as this. It does look red too – it doesn’t exactly bleed, but it does look like a meat burger – whether this is a good or bad thing is up to the individual.

They’re both tender and succulent and they really do melt in the mouth – without falling apart while cooking – an issue with some veggie burgers.

The important thing is it’s a substantial meal and while it looks and tastes rustic, it packs a flavour punch way beyond its bargain price tag. They have a hint of spice and you can’t taste the beetroot – although I’m sure it adds to the overall flavour of the impressive meal.

I bought mine from an Iceland Food Warehouse and was impressed by their vegan selection – as well as these and the usual Linda McCartney offering, they had a few Frys and vegan Quorn products as well as the new vegan-friendly Indian range recently introduced.

A Cauldron of vegan taste

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Cauldron’s vegan burgers and sausages reviewed

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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