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.

 

Let’s go (coco) nuts for vegan cheese

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I remember when Sainsbury’s launched their range of vegan cheeses

(reviewed here – https://veganonadesertisland.com/2016/10/02/the-great-gary-review/ ) that they were marketed as being based around coconut oil, so it’s only natural that Koko – a company specialising in a coconut milk alternative – should launch their own “cheese”.

The two new offerings – a cheddar alternative and a soft/cream cheese are available in Waitrose’s new dedicated vegan section – it’s all on special offer at the time of writing – so get in there quick!

Coconut is healthy and, of course, cruelty-free, so seeing more products swell the continuously growing vegan market is great – and a dedicated vegan section in a mainstream supermarket – well, that’s just wow!

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The soft cheese is indeed very soft – which means it spreads with ease without tearing up your bread. There is a coconut smell around both products. This should have come as no surprise really, but it does distract a little from the savoury nature of the food on offer.

However, once spread, there seems to be no coconut taste at all – or any taste really.

Yes, I’m afraid it’s a little bland for my palate. It isn’t horrible, and it goes quite well on toast – it just lacks that “wow my taste buds are having a party in my mouth” factor.

I can imagine it’s a good way to jazz up a jacket spud or add to a pasta dish. As it is, I prefer the Tesco spreadable cheeses on my toast in the morning.

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The cheddar though is a different story.

At last, a vegan “cheese” that doesn’t come in a plastic coffin – full marks to Koko for this most basic of packaging success (the soft cheese comes in a recyclable pot too) and it also helps with actually getting at the product and storing it for future use – if you haven’t devoured the block in one gulp anyway.

It also slices easily. It doesn’t crumble in a frustrating manner like many vegan cheeses, but it slices effortlessly – ten out of ten for that too Koko.

Taste-wise, there is an air of coconut around this one, but there’s a noticeably stronger taste than many of its competitors and, dare I say, it has more of a “cheddary” taste about it (how I would imagine cheddar to taste anyway). In other words, it has a nice strength. It has a distinctive flavour, something other cheeses usually only achieve by flavouring the product with chilli, caramelised onion etc.

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It isn’t a “knock you out” wow taste, but it is nice and distinctive. It also possesses a nice creamy texture. It isn’t too hard, not too soft and it works perfectly in a cheese and tomato roll.

But the big question is: Does it melt?

In a word, yes.

Although it appears to “split” a little when grilled, it does melt properly and, in doing so, the flavour is really pushed to the fore. The slight coconut smell is still there, but, for me, it’s the perfect vegan cheese on toast.

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So, how much does it cost?

Well, normally the cheddar is £2.29 for a 200g pack and the cream cheese £1.99 for a 150g pot.

https://www.kokodairyfree.com/

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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”!

 

Naturally better than processed vegan cheese

 

Vegan cheeses have been big news this year. For instance, Sainsbury’s received a boost to their sales after social media Christened their new vegan cheese line “Gary” in response to the yawnsome “don’t call it cheese” reaction from non-vegan purists.

Almost as exciting as the rise in veganism, is the rise in small “start-ups” offering an alternative to the corporate vegan products out there; one such firm is The Naturally Vegan Food Company in Northampton, UK.

Offering a range of nut-based cheese alternatives, the NVFC have become a staple of vegan fairs in the Midlands for several months now – and they have been impressing those who have tasted their wares every step of the way.

I was very fortunate to get the opportunity to try a range of what they have to offer, and I must say I was rather impressed.

Their cheese balls are large and certainly have a nice rustic look about them. Being freshly-made means the “used by dates” aren’t as long as their processed competitors, but this is extremely reassuring to those of us who like more natural products.

The Vegan Cheese Ball has a creamy taste and offers a nice crunch, curtesy of the almonds it contains. It’s a nice orange colour, with a pleasant tang. For me, it works well with pickles, or on crackers. It isn’t overly spiced and is a nice addition to sandwiches.

The Smoked Vegan Cheeze Ball is my favourite. The almonds are very prominent here and it possessed a dark orange colour that shouts “smoked” in your face. Indeed, it tastes smoked too – which is always a bonus with smoked cheese! The nutty crunch is present and correct again and it has a lightly-spiced air to it, which adds to the gorgeous smoked flavour.

Sulmona Topping Cheese is your natural alternative to the vegan Parmesans out there – most of which are pretty tasteless if I’m to be honest. This, on the other hand, isn’t. You can taste the Nutritional Yeast used in this one – which is always a good thing – and the inclusion of pink salt is obvious to one’s taste buds too. It adds a nice, cheesy taste to pasta and pizza dishes. An effective and distinctive alternative without being too intrusive or overpowering.

Finally, the Creamy Classic Cashew does exactly what it says on the pot. It’s light, creamy and, most importantly, delicious. The use of garlic is very welcome and compliments the nuts extremely well. It’s perfect as a sandwich spread and is great on toast. It also works well as a dip – especially with celery.

Why not check The Naturally Vegan Food Company out for yourself?

 

https://www.yumbles.com/the-naturally-vegan-food-company

https://www.facebook.com/naturallyveganfood/