My vegan love of TVP – stop demonising soya

Soya chunks with vegetables in a pan

What is TVP?

When I first became vegetarian and then vegan, textured vegetable protein – TVP or soya chunks was about the only meat replacement I could get hold of locally.

You could and can get it either flavoured or unflavoured and in either chunks or mince.

As a dried replacement, it lasts for ages and grows when “rehydrated”. It’s brilliant as soaking up flavours and the cheapest meat replacement out there.

Admittedly, it doesn’t look all that appetising, but it tastes just fine.

Bags of dried TVP - mince and chunks

Is TVP good for you?

Yes.

It’s low in fat and calories and high in fibre. It’s a complete protein too.

But, it’s also highly processed and so some people may wish to avoid it. It’s good in moderation, like most things in my view

What’s so bad about soya?

The UK imports ton tonnes of soya a year – estimates state thirty to sixty per cent of this is from sustainable sources. One per cent of the UK population is vegan – so it stands to reason we are not the main consumer of all that soya.

Seventy per cent of the soya imports in 2018 came from soya meal – in other words, animal feed.

We also import soya oil and animal products which have already ingested soya.

It’s all explained here

Soya imports are responsible for 47 per cent of the European Union deforestation footprint. Palm oil is responsible for a minute 10 per cent in comparison – yes, soya is a more devastating crop than palm oil – but it’s down to the meat industry, not veganism.

Can soya be grown in the UK?

Yes, in short.

Check out this page from Soya UK – http://www.soya-uk.com/soya/

I would go as far as saying, as vegans are just one per cent of the population, the UK could grow enough soya to feed us easily – it’s the animal agriculture industry which is consuming it all.

Why do I love TVP?

It’s cheap. In fact, in some good independent health food shops, you can buy it as a refill and measure out how much you need.

It lasts for ages in the cupboard.

It’s so adaptable – the mince is good for bolognaise, chilli, shepherd’s pie etc

The chunks are great in a curry, or with pasta – I rehydrate them and fry them with garlic and in soya sauce sometimes – or Henderson’s Relish. And just serve with rice.

I also like to rehydrate unflavoured TVP chunks in vegetable stock, stir fry with onion, mushrooms and broccoli and mix with penne or pasta shells using vegan mayo or pesto as the sauce depending on my mood. A good grind of black pepper also adds a nice kick.

Incidentally, when I did the Ration Challenge last year – Read about it here – I chose TVP as my extra protein rather than tofu as, unhydrated, you get much more TVP for the allowed weight than you do tofu and it lasts longer too.

Hand holding dried TVP chunks

 

Is Veganuary killing vegan businesses?

Vegan "fish" and chips

I spoke to the owner of a vegan small business last week who is considering their options after a downturn in trade.

This year, in particular, has seen a huge rise in the number of vegan products on supermarket shelves. I’ve even written about it myself.

The Greggs release of their vegan steak bakes brought about a similar explosion in PR as the Greggs vegan sausage rolls row – boosting the profile of Greggs and Piers Morgan – and to a lesser extent veganism. The fact both products were already widely available as a vegan version in other shops was lost on absolutely everyone.

But the fact said bakes and sausage rolls are so cheap means that small businesses simply cannot compete. People are buying a vegan steak bake from Greggs and then make a token purchase from the small trader – and these token gestures are not enough to sustain a viable business

I noticed a post on Facebook last week about a small vegan business closing soon, and she raised many of the issues addressed in this blog.

The fact people are struggling financially – especially during January, means that supermarkets are able to tap into the Veganuary market and push the ethical vegan traders out. I understand fully why it’s Veganuary and not Vegurary – New Year’s resolutions and a healthy new year – and it has a ring to it – makes perfect sense. I just wish that more independent vegan traders are promoted alongside the big-name launches.

The Christmas Vegan Festival I co-organise saw a drop in numbers this year, but was still a great success, I believe people will save their money and spend at similar events – but vegan businesses need all of the vegan events they attend to be successful in order to continue trading – or in the case of High Street firms need people to go to them at lunchtime instead of the local supermarket od big name brand. A point raised by this blog.

Of course, I understand that some vegans simply have to go for the cheapest option, that for me is buying veg from the local market and cooking from scratch. It’s worth remembering that many of the products from independent traders are hand-made, not mass-produced like those on supermarket shelves.

I, like many older vegans, grew up when supermarkets had no vegan options and I, like others, managed to get by just fine by cooking from scratch and supporting the few vegan traders out there. It’s also worth remembering that independent traders are often solely vegan – unlike supermarkets and their ilk – they do not have a separate pot for vegan money and meat product money – the same applies to takeaway branches now offering a token vegan burger.

It must be pointed out that the issues raised in this blog also applies to fruit and vegetables – which last longer and taste nicer when purchased from your local market.

Peterborough’s Christmas Vegan Success

Crowd an stall shot of Thrive 3 - Peterborough Vegan Christmas Festival

Thrive Peterborough Christmas Vegan Festival was another success for the Thrive Tribe.

Held on Saturday, November 23, in Peterborough, it was the third Thrive event following a ticketed summer gathering.

I am, of course, a member of said Thrive Tribe and one of the four organisers of Peterborough’s number one vegan Christmas festival – along with Kim, Nicola and Kelly.

I wanted to give you an insight into the organisation and motivations behind such an event.

Work actually began back in June when the Thrive summer event was still being planned. Even starting so far ahead, we were unable to find a venue in Peterborough available on the Sunday we wanted, hence we had to hold it on a Saturday this year.

We did, however, find a bigger venue next to an out of town shopping area with free all-day parking.

Parking and the venue being too packed were the common complaints from the first vegan festival we put on (I blogged about it – https://veganonadesertisland.com/2018/11/27/a-citys-first-vegan-festival-an-insiders-view/ ), so we listened to people’s views and booked a similar number of stalls in a larger hall.

This worked very well – accessibility is an important issue to me – I want everyone to be able to come and enjoy the day – parents with pushchairs, those in wheelchairs and people who aren’t good in crowds included – I think we succeeded in this aim.

One of the pleasant surprises for me was the number of local independent vegan businesses who applied for stalls – and it was great to see how well they did on the day.

We don’t have an estimate of the number of visitors at the time of writing, but I’d say it was slightly fewer than the 2,000 who visited last year – I put this down to it being held on a Saturday. More people work Saturdays than Sundays and more events are also held on a Saturday.

Booking stalls was surprisingly easy. We posted the event on Facebook and Instagram and the applications began to roll in.

I designed an application form and a list of terms and conditions and we set about organising meetings to discuss applications.

We then started to confirm vendors, promote them through social media and collect public liability and food hygiene certificates.

Things like not blocking fire escapes, electrical requirements (we had to hire two generators after discussions with an electrician) and what the venue would and wouldn’t allow all had to be taken into consideration.

For a small group of people working voluntarily, a lot of work goes into putting on such events – and we were working on the day too – marking out the floor for stalls, making sure everyone was OK, dealing with any issues and overseeing the volunteers, workshop rooms, photo booth and kids’ craft areas.

In the weeks before the event, we went on a PR drive, sending out press releases and printing flyers to hand out to businesses which were likely to attract interested customers. There’s no point in putting on an event if people don’t know about it – and we wanted everybody who might be interested to know about it.

A huge plus for us on the day was the presence of Hench Herbivore – a well known social media star who proves how fit and strong vegans can be.

Stalls at the event included doughnuts, cakes, cheeses, dog treats, candles, toiletries, pressure groups, skincare, food, drink and so much more – people forget how big veganism is now – it really has become an economic force to be reckoned with in the modern age.

However, my main reason for getting involved is simply to spread the vegan message in Peterborough. At the time of our first vegan festival, nobody had done it here before and I wanted to see that change. I travelled to vegan fairs and I wanted one on my doorstep – therefore, if nobody else was doing it then why shouldn’t I? And when Kim came to us with the idea, I jumped at the chance of getting involved (I already co-ran the Peterborough Vegetarian and Vegan group with Kim).

In conclusion, the hard work is worth it – but if you want to bring a similar event to your town on a DIY ethos, talk to people who have put of similar events – there’s a lot to think about before going ahead. But vegans are friendly people and vegan business owners are among the friendliest of all.

Crowd an stall shot of Thrive 3 - Peterborough Vegan Christmas Festival

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

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.

Why I’m doing the Ration Challenge as a vegan

IMG_20190611_092749

I am taking part in the vegan version of the Ration Challenge 2019

The money will help raise cash to support Syrian refugees living in camps in Jordan.

The money you raise will provide food, medicine and education for refugees and support the wider work of Concern Worldwide (UK) to tackle hunger and extreme poverty with the most vulnerable people in the world’s poorest places.

I believe, as vegans, it’s our duty to respect all living beings – and that includes our own species. The meagre rations I’ll be living on for a week – flour, rice, lentils, chickpeas, kidney beans, 120g of tofu to replace the sardines non-veggies get, vegetable oil and my rewards – so far, I’ve earned a spice, salt and a few tea bags. I can add a vegetable to this if I raise enough – and a protein (more tofu for example) if I raise £400 – then a luxury item up to £3 if I raise £850. Basically, the ration pack I have to live on during Refugee Week (June 16 -23) is the equivalent of what a Syrian refuge has to live on in a camp in Jordan.

There are recipes provided in the guidance pack – this includes basic rice dishes, falafels and hummus.

It will also require planning and organising a meal planner – something the charity advises strongly. This is another good habit to get into – especially for those who live busy lives during the week and/or live on limited means – why not cook in bulk at the weekend and adapt what you cook throughout the week?

I will have to make my ingredients stretch, so planning will be key – and many families – even in Britain do have to live like this. Remember we live in the era of foodbanks!

Refugees have to be resourceful with their family packs, the rewards system emulates that. I have to resource the rewards myself.

Not much is it? And some people go without.

I have long believed that veganism doesn’t need to be expensive – this shows how vegans can survive on a diet of very little, it also shows me how lucky I am as a vegan in the Western world – there is so much choice, so many luxury items and we sometimes take for granted our extensive and varied diets.

This challenge will help me appreciate what I have and reaffirm my relationship with food – something I believe vegans have an advantage of over meat-eaters anyway – but it takes me back to the basics. Many vegans don’t realise how difficult it is for poorer communities to survive and veganism is seen by many as expensive – this is something I have a particular interest in challenging – staple foods are not expensive – and I love the fact that Jack Monroe has published a book called the Tin Can Cook filled with recipes based around canned goods. I am all for pushing the belief that cooking from scratch doesn’t have to mean using a huge list of expensive ingredients. Check out https://cookingonabootstrap.com/category/vegan-recipes/

It is also helping me on my journey to use less more – I buy so much expensive processed food and it isn’t necessary. Vegans really are spoilt now, and I want to get back to basics, I want to expand my cooking repertoire – but not through recipes with a long list of hard to find or expensive ingredients, but through mixing cheap store cupboard staples and seasonal vegetables.

An example of a recipe from the Ration Challenge online recipe book is Simple Falafels using 85g of chickpeas, a spoonful of flour, 60ml of oil and any earned spice and a little of any earned vegetable.

“Pour the chickpeas into a large bowl and cover them with 3 inches of cold water. Let them soak overnight.

Drain and rinse well with water. Pour them into your food processor or pestle and mortar along with any earned spice, and a small amount of earned vegetable.

Mix all ingredients together until you have made a coarse meal. Scrape the sides of the processor periodically and push the mixture down the sides. Process till the mixture is somewhere between the texture of couscous and a paste. You want the mixture to hold together, and a more paste-like consistency will help with that… but don’t over-process, you don’t want it turning into hummus.

Pour it out into a bowl and use a fork to stir; this will make the texture more even throughout. Remove any large chickpea chunks that the processor missed.

Heat the oil in a frying pan. Test one falafel in the centre of the pan. If the oil is at the right temperature, it will take 2-3 minutes per side to brown. If it browns faster than that, your oil is too hot and your falafels will not be fully cooked in the centre. Cool the oil down slightly and try again.

Let them drain on paper towels. Serve the falafels fresh and hot.”

Obvious hummus is another option I can add. I am lucky that I have a food processor, otherwise, I could mash with a fork. But you can see that while I won’t starve, the resources available to me are very different from those I would purchase during a normal weekly shop.

I can also make basic rice milk as I’ll have lots of rice – Soak 155g of rice in hot water for about 3 hours, drain, add a litre of warm water and blend – you can make rice milk bread with this too.

Finally, I wish to challenge the notion that vegans don’t care about humans. I am as much pro-human rights as I am animal rights, I’m doing this challenge to show my empathy for the poorest of the poor – those who flee warzones only to find a life of hardship and persecution. I am a member of Amnesty and believe in a philosophy I call Total Equality – a belief that all living beings with a central nervous system are equal.

To sponsor me, please visit https://my.rationchallenge.org.uk/paulbenton

 

 

Vegans vs plastic packaging

Bekind Kitchen's herb refills

We all know veganism is better for the environment than a vegetarian or omnivorous diet, but why are so many vegan processed foods packed in plastic?

For instance, the Iceland No Bull range comes in a cardboard box with a pointless plastic window to help you see the frozen product inside – it actually looks similar to the picture on the box – so why do it? Iceland has actually committed to eliminating plastic from their own brand products, making this most curious – https://www.independent.co.uk/news/business/news/iceland-plastic-free-packaging-own-brand-products-recycling-pollution-environment-a8161081.html

Iceland's No Bull Burgers

The main issue I have with Iceland is that there is no recycling information on the packaging – so, do they like us so much they want us all to email them and ask them? Do we guess and recycle anyway (this can contaminate a whole load of recycling), or tear off the plastic bit and recycle the box?

More concerning, the tough plastic bags the likes of the No Chick & No Porkies Paella come in doesn’t have recycling information either.

Farmfoods’ burgers and sausages just come in a cardboard box like Linda McCartney sausages – surely this is the best way to go? But the bags the Meatless Balls come in at Farmfoods say “recycle with bags at larger stores” – in other words, if you have nowhere to recycle plastic bags in your area you have a problem – unless you become a plastic bag hoarder – something I don’t recommend.

Iceland vegan Meatballs packaging

Vegan cheese packaging has long been a bone of contention for me. Some vegan cheeses come encased in a plastic coffin and you literally have to stab your way in using knife strikes which put your fingers in mortal danger. It also renders storage impossible, so you have to down the cheese in one vegan cheese munching session – that isn’t really healthy for you or the environment.

 

Tesco’s own brand of plant-based cheeses come with a peel-back top, so the stabbing drama is avoided – but they do state they are “not yet recycled”.

Yet?

They don’t give an estimation as to when the packaging will be recycled -that might be helpful. Maybe if it said “not recycled until October 2020” be could hoard our empty packets for a while – or just not buy the product until then? Or, maybe that’s what they’re scared of happening? Either way, it isn’t good news.

Every little really does help when it comes to the environment. The climate emergency is killing off animals and as vegans, this is something we really want to do everything we can to halt. Going vegan is a huge start, but looking at the packaging of our food makes a huge difference.

For example, I buy my mock meat in a tin from my local Chinese supermarket (also available at https://www.orientalmart.co.uk/ ) as tins are easily recyclable and better than a mass of plastic packaging.

Vegan chicken in a tin

It is also worth checking out your local zero waste independent traders – take your own refillable containers to replenish your hers, spices, rice, flour, soya chunks, muesli, Sos mix and more – local to me, for example, Spice of Life health food shop in Bourne (https://www.facebook.com/spiceoflifebourne/), Backyard Food (https://www.thegreenbackyard.com/backyardfood/) in Peterborough and Be Kind Kitchen (https://bekindkitchen.com/), also in Peterborough all offer this service.

Some packaging that appears to be non-recycling friendly actually is – for example, VBites products look heavily encased in plastic, but one look at their website (https://www.vbites.com/frequently-asked-questions/) tells you it can be recycled, so my advise is either check or ask.

Much has been written about zero waste products in the bathroom and getting rid of plastic straws etc, I now believe it’s time to get our house in order when it comes to vegan food packaging. Most of the plastic wrapping is unnecessary – and alternative products are available to consumers. Maybe we should start informing manufacturers exactly why we’re choosing not to purchase their products when the plastic wrapping is not as cruelty-free as the product it houses.

Punk rock turned me vegan

Punk rock turned me vegan

The anarcho-punk scene of the 1980s was fuelled by animal rights – not just veganism before veganism was cool, but actual animal rights.

Many of us who have been vegan for a while – we’re talking 10 years or more – lament how the animal rights movement of the ‘80s and ‘90s was bigger and more effective than it is now – despite the massive rise in veganism. And that movement had a soundtrack.

Bands such as Crass, Conflict, The Poison Girls, Flux of Pink Indians, Dirt and Icons of Filth wore their hearts on their sleeves in advocating direct action, singing about slaughterhouses, animal experiments and fox hunting. Remember, there was no Hunting Act at all then, so sabotaging a hunt came with a real risk of both arrest and physical confrontation.

This brand of punk was raw, angry, passionate and very diverse. In Meat Still Means Murder, Conflict sang: “From newborn throats, red rivers flood.” The lyrics were direct, powerful and these bands really did mean it.

Some of these bands still exist and the likes of Goldfinger and Propagandhi from the States still have strong vegan and animal rights messages.

The rawness of the anarcho bands really struck a chord with me. As someone who came to punk through thrash metal and grindcore bands such as Napalm Death and Carcass, I found the aggression and anger appealing. And reading comments on punk threads and hearing comments from crowd members during gigs, I know for a fact they are not preaching to the converted.

With the rise of veganism has come the rise of vegan celebrities. Singers such as Thom Yorke from Radiohead and Miley Cyrus mean there’s a vegan for all tastes in music – although I’ve yet to hear a song from either advocating direct action, protest or describing how baby cows are slaughtered. But I guess I could be wrong – I’m not an avid Miley Cyrus follower, her target audience isn’t really middle-aged men though!

Punk rock has always been about rebellion and I love the fact that bands such as Active Slaughter are still flying the flag for animal rights today, but it does worry me that more people are concerned about new flavours of ice cream than are getting involved in protests – protest which attracted tens of thousands in the ‘90s, before the internet, before Facebook and before the advent of keyboard warriors. Why is this?

There is an argument, of course, that the single biggest thing you can do to save lives is to go vegan. And that’s true, but, globally, meat consumption is rising, so, if a farmer can’t sell his animals here for meat, won’t he just ship them abroad?

People have differing comfort zones, but maybe it’s time to ask, not what won’t I do for animal rights, but what can I do?

Plant Kitchen makes its mark

Much has been written of the new (ish) Marks and Spencer (M&S has always sounded too much like S&M to me – sex and shopping really don’t mix) vegan range. Apparently, there are more than 60 new plant-based products in the imaginatively titled Plant Kitchen. (https://www.livekindly.co/marks-spencer-launches-plant-kitchen-60-vegan-meals/ ). I couldn’t buy them all – well, I probably could as most are reasonably priced, but it’d take me a month to eat them all, so I bought an armful and decided to review that arm’s contents for my lovely readers.

The first ever supermarket vegan coleslaw has been a hit on social media, as has their potato salad – but, to me, you just shred some cabbage and bung it with vegan mayo for the former and do the same with potatoes for the latter – so I didn’t purchase those.

However, it has to be said, that at two or three quid a pop, most of these products are pocket-friendly as well as vegan-friendly – something I like very much, as I’d always viewed Marks and Spencer food as something middle-class officer workers buy during their lunch after grabbing some new pants from the clothing department – I think some of their pants are vegan-friendly too, incidentally!

The first product I tried was the No Chic’N Nuggets. So, Marks and Sparks have become the latest vegan product producer to try and pun their take on a meat-based meal. But, for some reason, I always feel attracted to fake chicken products above all other fake meat products. And these didn’t disappoint – not too much anyway….

Nuggets

They have a nice strong texture; thick and, dare I say, meaty? But there is no hint of a taste explosion here, I guess nuggets are made for dipping in your barbecue sauce, ketchup, mayo or whatever takes your fancy (I don’t recommend these for dunking in your cup of tea though). They have the ability to absorb flavours, they appeal to kids and work as a good nugget should. They are soy-based, so if you’re soyaist, I don’t recommend them.

No Chic’N Chunks are similar to the nuggets, except not nugget shaped and not coated like nuggets – in other words, they’re meant for curries, stir-fries, salads etc. They perform that job very well and can be promoted above some of their more expensive rivals in my view.

Again, they’re mainly soya, but if you’re OK with that, give them a go.

The No Pork Sausoyges are a pun too far, but they don’t taste as bad as they sound. You’ve guessed it, they’re another soya-based delicacy. Soya is, of course, a plant, but it isn’t the one I immediately think of when I read the phrase “plant-based”, but to be fair, Marks and Spencer do use other plants in their range – plants which are much more interesting than the humble, over-used soya bean.

 

Sausages

Back to the sausages. They’re good. They look like how we’re taught sausages should look, with their meat sausage-style skin and they taste pretty damn good. To me, they’re to sausages what No Bull Burgers are to burgers – in other words, head and shoulders above most of the competition. The seasoning is just right, boast a nice texture and taste lush with gravy.

The Beet Burgers are the only soya-free product I tried and they’re also the prettiest. Aesthetically, I love the red look of beet products – just as I love the satanic black look of charcoal products – but like those, the red doesn’t actually bolster the taste at all – they don’t taste red, although I have no idea what red tastes like. Black, I guess, should taste either burnt or evil – I’m told charcoal buns taste of neither – and beet burgers don’t taste of, well, much at all really.

They actually contain more chickpeas than beet and they are pretty substantial offerings, so good value really, they just taste a little bland to me. To be fair, I’ve found the same issue with other brands of beet burgers, so it isn’t something that’s solely down to Marks and Spencer – it’s just that beetroot lakes a bit in flavour when it comes to using it as a burger ingredient.

Burger

But, all in all, it’s great to see another High Street giant giving busy vegans an ample choice of processed food to fill their weekly shopping baskets.

https://www.marksandspencer.com/c/food-to-order/adventures-in-food/plant-kitchen

 

 

Peterborough’s Vegan Christmas Fair

Thrive pic

If writing a blog isn’t self-indulgent enough, I am now going to blog about something I’m helping to organise – the ultimate in self-indulgent blogging – and I’m not sorry.

Peterborough (UK) has a thriving vegan scene and, come November, it’s going to have a thriving Vegan Christmas Festival. Not only is this the city’s first Christmas Vegan Festival, but it’s also the city’s first vegan Festival or fair full stop.

In short, this is the biggest vegan event in Peterborough so far – and I’m helping to organise it – so, of course, I’m going to shout about it.

It will be held at the Fleet – a community centre in Fletton, one of Peterborough’s townships – on Sunday, November 25, 2018, from 10am until 5pm and, hopefully thereafter.

There will be stalls – lots of stalls, from independent traders to larger, more established vegan companies, workshops and speakers. You can register to book a stall by emailing Peterboroughvegans@gmail.com with the subject line Vegan Fair Stalls detailing the type of business (independent, a sole trader, or an established firm), what you will sell and a contact name and phone number.

The idea was put together by Kim Coley, who runs the city’s Soul Happy Wellness Centre (soulhappy.org.uk) which hosts the Peterborough Vegetarian and Vegan Group’s (https://www.facebook.com/PeterboroughVeg) monthly Food share (despite the name, all the food is vegan) – Kim and I run the group – or help to run it, all the members have a say in what we do and how we do it.

We decided that towns much smaller than our (albeit baby) city were hosting vegan events, so we should too. After all, Peterborough is very central, has fantastic transport links and the venue itself has a large car park.

Peterborough already has Resist Vegan Kitchen (https://www.facebook.com/resistvegankitchen/) serving vegan street food from its base at the Ostrich Pub (https://www.facebook.com/ostrichinn/) a very vegan-friendly bar. Resist also cater at many events in the area. I’ve blogged about them before (https://veganonadesertisland.com/2017/10/29/vegan-pop-up-kitchen-with-punk-ethics/ )

There is also a new jazz bar/vegan restaurant in the city ( https://www.facebook.com/WhenPollyMetFergie/ ) and a new stall providing vegan street food is heading for the city market ( https://www.facebook.com/bekindkitchenvegan/ ) and let’s not forget Backyard Food (https://www.facebook.com/backyardfoodpeterborough/ ) a small shop at the Green Backyard community garden selling eco-friendly stuff for the house, body and belly. I bought vegan cookies from there today.

Cookies 2
Cookies and crisps from Backyard Food

Anyway, a small group of us from the vegan group is helping to organise this vegan extravaganza and as we put it together we will be on the lookout for volunteers, suggestions and any help in publicising the event.

Jodie has already designed the awesome event poster/banner.

We look forward to seeing you there.