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.
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.
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:
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.
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:
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:
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.
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.
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.
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 vegan cheese recycling information
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”.
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.
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.
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?
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….
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.
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.
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.
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.
Inside the Fleet
Inside the Fleet
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.
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.
Jackfruit has been heralded as the king of vegan meat substitutes for a while now.
But, more recently, I’ve noticed that the humble tin named “Jack” has gone mainstream. Yes, no longer is this delight solely found hiding in the corner of your local Asian food shop, but now it’s found its way on to the shelves of the supermarket giants too.
But what exactly is it?
Well, Jackfruit is a relative of the fig and it grows in the tropical bits of Southeast Asia, Brazil and Africa. It also holds the honour as the national fruit of Bangladesh and Sri Lanka and the state fruit (whatever that means) of the Indian states of Kerala and Tamil Nadu.
The flesh of the fruit is a starchy source of dietary fibre. Its pulp is composed of 74% water, 23% carbohydrates, 2% protein, and 1% fat. So now you know! According to Wiki (so it must be true), a 100-g portion of raw jackfruit gives you 400 kJ (95 kcal) and it’s a rich source of vitamin B6. It also contains moderate levels (10-19% DV) of vitamin C and potassium.
Unlike animal sources of protein, jackfruit contains no saturated fat or cholesterol, it’s light in sodium, and is also low in calories – so, in short, it’s better for you than meat!
Despite looking like a giant testicle and being a “fruit”, it is an amazing meat substitute – and a natural one at that, mainly because, while relatively tasteless, it is awesome at absorbing other flavours – so marinade and spice it up until your heart’s content.
Recently, our mate Jack the Fruit has become available at more and more takeaways and restaurants as the vegan option – and this is great news for those of us bored with veggie burgers and chips.
You can even buy pre-prepared jackfruit as a processed vegan food at Sainsbury’s now if you prefer the lazy, over-packaged option. But, hey, I guess it’s offering up more options to the vegans out there who struggle with the recipe for beans on toast.
However, sweet and savoury don’t mix – ask those who hate pineapple on a pizza – so make sure you get the young green jackfruit in brine, not the one in syrup – although, I’m told jackfruit does work well as a dessert – I guess most fruits do (except tomatoes – tomatoes and custard is just wrong). I shouldn’t be too harsh on supermarkets though, jackfruit, to me, deserves its tasty reputation, whereas that other vegan darling – the avocado is a tad overrated (the thing is 40% skin and 30% stone for crying out loud).
Gareth, from Peterborough-based Resist! Vegan Kitchen told me: “We use Jackfruit in our menu as most of our alternatives and items are gluten-based so this allows us a gluten-free option that does the job perfectly.”
This is a valid point in a world (including my world, it has to be said) that’s gone seitan crazy, the humble jackfruit flies to the rescue of the gluten intolerant.
So, what do you do with it?
Well, I drain it, wash it, boil it for 45 minutes, boil it again in fresh water for another 30 minutes and leave it to marinate in a mixture of spices and barbecue sauce and then fry it with onions and mushrooms in a little more barbecue sauce for a few minutes and then eat it in a roll.
However, there are a number of recipes out there, but I like Resist!’s BBQ Jackfruit, and now Gareth has exclusively revealed the secret to how to cook jackfruit to perfection to the readers of veganonadesertisland.
Resist! Slow cooked BBQ Jackfruit
2 cans of green or young Jackfruit (rinsed and roughly chopped)
2 tsp olive oil (and extra for the frying)
1 tsp Cumin
1 tbsp Brown sugar
1 tsp Salt
1 tsp Smoked paprika
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 yellow onion
3 garlic cloves (crushed and pulled apart only)
1 1/2 cups vegetable stock (gluten-free if required)
1 tsp vegan Worcestershire sauce
60ml apple cider vinegar
A couple drops of liquid smoke
170ml of your choice beer/lager (gluten-free if required)
240ml of your favourite bought BBQ sauce (we use homemade)
Toss the Jackfruit, salt, pepper, cumin, paprika, brown sugar and olive oil in a bowl and leave for 5 minutes.
Heat the extra oil in a large pan, wok or whatever large metal thing you want to cook in.
Add the Jackfruit mix, garlic and onion. Cook the jackfruit on one side for 5 minutes until it’s lightly brown and then repeat on the other side.
Pour in the liquids (Vegetable stock, Worcestershire sauce, cider vinegar, liquid smoke and beer).
Cover and simmer on a medium heat for 90 minutes, or until all the liquid has been absorbed.
Using a fork or wooden spoon, break up the Jackfruit to appear ‘pulled’, or roughly mashed as we say in the ghetto.
Preheat your oven to 190 degrees.
Spread the jackfruit mixture across a lightly oiled (or non-stick) oven tray and bake for 20 minutes.
Remove and cover the jackfruit with half the BBQ sauce, mix in and spread out again and cook for a further 20mins until the edges start to become blackened.
Give it another mix and cook for a further 10 minutes.
While waiting, think to yourself how the letter ‘A’ doesn’t appear in any number until one hundred and one.
Remove from the oven (the jackfruit, not the letter “A”).
Pour the cooked jackfruit into a bowl and cover with the remaining BBQ sauce (add more if required).
Add slaw or whatever topping you require.
Now throw some of the cooked mix into a fresh sub or baguette and toss it into your gaping jaws!
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.
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.
It must also be said that the yasai katsu curry is newly vegan on the menu – originally, the salad dressing meant it wasn’t – that has been replaced with seasoning.
The harusame glass noodle salad is also new to the menu – don’t worry, the noodles aren’t made of real glass.
It must be said that Wagamama has the Vegan Society accreditation – this is only possible through having a separate vegan fryer in the kitchen. When dishes are ordered they actually flash up white, green for veggie or orange for vegan on the kitchen’s order screen.
I love how the vegatsu and the mixed mushroom and panko aubergine hirata steamed buns are marked with a “vegan hero” symbol – both actually tasted heroic -although, I do wish they would use capital letters on the menu – as a former sub-editor, this offends me greatly (even if the food still rocks).
I actually fell madly and passionately in love with the, now vegan, the mixed mushroom and panko aubergine hirata steamed buns (£5.50) as a starter. As a huge mushroom fiend (I love them – I’m not a monster with a fungi head), these were always going to appeal to me – but the buns are so soft that they just melt in one’s mouth. They are stunning.
The edamame beans (£4.50) and wok-fried greens (£4.50) are also fine – but not as fine as mushrooms or dumplings (previous blog again).
We washed these down with the new nix and kix (£2.75) drinks – the cucumber and mint tasted predominantly of cucumber and the mango and ginger of mango – so, I preferred the latter. Both contain cayenne pepper to boost the metabolism – you couldn’t taste this though. All 163 Wagamama branches now use paper straws, incidentally, so there’s no damage to the environment here.
So, how was the vegasu (£10.75)? Pretty damn fine actually. I sold my soul to seitan a while ago and the devilish wedding between the gluten steaks and panko (Japanese breadcrumbs) works well here. The diner is served up a satisfying crunch before they taste the tender delights of seitan. The mound of sticky rice and mild curry (think chip shop curry sauce with class) and accompanying salad (a pleasant light vinegar hit) complete this dish.
A dish not to be upstaged? I thought so until I tried the yasai katsu curry (£9.75). The dish is a replica of the vegasu, except, instead of seitan, you get sweet potato, aubergine and butternut squash dressed in a coat of golden panko. And it works a treat.
The soft veg compliments the panko gloriously, again working with the rest of the flavours on the plate to serve up a divine dish.
A mixture of flour, water and oil is used to coat the veg or seitan in order to make the panko stick, incidentally, thus veganising the dish.
The other new dish, harusame glass noodle salad (£9.50) comes with nice firm tofu, light noodles and a delicate vinegar hit. Again, this works well, especially in the summer months (what we get of them in the UK), and it’s nice to try tofu that actually has some flavour to it.
Elsewhere on the menu, the yasai pad thai (£9.95) is now vegan thanks to the use of rice noodles. The lime taste shines through here and I adore the fresh coriander leaves. This one uses silky tofu and has a nice sticky texture to it.
The yasai yaki soba (£8.75) has a wonderful ginger hit – and the fried shallot garnish works a treat for me – I like onions almost as much as I like mushrooms! The substantial wheat noodles are a joy to devour too.
If you like things a little spicier, you could do worse than the yasai itame (£10.75). This contains a strong chilli kick and a lovely taste of coconut. The two work very well together to create a “wow factor”. This soup contains chunks of tofu and veg including bok choi – an underrated vegetable in my view.
It would have been rude not to try the saki as they’re both vegan-friendly. The sho chiku bai (12%) is the cheaper option (£3.50) and the mio (5%) is equally as nice, but more than twice as expensive (£7.25). Both a light and deceptively mild, although the former does have a strong alcoholic kick. The latter is a sparkling wine equivalent and is actually more refreshing and palatable than it’s more alcoholic sister.
I guess my only complaint is that I’d like to see more choice on the dessert front. While the two sorbets on offer are very nice, a more indulgent vegan offering wouldn’t go amiss.
But, in a city such as Peterborough, which lacks a fully vegan restaurant, the expanding range available at Wagamama is very welcome indeed. They also offer takeaway and delivery services.