Budget vegan pies – in a tin!

Fray Bento Vegetable Balti Pie in a tin

Fray Bentos Vegetable Balti Pies reviewed

Now you can even get vegan pies in a tin!

With the announcement that Pie kings Fray Bentos had dipped a toe into the vegan market, those of us who love cheap pies were dancing in the kitchen and hunting down our tin openers in anticipation.

Not only is this another option for vegan pie lovers, it’s also cheap and requires no freezer – or even a fridge – for storage. Plus, and it’s a big plus, they only cost £1 (when I got mine) at B&M or Morrisons – it’s wonderful that veganism on a budget just gets easier and easier! It must be said however, this isn’t specifically marketed as a vegan product, it’s sold more as a veggie option and they’ve left it to us to publicise the fact it’s also vegan-friendly.

Before you start, you do need a strong tin open to prise off the lid – but once you’ve got that far you just throw it in the oven for 25 minutes – no baking tray needed! Plus, the tin design means the packaging is 100% recyclable and the best before date is an impressive 18 months away – so you can really stock up while they’re on offer! Obviously, unless you wish to blow up the kitchen with a pretty fireworks display, you can’t microwave it – but whoever heard of microwaving a pie anyway? Soggy, radiated pastry? No thanks.

Cooked Fray Bentos pie

The first thing to note after the pie is cooked is that it isn’t particularly pretty. If food aesthetics is your thing, then this is not the product for you. The top of the pie on mine looked like it had been blown up with a foot pump with the filling making a desperate attempt at freedom from the pastry prison – but it didn’t affect the taste in the slightest. It is also a little difficult to get the thing out of the tin and on to the plate – but even Linda McCartney pies have that issue in removing them from their foil home. And, crucially, it doesn’t really stick, so you can get all of the pie out rather than throwing vital bits of pastry away when you’ve finished serving up.

But what about the taste?

It’s good. As a curry-based delight, it isn’t too spicy, there is a slight kick, but nothing overpowering.

Although, I have some sympathy with those vegans that complain about how all vegan options seem to come with some degree of spicy kick or heat these days – and not all vegans are spice lovers like myself.

The pie’s sauce is pretty thick and meaty for a vegan offering – and I really appreciated the abundance of vegetables available – especially the peas! I’ve felt for a long time that peas have been the most under-appreciated of all the vegetables in a vegan’s cupboard. I put peas in everything and I’m glad they’re well represented here.

The pie is a nice big unit too – many vegan offerings just aren’t big enough and throw in a couple of portions of chips and you can even feed two with Fray Bentos’ foray into veganism.

The pastry itself is also rather tasty. It’s crispy on top and melts in the mouth through its reaction with the sauce, which it complements perfectly.

The list of ingredients is rather long, which isn’t always a great sign, but most of what is on the list is natural and there’s a nice long list of spices. In short, there’s very little to fault here.

Another win for vegans on a budget.

Fray Bento Vegetable Balti Pie ingredients list

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

 

 

A Christmas vigil

Look into the eyes of the dying.

The main picture was taken at a slaughterhouse vigil. The pigs in the truck were about to have their throats slashed.

This is just before Christmas – a season on joylessness for many, many animals slaughtered for the benefit of human over-indulgent. As half the world starve, the grain that could fill their bellies goes towards raising animals for the dinner table of the “first world”.

This is followed by Boxing Day – a day of pheasant shooting and pheasant shooting. Like the animals killed for meat, many of the pheasants’ bodies are simply thrown away – surplus to requirements – they died for nothing.

Of course, Christmas is followed by Veganuary  (https://veganuary.com/) – more people than ever are expected to take part next year (2019) (https://www.plantbasednews.org/post/veganuary-2019-biggest-year-300-000-taking-part?fbclid=IwAR2zaJ6AVMoLteL1MiVItEzNe3K5SrCDuG5yxzSpZk2IdMFEE02dPeBM3qY0) meaning that there are shining lessons of compassion breaking through the darkness of environmental destruction, animal pain and misery and dangers to human health.

There are even hints that more and more people are shunning meat for their Christmas dinner (https://www.veganfoodandliving.com/one-in-12-people-will-tuck-into-a-vegan-or-vegetarian-christmas-day-meal-in-the-uk-this-year/?fbclid=IwAR20R8-71GijVbvHaWzx5HysyYCKP12vkkYAND27P7naUHsfTxu_9HZQ8D4) – given the rise in veganism over the past few years, this should really come as no surprise. But it is easy to feel alienated by simply browsing the comments to posts about veganism from national media outlets. I know, I know, the first rule of social media is never read the comments!

We sometimes forget that vegans are still in a minority, and the constant advertising of meat and “traditional” Christmas meals rams this down our throats at every opportunity over the festive period. The fact that many feel like the “token vegan” at office parties or company meals out can make this an even more depressing time of year, but the sheer number of meat-free Christmas dishes now available should be cause for joy.

I think, this year, every major UK supermarket has their own version of the vegan Christmas dinner – the Guardian has even rated them for us – although, it has to be noted this is just one person’s point of view – https://www.theguardian.com/food/2018/dec/15/vegan-taste-test-grace-dent-rates-supermarket-christmas-dishes

So, with rising numbers of vegans, one has to ask why the advertising industry is still stuffing images of meat down our throats over the festive season, families make light of the “ vegan option” and some people still feel alienated. Indeed, many of us do not like the thought of sharing a table with those consuming animal products – even the smell is intolerable for me.

This is why attending the vigil was important. Even those of us who have been vegan for a long time need reminders every now and then as to why we choose a compassionate lifestyle – and what could be more compassionate than being there before somebody dies?

It’s also important to make the connection between the living being and the slab of meat on somebody’s plate – need I elaborate any further?

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.

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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.

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

 

I’d rather jack – the meat substitute that’s actually a fruit

Pulled jackfruit sandwhich

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.

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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 logo

Resist! Slow cooked BBQ Jackfruit

Ingredients

  • 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)

Method

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!

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Resist! Vegan Kitchen at The Ostrich Pub, in Peterborough, UK. Photo by Gareth Ellison of Resist! Vegan Kitchen

E’s are good, E’s are bad

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

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

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

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

The ones to definitely avoid are:

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

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

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

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

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

 

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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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.

It’s vegan festival season

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As the number of vegans in the UK grows, so does the number of vegan festivals and events on offer.

They’re a great way of meeting fellow vegans and finding products that may be difficult to get hold of on your local High Street. I also find them fantastic for discovering new (to me) independent vegan retailers and connecting with grassroots animal rights groups.

Vegan Events UK is one group with a busy festival calendar this year.

There’s something for all ages at their forthcoming vegan festivals this spring. These popular events, held at venues up and down the country include a feast of mouth-wateringly delicious food, a wide range of fantastic stalls, world food caterers, exciting cookery demos, inspirational talks, interactive workshops, yoga and children’s activities running throughout the day.

Food on offer includes a varied and exciting array of plant-based hot and cold dishes, including Asian, Mediterranean, Indian, Greek, Hotdogs, Burgers, Street Food, Raw Food and Gourmet Food! There will also be a huge range of pies, cakes, chocolates, cookies, doughnuts, sandwiches and salads to take away as well as alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks, juices, smoothies, tea and coffee.

There will be a great selection of non-food stalls at the event selling a wide variety of items including fashion, footwear, jewellery, beauty and skincare products, candles, crafts, clothing, footwear, homeware, gifts and charity merchandise.

As well as stalls to look round, there will also be a wide range of free food samples to try, live music, inspirational talks, live cookery demonstrations, workshops and children’s activities.

Vegan Events UK organises over 20 of the largest vegan festivals and events across the UK. Events this spring are being held in Essex, Portsmouth, Shoreditch, Manchester, Glasgow, Leicester, Liverpool, Nottingham and Dorset.

Festival Organiser Victoria Bryceson says: “With the vegan lifestyle really starting to go mainstream there’s a massive demand around the country for vegan-friendly events. Our festivals are set to be a fantastic day out whether you’re vegetarian, vegan or simply vegan-curious. The idea behind the festivals is to educate and inform everyone about the vegan lifestyle and offer support to anybody who would like it.”

Going vegan has transformed Victoria’s life: “I’ve never felt happier and healthier,” she says. She started the festival with the aim of promoting animal welfare and how to live a more ethical and healthy lifestyle.

“There will be several animal welfare charity stalls raising awareness of their causes. For anybody who would like to get involved with volunteering this is an ideal place to talk to lots of different charities and gather information, and all the stall holders are happy to talk to people and answer any questions.”

The festivals are run in partnership with animal welfare charities including Miracle’s Mission. “It’s all about trying new things and opening people’s eyes to new possibilities,” continues Victoria. “Cutting out meat and dairy from your diet is easier than you might think and many people are increasingly looking for alternatives as they want to live more healthily and ethically. They want to find out more about the new innovative foods and recipes now available and want to do it affordably. Our festivals will educate people on how to do all of this.”

The festivals being held in spring 2018 are:
• Shoreditch Viva! Vegan Festival on Saturday 17th March and Sunday 18th March
• Northern Vegan Festival (Manchester) on Saturday 7th April
• Glasgow Vegan Festival on Saturday 14th April and Sunday 15th April
• Leicester Vegan Festival on Saturday 21st April
• Liverpool Vegan Festival on Saturday 5th May
• Nottingham Viva! Vegan Festival on Saturday 12th May
• Dorset Vegan Festival on Sunday 20th May

Entry into each of the spring festivals costs just £3 (under-16s free), which includes entry to all areas and activities. Standard tickets are purchased at the door on the day. VIP tickets, costing £15, include fast-track entry and a goody bag full of vegan products, samples, discounts and offers can be purchased in advance but sell out quickly.

For more information, please visit www.veganeventsuk.co.uk or www.facebook.com/VeganEventsUK