How dare you call a vegan burger a vegan burger?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

Vegan in the meat aisle

My initial reaction to the news that Sainsbury’s would be stocking new vegan products in the meat aisle was one of overwhelming cynicism.

In Australia, when a similar idea was tried, the country’s MPs actually hit out at the plan – https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2018/jun/18/not-mincing-words-nationals-denounce-vegetarian-product-in-meat-aisle

The UK saw the move debated on vegan forums, and I was adamant that I didn’t want to go for a walk down the aisle of death – a place I had never actually frequented in my life (I was still living with my parents when I became vegetarian 30 years ago), but I’m not the intended audience for these new products.

It has been well documented that the number of vegans has exploded in the UK and worldwide over the past few years – and, I guess, many of those will miss meat. Therefore, companies have been striving to make vegan products as “meaty” as possible.

Fair enough, but will it tempt meat-eaters back to their old ways? Personally, I doubt it – and maybe that’s the idea behind this – a little bit of compassion in the aisle of death can’t be a bad thing, can it? Many people who turn vegan don’t dislike the taste and texture of meat, they just dislike the fact that living beings are killed unnecessarily in order to provide it – surely, this must cater for such vegans? But will stocking it in the meat aisle alienate long-term vegans? I guess that’s up to the individual, but it is a possibility.

Iceland was the first supermarket here in the UK to introduce a “bleeding” vegan burger with their No Bull patties (https://veganonadesertisland.com/2018/04/09/no-bull-its-a-bloody-vegan-burger/)

Personally, I love the No Bull taste and texture, but, as I said in the review at the time, I can’t actually remember what meat tastes like, so I have no idea how “authentic” they are. Iceland stock these with the rest of the vegetarian products.

Baps

How did I find the new Sainsbury’s range? Well, I held my nose, held my breath and walked down the meat aisle. Luckily, I came across the Naturli burgers very quickly – there wasn’t many left and no mince left at all – as you can probably tell from the main picture. At £2.25 for two pretty big patties, they aren’t badly priced – but they did stick out like a cat in a dog show. All on their lonesome in the middle of what, to vegans, is a graveyard of animal corpses, were two bright rays of (reddish) hope. I popped them in my trolley and made a dash for the safety of the vegetable aisle – a rainbow of delights to counteract my trip to the dark side.

Would I put myself through this again? Possibly. I still prefer the No Bull burgers, but these are very good. They look like meat, cook very quickly (a huge advantage over No Bull) and they fill you up at £1.12 and a half pence each. I am old enough to remember when a half pence coin was actually a thing.

They are not strongly seasoned and have a rustic feel to them – which I guess means they’re pretty “burger-like”, it also means they go well with burger relish, vegan cheese and fried onions. It also means they will probably work brilliantly on a barbecue.

The fact they are not strongly flavoured doesn’t mean they are bland and does mean that I would recommend them for younger or less adventurous palates. This is the point really isn’t it? People who are cynical about veganism may be persuaded to give them a go. Maybe that’s what got the farmers in Australia so riled up?

It’s a shame I couldn’t try the mince, but, to be honest, they are plenty of vegan minces out there and I tend to use they in spag bog, so the authenticity of the original taste would probably be lost on me – but if anybody else wishes to share their thoughts on that, please feel free.

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Ingredients

A Cauldron of vegan taste

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Cauldron’s vegan burgers and sausages reviewed

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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