The Vegetarian Butcher: What the Cluck pieces

OK so the brand name is slightly confusing, but they actually have a very extensive range of vegan meat substitutes. We decided to try the chicken option first (instead of the duck that was also on offer at our supermarket at the time) as chicken replacements tend to be the plainest and therefore the easiest to work with with most meals.

We tried them in burritos, to see how they dealt with spice, and I am actually a big fan of these.

Texture wise, they are slightly rubbery, but not in an unpleasant manner. They are definitely a thicker meat substitute, so aren’t as flaky as chicken can be. It also lets you know that it is definitely not meat by having that slightly tough and rubbery texture, which I personally prefer; the identical switches always make me nervous that I have actually been subject to a cruel prank and tricked into eating meat.

They took up the flavour of the spices really nicely too, so you weren’t just stuck with the plain chicken. I would like to try these again but leave them in a marinade beforehand as I feel like these would really soak up that flavour. I think you could make a lot of different recipes with these so the possibilities are endless. Also, as they are quite chunky pieces, they definitely fill you up but don’t leave you having any sort of vegan soya sweats like the more stodgier replacements can do.

Overall: 9/10. One of my personal favourites now and am excited to experiment with them more!

T xxx

Vegan Butcher: Shrimp

Another new try from the Vegan Butcher counter. As mentioned in my previous post, I was super impressed by the different options the Vegan butcher counter had on offer, and I will definitely be going back there soon to try some of the other things on sale. Part of me fears I may have set my expectations a bit too high with this…

Now I don’t think I have ever had shrimp before. I have never liked the idea of sea food and in all honesty will never understand how anything that smells the way a fish does can ever taste nice. Like…who picks up a dead fish, takes a good ol’ sniff of it and then thinks ‘yes…I shall eat this’?? Bizarre.

Either way, we decided to be a bit more adventurous with our meals and therefore went for the shrimp, thinking we could make a paella with it. Now I must admit it looks just like shrimp, and when cooking it did have that fishy texture to it. I think it is actually made out of tofu, as when you bite into it, the shrimp did have that flaky tofu texture to it. But this was tofu that had clearly been wonderfully prepared, as once cooked the shrimp felt bouncy and a little bit chewy to eat. It wasn’t rubbery at all and did add a nice new texture to our meal that meant the food just sort of melted into your mouth.

Downside was that it still tasted like tofu. It didn’t have any fishy flavour to it. It did soak up a lot of the sauce that we cooked with though, so maybe the key is to marinate these the night before in some sort of vegan fish sauce to really give it that seafood flavouring. Is vegan fish sauce a thing? If any of you guys have ever cooked with vegan shrimp – or have tried to make any sort of vegan fish alternative – let me know what you used and I shall see if that adds anything to it.

Overall: 3/10. A nice texture and visually appealing….but it has no flavour on it’s own. I think a follow up attempt may be needed just to confirm.

T xxx

PHD Smart Plant Protein: Eton Mess

Now that I ma getting back into my fitness, I have decided to start drinking protein again. I used to drink it a lot when I was working out 5-6 days a week and found that I recovered a lot quicker than if I went without. I am now getting to the point where DOMs are starting to kick in more regularly (as I up my cardio distance and time, as well my weight lifting numbers) and these protein shakes have actually helped so much with the soreness.

I have always found vegan protein to be quite hit and miss. They either don’t taste of anything or they are really high in sugar in order to taste of something. They also always seem to mix terribly – no matter how hard I shake the bottle or how much water I use, they always end up with this gritty powdery texture while drinking. Over the years I simply learnt to accept that this is what vegan protein is like and made my peace with this.

My partner (who has far more years experience with the gym and protein) always raved about the non-vegan PHD range. I had a look at some of their macros and was too impressed. They also had two vegan options to try so I decided to just give it a go. Worst case, they would be like every other vegan protein I have tried. Best case, it would become my staple.

Best case worked out! This stuff is lovely! It mixes like an absolute dream too. It does take a fair bit of mixing (be prepared for sore arms if mixing by hand) but it will end up smooth and velvety – no gritty texture or powdery taste at all. It also tastes like what it says it is meant to taste like: The Eton Mess did taste like strawberries and cream and was a really nice after dinner drink to satisfy any sugar cravings I may have had.

There are also instructions on the packet to make a protein mousse. You simply mix the powder with some milk and it eventually whips up into a light mousse you can enjoy as a snack or a dessert. I didn’t try making this (as I would rather just drink my protein) but now that I know how this protein mixes, I think I may finally give it a go. Just to see really.

I have also tried the chocolate cookies flavour and personally I preferred that one over the Eton Mess. Purely because I have a proper weakness for anything chocolate flavoured. But I was very pleasantly surprised by this range and I definitely will be buying this on a regular basis.

Downside is they don’t seem to do packets bigger than 500g, which for me lasts just under 2 weeks (roughly 4-5 shakes a week). The packets costs £12, so for that price it is actually quite good value for money. But ideally, if it something you will be drinking every day, it would obviously be more beneficial to buy a bulk bag size of it all to just keep in stock. There is nothing more disappointing than having a really hard gym session to come home and realise that you only have enough left in the packet to make half a scoop. Granted it’s better than nothing but sometimes you can just tell when you are going to hurt in the morning.

Overall: 8/10. Chocolate flavour is preferred, and a bigger bag would be ideal. But definitely a top runner for protein!

T xxx

Gregg’s vegan cheese and ham baguette

My local store has finally stocked the vegan cheese and ham sandwiches! I had heard that these were coming sometime in early June but it is only now that I have actually found one.

Now strictly speaking it is not anything special at all. It is literally Quorn ham and violife cheese slices. So that is exactly what is tasted like. I think I would prefer it heated up, as the bread was quite stodgy and Violife cheese is normally a lot better when it is slightly melted. But other than that it is a good sandwich option.

It is also HUGE. I couldn’t even fit it in one picture it was that big. So for £2.50 this is easily one of the better options out there for a lunchtime sandwich.

I am more excited because it means that there is now a cheap and easily available option for me should I forget my lunch or want something a bit more filling. It is also nice to see a vegan sandwich that is plain and simple: no fancy ingredients or special sauces, just your run-of-the-mill basic sandwich. Which is also good if you are out with fussy eaters or are on a tight budget and don’t want to spend £4+ for a really posh and complicated sandwich.

Hopefully as time goes on and veganism begins to be more and more widely catered for, simpler options will start to be available. Plus it is also nice to have a break from the sausage rolls and steak bakes!

Overall: 5/10. It’s nothing special, but being cheap and easy to find what more could you want?

T xxx

Plant Based salmon

Today we have a weird one. We finally made it down to the Vegan Butcher counter at our local Asda store and I really could have bought everything. They had so many things: They had burgers, cheeses, tempeh, seitan, pizzas, ‘meat’, tuna, shrimp, calamari….honestly so many options that I literally had to pull myself away. If you find yourself near a Vegan Butcher counter, definitely check them out because they are truly special. Plus, the staff we spoke to seemed really passionate about the products and gave us some really good recipe ideas to try out, so it is worth it just to talk to some passionate foodie vegans.

We decided to try some vegan salmon slices. I think I maybe had a salmon and cream cheese bagel once in my life, but everyone talks about it pretty highly. So we gave it a go.

These are very odd.

They look like salmon, and they have that really weird fishy texture, but somehow it just tasted like a really, really, really watery carrot. I even tried a slice on it’s own – just in case the cream cheese was overpowering the flavour – and it was like eating a really thin slice of carrot that had been sat in a bowl of water for three weeks. Like I said the texture was spot on, and it obviously looks like salmon, but….it doesn’t taste of anything. It was actually really disappointing.

Now again I think I have only had salmon once and it was now at least over 10 years ago, so my memory may be a bit hazy as to what salmon actually tastes like. But…it does taste of something right? Or is salmon meant to be a super watery type of fish? If it isn’t then this is even more disappointing, but if it is, I really don’t get what all the fuss is about.

Although it has given me some inspiration to try and make vegan salmon, as apparently it’s quite an easy thing to do with carrots. I mean I say it’s easy now….I’ll let you know once I have actually tried a recipe!

Overall: 1/10. Texture good, but everything else bad.

T xxx

Tesco Bakery Pretzels

The smell of a bakery is always so heartwarming, and during our weekly shop we actually managed to get to the store just as all of the freshly baked goods were being put onto display. The tiger bread and cupcakes definitely called us from across the store.

Now I am 99.99% certain that these pretzels are vegan friendly. The only allergens listed (or ingredients as a whole really) were wheat and barley. I also googled them online and while only labelled ‘vegetarian’ I couldn’t see anything that would make them not vegan friendly. One downside of the Tesco bakery is that their labels say NOTHING so you always end up having to check the full range of ingredients online anyway. Makes you wonder why they even bother having a label in the first place?!

But I digress…

I don’t know why but I always expect baked pretzels to be sweet. But these were literally bread in a funky shape. They were very doughy, and very bland. But, as I say, they were bread rolls in a funny shape. They were also HUGE. Like I do not know how four people could finish both, let alone two people. I think my partner and I managed to eat one between the two of us and even then we both ended up with carb sweats. So definitely won’t be buying those too often unless we are looking for a serious carb loading meal.

We did have the idea though that they may be really good with toppings on. We did try dipping them in Biscoff Spread, and that made a huge difference. Because they are so thick though, you’d probably want to share one regardless of what topping you put onto it. But maybe next time we have people over, we could get these pretzels and a whole heap of toppings to let people decorate them to whatever flavour combination they would like. I think for that sort of situation – for a kid’s party or date idea – these would actually be a really fun option.

Have any of you guys tried this before? Have you got any go-to topping combinations that I should try out next time to see if they can be improved? Let me know and I shall do my best to try them all!

Overall: 5/10. A lot of potential there, but on their own they’re very boring.

T xxx

Moser Roth vegan chocolate

Since the EPIC betrayal of Tesco changing their recipe of their chocolate orange bar, I have been searching for a good chocolate replacement. One that doesn’t cost a load of money but still manages to taste like chocolate. There are a lot of options out there now, so I feel it is only my duty to check these out one by one.

I have never heard of Moser Roth, but they had quite the selection (I saw selection – there were 3 options that I saw, but that’s still a fair amount compared to some other brands) so I thought I would try them. They also state that the brand is rain forest certified cocoa and fair trade, so it also makes me happy to think that I am supporting a brand that is actively trying to do good.

It was unfortunately quite underwhelming. Like it tastes nice….but that’s it. It also tastes powdery. The chocolate itself was actually quite smooth, so I am not sure how it got that weird powdery aftertaste in it. But I find with some of the cheaper brands this does tend to happen. Perhaps it is something to do with the quality of ingredients? Or the manufacturing process? Whatever it is, it’s just a bit meh.

It also wasn’t overly chocolatey. I get that the chocolate has to be watered down (or milked down?) to make it milk chocolate, and so it isn’t super bitter, but you still want it to taste like chocolate. And this one just didn’t really. It tasted like a synthetic chocolate. If you’ve ever had a protein cookie or one of those ‘healthy’ treats that claims to ‘taste like chocolate’, that is the flavour I am referring to.

Overall: 4/10. It shall do for now…but the search for good chocolate continues!

T xxx

This isn’t chicken lemon and herb skewers

I feel British Summertime has finally arrived, which means we potentially only have 5 random non-consecutive days left of it! Time to head to the stores and stock up on as many BBQ goods as you can carry and get to grilling.

The ‘This isn’t’ range is,m for the most part, pretty good. It seems to be consistently good, if not slightly overpriced for some things. I was therefore pretty safe with trying out these new skewers that appeared in my local supermarket. They had two flavours – smokey BBQ and Lemon and herb. I decided to try the lemon and herb, as I thought that would probably be the most complimentary if I was also have grilled veg and a burger or hot dog.

These were, as expected, really good. The chicken has that meaty texture, but is still not exactly the same as the meat version. I personally prefer that, as I like knowing for certain that my food is definitely not meat, but if you are looking for a perfect replacement these are about 80% perfect for that. I guess it also applies on the opposite side of the argument, where if you really dislike ‘meaty’ texture then these may not be for you.

I was a little disappointed at how much you actually got on a skewer, as they are actually quite small anyway. You also only get 4 in a pack it felt quite expensive to pay nearly £5 for it. If you were wanting to do these for a large group of people, I think you’d be better off making them yourself with the This Isn’t Chicken pieces and your own fruit and veg. They were very yummy but 2 skewers is definitely not enough to be a full meal. As a side, along with a burger or some extra grilled veg these would be brilliant, but on their own you’ll still be quite hungry afterwards.

The sauce was also very nice, but I tend to prefer quite a light and bland taste. I shall have to try the BBQ sauce version next and I shall let you know which is the better option!

Overall: 8/10. Needs more. Perfect for a lone meal but not really worth it for a large group.

T xxx

This isn’t bacon lardons

Where to begin with these. I am not sure how new these are but they have only just come into stock at my local supermarket. Overall, the ‘This isn’t’ range tends to be pretty good – it has a good texture and flavour and is one of the more affordable brands on the market. So we thought these would be worth a try.

I was very wrong. I can’t even tell you what they tasted like because they added absolutely nothing. They made no impact. I thought I’d try mixing them in with usual carbonara recipe, but they did nothing. If I hadn’t have put them into the recipe myself, I would never have known they were there. The texture was non-existent and the flavour was non-existent. I even cooked them separately as directed before hand and still nothing.

I suppose I cannot be too surprised – out of a collection, there are bound to be a few duds. Perhaps this was just not meant to be.

Overall: 0/10. It would be more flavourful to add extra air to your meal.

T xxx

Magnum Salted Caramel ice creams

Another new find! This time some more good Magnum goodies. Also…please do not judge me for how I eat my ice creams. Something about just chomping into a solid ice cream lolly just….unnerves me.

These were meant to be salted caramel flavour and even though they were definitely sweeter than the plain vanilla flavours, I wouldn’t say it tasted any different at all. It didn’t taste like salted caramel. The chocolate cover was.,..just the usual chocolate. The ice cream was, as I said, very sweet, but it didn’t taste of anything more than just sweet vanilla. Personally I think I’d rather just stick to the plain version, as I really don’t see what these add to anything.

Overall: 4/10. Nice enough ice cream, but not salted caramel whatsoever.

T xxx