Monday 12 August 2019

My July Sainsbury's vegetarian/ vegan food haul

Hi veggie food fans! Thought I'd share with all of you some of what I picked up on my July trip to Sainsbury's in Newry. For those living in NI (or indeed anywhere Sainsbury's exist) or on the border like myself, then I strongly suggest taking a trip in to your local store who have upped their serious vegan/ free from game the last couple of years. Most of these items were vegan friendly, with a couple being only vegetarian.

For those in the know, Veganuary has became a popular phenomenon in which usual meat eaters or vegetarians decide to transition to an all animal-free diet for the month of January. With the decline of meat eating during this post-holiday diet season, naturally the bigger food chains would pick up on the trend and produce what the consumers want to see - A varied range of food suitable for those who don't, or can't, consume dairy, eggs, gelatine and other every-day meat byproducts. This includes meat alternatives, which are particularly a transitional favourite to many who have consumed meat their whole lives and are going cold turkey (excuse the pun), as well as general "junk food" favourites. After all, being vegan or vegetarian is not about being "boring" or healthy or denying treats for many. It's about finding a comfortable balance between your ideology (love for animals, wanting to live a more sustainable lifestyle, and so on), while feeling you and your family can easily adapt. It shouldn't be hard and only for the elite.

Following on from January each year, store bosses obviously decide to take many of these products off the shelf, as numbers in veganism decline again for another year. However many of us have noticed a trend the last couple of seasons -higher proportions of those who try the change for the month either remain as vegan, or drastically adapt their normal meat product consumption. Each January, we are seeing more and more products saved from the February chop. Hence the growing number of delicious and versatile alternatives to test out.

I may not be the biggest fan of junk food at times, but only because I have very basic tastes (and terrible digestion!) -But I am by no means a food snob. I can't imagine what its like to have several little kids too, and trying to get them to eat a kale salad... I'm sure that's loads of fun for parents. So zero judgement here (which can be RAMPANT in the veggie community). If anything I take major, major issue with the anti-GMO/ anti-science rhetoric which is widespread in the community and attracts fear-based advertising by corporations. Naughty, naughty lying corporations.

With the rise of these tasty treats, I am inclined to buy more. Especially if they freeze well, and myself and pescatarian husband can defrost at our own leisure. Our monthly/ bimonthly trips across the border for food to make us chubby has become one of our special days out. 

Here are some of my favourites and not so favourites from our July fat-fest:

Naturli Vegan Butter Block

After cheese, I think one of the main food items I hear people say they couldn't live without is "real butter". Especially if you're Irish. I think even if it's something you don't eat every day, the thought of never experiencing it again scares people. With certain foods we associate memories, and for many here on the emerald isle, we have childhood flashbacks of mountains of butter on homemade brown bread, potatoes and so on. It's not just a food -it's tradition, it's love, it's family. So butter is a toughy!

When I first decided to go diary free a few years ago there was very limited option for spread in Ireland, particularly in my town. One, saltless, tasteless, expensive brand and one accidentally vegan option from one of the bigger stores, which later discontinued. Now we have giant brand Flora who recently decided to make all their butter products vegan! A massive step. I sometimes can't believe how far things have came in only a couple of years, even if there is a lot of corporate band-waggon jumping.

But many of these haven't been able, or just didn't want to try, emulate the consistency of real butter. Until now. Naturli vegan butter is hard, only melts after being out of the fridge a while, smooth and creamy and has that cold, unmistakable feel. It's by far the most real butter-like dairy-free product I have yet to come by. Of course it's fattening, of course it's not a health food, but only silly people think that's what all vegan food has to be. My only constructive criticism would that I would like a bit more salt (as butter is usually very salty), but that is something easily added. This product is incredible on potatoes. So no need to stamp on all those sacred childhood memories.

10/10 for nostaligia.

Linda McCartney's Vegetarian Chicken & Leek Pies

Couldn't find a good photo of the chicken & leek ones online, other than a total BS photo of the cooked product on the L Mc C website which I refuse to share.
The husband loves anything that has gravy and has previously bought the "country pies" (which consist of a fake beef style meat with gravy and are readily available where we live). He enjoys the taste of the inside, and the crusty top, however the cooking is just a ridiculous, never-ending saga which results in soggy pie bottom about 85% of the time. And no one wants a soggy pie bottom. 

Initially we blamed our old cooker which was from the dark ages and had no fan-assist, and then when we bought a new cooker we toyed with the idea of the product experiencing a de-frost, then a re-frost -changing it's ability to cook above a mush level of 10. We had the boys down in the lab analyse each attempt to achieve the promised crispy base (and within the suggested cooking time) but we can't conclude an exact reasoning for such immense failure. Unfortunately, the chicken and leek pie, which has a creamy, soup-like sauce in the centre, has proved no better. On our last try we took the pie casing off which only minorly helped, and of course runs the risk of absolute mayhem through leakage. Pie inside leakage is second in offence to soggy pie bottom.

For this reason L McC pies of all flavours get an undercooked 2/10

Vivera Fish Fillets

Vivera has to be by far one of my favourite product brands of 2019. They are now readily available from Tesco, as well as Sainsbury's. They have vegetarian and vegan products, marked easily on their packaging as colours: blue is for their vegan products and yellow for their vegetarian only range. Whether you crave salty, shredded shawarma style kebab or a steak-like texture, Vivera does it all. More importantly, their products each have a unique taste and feel, while many brands find it difficult to mass produce such varied flavouring (I'm looking at you, Quorn!). 

This fish-like product didn't disappoint, but as there are so many on the market at the minute with similar taste (after all, if you're going to do fake fish, white fish -with it's tasteless, bland qualities- is the easiest to emulate),

I score this tasty yet common product a 7/10

Fry's Battered Prawn Pieces

Keeping with the fish vibes, but upping our game, I introduce you to Fry's battered prawn pieces. Fry's are a well-established vegan brand, but are difficult to find outside of the realms of online shopping. As I said previously, many fake fish products focus on the white fishes which are easy to copy. These crispy treats were surprisingly similar to scampi you might find in a chippy. Of course nothing will ever be exact to something as complex as a prawn, but for taste and texture Fry's are winning the look-alike award -and hey, unlike most brands, at least they are trying! They had a real Christmas snack feel, and I hope they are more readily available in the future.

10/10 for effort and execution.  

Tofurky Deli Slices

Another brand that pops up from time-to-time, but has an online presence as well a history of producing quality, vegan products is Torfurky. These thick, salty slices are very reminiscent of beef sandwich slices and the texture and taste is truly uncanny. Even if it's not a food I would eat all the time, it definitely had to make the list for likeness alone. If you are missing smoked meats, look no further. Sooo good in a sandwich with the butter mentioned above, or even with English mustard for an extra kick. Eat warm if you want more of a bacon feel.

A respectful 8/10 for this sandwich go-getter.

What products have you tried recently that really stood out?
Any tips for new vegans?
Comment below. 

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