Garden Gourmet burgers

I think I may have found the best burger…

I had not seen these on sale before, but had heard good things about the range as a whole. So I gave them a try, wanting something different to my usual Meatless Farm burger. Oh boy were these a treat and a half!

I found these to be the perfect medium between the Meatless Farm burger and the Beyond Meat burger. Personally, I found the Beyond Meat burger TOO meat-like. It was very juicy and the texture was almost too close to actual meat for my liking. So while I can attest that the Beyond Meat are indeed very good burgers, as someone who doesn’t like the texture or look of actual meat they were a bit too realistic for my liking. The Meatless Farm burgers are also very yummy, but do run the risk sometimes of being a little too dry – they definitely need cheese or a sauce in order to make them an elite burger.

But the Garden Gourmet were amazing! They were just the right amount of juicy, so you didn’t end up making a massive mess down yourself when taking a bite, but not so juicy that they almost ‘bled’ when they cooked the way the Beyond Meat burgers do. The texture was also perfect – slightly chewier than the Meatless Farm Burgers but not so chewy that you actually question if it is real meat you are eating. As I say, for my own personal preference, this is exactly what I want in a burger, so I would highly recommend you try these if you enjoy the Beyond Meat but don’t want to pay the Beyond Meat price tag for hem.

I bought this pack for £3 so it is on the slightly pricier side of meat-free burgers out there, but when compared to the £5 price tag of the Beyond Meat option this actually seems like a true bargain! You also get two burgers in a pack, so if it is just you you’re cooking for, that’s two very tasty meals sorted. I also feel that this would be the right type of protein that you could have just on it’s own – similar to how you may have eaten steak I guess? – with just some veg and chips or something like that. It really doesn’t need much added to it for it to be tasty so anything you do add just amplifies it up another level. I had it with some This Isn’t bacon strips and some Violife mozzarella squares and – OH MY – words cannot express how good these are.

Overall: 10/10 so far as I am concerned, but 9/10 for those who like their meat-alternatives to be as close as possible to the original meat version.

T xxx

Wok’N’Go sweet and sour vegan box

This is a totally new brand for me! They have just opened a new restaurant near me and the other weekend we finally decided to pop down and try it out. I have heard that the food is pretty good, and that it works in the same way as Subway, but for noodles instead of sandwiches. The restaurant also had a massive ‘vegan’ sticker across their front window so I was very easily sold!

Looking at the menu they seem to have pre-made boxes that you can just select, or you can completely make your own. It seems that each ingredient is a different price (so if you wanted vegan chicken and vegan duck, you would have to pay for each one) but they do have a huge selection of ingredients. I think I saw at least 4 different types of noodles and too much veg to even look through. As I mentioned they also seemed to have vegan chicken, duck and beef, as well as the proper fried tofu – the type that you can never recreate at home that is super light and fluffy but also chewy? That type of tofu.

I decided to try the sweet and sour vegan box to start with. I find that is normally a very safe option to start with if you’re ever unsure. They did have a green Thai curry which sounded very nice, but being the wimp I am I wasn’t quite ready to face the heat just yet! Maybe next time?

For one thing the boxes are HUGE. I only had a regular and it was a struggle to finish. My partner chose a large and I think he nearly went into a carb coma there was so much food packed into the box. One of the cool parts though is that you can watch them cook your food in front of you: You select what you want, they add all the ingredients into a box and then someone will stir fry it all together is a massive wok in front of you. Which is a lot more entertaining than watching someone make your sandwich! It also tasted lovely, so added even more to it.

I had my box with rice noodles, tofu, broccoli, peppers and carrots which was then all stir fried with the sweet and sour sauce. It was BOILING hot when I first tried it – to the point I actually had a brunt lip for about 4 days afterwards – so don’t be impatient like me…definitely wait a minute for it to cool down slightly. As I say it was TON of food but it was delicious. It also tasted really fresh, as though it had all been freshly prepared that morning. The only downside was I would have liked a little bit more sauce, as the flavouring was quite dull with the amount they used. But otherwise…big fan!

As I say the food did taste very fresh, so while I felt full after I finished the box, I didn’t feel greasy or bloated. I also found it kept me full until about 8pm that night when we actually started to think about dinner. When compared to the likes of Subway or Tortilla, I think the Wok’N’Go options are probably slightly healthier than the others. Price wise though, they are the most expensive. We got two boxes and two drinks and it cost about £20. Which for a takeaway is still quite pricey, but I also think I would rather pay slightly more for the better quality than to cheap out and feel hungry again in about 3 hours. I believe the boxes seem to range from between £8-£11, but if you go for a ‘build you own’ type box then the price seems to skyrocket to about £13-£15 depending on what ingredients you add to it.

Now this is literally the only one I have tried so far, but will definitely be going here more often!

Overall: 7/10. A really great find, and will definitely be back to test some of the other flavours!

T xxx

Linda McCartney’s tomato and basil meatballs

I think I have found the meatball of all meatballs. The best of the best. In the ranking of vegan meatballs, these are currently top of the board.

Linda McCartney is normally a pretty sure thing: No matter what you choose from the entire range, it’s going to be good. The food isn’t amazing, but it is consistently high quality. I always make sure to have some of the mince or the chicken pieces in my freezer because they add that little bit of protein and little extra something to a meal without much effort.

These were tomato and basil flavoured meatballs, so in hindsight I probably shouldn’t have used them in a tomato and basil sauce. They are really good though. They taste like spaghetti (probably easiest way to describe the flavour) without having any overpowering flavours. The texture is also a lot lighter and softer than most other meatballs: I find with meatballs they tend to be really solid, chewy balls that can end up being very stodgy and filling. But these ones almost crumble when you eat them. They maintain their shape really well so don’t worry about them falling off your fork or anything, but they really do seem to melt in your mouth and are very light and airy meatballs.

Price wise, Linda McCartney is a bit pricier than others on the market. Being one of the first brands to even offer vegetarian food (let along vegan!) meant they could charge whatever they liked and people would have to buy them as they were really the only option. But nowadays there are so many options out there, they need to start being a bit more competitive. Now you do get 15 meatballs in a bag, and as they are frozen they can easily do you about 4-5 meals, without any need to eat them all quickly before they go off. Definitely a good thing in my book and will definitely be picking these up for those emergency meal plans.

Overall: 10/10. So far the winners in the meatball race.

T xxx

Richmond meat free meatballs

I am a big fan of the Richmond meat free sausages, so was very excited to see them expanding their range slightly. I noticed these, along with some bacon rashers that I will also be trying in the next few weeks. The meat free meatballs currently on the market have been very slim, and the one or two I have tried have either turned into blocks of cement when cooked or are just mushy no matter how much you try to cook them.

I was very impressed with these. Richmond have done it again!

These are really good. Be warned they are kind of weird when you first take them out of the packet, because they are quite a wet, patty-like texture. But once cooked they crisp up lovely and have that wonderful soft centre you want in a meatball. They are also surprisingly filling: You get 16 in a packet, but honestly 4 or 5 is more than enough for a decent meal. Don’t let their small size deceive you!

They are also grease free – some meatballs I have tried end up leaving a thin layer of grease across your baking tray which is then a) gross and b) a nightmare to clean up afterwards. But the Richmond meatballs appear to have little to zero grease. Which is also surprising because they still manage to cook really well, and get a lovely even crispy outside without too much assistance from you.

Downside, is that there isn’t that much flavour to them. The sausages have a load of spices and herbs in them to make them taste exactly like the meat product it is trying to replace, and they therefore do make a really good meal on their own. The meatballs however are really quite plain. That being said, I guess they are made to be added to a sauce so you can always add more flavours to them if needed/wanted. So absolutely perfect to add to your spag bol!

Price wise, I picked these up for £3, so again slightly pricey compared to other options on the market. However, you could potentially get 4 meals out of one packet so I guess that is pretty good value for your money. I also imagine they could be pretty versatile and could be used in a number of different dishes, so you can easily make something tasty using these.

Overall: 6/10. Very plain, but a lot of potential.

T xxx

Rhythm 108 orange chocolate

A new find! I had signed up at work to take part in the Macmillan Coffee Morning, so that meant I was making some of my easy chocolate chip cookies. Which meant I would need some chocolate. I saw this range and decided to give it a go: It is not the usual chocolate I would have used, but it seemed to be slightly more decadent so I decided to treat my co-workers with some lovely vegan chocolate to show off.

This chocolate was so creamy! I actually had to do a quadruple check of the ingredients to be certain there was zero dairy in it because it just seemed too good to be true. It just melted in your mouth and had a wonderful, rich chocolatey flavour to it. Truth be told I didn’t get very much orange flavour through at all – it could have just been plain chocolate for all I knew upon tasting it. So that was a little disappointing, as everyone knows that orange chocolate is supreme to every other type of chocolate and I had bought this for that sole reason of adding orange chocolate to my cookies.

But that isn’t the end of the world. The chocolate itself was still very rich, without being overpoweringly bitter. It definitely tasted more like a milk chocolate than a dark chocolate, which is actually quite novel these days. It melted beautifully in my cookies, and ended up with that lovely gooey texture you want in a freshly baked cookie.

Overall: 6/10. Lovely texture, but absolutely zero orange in it.

T xxx

Wicked! Katsu kiev

I know, I know…I said I would not give Wicked! must of a chance again but they found my weakness! There is just something so warming and satisfying about a katsu curry, and since the wait for my local Wagamama’s seems to be an average of 2 hours every single day, I decided to try this to curb my cravings.

I am actually very surprised that I like this. Normally with Wicked! kitchen, they say ‘mild’ and actually mean ‘diabolical’. It seems they use nothing but chilli flakes for flavouring in all of their meals – even if that meal is mac and cheese. So I was expecting this to be really really overpowering with the spices and the chilli, but it really was mild. You could taste the slight kick that katsu has, but it didn’t melt your mouth.

The outside is a crispy coating – exactly what you would expect with a kiev – and the inside had the usual Wicked! tofu meat substitute. I am assuming it is tofu because it had that very flaky texture, I imagine to try and replicate a chicken kiev? I also think it was tofu because it just absorbed a lot of the katsu flavour while it was cooking. It was very light and the outer shell of the kiev gave it a nice, crunchy texture.

As I say the sauce does kick a bit, but no where near enough to be overpowering or unpleasant. There is a decent amount of sauce in the kiev, however I wish there could be just that little bit extra: It could just be my oven cooking things unevenly, but we had quite a few burnt edges of the outside of the kiev, and that extra little bit of sauce would have worked quite nicely to negate a lot of the burnt flavouring in some areas. Again, that’s probably my fault for having a not-so-great oven, but it something to consider if you (like me) like to drench most food in a sauce of some sort.

You get 2 in a packet and the packet costs £2.50. Which is actually quite cheap for the amount of food you get. The kiev is a great size, and is perfect for one person. It fills you up without being heavy in your stomach, so doesn’t then leave you feeling bloated or ‘stuffed’. We had it with some veg and a little bit of pasta (it had been a busy day!) and it was a really satisfying meal. If I saw these again, I would definitely pick them up.

Overall: 7/10. Not as good as a Waga’s, but a very close competitor!

T xxx

Birds Eye Chicken-free dippers

When you think of Bird’s Eye, you do not think vegan food. You think of that fisherman with the big white beard selling you fish fingers. However it appears that they too have now released a plant based selection of frozen food. At the moment it seems to only have about 5 different items for sale, however I am still amazed at how far-reaching the vegan movement is. To think that one of the biggest sea food companies has now embraced vegan food is amazing. Imagine what will happen in 1 year? 2 years? It does make me hopeful that in the near future, meat products will be the minor market, with the majority of foods being plant based and vegan friendly.

We decided to try the chicken dippers, which are basically like slightly smaller chicken nuggets. I guess the whole design though is to be ‘dip friendly’. We did not test this, but perhaps next time we shall try them with dips – I shall report back with an update!

These were really good. The outside was a light and fluffy batter, that really crisped up once cooked. The inside I think may have been tofu-based, as it had that very thick – almost stodgy – texture to it that you get when you drain and re-drain tofu for a long period of time. The texture was slightly thicker than chicken, but I really enjoyed them for having more weight to them.

They are also alarmingly filling. You get about 15 pieces in a pack and honestly I can handle about 3 before I am full. They are light enough to not make you feel bloated, but substantial enough that they actually make a great addition to a meal. We had these with some veg and rice and while it does not sound like a lot of food, I was full for the rest of the evening.

They do not, however, taste of much. They taste like nuggets. They don’t taste bad by any means, but they also don’t have anything that jumps out at you. I do feel that these would be quite good to add to curries or stirfrys. They don’t have any taste on their own, so you would hope that it means they take on the flavour of whatever they are mixed with. Maybe try these with a nice katsu sauce? Or perhaps they are meant to be finger food dippers, with a load of different sauces to dip into to see how they taste. I will have a play with them and get back to you!

Also, 15 pieces per packet?! How insanely good is that! The packet cost £3, so you’d expect maybe 2 meals worth for a £3 pack usually. But no, these have so far lasted about 3 meals, and that is with two of us eating them. These are really good value for money, because you definitely get a deceptive amount of food out of the one packet. I may even go so far as to say that these should be a regular buy, just to keep in the freezer for those days when we don’t feel like cooking much.

Overall: 5/10. Good on their own, but definitely need something extra added to them to kick them up a gear.

T xxx

Vegan Butcher Pepperoni Pizza

Another day, another pizza. As you have all worked out by now, I am 100% vegan for the animals – my health is really a tiny little factor. I have however been trying to work on that, and to try and eat more wholefood meals rather than processed. But if any of you have ever tried to ‘eat clean’ then you will know that it is very hard to maintain indefinitely. I think health is about balance, so if I eat wholefood all week then on my weekend I can enjoy a pizza and a little bit of grease. I have found this is the only way I can really sustain a healthy eating meal plan, and I am finding that one greasy pizza is usually more than enough to satisfy me for another week or so.

Another find at The Vegan Butcher and as with all of the Vegan Butcher foods I think they are all worth at least a try.

Unfortunately this was not the best. The pizza crust is way too think, because I think the base was cooked within about 3 minutes of being in the oven. But obviously the rest of it is not cooked, so by the time you do take it out (the instructions said 15 minutes cooking time) the base is basically charred. It was SUPER crispy, to the point I think I may have actually chipped a tooth on the crust it was so solid.

The cheese was also a bit weird. It didn’t appear to melt at all, yet when you bite into it, the cheese is like lava. It did melt as you were eating though, and had quite a thick texture to it. I am not sure what type of cheese they used but it didn’t taste like any I’ve tried before. It tasted ok – not overly cheesy, but it didn’t have any sort of powdery taste to it like some cheese can do. Not the worst cheese, but not the best either.

The pepperoni was pretty good though. It had a nice kick of spice to it, and when cooked the edges were nice and crispy. I was actually quite surprised that I enjoyed the pepperoni as much as I did. Without the pepperoni slices, I don’t think this pizza would have tasted of anything. Unfortunately therefore there wasn’t enough pepperoni on the pizza to make every bite worth while, but if they sold the pepperoni seperately I would definitely recommend trying it on a home made pizza.

For £5.50, it is also quite a bit more expensive. This was not a great pizza, and you could probably make your own at home for less than £5.50 that would taste way better. The base was too thin, so just turned to a massive crisp once cooked. The cheese was nothing special – at least nothing that would make me want to pay £5.50 for it. The pepperoni however, if it came as one big long stick of pepperoni, I would buy that on it’s own for £5.50 because that was the best part. I also think it had a really nice flavour and texture to it that I reckon you could use in all manner of recipes.

Overall: 3/10. Way better options on the market, however that pepperoni is definitely worth another visit.

T xxx

Vegan Butcher Mock Lamb

My very first experience of veganism was when I was told to eat lamb. I was probably about 8 or 9, and like most kids I was BIG into my animals. I had more animal encyclopedias than was probably healthy. Then for dinner my mom cooked lamb and I made that connection: a lamb was a baby sheep. A baby sheep is a baby animal. There was a baby animal, on my plate, and I was meant to eat it. If you’d have handed me a real living lamb, I would have hugged it and probably have let it sleep in my bed as my new pet. I would never have wanted harm to come to it, and definitely would not have wanted to eat it. So I didn’t eat the lamb in front of me.

Now before this I had eaten lamb, so I know roughly what to expect. They say that lamb is meant to be very tender, and it meant to melt away when you eat it. Even before my epiphany, I was never that big a fan of any meat at all, so choked it all down purely because I would go hungry if I didn’t. Plus as a kid, I didn’t really know any better.

I imagine that the texture of lamb must be quite hard to replicate in vegan version, but then again people have managed to do wonderful things with soya. My mom actually picked this up for our visit so that I could finally give it a try. The meat replacements I have tried from The Vegan Butcher have always been pretty good in my experience, so I was quite excited to try this.

It was indeed very good. It had that lamb texture I remember, where it practically melted in my mouth and required little to no chewing. Mom cooked it into a lemon grass Thai curry, and it complimented the spice of the curry wonderfully. It also soaked up a lot of the sauce which just made it even more tender to eat. Taste wise, it did just take on the flavour of the sauce so there was nothing that really set it apart. It did add a pleasant texture to the whole curry though, and made for a very delicious meal indeed.

I’m not too sure on the cost of these, as mom bought them without me there. But based on most Vegan Butcher products, I imagine these were around £3-£5. They also came in a huge box, so you definitely got your moneys worth. One packet managed to serve all 4 of us – and that was with multiple helpings as well! So definitely enough for a few different meals.

Overall: 7/10. They take on whatever flavour you add to them, so probably some trial and error involved in the cooking.

T xxx

Violife coco spread

One of the biggest issues for a new vegan is the never ending hunt for vegan nutella. It obviously goes without saying that nutella is one of the best inventions of the world, yet unfortunately a vegan version is yet to be made. That being said, I am always on the look out for a decent replacement.

Enter Violife. I am quite a big fan of Violife: Their cheese range is easily one of the best out there, and their cheese actually acts the way dairy cheese does. It melts beautifully, it is rich and creamy, and is really easily available at most supermarkets. I found this a few weeks ago and have been slowly trying it out to see how it goes.

This stuff is pretty good. If you have had the cream cheese, this stuff has the same texture. It is very creamy and thick, so can be a bit hard to spread if you’ve kept it in the fridge for a bit too long. Chocolate wise, it does taste of chocolate. No where near nutella, as it is quite a subtle chocolate taste – just enough so you know it’s there without being really overpowering. I’ve been having it on toast some mornings and it is just the right amount of sugar in the morning to wake you up, but is somehow filling enough that you don’t feel starving an hour later.

I picked this up for £2.50 at my local Tesco and so far the tub seems to be lasting a long while. You don’t need a huge amount to spread on toast or in a bun to get a decent taste, so it is pretty good value for money. While I do not condone eating chocolate for breakfast, I must admit there is something quite exciting about having dessert for breakfast!

Overall: 7/10. A really good alternative that is definitely worth a try.

T xxx