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

Plant Kitchen marshmallows

I have heard good things about these but my local store never seemed to ever stock these. So naturally when I finally found a packet I nearly knocked over three old ladies to grab them first. Not even sorry.

These are exactly how I remember marshmallows being: soft and light and fluffy, while also being really sickly sweet. They are only vanilla flavour, despite the colours, but they really do melt in your mouth and give you a nice little sugar kick.

Size wise, I prefer them for being on the bigger size. Mini marshmallows are only good for drinks, but the massive American style ones are just intimidating. As a side note, any of my American readers, can you confirm whether all of your marshmallows are huge? The ones we have on sale here in the UK as being ‘american imported’ are genuinely like pillows – at least 3 of these marshmallows put together. These are a decent size, and you find that two or three are more than enough to satisfy any sugar cravings you may have.

Price wise, they are from M&S so are kind of pricey (£2.50) compared to the non-vegan options. But the M&S Plant Kitchen range is one of the higher quality ranges out there so it is justified so far as I am concerned. Also, it is very unlikely that you will be buying these on that regular a basis, so as a once in a while treat they are easily available and not too badly priced for that. As with all of these vegan foods, hopefully as the demand grows and more options become available, the prices will also lower to be more in line with the non-vegan options.

I have not yet tested their melting capabilities though. It is still pretty hot here in the UK, so hot chocolates are not really on the menu. However, with October fast approaching, I am so looking forward to being able to get out a spooky mug, fill it with pumpkin spice hot chocolate, and load it up with these bad boys…OH I can also make smores! I shall keep you updated…

Overall: 9/10. They are indistinguishable from the original thing, so not sure I can really fault them. Just need to do a melt test….

T xxx

Wicked Garlic and Herb kebabs

Wicked kitchen are slowly going up in my estimations. Normally the only food they had on offer were spiced to within an inch of their life, so all you could taste in any meal was chilli. But this range – the options for kebabs – prove that you do not need a ton of spicy flavouring to make a decent meal.

I have tried lemon and herb skewers before although they were from a different brand. There’s just something about a kebab that makes me think of summer – alas English summer went from a week long heat wave to two weeks of flooding rain fall. So…that’s a bit of a bummer. But at least I can pretend with my kebab!

These were actually pretty good. They are a lot tougher than other meat substitutes – definitely a lot denser which means it is very chewy. Not in a bad way…I sort of imagine it’s what pork would be like? Except without the dead piggies. The garlic gives a good kick, but nothing too overpowering. We had ours with some vegetable rice and extra veg and it ended up being a very satisfying meal indeed. Nothing too flashy, but something quick and easy to cook. Will probably have to whip these out if we are ever able to have an actual bbq again.

Price wise though they aren’t brilliant. £3.50 for 4 kebabs doesn’t seem too expensive, but each kebab only has about 3-4 chunks of ‘meat’ on it. Two kebabs each is just the right amount, so if you are cooking these for a few people it will all quickly add up to be quite pricey. I personally think you could also make your own version for half the price, so it is a bit hard to justify this on a regular basis.

Overall:6/10. Once in a while, but not something I will routinely buy.

T xxx

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