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

Slug and Lettuce chocolate orange tart

Another little treat from my Slug and Lettuce venture the other day. As I mentioned in my mac’n’cheeze post their vegan menu is pretty good and also just a bit more decadent than your usual pub food. Needless to say I was very excited to try this little baby!

Now I don’t know if it is because most places make vegan desserts using dark chocolate, but they are always so rich! This was no exception. This tart was more like a really thick cheesecake….it had a very rich, creamy and thick texture to it, but way thicker than your usual tart filling. I didn’t get any orange flavour from it, because that dark chocolate was so rich it completely overpowered anything else. The base was like a brownie – whether intentional or not, I can’t say – so really added to the chocolate shock of it all.

I couldn’t finish it. Trust me….I really wanted to. But it was so rich and so filling that my stomach could barely handle half of it. Granted it probably didn’t help that I had also just had mac’n’cheeze. Maybe next time I should stick with either or and not get too excited. The filling was also very very thick – almost like caramel in that it genuinely felt like my mouth might glue shut there was so much thickness to it. You will definitely need a drink to help wash this down.

Price wise, it is actually a steal. This dessert alone was £2.99. TWO NINETY NINE. For a really big portion of very decadent tart. That alone makes it worth while, because normally for this level of dessert you’d likely have to go to a specialist baker or very posh cake shop. It also meant that I don’t feel like I have really wasted money when I can’t finish the whole plate. I still felt wasteful, as I left at least half of it (before my stomach burst) but at least I didn’t also feel the guilt of spending a lot of money on something to not even finish it. If you fancy something special though, I would recommend maybe sharing this one.

Overall: 5/10. It was lovely for the whole 3 mouthfuls I could stomach. Way too big a portion.

T xxx

Vegan Kit Kat

I finally found the motherload!! I have heard that these were a thing but had never been lucky enough to find one. The only reason I even got this one is because one of my lovely work colleagues got lucky at her local Sainsbury’s. Apparently you should be able to find them in m,ost supermarkets, but either they are too popular or I am just unlucky because it seems to very hit and miss as to which stores actually stock them and which might get a lucky delivery every so often.

I forgot how good a kitkat is. For those of you who do not know what a kitkat is, it’s a stack of long crispy waffle layers covered in chocolate. They come in long strips as you can see and there is only one correct way to eat them: You split the bars apart, and eat each finger one by one. Anyone who just takes one big bite out of a kitkat without breaking them apart first, is clearly on the brink of mental collapse and you need to run away from them immediately.

The vegan version is identical to the original. I honestly could not tell you any difference in them. They are crunchy, and rich and the most moreish chocolate bar out there. Honestly I could eat these non stop. Aside from a Bounty and a snickers (I am still praying to the plant based gods to finally make a vegan version of both), Kitkats are easily one of my favourite chocolate bars. I nearly forgot how much I love a kitkat and yet one bite and I feel like I am back in secondary school studying for exams or working on coursework: Kitkats and 2 litre bottles of Diet Coke were all that would get my through the really hard subjects some days!

The only downside to these is of course the vegan tax that has to be paid. This bar was £1, which I know is not much at all, but the non-vegan version is only 70p so it does feel a bit cheeky of them to charge more. Surely they contain the same (if not less in the vegan version!) ingredients so why charge me more?! But alas, at the moment you will find that most vegan options do tend to be slightly pricier than the non-vegan options. Not by much, but it can suck having to pay 50p more for an item purely because it says ‘vegan’ on it. Hopefully as demand continues to grow and sales start to even out between vegan options and non-vegan options, the prices will start to become more uniform.

And if to lower the prices it means I have to increase demand and eat these kitkats on a regular basis…I shall do my duty.

Overall: 10/10. Identical to the original and therefore an instant winner.

T xxx

Slug and Lettuce vegan mac’n’cheeze

I have been meaning to go to a Slug and Lettuce for some time, but as the one nearby is the only one for quite some miles, it is always heaving with people. But I lucked out this week, as it seems with the bank holiday weekend, people have had their fill of bars and cocktails and we actually managed to get a table.

They do have a few vegan options (nothing amazing but there are choices) but I decided to try the vegan mac’n’cheeze. As you can see, the portion was huge! It came with the side salad and ‘bread rocks’ which were just very very big croutons. I don’t know how I was meant to eat these because they were literally rock hard. When I did manage to bite down, the rocks did taste quite nice, but I also fear I chipped a tooth so….maybe not again?

The mac itself was brilliant. It was creamy and cheesy and just the perfect comfort food. The downside was though the BBQ sauce drizzled on top. At first, it added quite a nice sweetness to the very savoury cheese sauce, but by about half way through the BBQ sauce was just completely overpowering. By the end it was just very sickly, to the point I couldn’t even finish it. Which is such a shame because the cheesy mac alone was so good!

Now the Slug and Lettuce is, at it’s heart, a pub. It is a very pretty pub and is definitely higher class than your regular pub, but it is still quite pub-like. The main focus is on drinks – they offer a drinks tree, which looked very cool, I have to admit – so it doesn’t surprise me that the food isn’t completely stellar. That being said it is definitely higher class pub food, in that it is clearly cooked rather than microwaved and the food actually has full flavours. Price wise, it is therefore a bit pricier than most other pubs, but I do think it is very reasonable for the amount of food you get and the quality of the food.

Overall: 5/10. Way too overpowering.

T xxx

BOL spanish bean and Veg Paella

Another hectic week thanks to the British bank Holiday, so I had to grab myself a lunch in between client meetings. I am currently trying to focus on more whole food recipes, and to eat less processed goods, so I thought this BOL pot would be better for me than a Pot Noodle.

I was pleasantly surprised. You can tell it is a microwave meal – the veg doesn’t have much crunch to it and the rice is just slightly too soft to be fresh – but it didn’t taste like a microwave meal. The flavours were lovely, and the paella aspect gave it quite a nice, rich undertone to it. It has a slight spicy kick to it, but it worked really well with the rest of the veg and greens so no flavour overpowered the other.

There isn’t really much more to say on this matter. It literally is what it says on the lid.

This was £2.50 when I bought it, so is obviously a fair bit more expensive than your Pot Noodle type meals. But this meal also filled me up for the rest of the afternoon – no need for any pre-gym snack or 3pm pick me up – and got me through a 30 minute run so it clearly had some sort of nutrition inside it all. Now I am usually really good at making my meals at home for the next day, but should I ever be caught short again I think I would rather splurge slightly for the better quality option than the cheaper options out there.

Overall: 6/10. Definitely not something to have regularly, but a very good option if you ever need a fast meal

T xxx

Swizzels Puds sweets

I used to love Maoam sweets. Now of course they are not vegan friendly, so I have simply done without them over the years. At first I missed the candy, but there are so ,many candy options now I haven’t really thought about them for some time. And then I saw this packet of Swizzels Puds and got far too excited.

I have never seen these before – and they were very clearly labelled vegan so I naturally snapped them up! Now that I look at the picture of the packaging though, it has only now occurred to me that they are named Great British Puds, because they are literally the flavoured to taste like some of Britain’s best loved desserts. I was clearly too excited to really notice any of the finer details….

These are lovely. They actually taste of what they deem to be a copy of. Personally, the Lemon Meringue was the best flavour that tasted identical to how I remember lemon meringue tasting. The others were still good, but you could tell that they were synthetic. Not a bad thing, just an observation. Be warned too that they are SUPER chewy. These things stick to your teeth like cement so be very careful if you have fillings or braces. In all honesty, I’d even say maybe skipping them all together if you have anything in your mouth which you wish to remain where it is.

The worst part of these – and really quite a huge factor for the score I am going to give it – is the damn wrapping. Just as the sweet clings to your teeth, the individual wrapping sticks to the candy as if life depended on it. I spent more time trying to take the wrapping off than I actually spent eating the candy itself. Plus the more you try to pull at the wrapping, the less likely it is to come off, and you get stuck with those horrible tiny scraps of plastic wrapping all over your hands, which are also now super sticky from holding the candy for about 3 minutes while you try to unwrap it.

The worst part is, no matter how carefully you manage to unwrap the sweet, you will ALWAYS end up with a tiny little sliver embedded into the candy that you then have to try and take out of your mouth while it’s already full with the sticky cement of the sweet.

These sweets taste amazing, but the battle you have to go through to even get to the eating stage is a joke. It’s not even worth it. You’d be quicker making vegan versions of the real desserts and eating that, rather than wasting hours of your life wrestling with tiny bits of thin and flimsy plastic wrapping. If you have time, then definitely give these a go, but be prepared for one hell of a battle.

Overall: For the candy 9/10. For the overall experience 1/10.

T xxx

Gregg’s vegan sausage, beans and cheese bake

Gregg’s coming in again with their vegan goodies! I honestly don’t know how I would cope some days without Gregg’s. Those days when work is super hectic, and your ‘healthy’ meal just doesn’t feel like it will be enough to fuel you and you just want something greasy. Good ol’ Gregg’s coming in hard!

I am a big fan of the sausage rolls and the steak bake. Granted they are not the most fantastic option out there, but they are easily available and stupidly cheap, so you can’t really go wrong with one of their treats. Their new sausage, bean and cheese bake finally hit my local shop so I of course had to at least give it a go.

It’s exactly what you expect. Honestly it just tasted like beans on toast. I couldn’t really tell there was any sausage in it unless I really looked for it. Now being British, beans on toast is a staple part of my heritage, so anything that recreates that is a win in my books. I also found the sausages tasted like those fake sausages that came in the spaghetti hoop tins. The sausages that were like tiny little hot dogs that were more chemical than actual food. The type that just seemed to disintegrate the second you put any sort of pressure on them in your mouth. If you know, you know.

Now obviously this is probably not the healthiest option for you, but then what do you really expect from Gregg’s? These also only cost £1.60 so are clearly excellent value for money. These things are stuffed to the brim – I am amazed they don’t all explode when they’re being cooked really – but also be warned that if they are fresh out of the oven they will be molten lava level hot when you bite into them.

Overall: 6/10. I personally prefer the steak bake to this, but this is still a nice, cheap meal option if you’re ever stuck with what to get.

T xxx

Little Moons mochi ice cream: mango and passionfruit

I have never had mochi before, but I have seen everyone online raving about how great these little ice cream mochi balls are. Now I know that mochi is usually made from rice, and is mixed with sugar, fruit or other sweet things to make little dessert balls. They are originally from Japan and in recent years have had a real surge in popularity here in the UK. The regular mochi always look so appealing, so I thought I would take a chance on these.

Maybe it’s because I was expecting a more rice like texture, that these things really threw me. I am still not sure if I actually like them. The outside is almost like a gum – I was sort of expecting it to be somewhat doughy – like a dough ball but a bit softer – but it was more like a soft haribo gummy bear. It tasted like icing sugar though. So naturally my brain did not know what to do with it all!

The actual ice cream inside was delicious though. I could eat passion-fruit and mango all day every day so this ice cream was haven to me. It was rich and creamy and really woke you up with the amount of sharp flavour you got. I am not sure if the outer part sort of diluted the ice cream a bit – whether it is meant to or not I don’t really know – as the flavours were definitely more muted when you first bite into it, compared to when you’re about half way through.

They also were somewhat messy, as it did feel like the ice cream wasn’t actually connected to the outer coat by anything – I feared I’d take a bite and the whole ice cream part would just fall straight out. The outside also got quite sticky, no doubt as it melted slightly from the warmth of may hands as I ate it, so it did feel even messier. The package did say to take them out of the freezer and leave them for 5 minutes at room temperature before you start eating them, so maybe that it what makes it so gelatinous? I think next time, I may ignore the advice of letting it melt a bit first and see if that holds it together and makes it a bit more appetising texture wise.

As I said, I still can’t work out if I did like these. Perhaps it is more because my expectations were for something a bit more solid than what I actually got. I almost expected something similar to an ice cream sandwich than the ice cream candy ball I did get. You do get 6 balls in a packet though, so I do have some more to try later on to see if I enjoy it better now I know what to expect. Perhaps it’s an acquired texture? Like with mushrooms?

They are somewhat expensive – I picked these up for £5 – but I guess that does work out to be about 85p (I am not doing the exact math) per ball which actually sounds like quite the bargain. I had two, and it was more than enough. I think anymore than that and you’d just end up feeling very sick. I imagine this pack will probably last me at least 2 more servings, and as they keep in the freezer they don’t have any real expiry date to them. I am using these at the moment as my one weekly dessert (I am trying a new training programme which also includes quite a ‘clean eating’ meal plan to go with it) so one packet can easily last me a whole month. So I guess in that regard it is actually quite affordable.

Overall: 5/10. Jury is still out….more research needed.

T xxx