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

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

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

Plant Pioneers no sausage rolls

Another week, another sausage roll. Don’t get me wrong I am all for this wide range of options, but could we possible get a few different options now? Would a pasty hurt anyone?

I finally made the trek down to our local Sainsbury’s and I must admit that their vegan range, Plant Pioneers, looked pretty good. They had mine, chicken pieces, sausage rolls, burgers and sausages as well as decent range of ready meal options. If I was a smarter woman I would of taken a bigger bag with me!

I thought the sausage rolls would be the safest option, as I have plenty of reference to compare them to.

I was a little disappointed.

Personally, I found the actual sausage bit to be the same as every other. It was good, but nothing that different to what you can get anywhere else. But the actual pastry bit was SO DRY. I cooked it for the 25 minutes that was recommended, and that felt like a bit of overkill. The pastry did crumble but it also sucked all water from my body in the first bite so…the rest was a struggle.

I think I only managed to finish about 1/3 of it before dehydration began to settle in.

Granted, there are so many options out there now it can be hard to really do anything special with a sausage roll. But this was quite a disappointing addition to the mix. I would like to try the other Plant Pioneer range though to see if this was just a dud.

Overall: 1/10. May as well just lick sand…

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

Meatless Farm Hot Dogs

Nothing says summer like BBQ! While it is still raining non-stop in England, we are now allowed up to 6 people inside our homes so it looks like the BBQ is having to move indoors.

Meatless Farms is very quickly becoming my favourite brand of meat substitutes. Their food is always very consistently good so it has become quite the staple in my household. I have been very impressed by everything they’ve offered so far, so I had high hopes for these. The good thing about hot dogs too is that they are – without fail – super synthetic anyway. So while these may not be the healthiest meat substitute out there, I am still very excited.

I cooked them by boiling in water for 5-7 minutes. You can also cook them on the grill or the hob but this seemed the quickest and (knowing my luck) least smoke-inducing of the options. Fun fact: hot dog water smells pretty gross. Be prepared for that. One of my first jobs in school was working at a local football stadium in the hospitality kiosks, where we served hot dogs to very drunk football fans. If you were new to the team, your right of passage was to empty the hot dog machines – this involved emptying a bucket of boiling water that had been keeping hot dogs warm for about 3-4 hours. It was tough, but if you could handle that you could handle anything!

Perhaps next time I shall try the grill option…

These were indistinguishable from the meat version. I use the term meat very lightly here but you get what I mean. You would not be able to tell the difference if you served these at a BBQ. They tasted exactly how you expect a hot dog to taste, and with a little bit of ketchup and a big crunchy roll, it honestly tasted like Summer.

You get four in a packet and a packet costs £2.50, so value wise they are definitely on par with most meat versions. They’re also good value if you want to serve quite a few people at a BBQ, as they taste amazing without you needing to spend a ton of money.

They also always make me giggle because in the UK you can also call hot dogs ‘wieners’. And I have the sense of humour of a ten year old and make myself giggle asking my partner if he would like a wiener.

Overall: 10/10. Summer 2021 has finally been saved!

T xxx