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

Kings smokey bacon jerky

Now this is a real weird one and not something I would normally ever try. But it is new, it had pretty good reviews online and I fancied being a bit more adventurous. I also hoped that it would stop me cravings sweets in the middle of the day so it was worth a try!

First thing first, the taste: really really good. It does actually taste like bacon – I find vegan bacon can be such a difficult thing to get right and so far brands have not gotten too close to the original. But this stuff tastes really, really good with that rich smokey flavour. So on that front, 10/10. Probably the best ‘bacon’ flavouring I’ve ever come across. I also gave a few pieces to some non-vegan colleagues that they all agreed that you would not be able to tell the difference between this stuff and the non-vegan variety. So definitely a win!

but that texture….oof. So I have never had jerky, so I guess I don’t really have much of a frame of reference for this. I do however know that jerky is basically really, REALLY dehydrated meat that cowboys chew on long horse rides as it lasts ages and yet still tastes like meat. This stuff however, was like chewing an eraser (or for us Brits, a rubber). It was SO chewy, to the point that I actually panicked that I had eaten some of the plastic packaging because even after 20 seconds of chewing, it had not changed it’s shape or consistency at all.

After the first bite though, after I knew what I was expecting, this was actually quite enjoyable. Be warned though after about 3 pieces you do have to take a break because the jaw ache is intense. The pack comes in little chunks of jerky – instead of the long, flat shapes I think jerky usually comes in – but a handful was more than enough to satisfy me for about an hour or two before it was time for lunch.

Price wise it is about £2.50 a packet and the packets are not that big. However you do get a lot of chunks in a packet, so it could easily do you for a good week or so of little snacks. Now on the packet it does say that once opened you need to eat within 24 hours and 1) I don’t know what sort of power jaw you must have to make it through a whole pack in one day without needing medical help and 2) I don’t know if it more to protect the texture of the jerky rather than because it will actually go off. But basically if you plan on buying a packet make sure you can share it with others – unless of course you do have the jaw of a crocodile to cope with that amount of chewing.

Overall: 6/10. Very tasty, but the texture still throws me a little bit.

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 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

M&S Southern Fried Chicken Strips

I think it goes without saying that M&S are absolutely killing it with their vegan range. It seems every time I go in, there is a new product for me to try. And being the kind vegan that I am, I just have to try it all.

These were a pleasant find, mainly because you don’t find many meat substitutes in M&S. At least not on their own. They do a few vegan ready meals but I haven’t really seen any stand alone vegan meats: Like chicken or ham or mince. Those sort of things. So finding these southern fried strips was very exciting.

These are, again, very good. M&S is quite consistently high standard, so honestly it is hard to find anything in there that won’t be good. These chicken strips are…meaty. They are definitely thick and they do have that very meaty texture to them. Personally, I don’t overly mind the texture – it has been so long since I actually ate meat (I think i’m coming up to about 12 years meat free!) that I don’t actually remember what animal meat tastes like. So make of the texture what you will.

The downside to them is that they do not hold together very well. The ‘skin’ is really nice and crispy, and the inside ‘meat’ is thick and flaky, but no matter how we cook them the skin will always fall off of the meat. I am not sure if that is a deal breaker or not, as both parts taste great anyway. But when you compare it to the other options out there (Such as the Linda McCartney chicken strips) it does seem a bit lazy that the coating can’t even stay on. Especially when you only cook them in the oven. No frying or movement at all short of going on and off the baking tray.

They also do not taste of much. You don’t really get that ‘southern fried’ flavour of them. They just sort of taste like fried chicken…but minus the actual chicken flavour. I have found that these are actually very nice to add to meals: salads, sandwiches, pasta dishes. Because it doesn’t taste of much it doesn’t add any overpowering flavours, while still adding a nice texture and a load of protein to any meal.

Overall: 6/10. These are yummy, but nothing too spectacular.

T xxx