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

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

Alpro mango yogurt

It is currently 27 degrees in England, which is always a shock for us Brits. I also stand by the fact that British heat is not the same as any other type of heat. In the US and the Mediterranean, you at least have a cooling breeze on you (at least form my experience). Not in England. It is just heat….constant, unwavering heat. As someone who is always cold, this is actually a very welcome change, but for most of the people I know this heat is just too bizarre for us to cope with.

Another upside to the heat is that it means I can have cold breakfasts again that isn’t cereal. in winter, I live off of warm breakfasts, but when it is so hot outside you do not want porridge. I am also trying to be a bit healthier in my meals so am looking out for some fun ways to spice up rather dull options.

I am someone who could live off of fruit forever. I would never go so far as to be fully raw, but I would very happily gorge myself on fruit if given half the chance. But in an attempt to spice up my fruit salad in the mornings, I gave Alpro yogurt a try.

I love mangoes, but I always find that when a product says it is ‘fruit flavoured’, it usually means it is barely flavoured like the thing it says it should be flavoured as. This tub was mango flavoured, but I didn’t really get that much mango. It was sweeter than the plain yogurt, but if I had blindly tasted it I would never have guessed mango. It did have tiny little chunks of mango in it, but these were so mushy it tasted just like the yogurt anyway.

It’s also a bit of a weird colour. It is sort of yellow. Kind of beige. Either way it is not the most appealing of colours. My picture doesn’t really show it too well but it is almost a dirty mustard colour. So if you are someone who eats with your eyes just be aware that this colour is not the most appealing. It also gave everything a slightly bitter taste: The fruit was super sweet, while the yogurt was a bit tangy. Which meant it all sort of levelled out to being quite bland.

Overall: 4/10. Probably best to stick with your plain yogurt really…

T xxx

Moser Roth vegan chocolate

Since the EPIC betrayal of Tesco changing their recipe of their chocolate orange bar, I have been searching for a good chocolate replacement. One that doesn’t cost a load of money but still manages to taste like chocolate. There are a lot of options out there now, so I feel it is only my duty to check these out one by one.

I have never heard of Moser Roth, but they had quite the selection (I saw selection – there were 3 options that I saw, but that’s still a fair amount compared to some other brands) so I thought I would try them. They also state that the brand is rain forest certified cocoa and fair trade, so it also makes me happy to think that I am supporting a brand that is actively trying to do good.

It was unfortunately quite underwhelming. Like it tastes nice….but that’s it. It also tastes powdery. The chocolate itself was actually quite smooth, so I am not sure how it got that weird powdery aftertaste in it. But I find with some of the cheaper brands this does tend to happen. Perhaps it is something to do with the quality of ingredients? Or the manufacturing process? Whatever it is, it’s just a bit meh.

It also wasn’t overly chocolatey. I get that the chocolate has to be watered down (or milked down?) to make it milk chocolate, and so it isn’t super bitter, but you still want it to taste like chocolate. And this one just didn’t really. It tasted like a synthetic chocolate. If you’ve ever had a protein cookie or one of those ‘healthy’ treats that claims to ‘taste like chocolate’, that is the flavour I am referring to.

Overall: 4/10. It shall do for now…but the search for good chocolate continues!

T xxx

Easter Egg Chocolates

Yes, I am aware that I am very late to this. But one of the harsh realities of adult life is that no one buys you an Easter egg anymore. You have to make an active effort to go out to the shops to pick one up. And did I do that in time? No I did not.

I was, however, slightly spoiled as I was actually gifted both of these by some lovely bigger adults in my life. But I also didn’t actually get to eat them until Easter had already passed because…again….adult life really gets in the way sometimes.

Now is it just me or is Easter egg chocolate different to actual chocolate. I don’t know if it’s how it is made or how it is only brought out once a year, but it just tastes different to your regular every day chocolate. Sometimes this is good, and sometimes this is bad. I don’t know what it is but Easter egg chocolate always seems like a really special, treat chocolate that you only get once a year. Maybe that’s how they keep demand up?

I love Nomo chocolates. Their chocolate bars are easily my favourite around so I was very excited to finally break into this. Oddly enough, it doesn’t really taste of much. Like yes it is chocolate but…not much of it. The Egg did come with a regular chocolate bar, and that was the usual creamy melty goodness that I love Nomo for. But the Egg was just…just a bit meh. Not really much of anything. That being said it did taste exactly like regular dairy milk Easter eggs did, so I suppose that is a good thing if you want something identical to the original.

Now M&S….very quick question…why this shape? Why would you make an Easter egg shaped like an eggplant?! We all know what the eggplant emoji means. So why would I want a chocolate version? Can’t quite wrap my head around that marketing idea.

Not to make anymore jokes about it….but this ‘egg’ was pretty thick. Usually with chocolate eggs they are quite thin so that they are easy to break, but this one really did take quite the beating (not like that, you nasty!) to crack it open in the end. It was very rich too. Like a true, dark chocolate richness that I feel most vegan chocolate now steers away from. It was really nice to actually have a vegan chocolate that wasn’t trying to be a copy of dairy milk chocolate. It wasn’t an overpowering bitterness but just enough of a kick that you didn’t feel super sick after eating a load of it. M&S are hard to fault with their vegan bits so I am not surprised at all that this one was my preferred option.

In summary though, I think Easter Eggs are a bit of a scam. I believe the Nomo was about £10 and the M&S one I can only imagine to be roughly the same price. Now you can buy a normal Nomo bar for 99p usually. If given the option of one egg, or 10 chocolate bars, I think we all know which we would prefer! Now hopefully these prices will go down as demand for the vegan alternatives increase, and it is for that reason alone that I would suggest buying one of these next Easter. But if you can not afford the Easter egg, or aren’t sure if someone will even like it, I suggest just buying the regular bars. Not only will you get way nicer chocolate (with nuts and berries and crispy bits too!), but you also get way more chocolate overall.

Overall: M&S wins in the Easter battle, but I am also glad that this was only around for a limited time. Much better options available for a fraction of the price throughout the entire year.

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

Lidl Choco Hoops

No matter how crazy the world gets, it seems I can always count on two things: Lidl and cereal. Lidl has quite the reputation for having a goldmine of super cheap vegan products that are scarily similar to more expensive and well known brands. Their cereals are so cheap and as someone who appreciates a good choice of cereals, I for one am a big Lidl fan.

They also clearly label all of their vegan products, which is how I came across these chocolate hoops! As a kid I never really liked chocolate cereal because it never really tasted like chocolate – it was always that weird, powdery tasting ‘chocolate’ that just left a funny after taste. But as I have grown older I occasionally get quite a craving for high sugar breakfast cereals. Probably to help fuel me through the day during these horribly dark, wet and depressing winter days here in England.

There isn’t much else to say about these: They are hoops and they taste like chocolate. That’s all they are and they do actually taste chocolatey. They can get quite sickly if you have too big a bowl of them, but that also may just be the sugar shock setting in. The packet was also huge considering that it only cost £1.

Overall: 8/10. These are a great option if you want a breakfast cereal that actually tastes like what it is meant to.

T xxx

Naked without the oink bacon

Another day another bacon alternative!

This stuff actually worked quite well. The taste wasn’t perfect – you could tell it was a fake meat – but it did have a pretty satisfying crunch to it. I had this with a burger to make myself another posh burger, and it did add a nice extra texture to my meal, even if it didn’t add much flavour.

Another thing I notices was that it didn’t really change shape or colour when cooking. The edges curled up very slightly but other than that it came out of the pan the exact same colour as when it entered the pan. We cooked it evenly on both sides for the recommended amount of time, and it did get very crisp and stiff and rigid, but it didn’t change colour. Make of that what you will. For me it just made me a bit worried that I didn’t know how to properly grill something!

Overall: 7/10. It’s alright, but probably not the ideal option for a bacon bap.

T xxx

Vegan Halloumi

I think everyone can agree that one of the best cheeses out there is, quite simply, halloumi. I have yet to mention the word halloumi and not have every single person around me go ‘mmmmmm halloumi’ with that lustful hungry look on their face. Halloumi is great.

The downside is that, obviously, halloumi is made from milk….and milk comes from cows that are treated in terrible, terrible ways. And yes, while halloumi may be an amazing food creation, it is not worth the suffering of a living being just to get it.

Vegan cheese can be very hit and miss, so I must admit I did not have high expectations for this free from halloumi from Tesco. Don’t get me wrong, I do enjoy the Tesco vegan cheese options, but that’s because you either want the cheese to melt when cooked or to be creamy to spread. Halloumi is probably one of the few cheeses that you heat up so that it is hard on the outside and melty in the middle. By vegan cheese standards, that is a very hard thing to try and replicate.

Needless to say this did an alright job. It comes in a big block, and when we grilled it, the strips of cheese did hold their shape and were a pretty nice gooey consistency when you bite them. They do not, however, taste like halloumi. Unfortunately they tasted exactly how the Tesco free from cream cheese tasted. Now that isn’t a bad thing – the free from cream cheese is actually a really good alternative to the dairy – but not what you want when you are expect halloumi. It just didn’t have that salty back bite that halloumi lovers crave.

Now I don’t know if maybe next time we may try and grill it with salt added – maybe salt the pan before while grilling, or adding a bit of salt before serving – but for me it didn’t really taste any different to the other free from cheeses on offer. A cheese alternative – yes. A halloumi alternative – no.

Overall: 5/10. They were fine as a cheese alternative, but no where near a replacement for the dairy version. Maybe next time?

T xxx

Aldi vegan sweets

Following on from my find of the Leo the Lion sweets from Aldi, I managed to pick up the other two options! Everyone, meet Walter and Wendy Worm…

These taste exactly like Haribo sweets. I always found that most vegan gummy sweets were never overly ‘gummy’…they were more like wine gums than jelly babies texture wise. But these little guys are brilliant! Personally, I prefer Wendy, as she ends up tasting just like Tangfastics do (or at least how I remember them tasting) and I found that Walter was very sickly sweet after a while.

The good news is that each packet is like…99p. So you can’t really go wrong. Plus you also get a pretty decent amount of candy in each pack so I think they’re really good value for money. Ideally though I would quite like to see them being different types of sweets – they didn’t both have to be worms. Maybe Wendy could have been Karla the Koala? Or some other type of fizzy animal.

Overall: 7/10. Very good sweet alternative.

T xxx