Cauldron Vegan Sausages

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Contains: Soya, Gluten

Free from: Nuts, Palm Oil

Everyone’s favourite tofu people. I’d actually been warned heavily against these beforehand which I think is why they pleasantly surprised me (like you know when you have to downplay your bedroom abilities so when it comes to it, anything’s good? No? Just me? Shit.). Well for £2.50 for a sixer, it’s probably not the worst idea to give them a shot if you want a switch up from the everyday Quorn and Free From.

 

First thing I noticed is they’re chorizo red. That’s not meant to be an arty term, they’re the spicy, blood red of your favourite Spanish sausage. Does this mean it’s spicy? Are we in for a treat? Have we found another holy grail? No. What we have found, however, is a proper vegetable sausage – one where you can see the vegetables that actually make it up. You bite into it and it… well it turns to a mush. It’s not necessarily a bad mush, but it’s not got the substance or thiccccness you’d associate with a good sausage. One thing I noted was it was saucy (ooh-la-la?), not that it was gushing (violent retching noises.) but it holds liquid inside which I think is why it has that soft bite to it.

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Taste. The taste isn’t actually all that bad but the only thing I can liken it to is baked beans in sausage form, a beanie banger if you will. I’m sure we’re all fans of the good ol’ sausage and beans but it really limits what it pairs well with. Baked potato (as I had it)? Ace, tip top, number one sausage. Pasta? Eh… Rice? Gag. The sausage juice is somewhat tomatoey as well which really locks in that baked bean taste.

I would say you could definitely feed this to an omnivore but never pass it off for a sausage. A baked bean submarine maybe but not a chorizo. It actually scores fairly low in the omnivore department because it just doesn’t have the texture, doesn’t have the taste but aesthetically? Sure.

  • My Rating: 3/5
  • Omnivore Score: 1/5
  • Overall: 2/5

Find this product at: Ocado, Tesco, Sainsbury’s Morrisons, and various health food stores.

 

Dragonfly Organic Soysages

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Contains: Soya

Free from: Nuts, Palm Oil, Gluten

As you all know, I have a special place in my heart for Linda McCartney but to push the sausage boat out, I went for something new. We do this so you don’t have to (and please for the love of Krishna do not, but more on that later) and at around £2.50 for a 4 pack, I’m already a little put off.

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First off: appearance. It looks a little bit like compacted kibble or not unlike the turd of someone with a low-fibre diet. It just looks reconstituted and like a sausage’s super dehydrated cousin. What’s interesting with this is that it tastes exactly how it looks. Dry. Lack of moisture or juiciness isn’t even its biggest problem – it’s almost like fighting through a mouthful of dustbunnies or unruly pubic hair; the texture is just fibrous in all the wrong ways (is there ever a good way?). It just sucks all the moisture out of your mouth. If I was really searching for something positive to say about it… maaaybe the skin adds a little crunch but to be deadly honest, it’s like biting into a cold, congealed and depressing fish finger.

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Does this brown faeces-esque kibble log has something super redeeming about its flavour? Does it make my mouth water? Does it fuck. It stays true to itself (points for consistency Dragonfly, if you’re gonna be shit at least you’re consistently shit) as it has literally no taste. I’m not entirely sure if the idea of taste was overpowered by the weird texture and my concern I’d need an IV drip to keep myself hydrated but there just didn’t seem to be any.

Could you feed this to an omnivo- NO. I’d expand on the answer but these “soysages” have offended me in ways I’d never imagined. You couldn’t feed it to a vegan as a suitable sausage replacement, don’t even try going anywhere else with it. Dragonfly, step your game up.

  • My Rating: 1/5
  • Omnivore Score: 1/5
  • Overall: 1/5

Find this product at: Ocado, Holland & Barrett, Morrisons, and various health food stores.

 

Fry’s Family Chicken Style Strips

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Contains: Soya, Gluten

Free from: Nuts, Palm Oil,

I didn’t actually know what to expect when trying these out. Hell, I didn’t even really know what a “strip” was but given my past experience I expected it to be smothered in breadcrumbs and taste like the colour grey. Fast forward to now and I’m sat with a bellyful of Fry’s and tears in my eyes. For £3.59 you too can have this in your life (though, I won’t lie, I frowned at my receipt for a good ten fucking minutes).

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So what IS a chicken strip? The answer is a fairly sad looking, warped slab of what looks like tofu. To put it in other terms, if it were a person it would be a dishevelled, old man sat waiting in the rain for a bus that’s never going to arrive. It’s only when I bit into it I understood everything. The outside is dry and unfriendly but it creates a texture that sort of forms a nice skin around the strip, giving it points in the omni-department. Not too chewy, not too hard and just the right amount of bite. If you leave them on the stove for long enough you should end up with a nice browning crust on it too. The inner texture? Actually… it’s pretty non-descript, the strips are thin enough that you notice the skin, a brief change to a softer (not mushy) medium then back to skin. If it were a person, they’d be the middle child.

Something stirred deep within me when I took my first bite. What was it? Five year old me had realised he was eating a cruelty-free chicken goujon. That’s correct. These are 10/10 exactly the same in taste as your childhood favourite dinner that would have you sat so close to the oven door your eyes melted. Sure 90% of the reason we ate them we because of the breadcrumby skin (and because child nutrition has fallen to shit… thanks Capitalism) but the taste brought up enough nostalgia to set my tastebuds on fire. If it were a person, it’d chubby six year old me witch ketchup on my shirt and happy as tits.

Can you feed this to an unwitting ominivore? Hell yea, I’d just make sure to bury it under something and make it as well disguised as you can because for all its plusses, it still looks like twigs and dying tofu.

  • My Rating: 5/5
  • Omnivore Score: 3/5
  • Overall: 4/5

Find this product at: Ocado, Holland & Barrett, Morrisons, fryfamilyfood.com and various health food stores.

 

The Chia Co. Pudding Pod

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Contains:

Free from: Nuts, Palm Oil, Soya, Gluten

Quick confession – I’ve actually tried to make my own chia pudding before. What did I think? Shit. Chia pudding is a stain on the pudding name, it’s that family member no one talks to at Christmas and sits alone outside in the winter cold because it’s unappreciated. So with that in mind, I thought I’d take it from the chia people (literally) to try and change my mind. At £2.99 for a tennis ball sized pot it’s pretty damn pricey BUT you do get a fancy spoon with it (probably in case you feel like re-enacting 127 Hours part way through).

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I went with the banana flavour but there’s a pretty big assortment including mango and vanilla. This was probably mistake number one since the only thing that a soft, quasi-gelatinous, banana flavoured food can be compared to is baby food. All I could think of was mashed banana. The texture is gloopy although it holds together really well and isn’t actually as unpleasant as it sounds. The chia seeds within also do well to add something crunchy and a welcome change of pace from what feels like a spoonful of eyeball jelly. To The Chia Company’s credit, I would say that it’s not too far off of the texture of your typical rice pudding but pairing it with banana was definitely a poor choice.

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Texture aside, it’s time to look at taste. The only thing I can liken the taste to is a dying man’s handshake (metaphorically… I’ve never licked old man hands). It’s not unpleasant and the banana taste is definitely present but it’s pretty weak and the only word that sticks in my mind is bland. Bland bland bland. There’s simply something missing and I can’t tell what it is. If they were to make it overly banana-ry it would taste all sorts of wrong, if they were to up the coconut milk it would also taste pretty off.

To make this a fair review, I’ll have to compare it to rice pudding. Saying that, this pot actually does pretty well mostly because rice pudding is also weak and milky and, again, not unlike a dying man’s handshake. Also a pro – it’s crazy healthy for you. However at JFP, doing well in that department doesn’t mean I’m any more likely to eat it.

  • My Rating: 3/5
  • Omnivore Score: 3/5
  • Overall: 3/5

Find this product at: Holland & Barrett.

 

Punk on the Road: Thailand Edition

Key words

อาหารAah-haan (food)

เจ – Jae (vegan)

ถั่ว – Tua (nuts)

Southeast Asia can be an absolute haven for vegans. After all, this is the continent that gave us tofu and soy milk (as well as the Yakuza and Pol Pot but I guess you take the good with the bad). Depending on what part of Thailand you’re in, finding meals can be as simple as flipping through the menu but if nothing in there appears animal-free, I can give you the JFP guarantee (patent pending) that you can ask for it to be using the key words above. The main ingredients used are usually coconut milk, soy, bamboo shoots and a loads of curious looking veggies that may cost a shit-tonne back home but I’ve eaten meals for little over £1 here. Below are some traditional Thai dishes that I tried this trip. Warning: food here is generally soy heavy and may contain nuts.

1. Vegetable Thai Green Curry (แกงเขียวหวานเจ)

Probably the best known Thai dish. The curry consists of a watery, green (don’t ask why) stew of vegetables that’s light and refreshing. Made with coconut milk, it’ll have a mild sweetness to it but what really stands out is the tang. Zesty lime usually coupled with basil give the curry sauce a sour taste that I’d genuinely drink straight from the bowl. It can range from “give me a colostomy, I regret everything” spicy to a pleasantly mild pep (that’s a medium on the Nando’s scale). Typically made with green beans, eggplant and bamboo shoots, these add a solid chunkiness to it without really altering the flavour of the broth.

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2. Red Curry with Tofu (ฉุ่ฉึ่เจ)

More curry (I honestly don’t know where they even come from) to add to the list – red curry with tofu. Similar to green, the sauce has a huge impact on flavouring and what separates it from its She-Hulk cousin is 1. It’s fucking red and 2. It’s generally less sweet. A small amount of curry sauce goes a long way here because the main focus is the tofu chunks. One thing to note regarding tofu from Southeast Asia is that it’s usually a lot softer or creamier than its European counterpart. For the particular one pictured, it was like sinking my teeth into cream cheese (except, you know, not gross).

3. Tom Kha Jae (ต้มข่าเจ )

Tom Yum (the most common of which is the Goong/prawn variety) is a pretty watery soup packed with a literally a million veggies. It usually comes in a milky white stew. Expect it to be quite refreshing in its lightness but also incredibly filling. The vegetables used vary but every broth will contain lemongrass, lime leaves and chillies giving it a spicy citrus feel. You’ll typically find the vegetables are soft and boiled but should still have a decent bite to them that give the meal some texture.

4. Pad Key Mao (ผัดขี้เมา)

If you’re here looking for something to arc weld your butthole shut with spice, this is the one. Pad Key Mao is a stir fry consisting of thick, wide rice noodles (literally all we eat is rice) that are a little soft, a little chewy and coated in the hottest damn chillies I’ve ever tasted. You’ll almost always find chillies, basil leaves, pepper, mushrooms and garlic in this dish but it can come in many forms. It’s got strong, herby flavours and a great smell but it’s usually overshadowed by the fact you’re crying, your mouth is also crying and your life has turned to shit.

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5. Tofu, Chillies & Cashew nuts (เต้าหู้ผัดเม็ดมะม่วง)

Finally, something for people who aren’t keen on death by chilli. Stir fried tofu chunks with nuts, onions, peppers and chillies in a thick, ginger-y syrup. It’s sweet, a little peppery and hot at best but you usually won’t find it unbearably hot. The tofu in these dishes remains quite soft/spongy and pleasant as it’s unusual in Thai culture to stir fry the shit out of something.

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6. Fruits

To round things off, Thailand has more fruits than co. If you’re after something to cleanse the palate after dinner here are a few to try. Mangosteen (a round purple-skinned fruit with white segments) is sweet and soft akin to an incredibly strange orange. Lychee, Rambutan and Longan are all fairly similar in that they look like small gelatinous eyeballs and they have that jelly like texture. All three are sweet and great to snack on.

In between visiting markets and temples, buying baggy elephant trousers and beer chang singlets and attending the Full Moon party (in which case, get the fuck out of my country) – the dishes above are all a must try whilst in Thailand. Regardless of where you go, eating vegan in Thailand should be the least of your worries.

Tofurky Spinach Pesto Artisan Sausages

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Contains: Soya, Gluten

Free from: Nuts, Palm Oil

Ah the age old question: does adding artisanal in front of a product name make it better or just more expensive? Well, Tofurky gave an answer straight out of the gate – £4 will score you a whopping 4 middle finger sized wieners (that’s foreshadowing if I ever did see it). So, are the “f*ck you” inspired hotdogs worth the pound?

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The short answer is no. There’s no drought of vegan sausages, you could probably replicate the Great Wall of China exclusively out of them and never use the same brand twice (and it would still cost you less a Tofurky product). That said, there’s a few things to note here as it’s not all doom and gloom. Firstly, they have a relatively sweet aroma to them that actually makes them quite appealing and they look like your everyday frankfurter. Secondly, they’re simple and can be shoved in the microwave for those days when your life feels like trash.

Tofurky usually leave a little wiggle room when it comes to product texture and these are unfortunately no different. It’s not necessarily unpleasant but it’s not a hotdog nor a sausage. At first it’s got a bit of a stretchy/spongy skin to it (again not necessarily unpleasant) and then the insides are kind of fibrous. What can definitely be said is that it’s dry. The best thing to liken its inner texture to is slightly old cake, minus the crumbling, which meant that halfway through I had to slather it in Veganaise. Altogether though, the texture actually kind of works. I’d have to say it’s agreeable at best and manages to hold a place in the rankings, albeit not high.

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Spinach pesto is definitely present in terms of taste and not overpoweringly so but the sausage’s lack of moisture doesn’t help spread the flavour around. Other than that there’s certain blandness to it as well that makes you think “Ah yes. Unidentifiable sandwich filling, always a great choice.” There’s nothing really unique or anything that pops out in Tofurky’s franks, they just simply lack more to them. They’re like hanging out with someone you’re indifferent to but only because it’s better than being alone.

  • My Rating: 3/5
  • Omnivore Score: 2/5
  • Overall: 2.5/5

Find this product at: Holland & Barret, http://www.planetorganic.com, and various health food stores.

Tofurky Tempeh Smoky Maple Bacon

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Contains: Soya, Gluten

Free from: Nuts, Palm Oil

If you’re vegan then you’ve no doubt heard “I couldn’t do it, I love bacon too much” or “don’t you miss bacon?” a million times. Tofurkey have tried to bridge that gap as best they can, and whilst there’s a fair few “fake-on” products on the market, these sounded pretty appealing. They’re not the most readily available brand but can usually be found in health and whole food stores for around £3.75, making them wildly expensive considering the quality itself.

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To preface this, I’ve never been a fan of the idea of vegan bacon. It’s never looked appetizing to me. Tofurkey is no exception here as where I was promised rashers of bacon, I got  long, thin slices of wet sausage. It didn’t look like it was going to provide the right texture and the small streaks of white “fat” were also somewhat unappealing. Taking the first few bites, I was proved 100% correct. The texture is chunky,  similar to an uncooked potato. Sure, it browns up nicely and you can get a good burnt crust on it, but it’s totally lacking in the bacon texture. There’s no chewiness, no leathery bite and it just doesn’t break up the same.

Whoever is in charge of the flavouring seems to have either never eaten bacon or drowned their sorrows in sweet and smoky BBQ sauce. There are literally no other flavours to these tempeh strips. The mouth-puckering salty taste? Nope, you couldn’t even pray for it. It does, however, have a good bacon-esque smell when you’re cooking them which is half the reason I used to eat bacon. I personally tried these in a sandwich and they were just about edible then, but if I wanted the same effect at half the price, I would’ve slathered a spud in some Heinz. Gross.

Are there any redeeming factors? Honestly, no. I wouldn’t buy these more than once and their price tag puts me off even more. As for whether you could slip it into an unsuspecting omnivore’s food, it’s less convincing than Richard Nixon’s secretary. Not only would they know you were trying to Shanghai them out of real bacon, but they would (and should) be brutally offended.

  • My Rating: 1/5
  • Omnivore Score: 1/5
  • Overall: 1/5

Find this product at: Holland & Barret, http://www.planetorganic.com, various health food stores or just don’t.

Tesco’s Free From Toffee & Vanilla Cones

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Contains: Soya, Nuts, Palm Oil, Lupin

Free from: Gluten

Summertime favourite: Cornettos. Tesco’s have come up with the perfect vegan alternative to that with these toffee ice creams. Despite the military surplus, most basic looking packaging, underneath is that ever friendly cornetto. Priced at £1.50 for a 4-pack, it’s probably the one of the cheapest vegan ice creams on the market.

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Thoughts on the first bite? It’s inhumanely fresh, soft and creamy. Its texture is 10/10 perfection with the ice cream being light and having a smooth velvet mouthfeel. I could honestly chain eat my way through the box.

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See that wafer cone? It’s crunchy and it doesn’t shatter leaving a million tiny crumbs in your mouth (like Mr. Whippy, you horse’s ass of an ice cream). It’s got a good thickness to it so that you still get a decent amount of ice cream all the way through. The chocolate sprinkles on top also mix in well.

Flavour-wise it’s the got a strong toffee taste but it’s balanced well by the vanilla and a little bit of chocolate. I actually prefer it over the dairy counterparts. Of course, the crown that goes on every cornetto – the chocolate tip – comes included. With regards to comparing it to the real deal, it holds up well. Everything about it is equal if not better.

  • My Rating: 5/5
  • Omnivore Score: 5/5
  • Overall: 5/5

Find this product at: Tesco’s. 

Quorn Vegan Breaded Fillets

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Contains: Gluten

Free from: Nuts, Palm Oil, Soya

My number one food theory is that if you slather anything in enough panko breadcrumbs, it’ll taste good. One thing I’ve always loved about Quorn is they definitely know how to bring the bread to the party and they’re available just about everywhere. At £2.50 for two fillets, they are shockingly good value-for-money.

When I bought these my mind thought chicken kiev and katsu cutlets – crunchy/dry outside and a moist inner. Quorn definitely brought their shit together for this one. The crumbing layer is at that sweet spot where it’s not like a mouthful of the Gobi desert and it doesn’t come away from the fillet surface. It’s dry, it’s crunchy, it’s crumbly – the texture is perfect. The inside? Wet enough to sustain life and chunky enough to provide a good bite. As far as a fillet goes it’s damn near perfect.

Taste, however, is weak. Sure, the breadcrumbs provide the texture but the fillet itself? Tasteless. It tastes of grey, it looks grey. It’s not a mush, obviously a good thing, but it’s just a bland slab. Saying that, it’s held up to it’s omni counterpart well overall. Could you put this in an unsuspecting person’s meal? Sure. They probably wouldn’t know it was meatless but your ability to season would be put on trial.

 

  • My Rating: 3/5
  • Omnivore Score: 4/5
  • Overall: 3.5/5

Find this product at: Sainsburys, Ocado, Waitrose, Tesco.

Sainsbury’s Deliciously Freefrom Chocolate Chip Cookies

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Contains: Palm Oil, Soy

Free from: Gluten, Nuts

What’s the most American thing you can imagine? Other than state sanctioned police brutality, gun fanaticism and capitalism on steroids, it’s got to be the honest-to-goodness chocolate chip cookie. Not the soft cookies we in the UK tend to love but the Chips Ahoy style, Girl Scout cookie. A good buy at £1.30 per pack but be prepared to stock up as they are definitely moreish.

If you’ve been looking for the classic style cookie then look no further. As soon as you open it up you get that light cookie aroma and you can visibly see how crumbly they are. There’s also visibly large chunks of chocolate in there too, large enough so that you’re not worried about them being raisins – a cookie you can trust. One bite and you’ll instantly notice that whilst they are dry, they’re not too dry. They crumble nicely and the chocolate adds a certain amount of moisture that it’s almost like eating a butter biscuit.

Textured almost perfectly in appearance and mouthfeel, it mostly comes down to taste. Sainsbury’s have definitely nailed it. It’s all you’d want from a cookie and more, plus with its price tag? They definitely rank highly for me. I’d suggest that anyone, vegan and non-vegan alike give them a shot.

  • My Rating: 4/5
  • Omnivore Score: 5/5
  • Overall: 4.5/5

Find this product at: Sainsburys