2019 Christmas Vegan Supermarket Food

Excited vegans and our well-meaning friends and relatives are turning towards the supermarket shelves to feed us through the festive season. We tried three of the new festive offerings from Sainsbury’s so you don’t have to.

Vegan Butternut Squash and Chickpea Wellington (£2.50)

wellinginton

This Butternut and Chickpea Wellington has a small layer of cranberry running down the middle. Which is good because it’s the only bit that tastes good. As a whole it’s over-sweet, too mushy, and just disappointing.

We do not recommend adding this one to you Christmas dinner.

Vegan Shroompups in Blankets (£3.00)

pups

You’re going to be in love with the smell of these cooking, and the bacon is top-notch. Unfortunately the shroomdog lets it all down. You can see little flecks of herbs and spices in them but they taste like the stems of button mushrooms. It’s really disappointing.

We’ve been buying V Bites pups in blankets the last few years and we’re probably going to get them again. These are bad.

Loaded BBQ Jackfruit Rostis (£3.00)

jackfrut

Let’s just get it out of the way now: these are also not good. The rosti itself is nice. Honestly I’d be happy with a whole bowl full of those, but the BBQ Jackfruit? Well the sauce lists Granulated Sugar as its largest ingredient and then says it also has Glucose Syrup, Cane Molasses and Caramelised Sugar Syrup. Seemingly all this was added without any skill in balancing flavours because all you’re going to get off these is sweet.

Another would not buy for us.

Sorry Sainsbury’s. Better luck next year.

Review: I Can Cook Vegan by Isa Chandra Moskowitz

15th August 2007. That’s when I bought my first vegan cookbook. It was the weird British edition of Vegan With A Vengeance, the first book of her’s that I ever bought. Over the years I’ve bought all the others and I Can Cook Vegan arrived on my door the day of release. In a way I wish it had been my first vegan cookbook. It’s geared for beginners with simple recipes that teach you how to handle yourself in the kitchen. What I was looking to get out of it was some simple, foolproof recipes. Here’s how it turned out.

udon

Curry and udon are two of my favourite things to pair together so I made this Curry Udon with Broccoli and Avocado on the first chance I got. Coconut milk in the broth isn’t something I’d usually go for but it adds a great deal of texture and taste. It was simple to pull together with a lot of flavour.

chickpeaalfredo

I’ll be honest I had low expectations of the Chickpea Alfredo. A lot of vegan alfredo recipes tend to be weak creamy sauces. This was the exact opposite it was a flavour bomb. Creamy with a hit of umami reminiscent of mature cheese. It’s also ridiculously quick to make.  It took me 3 minuted to boil up the fettuccine (if you follow me on Instagram you may have caught some of my adventures in home made pasta) and in that time I’d blended the sauce to a perfect consistency. The chickpeas were already cooked so I just had to toss everything together and warm through. This is for me the star recipe of the book. Worth the whole price just for this.

autumnsald

Not allowing supper time to have all the fun I made us some Autumn Seitan Salad Sandwiches for lunch. With seitan chunks (I used chickwheat) and cranberries it’s basically like all those Christmas Dinner sandwiches that are sold in the supermarkets at this time of year. And thus it is delicious.

lentilroast

I wanted to try a recipe that was a little more labour intensive so I went for the Sunday Night Lentil Roast. There’s a little more time involved but the steps are super simple, the instructions clear and the ingredients list has nothing out of the ordinary. It’s probably not the roast I’d make for Christmas Dinner, I prefer to go high stakes on the holidays but it is perfect for Sunday dinner.

fishless

As Kate is a little obsessed with fish(less) fingers I thought I’d make the Tofu Fish Sticks. There’s also a recipe for tartar sauce but Kate isn’t a fan so I skipped that. The taste is spot on, with sea vegetables adding the perfect fishy taste, and to my mind the best way to eat anything is breaded in panko. I cut mine a little wider for a more Captain Birdseye approved look.

walnut brownies

And couldn’t I finish this review without trying some of the sweet stuff. These are the beautiful Walnut Brownies. It hasn’t pushed my favourite brownie recipe off the top spot. That will always be the brownies in Vegan Cookies Take Over Your Cookie Jar. But I appreciate that apple sauce stands in for egg here making the recipe way more accessible if your supermarket doesn’t stock silken tofu for some reason.

After cooking though some of the recipes I come back to the same thought. I wish this was my first vegan cookbook. My shelves are full of basic vegan recipes at this point. Although I would, without hesitation, recommend this book to anyone new to vegan cooking, what about those of us who are old hands? Well I think it’s still worth it. The recipes in here are simple and streamlined. Perfect for those days when you just want something plain, simple, and still satisfying. Perfect when you want a recipe that you know is going to turn out first time.

Recipe: Battered Vegan Sausages

Battered sausages are a chippy classic but you can basically never find a vegan version. So I figured I’d learn how to make a decent egg-free batter and make some myself.

Three things need to happen for you get an awesome batter. Chill your batter ingredients in advance. I measure out the flour, salt and baking powder in advance and put it in the fridge. Because they have to cook quickly I used the chilled Linda McCartney sausages rather than the frozen ones. If you use the frozen ones you’ll need to defrost them first. The third is temperature of the oil. You want to cook the sausages at 190°C.

Battered Sausages

1 pack of Linda McCartney Sausages

130g flour

180ml sparkling water

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

Lots of vegetable oil for frying

Get everything ready to go. Set up a plate with a couple of paper towels ready to put the sausages on when they’re done.

Put enough oil to cover the sausages into a large, heavy-bottomed pan and heat it to 190°C

While the oil is heating, mix the batter. Don’t get too enthusiastic with the mixing: you want to have a few lumps left in.

Cover the sausage in the batter, and when the oil is up to temperature drop in the sausages. You may need to work in batches. I do three at at time.

The sausages should be cooked after three minutes or when the batter is golden. Turn them once or twice while cooking to make sure they cook evenly.

When they’re done place them on the kitchen towel to drain before serving.

Vegan Review: Chai by Mira

It occurs to me now that all of the places we visited this trip were featured in the book Vegan London but most of that was an accident. This one was on purpose though: the picture was so gorgeous that we had to pop in.

If you go off the exceptionally busy Carnaby Street into the exceptionally busy Kingly Court then go up to the second floor and pop in to Triyoga you can find peace even on a Saturday afternoon at Chai by Mira. There’s a small menu of sweet and savoury snacks alongside hot drinks with a focus on bright and healthy dishes. Kate healthily drank a cacao and avocado smoothie. It tasted like milkshake so she was super happy.

I broke the habit of a lifetime and ordered a tea with milk in it (choices of oat and coconut, I went oat). I thought I’d better order one of the chais and went for the rosy chai. It was warming, calming and delicious.

I also had a little bit of avo toast to snack on. It had tahini, tamarind and tasty seeds on top. I was a little sceptical of the tahini but it worked really well. And honestly anything with tamarind on is absolutely perfect.

Chai by Mira is wonderful. It’s a great place to pop into if you need a break or if you need a light bite and a hot drink. My one regret? They sell chai mix and a cookbook by owner Mira Manek. Why didn’t I buy them? What was I thinking?

Vegan Review: Purezza (Brighton and London)

When we decided to head to Brighton we asked our friends for recommendations for a place that didn’t just serve ice cream. She told us to head to Purezza and we ended up doing that twice because they also have a Camden branch and we needed more pizza.

In Brighton Kate ordered herself the Couch Potato without the aubergine. It had the stunning smoked mozzarella, shaved seitan, and smooth, creamy garlicky mayo. Thumbs up from us.

I went for the cheese steak calzone with more of that amazing seitan, onion chutney and mozzarella. It also had red and orange peppers when I think it would have been a little better with green. Still I loved it.

We rolled up to the Camden branch the next evening. Dark by the time we got there but thankfully with one table left for us. It was busy. We had to wait a little while for the food. We ordered a cheese board to start. I was expecting a couple of different textures but it was more like the same cheese with four different flavours. One was super garlicky and Kate gobbled it down, another full of chilli and that was my favourite. But I don’t think we’d order this one again.

For the main course Kate had the margarita. We were disappointed with the margarita (I say we because I have never refused a bite of anything): the tomato sauce was a little too sweet. And she regretted not paying extra for the smoked cheese.

Speaking of extra stuff I ordered the green supreme with extra salami on top. I wish I’d asked for the salami instead of the sausage crumbles. I found the sausage crumbles to taste a bit too much like stuffing. I enjoyed the greens and the smoked mozzarella so much. The chillies a little less. They broke my tolerance.

We enjoyed both our visits to Purezza and I’d recommend both, but Brighton was the better one for us. Though it could just be because it was less busy. Whichever one you visit though I recommend the smoked mozzarella. That stuff is amazing.

Vegan Review: Artbox ✕ Pusheen (Brighton)

I wasn’t originally going to post this review because the day after our visit the cafe closed for re-theming, but we actually had such a positive experience that we’re going to recommend you go even if you can’t get giant ice cream sundaes any more. It reopens tomorrow (Saturday 9th) with a Winter Wonderland Theme.

Everything in the cafe comes decorated with Pusheen and pals. At least Stormy and Pugsheen. I didn’t see any Bo, which is slightly disappointing. Bo is my fave. Anyway. All your food and drinks come decorated with little Pusheen bits for you to take home. If you’re like me you’ll be impressed by this regardless of the quality of the food and drink in question. A little Pusheen on my Summer Sunrise (£4)? Yes please.

A Pusheen stencilled into Kate’s hot chocolate (£3.50)? Also yes. But they were also pretty good drinks and the staff aren’t shy with the marshmallows.

Then came or sundaes. Most of the sundaes and the waffles on the menu could be made vegan and we hope this continues. Kate had lavender, rose, and vanilla ice cream on hers (Flower Garden, £9). Each of them richly flavoured and looking gorgeous with sugar flowers and Pusheen on top.

Mine was kiwi, apple, and coconut (Pusheenosaurus, £9). The apple was my favourite, so fresh and bright. As we were eating we couldn’t help but reflect that the quality of these sundaes was miles above the dessert we had at Farmacy the night before. For one thing they tasted of something, they weren’t melted, and the flowers and the apple flavours would have easily fit in with Farmacy’s seasonal/home grown ethos.

As well as all the Pusheen bits that come with your ice cream there’s also a boutique downstairs for all you Pusheen merchandise needs. And we did take a little Plusheen home with us and well as three cards, some stickers, and a necklace. Food and merch combined cost much less than the entire meal we had the night before at Farmacy. For cuteness, quality of food, and the price it wins hands down. And we really can’t wait to see the Winter Wonderland menu.

Vegan Restaurant Review: Farmacy (London)

Farmacy has restaurants in London and New York but we don’t go to New York all that often (ever) so we went to the Notting Hill branch. It’s as fancy as its postcode with a very well designed interior. It’s the typical exposed wood, metal and cunningly placed plants, but perfectly done. The menu too is fairly typical but less well executed.

We split the Mac and Cheese (£11) for the starter. It’s got truffled cheese in it so I took the first bite just to check that Kate would like it. “It’s aggressively truffley” I said. And honestly that the only opinion either of us had about it. All you taste is that truffle. No cheese, none of the sage in the breadcrumbs, nothing but truffle. We ate about at third each. It was just too much.

For her main Kate ordered the Garden Green Pesto (£12) which comes on spelt pasta with almond ricotta on top. I was expecting the freshest, most basil-filled pesto. It basically tasted like a jar pesto. Far too ordinary for the price tag. When you stir the ricotta in it gets lovely and rich but it’s just a dollop on the top and not exactly easy to stir into spaghetti in a graceful manner at the table.

I had the Pad Thai (£14.50) which was was helped texturally by the large serving of peanuts, but tasted overwhelming of citrus.

And so we went on to dessert. Kate ordered the Sticky Toffee Pudding (£9) which she reported as having a very dry sponge, without much of a toffee taste.

I had the sundae (£11) which came with seasonal fruits. Like raspberries, blueberries and strawberries. The taste was good but the ice cream was mostly melted and it was more like eating whipped cream.

Was there anything I did like? Well the drinks were brilliant. I had a great herbal tea and we had a couple of good juices. And honestly I wouldn’t have even minded the food. It wasn’t that bad, just a little simple. Our bill came to £77 and I was thinking: okay, it is Notting Hill, I loved the drinks, the food was okay and the service was amazing. Fantastic host and server. Can’t fault them. So £77 was fine. Then, of course, the service charge is added on. And £86.50 is just too much.