2019: The Coastal Vegans’ Review of The Year

2019: It’s been a year of heartbreak, of disappointment, of stress-eating Vegan Food. Here’s the best and the worst of 2019. From our very biased perspectives.

Best Chain Eats of 2019

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Wagamama’s Vegatsu has become a bit of a tradition in our household. If Kate’s out for the day I go out to Exeter to meet her train and, as Rabbit is closed in the evenings, we pop into Wagamama’s for the Vegatsu. I would eat anything draped in a good Japanese curry sauce but the seitan cutlet is something special.

Worst Attempt, by a Large Company, of jumping the Bandwagon

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I love you Sainsbury’s, I do. I mean you’re the only place that stocks Daiya, so it’s more like Stockholm Syndrome than actual love, but there’s some vague affection there. Nevertheless your Christmas offerings sucked. The Shroompups were especially awful.

Absolute Worst Veganised Mac and Cheese 

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After spending a small fortune on it, the Truffle Mac and Cheese at Farmacy was quite possibly one of the worst things we’ve ever eaten, tasting overpoweringly of truffle to the exclusion of everything else.

Absolute Best Veganised Bubble Waffle 

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Noda’s has quickly become a legend in the Exeter vegan scene. The staff are so nice and the food… you just have to!

The Copper Spoon Award For Best Coffee Shop That Isn’t The Copper Spoon Because they won last year.

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We still love the Copper Spoon (Clare was there this morning) but we’d also like to give a little love to a peaceful little place where you can hide once you’ve overdosed on shopping in London: Chai by Mira.

Kate’s Favourite Snack of 2019

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I cant believe we haven’t mentioned Greggs Vegan Sausages Rolls on the blog before but I think they’d already reached meme status by the time we’d tried one for the first time. Kate never grew up with Greggs like I did, but she’s taken to it like a duck to water.

2019 Christmas Vegan Supermarket Food, Part 3

Our third and final Christmas supermarket wrap-up takes us to the freezer section of Tesco where we have some lovely snacks.

12 Chocolate & Hazelnut Mini Churros 

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Tesco had these last year and they had sparkle glitter on them and didn’t taste quite as good. This year it’s less glittery. They’re very, very delicious and almost everyone is going to want one of these if you put them out on a buffet.

12 Bubble And Squeak Bites

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Little rounds of potato are always good in my book. These are delicious but I could do without the carrots in them. I’m a bubble and squeak bite purest apparently.

Sticky Chilli Cauliflower Bites 

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I’m not a great fan of pretending deep fried cauliflower is anything but a gross vegetable in batter but if you’re going to buy any of the supermarket’s versions of gross vegetable in batter buy this one. The sticky chilli coating is delicious.

And that it for us trying Christmas food. Until next December that is. Have a lovely couple of weeks, whatever you plan on eating.

2019 Christmas Vegan Supermarket Food, Part 2

It’s taken a while to get to part two of the post because it turns out that there is a maximum amount of calories you can eat in one day and we pushed past it. So here we go: festive supermarket food part two.

Sainsbury’s Vegan Take A Bao Selection (£4 for 12 pieces)

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The one festive offering from Sainsbury’s that I’ve actually enjoyed eating.  The green water chestnut and chive was light and delicious. The mushroom char sui was my favourite, sweet and succulent. The orange bun is stuffed full of a striking and spicy massamam curry.

M&S Food Vegan Vegetable Snacking Selection (£5)

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On to Marks and Spencer then. Clockwise from the top is cauliflower popcorn with a lovely coating (still tastes like cauliflower in the middle however) then we have some greasy, falling apart onion rings and some perfectly fine sweet potato wedges. In the middle is a fairly mild buffalo sauce. There’s nothing bad about any of these snacks and I think it would be a real crowd pleaser but you could find better and cheaper wedges and onion rings in most freezer sections though.

M&S Food Vegan Chinese Snack Selection (£5 for 12 pieces)

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I think this might have been my favourite of all the snack selections. The sweet and sour parcels are a winner and there is enough flavour and crunch in the noodle wrapped snacks to keep everyone happy.

So three snack packs there that I wouldn’t object to being served. Which is high praise as far as Christmas food is concerned. Next up, hopefully on Friday, we’ll be sampling snacks from Tesco.

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)

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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)

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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)

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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?