FOLLOW YOUR HEART BLEU CHEESE DRESSING – WHAT A TIME TO BE ALIVE (AND VEGAN)

Hi, Pathetically

What a time to be alive. When I can buy vegan blue cheese dressing at my local Embas Express. If you’ve been following my vegan supermarket posts, you’ll know that I’m a fan of Follow Your Heart’s range of vegan mayo. But the company’s High Omega Vegan Bleu Cheese Dressing takes Vegenaise to a whole new dimension.

Somehow, those solar powered magicians at Follow Your Heart have recreated the strong, magical taste and creamy luxuriousness of regular blue cheese dressing. Only they’ve done it with Vegenaise, and ingredients like apple cider vinegar, cold-pressed hemp seed oil, cold-pressed flaxseed oil and soy protein.

It’s mesmerising. Pure wizardry. If you could travel back to 2005 and put this shit on a vegan’s salad or falafel, it would blow their tiny, hummus-clogged mind. They’d never have seen it coming. I didn’t see it coming. I mean, I’ve had convincing blue cheese dressing at vegan burger joints before. But not my own bottle. On tap. In the fridge. Ready to pour on anything…

SGAIA’S STREAKY MHEAT RASHERS – ALL OF THE SIZZLE. NONE OF THE GRISTLE.

Hi, Pathetically

I used to think it was weird that vegans and vegetarians were so into “fake” meat. Now I get it. It’s how we were raised. It’s comforting. It’s convenient. The unshakeable evolution of the human fast food diet. And besides, nobody gives up bacon because they don’t like the taste. We do it because it’s cruel, it’s unhealthy and it’s killing the planet.

I have tried a few meat, dairy and egg-free bacon alternatives since I went vegan. And unsurprisingly, some of them taste like dry, “hickory flavoured” cardboard. But there is hope for plant-based foodies craving that perfect, juicy, smokey bacon taste on burgers, pancakes and scrambled tofu.

Of course, The Full Nelson’s homemade crispy tofu bacon is a vegan junk food dream. But so far, my favourite DIY supermarket option is This Isn’t Bacon. Followed by Upton’s Naturals, which is thinner and drier than I’d like and does need seasoning.

Then I stumbled across a bag of SGAIA’s Vegan Meats Streaky Mheat Rashers in Whole Foods, Piccadilly Circus. And straight away, I was intrigued.

They really do look the part. The uncooked rashers are “juicier” and more bacon-like than Upton’s, and even This Isn’t Bacon. And when you pop them in a hot pan with a splash of oil, the sizzles, crackles and smells are perfect. Close enough to trigger the feels, yet different enough to not smell like actual dead flesh cooking – which now grosses me out, a lot.

I tried the rashers in toasted cheese and bacon sandwiches and on burgers, and I’m definitely hooked. They’re crispy, chewy and bacon-thick. The taste’s fantastic as well. Salty. Smokey. With a hint of sweet maple – thanks to the combination of beech wood liquid smoke, molasses and maple syrup. Next time I think I’ll cook up a vegan carbonara. Mmm…

BOOTS VEGAN ALL DAY BREAKFAST – THE BIGGEST KEPT SECRET IN ON-THE-GO VEGANING

Hi, Pathetically

You have no idea how many times I’ve bought a dry falafel, chickpea or avocado-based sandwich. Ate it, begrudgingly. And then spotted a Boots as I’m finishing off my last bite. Forget Pret. Forget M&S. Boots is where it’s at. In fact, they should have big signs outside their front doors, saying “Home of the Vegan All Day Breakfast.”

The sandwich is amazing. A work of art. A perfect cruelty free replication of the all-day breakfast sandwiches I used to enjoy. All the flavours are there. Cumberland-style meat-free sausage, scrambled turmeric tofu, tomato and ketchup. And they all taste just like the real thing.

The sandwich was launched in January and unsurprisingly it was so popular it’s now “here to stay.” So make a mental night. Next time you’re looking through M&S’ underwhelming, overpromising range of vegan sandwiches. Or about to consider a Pret Falafel, Avo and Chipotle flatbread. Boots’ Vegan All Day Breakfast is where it’s at. My current go-to favourite.

JEALOUS SWEETS GRIZZLY BEARS & TANGY WORMS – ALL FLAVOUR. NO MELTED PIGS. SHARING BAGS FOR ONE

Hi, Pathetically

One thing you definitely miss as a vegan is sweets! You’re constantly amazed how humans have squeezed animal products into almost everything, but you always kind of knew jelly babies were bad. Turns out gelatine is derived from collagen, which in turn is derived from “animal body parts.” So soft chewy sweets were out. Until now.

I have had them vegan. Once I picked up some Biona Jelly Dinos and Tutti Frutti Gums from vegan paradise, Whole Foods, Piccadilly Circus. But the texture wasn’t right. Without gelatine they didn’t chew right. The flavours were limp as well. And for a while I assumed that’s how vegan gummy sweets had to be.

Jealous Sweets

Then, in what’s quickly becoming the norm, Jealous Sweets just appeared one day on the shelves of my local ASDA. Into our vegan lives. Showing us that anything’s possible. You don’t need “melted pigs” to enjoy a chewy gummy bear.

The Grizzly Bears are straight-up the best gummy bears I’ve ever had. Usually, the bags swear each colour’s a different fruity flavour. But really, they all taste exactly the same. This time. Get this. The lemon tastes like lemon, the apple tastes like apple, the orange tastes like orange and the strawberry tastes like – you guessed it – strawberry.

What a novelty. Unbelievable. I was lining them up in rows of four and taking in each fruity sensation one at a time. The Tangy Worms are great too. Exactly like the sour worms I used to buy in bulk every time I went to the movies. Like the Grizzly Bears, the texture’s perfect. The chew’s familiar. And I’m definitely on the lookout for the rest of the Jealous Sweets range.

PULLED OUMPH! & OUMPH! KEBAB SPICED – DELICIOUS SOYA “MEAT” CHUNKS STRAIGHT OUT OF THE KEBAB SHOP

Hi, Pathetically

No one I ask has ever heard of Oumph! It’s like some kind of hush-hush full-time vegan secret that just seemed to appear one day. First there was BBQ Pulled Oumph! Then came Oumph! Kebab Spiced. And now there’s a new Oumph! Burger, which I haven’t tried yet. So people are obviously buying the stuff.

The “meat” itself is pretty damn convincing – especially for frozen, pulled supermarket soya pieces. The taste and texture reminds me of What the Pitta’s amazing vegan kebab “meat.” Or at least a frozen, DIY version. But still… believe me, that’s high praise indeed.

I’ve tried both versions of the Swedish company’s pulled soya meat. In wraps with homemade hummus. On loaded rosemary fries with Garlic Aioli Vegenaise and sriracha. With roast potatoes. Rice. And roasted vegetables. And Oumph! never disappoints. It’s simple. It’s delicious. And it’s easy to dress up and enjoy.

ONE PLANET PIZZA THREE CHEEZLY MARGHERITA – THE STICKIEST, CHEESIEST FROZEN VEGAN PIZZA IN TOWN

Hi, Pathetically

Public service announcement. If you live anywhere near New Cross and Deptford, you have to try the new Embas Express Supermarket in New Cross Road. It’s a vegan goldmine loaded with rare gems. The range is incredible. I’ve found everything from Follow Your Heart Bleu Cheese Dressing to Sgaia’s Vegan Mheat Steaks. And finally, I found it. One Planet Pizza.

The independent, partly crowd-funded company’s range of frozen vegan pizzas has been on my hit list since I saw them at Vegan Life Live 2019, Alexandra Palace. I didn’t get to try a slice then, because the queue was too long. But it looked and smelled amazing. So imagine the excited little vegan dance I did in my head when I found the whole damn range in an obscure, independent, express supermarket in New Cross Road.

I decided to keep it simple and go for the Three Cheezly Margherita. That’s the one I remember from the expo. And straight away, it had one up on my regular Kirsty’s Classic Margherita – and every other frozen pizza I’ve ever tasted. Because it’s the only one I’ve had that comes with basil leaves already on it. Ready to go. Just pop it in the oven.

Like a lot of vegan margheritas the cheese topping is sticky and gooey. But the three cheese combo makes it thicker and tastier than usual. The texture’s better as well. And the tomato sauce is richer and more flavourful. It’s a quality frozen pizza. So it’s no surprise that One Planet Pizza won Best Vegan Ready Meal at Vegfest 2018.

Interestingly, when I saw One Planet Pizza at Vegan Life Live, the Norwich-based company used Bute Island Sheese on their pizzas. Nowadays, however, they’ve swapped to VBites’ Cheezly alternative. Not sure why. Also, if you don’t live near a magical Embas Express, One Planet Pizza is available from Ocado and hundreds of independent stores across the U.K.

FOLLOW YOUR HEART ORGANIC GARLIC AIOLI VEGENAISE – HELP, I’VE GOT A NEW ADDICTION

Hi, Pathetically

California-based company Follow Your Heart is one of my favourite recent discoveries. I’d always heard of “Vegenaise,” even before I went vegan. But with Hellmann’s Vegan Mayo on the shelves (albeit infrequently), I never really gave it the time of day. Until I saw a jar of Garlic Aioli Vegenaise in Whole Foods, Piccadilly Circus.

Thanks to Subway’s new Vegan Sub (and the vegan “chicken” shawarma wraps at my local kebab shop), garlic aioli is my new jam. I love the stuff. Can’t get enough of it. Of course, I was a little crushed when I discovered it’s just mayo, garlic and olive oil, with a fancy name. But still. It’s great on everything. Right?

The consistency of Vegenaise is a bit different, though. Whereas Hellmann’s vegan mayo is more or less exactly the same as the real thing, Vegenaise is thicker, more goopy and a bit more spread-like. So naturally, I ended up spreading it on my morning toast. And needless to say, it didn’t last long.

Garlic Aioli Vegenaise aside, Follow Your Heart seems like an interesting company in general. All their products say “made with solar power” on them, and there’s a wide range of creative, sustainability focused vegan options – everything from VeganEgg and yoghurt to ranch sauce and Pepper Jack cheese.