When you step back and think about it, the (very recent) increase in convenient, supermarket vegan options is actually pretty staggering. When I went vegan, not that long ago, frozen pizzas were cheeseless, and came with toppings like falafel, onion and artichoke. Chilled? Forget about it.
But times have changed. Again and again. And interestingly, Asda seems to be going through a kind of low-key vegan awakening, in terms of expanding its range. There’s a new line of meat-free frozen nuggets. Frozen popcorn “chicken.” Meat-free burger patties. And this exciting new chilled vegan flatbread pizza.
First of all. The shape. It’s ridiculous. Did anyone at Asda even try slicing one of these things with a pizza cutter before they okayed its production? Reinventing pizza is fine. Go right ahead. But why fuck with the shape? Come on. Charge 20p more and make the damn thing round, right?
Redeemingly, the pizza tastes great. It’s a good-quality, cheap, ready made snack. The tomato sauce is rich. The vegan mozzarella’s perfectly cheesy. The stonebaked base is thin and crispy. And the mixed grilled peppers and garlic mushrooms are subtle and complimentary. I’ll definitely buy it again. And no doubt complain about the shape. Again.
If you’re in the mood for something quick and easy, and don’t mind soya, wheat and scary sounding additives like maltodextrin, Squeaky Bean Veg’s nut-free vegan satay kievs are a tasty – and very convincing – chicken alternative.
The texture’s perfect. Just like the schnitzels I remember growing up. Especially if you cook them a bit longer than recommended, hit grill towards the end and crisp them up in a splash of olive oil – or melt a cheeky slice of Violife cheddar on top. And when you hit the middle it’s like a savoury, vegan-chicken doughnut, filled with sweet, nut-free satay sauce.
I’ve eaten them on pasta. With vegan mac ‘n cheese. In burgers, with cheese and other fancy toppings. With bubble and squeak and a side of “meaty” Marmite gravy… Their role in lunch or dinner’s totally up to you. But one thing they consistently don’t do, is disappoint.
To be honest, I wasn’t expecting much from my Just Love Vegan Chocolate Cake. I saw someone post about it on Instagram. That they’d found it in Asda and it was tasty. And convenient baked goods are still very much a niche market in the vegan world. So I looked for it and found it in my local and here we are.
I was just after a bit of dry supermarket cake, really, to eat with my coffee. But the Just Love Food Company totally exceeded expectations. Because unlike every other cheap supermarket cake in the universe, this one’s moist. It’s like supermarket cake. Only well made. Nothing fancy. It justs tastes like whoever created it was anxious not to disappoint.
There are no dry wedges to endure until you get to the ultimately lacklustre frosting at the end. Instead, every bite’s as delicious as the next. The chocolate sponge is fluffy and rich. The chocolate frosting is generous and decadent. And the “lustered” dark chocolate drops are a 2019 one-up on the supermarket cake sprinkles I grew up eating.
These take me back. To a simpler, or perhaps more complicated time. When I’d drop a couple of chilled viennas in a pot of boiling water, slice up some hotdog rolls, squirt them with mustard and ketchup and eat them watching Seinfeld in my boxers. Now, thanks to the Fry Family Food Company’s new Vegan Artisan Smoked Hot Dogs, I can relive those dreary salad days with a bit more sophistication. And trousers.
The hotdogs are “naturally smoked” in a classic wood smoker and they taste legit. They’re smoky and light with a perfect hot dog texture. Like the “high-end” version of the real thing, only without those repressed pangs of denial-of-origin. Instead, these sausages are mostly soy and wheat vegetable protein and your regular concoction of flavourings and thickeners. So more processed treat than everyday eat.
To make sure my dogs lived up to their “Artisan” billing I added last night’s homemade chimichurri and a mix of leftover baked panko crumbs and Corn Flakes for added crunch. And needless to say, Seinfeld has never been enjoyed over hot dogs as sophisticated as these.
So far I’ve only found the Fry’s range in larger Sainsbury’s stores. But if you’re in the mood for an easy, tasty vegan hot dog, or on your way to a summer BBQ, you can’t go wrong with a pack of Frys Vegan Artisan Smoked Hot Dogs.
I don’t know how they’ve done it, but Hellmann’s Vegan Mayo tastes even better than the real thing. And if you see a jar in your local supermarket, grab it. Fast. Because that shit sells out quicker than Spice Girls reunion tickets. And by the time you waltz back over with a cheeky bag of Bournville Buttons, it’ll be gone.
When I hit the mayo aisle my eyes scan the shelves anxiously. Real. Light. Lighter Than Light. Squeezy. Lighter Than Light Squeezy. Garlic. Olive Oil. Chilli…
Vegan Mayo’s like the Holy Grail. And so far, I’ve only found it in bigger Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Asda (once) stores. But your chances are slim. It’s like Russian roulette. And supermarkets, it seems, simply can’t keep up with the demand.
Comparing ingredients, the biggest difference between Real and Vegan Mayo, of course, is the lack of egg yolk, which Hellmann’s seem to have replaced with modified maize starch and natural mustard flavouring. Other than that they’re identical; rapeseed oil, water, spirit vinegar, salt, sugar, lemon juice, antioxidant and paprika extract.
Only somehow, the vegan version comes out whiter than Gandalf’s beard. It’s like designer mayo. Tastier, creamier and richer than the real thing.
Fuck falafel. Fuck artichoke. Fuck onion. Sometimes you just want a frozen pizza with some cheese on it. Something easy, that you can stick in the oven at the end of a long day. That doesn’t taste like feet. And so far, Kirsty’s Classic Margherita is the best frozen vegan-friendly supermarket pizza I’ve stumbled across.
Kirsty’s was started by “Lancashire mum” – and 2010 Dragon’s Den contestant – Kirsty Henshaw. Inspired by her son’s allergies and intolerances, Kirsty decided to start her own “healthy” free-from chilled and frozen food empire. But so far, I’ve only found her pizza in a few big Tescos. In the frozen vegetarian / vegan sections.
To be honest, it’s a good frozen pizza. Period. Tasty. Simple. To the point. And for a vegan pizza, it really doesn’t feel like anything’s missing on the classic, gooey margherita front. The base is thin and crispy. The tomato sauce is rich and tasty. And the cheese alternative is sticky and way more cowabunga than your average supermarket “free from” bullshit.
Looking at the list of ingredients, you’re not quite sure what to make of it. But then again. It’s a frozen pizza. It’s not organic kombucha. And ultimately, if you’re looking for Netflix and chilled, Kirsty’s delivers. Well, Tesco does. But seriously, go pick one up yourself.