WHAT THE PITTA! VEGAN DONER – DONER KEBAB, OH HOW I’VE MISSED YOU

what the pitta vegan doner kebab
Hi, Pathetically

Man, I used to LOVE döner kebabs and lamb shawarmas on a big night out. Not the ones that look like a compressed elephant’s leg. Proper ones. Like Woody Grill, Camden or Beirut Canteen, New Cross. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t crave them. AT all! But imagine if you could recreate the experience, without killing any baby sheep or torturing cows. Cue magical, plant-based döner kebab (and tzatziki and baklava) pioneers What the Pitta!. Who show us, yet again, that anything’s possible.

The first time I tried one I couldn’t believe it. Before I ordered, I kept asking the cashier, “Is the tzatziki vegan?” “Yes.” “Garlic sauce?” “Yes.” “Chilli sauce?” “Yes.” “Baklava?” “Mate, it’s all vegan. What do you want?”

The spiced soya “meat” is incredible. The texture’s mind-bendingly convincing. Somehow, it even has that same tasty, chargrilled lamb edge you’d expect from a great döner kebab. The salad options are perfect too. Diverse, colourful and delicious. The wraps are all fresh and made in-store. The hummus and chilli sauce get the flavour party started. And the soya-yoghurt tzatziki completes the dream. I’m in doner kebab heaven – without any dead animals.

What the Pitta started out at The Pump in Shoreditch in 2016. Now they’re in Shoreditch, Croydon, Camden and Brighton. The Boxpark, Shoreditch store’s like a shining vegan oasis, or meat-free sanctuary, surrounded by some of the fleshiest restaurants in London – its neighbour, Salt Shed, smells more like a butchery than a fast food restaurant. Encouragingly, though, What the Pitta!’s always packed. But that’s not surprising. I can’t recommend the place enough. If you still think vegans eat salad, hummus and chickpeas, wrap your lips around a What the Pitta! vegan döner. You won’t believe until you try.

WAITROSE VEGAN PLOUGHMAN’S – CLASSIC CHEESY FARMERS’ LUNCH GOES DAIRY (AND BEER) FREE

Hi, Pathetically

As an on-the-go vegan I’m always on the lookout for interesting new sandwich options. Creativity is key. Some companies, however, clearly don’t have a single decision-making vegan employee. Sainsbury’s plant-based sandwiches, for example, are an absolute joke. M&S’ Plant Kitchen range is all flash, plastic and no substance. Even Pret thinks a dry Falafel, Avo and Chipotle Flatbread will pacify the vegans.

Interestingly, Boots has emerged as an unexpected lead innovator in the world of on-the-go veganing, offering imaginative, chickpea-free sandwich options like the Pea & Mint Fritter, the Vegan All Day Breakfast and the Louisiana Style Cajun Fritter.

Waitrose, of course, has also come to the vegan party. There just aren’t any on my regular beat. But whenever I’m in one, especially one of the larger stores, my eyes light up like a carnist at a barbecue. Or like me when I spot a Good-to-Go Vegan Ploughman’s in Waitrose, Westfield Stratford.

I always used to enjoy a ploughman’s. Weird name, I know. Apparently it dates back to 14th century cheese, bread and beer-based farmers’ lunches. But in 2019, a good ploughman’s also includes pickle and tomatoes. Anti-dryness, sandwich-flavour-boosters. Because let’s face it, we’re not all washing them down with cheeky lunch pints at the local watering hole. Or in a field with a bottle of homebrew.

The thing that annoys me most about dull, dreary vegan sandwiches is – in this case – all it took to create an interesting, delicious, plant-based alternative was to swap cheddar for a slice of dairy free cheese. The rest’s exactly the same. It’s that simple. It’s that inclusive, familiar and normal. Flavours I know and love. And instead of battling my way through a dull, dry, tomatoey falafel sandwich I bought just because it was all I could find, I actually enjoyed my lunch on the go.

NOMO VEGAN CHOCOLATE – DAIRY-FREE SUPERMARKET CHOCOLATE FINALLY GETS CREAMY (AND DREAMY)

Hi, Pathetically

The shelves of my local ASDA seem to be going through a lowkey vegan renaissance at the moment. And it’s pretty exciting. First there was Kings Veggie Jerky. Then Jealous Sweets. And now I’ve spotted NOMO vegan chocolate. Truth is, it’s getting easier and easier to be vegan every day.

Generally, vegan supermarket chocolate options include Cadbury’s Bournville and whatever’s in the Free From aisle. And if you’re looking for something creamy, forget about it. It’s dark. It’s soy-based. And it’s average. If you want something dreamy you need to go to Holland & Barrett and pick up a bar (or two) of Vego Whole Hazelnut. Well, vegan friends. No more.

NOMO, or No Missing Out, vegan chocolate is made by U.K. confectioner Kinnerton. And it’s the real thing. Creamy. High-quality. And soy-free. Except the dark chocolate option. But that’s not what we’re after, right? We want soft, velvety and luxurious. And that’s exactly what NOMO brings to the table. Or bus. Or park bench. Or pavement.

So far I’ve tried the Creamy Choc bar, which reminds me of a Beacon Inside Story Delectable Truffle – it’s that creamy. And I’ve had the Caramel and Sea Salt option, which is my favourite, and reminds me of a more artisanal-tasting, less-saccharine Cadbury’s Dairy Milk Caramel.

You hear (and see) the words “game changer” thrown around so often they’ve lost all meaning. But if you’re vegan, and you’ve got a sweet tooth, and you’re tired of the boring, bland, dark chocolate options in your local Free From aisle, look out for NOMO vegan chocolate. It’s a game changer.

KINGS BLACK BEAN VEGGIE JERKY – WAIT, WHAT? NOW THERE’S VEGAN BILTONG. WELL, KIND OF

Hi, Pathetically

Now this one is straight out of vegan dreamland. A sign that veganism might have reached some kind of monumental tipping point. Where anything is seemingly possible.

Recently, I was talking to a friend, who asked me if there was anything I missed since I’d gone vegan. And because I grew up in South Africa the only two things I could think of were biltong and mutton curry bunny chows. Turning bunny chows vegan was never going to be a problem, but biltong seemed like a plant-based pipe dream not worth holding on to.

Then, a few days later, I saw a bag of Kings Black Bean Veggie Jerky dangling from a shelf at eye-level in the coffee aisle of my local ASDA. A light shone down through the cobwebs on the rafters. Like a sign from the vegan gods. If you dream it, it will come.

To be honest, initial excitement aside, I wasn’t expecting much from my tiny bag of “marinated air-dried strips of vegan protein.” It was more of a novelty buy. But they really surprised me. They’re just so tasty and moreish. A perfect light “pub snack.” In fact, I could do with a bag right now.

The soya strips have got great texture as well, but they’re not as chewy as biltong. I guess that’s why it’s called veggie jerky. Right. But for a former biltong fan it’s as close as I’ve come for a very long time. There’s only about five pieces in each bag. So it’s all over in minutes. But it’s a great few minutes. There’s an Eastern BBQ version out there as well, which I’ll be trying real soon.