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…
Look, we all know a lot of supermarket vegan cheese is garbage. Especially when it comes to supermarket own brands. It’s a learning curve. And while Tesco’s litigation-dodging “Free From Coconut Oil Alternative to Jalapeno and Chilli Cheddar” is no I AM NUT OKAY, or Black Arts Vegan, it’s 100% tasty melted on a slice of toast or in a grilled cheese sandwich.
I always used to like spicy cheddar more than the real thing. It’s the lingering kick, I guess, that adds to the otherwise simplistic flavour. But the coconut oil cheese, itself, is firmer and tastier than other similar supermarket alternatives I’ve tried as well. It’s more like actual cheddar. Especially melted – the improved state of being for most supermarket vegan cheese.
You might not bring it out on a board with a bunch of figs and some perfectly paired wine. But it is tasty. And super convenient, if you want some easy, supermarket cheddar to melt into the gaping cheese-shaped hole in your vegan life.
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.
The rapidly evolving world of vegan pizza is a gamut of good, bad and fugly. Some pizza makers think all you have to do to is remove the cheese and throw in a bunch of random roasted vegetables. Or falafel.
But luckily, times are a-changin’. Fast. And Camden and Brighton-based Purezza is one of the most-exciting new-age pioneers leading the plant-based pizza revolution.
Purezza’s mission is simple; to make their plant-based food superior to similar non-vegan alternatives. To do this, head chef Filippo Rosato spent more than two years in his “lab,” working with Italian brown rice to create cheese “tastier than traditional mozzarella.”
Ridiculous, right? Bet it didn’t seem so ridiculous in 2018, when Rosato’s Parmigiana Party creation (red tomato base, smoked mozzarella, aubergine parmigiana, crumbled soya sausage and a dusting of nutritional yeast) won National Pizza of the Year at the National Pizza Awards.
On top of its signature mozzarella, the multi-award winning, all-vegan Italian restaurant also offers raw cashew, ricotta style and creamy coconut cheese. And apparently, they all take ages to make.
We got to the Camden branch of Purezza late after a gig. Ten minutes before closing. So my bandmate Daryn and I quickly ordered a sourdough Parmigiana Party to share and sat down. Needless to say. This panicked decision is one of the biggest regrets of my life.
Because, believe me when I tell you that the fabled Parmigiana Party literally melts in your mouth. Even now, I’m salivating just thinking about it. The textures. The flavours. How they complement each other perfectly, blending into one gooey, heavenly, Neapolitan-style bite after another. Until it’s all gone. Way too fast. And the shop’s closed. And you have to go home. And you live miles away in south east London. And you wish you could go back in time, order one each, some Courgetti Spaghetti and a Cheesesteak Calzone.
Disappointment at my own lack of foresight aside, Purezza more than lived up to the hype. In fact, the Parmigiana Party blew my mind. The crumbly, ‘nduja-like texture of the sausage. The fluffy, freshly singed crust. The rich, cheese-soaked centre. I’d go so far as to say it’s the best pizza I’ve ever tasted and I can’t wait to go back and try them all. According to Daryn, who’s pescaterian – for transparency’s sake – it was as good as the pizzas he had at Strarita and Sorbillo in Naples.
Excitingly, for vegan pizza’s improved credibility’s sake, Purezza is competing in the 2019 World Pizza Championships in Parma, Italy from April 9-11. They’ll take on more than 6,500 pizzerias from all over the world. Aiming to showcase that “not only can [vegan pizza] be done, but that it can be done really, really well.” Damn, I hope they win…