SIMPLY LUNCH VEGAN CORONATION CHICKPEA & SEITAN – NOW WE’RE TALKING

simply lunch vegan coronation chickpea sandwich
Hi, Pathetically

I was in a fancy coffee shop in Blackheath. There were no vegan sandwich options. Nothing. Not even falafel. When I turned, poised to passively aggressively storm out in mild disgust, the barista asked what I was after. “A vegan sandwich,” I said. “Tell me what you want,” he replied. “I’ll make it fresh.” Nice thought, only he had no vegan mayo, no vegan pesto, no vegan cheese, no vegan anything. Just roast vegetables and bread. Luckily, I held out.

The next place I tried was not fancy. Just a low-key Greenwich cafe full of old people, that sells terrible, terrible coffee dirt cheap. But when I looked through the sandwich shelf I couldn’t believe my luck. Vegan coronation chickpea, seitan and spinach on granary bread? Yes please. And it wasn’t the only option, either.

The sandwich was delicious. I’ve had coronation chickpea before. But the addition of seitan is a game changer. In fact, I almost wish there weren’t any chickpeas. Just coronation seitan and spinach. And maybe some sultanas or raisins. I used to love a coronation chicken sandwich, and this was pretty damn close to the real thing.

Interestingly, the sandwiches in the cafe are provided by south London supplier Simply Lunch. The company plays up its “family run,” “handmade” angle, and the sandwiches are made fresh every day. Like I always say, vegan sandwiches need to be interesting and creative. Perhaps even more so. And encouragingly, Simply Lunch seems to be experimenting with a wide range of plant-based options. For the record, this one’s a keeper!

IT’S OFFICIAL – GALAXY CHOCOLATE HAS JOINED THE VEGANG REVOLUTION

galaxy vegan chocolate in tesco
Hi, Pathetically

I feel like I’m living that classic scene from the U.S. version of The Office. “Oh my god. Okay, it’s happening. Everybody stay calm… Stay fucking CALM!” Vegan dreams do come true, because Galaxy chocolate and Mars Inc. have finally joined the vegan revolution. And it’s every bit as luxurious and dreamy as we imagined it might be.

As usual, in the early stages of a much anticipated vegan supermarket release, Instagram’s the messenger. First it’s a coming attraction. Then people start finding the products and posting about them. And if they’re worth following, they share the locations of their discoveries. This time, Tesco’s Free From aisle’s the place to be.

I’ve learnt to head out on these kind of adventures with an air of trepidation. Don’t get your hopes up too much. It usually takes a while for them to filter through into general consumption. But when I rounded the corner of the Surrey Quays Shopping Centre Tesco Free From aisle, there they were. A light shining down on them. Angelic orchestral music playing in my ears. Like something out of Wayne’s World. “It will be mine. Oh yes. It will be mine.” And it was.

So far, the chocolate’s available in three different flavours; Caramel and Sea Salt, Caramlised Hazelnut and Smooth Orange. Hoping not to come across too keen, I grabbed two. Caramel and Sea Salt and Caramelised Hazelnut. And headed home. Secretly wishing I’d completed the set.

Admittedly, I couldn’t wait ’til I got home. I nibbled on the bus. And straight away, it’s Galaxy chocolate through and through. Indulgent. Luxurious. Creamy. Oh man, how I’ve missed you. And the best news is there’s no soya and no palm oil. Smooth Orange, I’ll be back!

For now, the bars are £3 each. Hopefully it goes down as the product gets more and more popular. But encouragingly, and unlike regular Galaxy chocolate, the outer packaging’s recyclable and the inner film sleeve’s 100% compostable. So ethically, it seems like an expense worth paying for, right?

WAITROSE SMOKY STREAKY SLICES – IT’S HAPPENING. VEGAN SUPERMARKET BACON’S ACTUALLY HAPPENING

waitrose smoky streaky vegan bacon
Hi, Pathetically

In the old days (read late last year), Upton’s Naturals Bacon was all we had. Quorn bacon, of course, still includes milk and egg – and it’s basically liquid mould. Then, steadily, I started stumbling across vegan supermarket gold like Sgaia’s Vegan Meats and all-star high roller THIS Isn’t Bacon. Now, supermarkets like Waitrose are doing it themselves. And they’re doing it damn well.

Until recently – other than the Full Nelson’s crispy in-house tofu bacon – THIS Isn’t Bacon was my favourite meat-free alternative. But I think Waitrose has just edged it. Because everything about their own-brand “smoky streaky slices” is perfect. The taste. The texture. The smell. Even the thickness is on point.

Waitrose’s streaky slices, you see, are thinner than THIS Isn’t Bacon. So they’re more bacon-like and easier to crisp up. In fact, the texture’s the perfect middle ground between thinner, more cardboard-like Upton’s Naturals Bacon slices and thicker, more salmon-like THIS Isn’t Bacon rashers. They’re juicy, but they ain’t chunky. They’re also wheat and pea-protein based, and soy free.

The smoky flavour’s exactly what you’re looking for as well – thanks to maple syrup and smoked paprika. And when you cook them up the kitchen smells like a late, hungover Sunday morning. So far, this is the best, most legit, vegan supermarket bacon alternative I’ve had. And you know what, maybe the future’s looking good for pigs after all.

WAITROSE VEGAN SUSHI – PLANT-BASED SUPERMARKET SUSHI GETS INTERESTING. FINALLY

waitrose plant-based vegan sushi
Hi, Pathetically

Until now, vegan supermarket sushi’s always been a bit of a grey area. Sure, there have always been vegetarian options. But the ingredients were never clear and you still had to worry about things like stock, sauces, flakes, egg and dairy. And besides, until very recently, vegetarian supermarket sushi just meant cucumber and avocado wrapped in rice and seaweed – probably covered in fish flakes.

Lately, sushi joints like YO! Sushi and itsu have gone all out, dressing vegan sushi up in tasty plant-based ingredients like tofu pouches, umeboshi plums and vegan mayo. And now, finally, Waitrose and Taiko Foods have elevated the vegan supermarket sushi game to the same lofty, taste bud-tingling heights.

The one I found, that’s worth writing on the homepage about, is Taiko Foods’ yasai (vegetable) sushi box. And it includes two Inari nigiri tofu pouches, two shiitake mushroom and mixed pepper rolls, two pickled carrot, red pepper & mooli rolls, and two cucumber hosomaki rolls.

At first, I found “fishy” tasting sushi unsettling and weird. I would triple check the ingredients. On the packs and online. But once you’ve got the all clear – and you know the flavour’s coming from the seaweed – uneasiness gives way to deliciousness. And before you know it, it’s all gone and you want more.

THIS ISN’T BACON – BUT IT SURE TASTES (AND SMELLS) LIKE IT

vegan bacon on toast this isn't bacon
Hi, Pathetically

Since it launched, THIS’ range of plant-based chicken and bacon alternatives has wormed its way on to fast food menus across the U.K. From hot new recruit Chick ‘n’ Sours to Patty & Bun and Chilango. The times they are a-changed. And the best part is you can buy THIS Isn’t Bacon (and THIS Isn’t Chicken) and cook it at home.

These days new vegan options hit shelves faster than Lewis Hamilton. It wasn’t that long ago when THIS’ plant-based rashers first launched in Holland & Barrett stores countrywide, becoming the proverbial plant-based white whale. White kale? Now they’re everywhere.

Unlike other vegan bacon I’ve tried, there’s more to THIS Isn’t Bacon. It’s thicker. Juicier. More substantial. More “meat” like. In fact, in its raw state, it looks more like chunks of smoked salmon than bacon. But as soon as it hits the pan the nose remembers.

As always, I cook my plant-based meat a bit longer than the recommended dosage – in this case, three minutes. Seriously? What can you do in three minutes? I’m a crispy bacon, well-done kind of guy. And cooked properly, it tastes great. On pancakes. On toast. On its own. I’ve even gone all out and made my own THIS Isn’t Bacon Beyond Meat cheeseburgers.

Just like actual bacon, however, THIS Isn’t Bacon is not health food – unless you’re a pig. In fact, it’s 24% soy protein, 8% soy protein isolate and described as “ridiculously high in protein.” You know how crazy people go for protein…

Just like actual bacon, however, THIS Isn’t Bacon does possess magical hangover-curing powers. And nobody dies. So maybe this is bacon. How it’s supposed to be.

BEN & JERRY’S CHOCOLATE FUDGE BROWNIE NON-DAIRY ICE CREAM – MAKING VEGANISM RADICAL AGAIN

Hi, Pathetically

“Make veganism radical again.” That’s what a friend of mine posted on Instagram. Followed by a photo of him sitting, smugly, in a hip vegan restaurant, eating a gourmet, plant-based hotdog with some hip vegan buddies. All good. What is making veganism radical again, however, is Ben & Jerry’s new range of non-dairy ice creams.

Netflix and chill – with a frozen tub of Ben & Jerry’s, of course – had become a thing of the past. An old indulgence I’d all but forgotten. A dream I’d just about relinquished. That was, until I spotted a tub of Ben & Jerry’s Chocolate Fudge Brownie Non-Dairy Ice Cream in my local ASDA. Radical.

I know I say this a lot but I really could not believe my luck. To me, the non-dairy version of the classic Ben & Jerry’s flavour tastes even better than the real thing. There’s just something about it. The flavours are richer. The chocolate’s more decadent. And the ice cream’s even more luxurious. Somehow, it tastes more small batch. More-carefully put together. Like Ben and Jerry actually have something to prove again. It’s irresistible.

I’ve tried the vegan Peanut Butter & Cookies vanilla ice cream option as well. And it’s just as good as its non-dairy counterparts. But if you’re anything like me, It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia is way more enjoyable with a tub of chocolate, fudge and brownie-based ice cream and a big spoon. Now I’m on the lookout for the latest addition to the vegan range, the gorgeous-sounding caramel number, Cookies On Cookie Dough. Remember vegan kids; don’t give up on your plant-based dreams.

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.