ASDA FLATBREAD VEGAN VEGGIE FEAST – TASTY CHILLED PIZZA, WITH CHEESE (AND NO FALAFEL)

asda flatbread vegan pizza
Hi, Pathetically

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.

SQUEAKY BEAN’S NUT-FREE SATAY KIEV – QUICK AND EASY, TASTY (VEGAN) NIGHTS IN

squeaky bean vegan satay kiev
Hi, Pathetically

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.

squeaky bean vegan satay kiev
Hi, Pathetically

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.

HI, PATHETICALLY’S ULTIMATE PLANT-BASED SOY-FREE VEGAN BOLOGNESE

vegan lentil pepper bolognese

Since I went vegan, the one thing I miss making the most is spaghetti bolognese. I loved my spaghetti bolognese. And I loved making it. This year I’ve experimented with a few different vegan versions. Cauliflower. Aubergines. Meatless Farm soya mince. But now I’m convinced I’ve cracked it. The answer? Red lentils and roasted red peppers.

I’ve never transcribed a recipe before, so bear with me. One thing I do know, though, is I hate scrolling through someone’s life story just to get to “ingredients” and “method” at the bottom of the post. So I’ll get right to it.

COOKING TIME: 3-4 hours
SERVES: 4

INGREDIENTS:

2 red peppers
2 red onions
2 sticks of celery
2 medium carrots
1 cup of red lentils
2 tins of chopped tomatoes
1 handful of sun dried tomatoes
1 handful cherry tomatoes
2 bay leaves
veg stock cube
5-6 cloves of garlic
red wine
red wine vinegar
tomato puree
2 tbs olive oil
1 tsp marmite
3 tbs nutritional yeast flakes
seasoning; smoked paprika, cajun, garlic and parsley, oregano, basil, thyme, rosemary
fresh basil
salt & pepper
vegan cheddar / parmesan

METHOD:

The first thing I do is preheat the oven to 200°C and dice up two red peppers. Chop them into neat little cubes – I’d use a food processor but that just turns them into mush. Then put them in a bowl, drizzle with olive oil and coat in seasoning. All over. The choice and quantity’s up to you, but I usually go for smoked paprika (not hot), cajun and garlic and parsley. About a tablespoon of each. Then stir the bowl, making sure the pepper cubes are all nice and smothered in that banging seasoned olive oil. Add a bit more seasoning if you like. And olive oil. Go on.

Next pop the peppers in a tray and stick them in the oven. If you’ve got the time, go all out. I like to roast my peppers for at least an hour. Maybe an hour and 20 minutes. Til they’re slightly singed, properly roasted little flavour bombs, ready to melt and disappear into your thick bolognese sauce.

While the peppers are roasting heat up a tablespoon or two of olive oil in a large pot and dice two red onions. I use a food processor, to get the bits nice and small. When the oil’s heated throw in the onions and fry til they’re nice and soft, and browning a little. Most recipes suggest a few minutes but I proper fry them for about 15-20 minutes. You can use a splash of water to stop them burning if you need to. But go for it. Add two bay leaves about halfway through.

While the onions are frying blitz two sticks of celery and two medium carrots in your food processor. Then throw the bits in with the onions and bay leaves and let that simmer for a while. Grate in five or six cloves of garlic and sprinkle in a bit more garlic and parsley seasoning.

Cook the vegetables til they’re nice and fragrant. Not burnt, just long enough so they know they’re on fire. Now add your roasted red pepper cubes from earlier and a large glass of red wine (make sure it’s vegan). When the mixture has reduced and thickened drop in a teaspoon of Marmite and two heaped tablespoons of nutritional yeast flakes. Add a splash of red wine vinegar as well and let that simmer for about 15-20 minutes, until it forms a kind of congealed bolognese paste. The base of all your flavour.

Next add two tins of chopped tomatoes, a stock cube, a handful of diced sundried tomatoes, a handful of cherry tomatoes, a squirt of tomato puree, a cup of water and a heaped cup of red lentils. You can add the lentils later, but I like to really cook them. Pre-dhal. So they play a soft, crunchless, background role in the overall bolognese texture.

Now throw in dried oregano, basil, thyme and rosemary. I also add a bit more garlic and parsley for good luck, a splash or two of red wine vinegar and a glug more red wine. Let the sauce bubble and come together a bit before lowering the heat. Then comes the long haul. You need to let it cook, simmer and bubble for at least two hours. So it turns into a rich, thick, genuine bolognese sauce. You can’t beat it and there’s no cheating it.

The longer you cook the bolognese the better it will be. The only challenges are not letting the lentils turn into dhal and not burning the sauce. Lentil-based bologneses seem to burn easier than meat-based alternatives, so you have to stir and lubricate the mixture quite often, using splashes of water and red wine vinegar when needed. But at the same time, you need to let it cook properly as well. It’s a balancing act. A labour of love. Don’t let it get too watery. Don’t dry it out.

Towards the end I throw in another tablespoon of nutritional yeast flakes and salt and pepper. Then I let the bolognese cook a bit longer, until the tinned tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, sun dried tomatoes, wine, lentils and everything else has melded into one soft, saucy pot of lentil-based bolognese “mince.” Stir in chopped fresh basil and serve with spaghetti and vegan parmesan (or cheddar). Violife cheese alternatives are usually a safe, easy bet.

BYRON’S CHEEKY TRUFFLER – PROPER HAMBURGERS ARE NOW VEGAN TOO

byron burger vegan truffler special
Hi, Pathetically

These days everyone’s getting in on the act. Shit, even the Colonel and Ronald McDonald have dipped their blood-stained toes in the new vegan money stream. As a result, mushroom and falafel burgers are out and vegan fast food standards are higher than Woody Harrelson at Christmas. Refreshingly, “proper hamburger” joint Byron didn’t pull any flavour punches with their new Truffler special.

The coolest thing is there’s a poster for the burger in the front window of Byron, Shoreditch. The Truffler is front and center, not some obscure sub-note buried on the menu. It’s Byron’s star of the month. And it definitely sounds like a headliner; Beyond Meat patty, truffle ‘cheese’ fondue, mushrooms, truffle mayonnaise, pickled red onions, mustard and crispy onions.

I’m a sucker for anything truffle-related. And truffle fondue is an amazing idea for a cheese alternative vegan burger topping. Throw in mushrooms and truffle mayonnaise and forget about it. Every bite’s too much. Rich, decadent and wickedly moreish. Before you even touch the Beyond Meat patty – which carries the gooey puddle of flavour like a plant-based burger champ. The mustard and pickled onions add the zing and I’m in vegan burger heaven.

My only criticism is it wasn’t cheesey and saucy enough. I could have done with more fondue. More truffle mayonnaise. But I’ll chalk it up to a stiff-wristed sauce squirter and definitely order it again next time.

JUST LOVE VEGAN CHOCOLATE CAKE – SUPERMARKET CAKE DEFIES THE ODDS. IT’S MOIST

just love vegan chocolate cake asda
Hi, Pathetically

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.

PATTY & BUN GOES PLANT-BASED – THIS IS HOW FAR VEGAN JUNK FOOD HAS COME

patty and bun's new plant-based pamela burger
Hi, Pathetically

Back when I ate meat, Patty & Bun’s Ari Gold cheeseburger, with bacon, was one of my all-time knockout favourites. So I’d been following witty new vegan “meat” company THIS’s launch partnership with the high-end burger chain like an excited kid tracking Santa at Christmas.

Before the launch, THIS had been teasing vegans on Instagram for months. Posting unreal, almost artificial-looking plant-based renders of fried chicken and bacon. They looked insane. Impossible. And finally, they crossed over into the real world. Or in this case, Deliveroo.

Because on June 3 Patty & Bun rolled out its first ever plant-based monthly special, the Pamela. And the pricey (£12. No fries) burger features a “plant protein” patty, THIS Isn’t Bacon, spicy mayo, vegan cheddar, pickles, lettuce and ketchup on a soya milk brioche bun. And the good news is THIS Isn’t Chicken goujons passed the P&B taste test and made the menu as well. So naturally, I added eight to my basket and checked out.

When the food arrives, firstly, I’m impressed by the packaging. No plastic. And when I finally unwrap her, I’m mesmerised by Pamela’s voodoo-like radiance. It’s like a plant-based work of art. Almost alien. Surreal. A perfect visual recreation of meat-based junk food decadence in all its over-the-top, mouthwatering glory. With none of the murder and misery.

this.uk plant based chicken goujon from patty and bun
Hi, Pathetically

I recognise the smell of the goujons as I open the box. They remind me of Beyond Meat patties cooking as you walk into Brixton vegan joint Halo Burger. So of course, I start with them. And honestly, they taste even better than the real thing.

They’re light. Fresh. The texture’s right. The consistency’s perfect. The batter’s crunchy and delicious. And like a lot of tasty vegan junk food, they don’t drag me down as much. I never feel gross. I always want more.

The burger itself is way less firm than expected. The patty gives way more like a bean-based burger than Beyond Meat. It’s tasty, though. Increasingly so. The bacon strips are legit too. Perfect texture. Smoky taste. And the melted cheddar, pickles, spicy mayo and ketchup complete a dreamy burger swirl in my mouth. This is how far vegan junk food has come. I wonder if the burger’s named after animal rights activist Pamela Anderson? Who knows…

ARANCINI BROTHERS – DEEP FRIED RISOTTO BALL BURGERS AND LOADED POTS TO MELT YOUR VEGAN HEART

arancini brothers risotto ball burger vegan
Hi, Pathetically

The relatively new Bermondsey branch of deep-fried risotto ball pioneers Arancini Brothers is a bright orange all-vegan joint on the starting line of Maltby Street Market. Only it’s open all day. Seven days a week. Serving vegan cake, croissants and sausage rolls. And burgers. And loaded risotto ball pots. And paprika fries. And eggplant tomato sauce. I could go on.

All-vegan fast food employees must get tired of answering the same dumb questions about the menu. “Yes, the smoky chorizo is vegan.” “No, there’s no egg in the special mayo.” “Yes, the cheese is all plant-based.” But it’s just like it is in the memes. You stand there dumbstruck for a second. Spellbound. “You mean, I can order anything? ”

I’ve been a few times since that first visit, so I play it a lot cooler these days. And everything I’ve tried is delicious. I always throw in a side of citrus and mushroom zucchini risotto balls and load up on special mayo and eggplant sauce. But the tastiest thing I’ve tried so far is the CHorizo burger. Smoky cHorizo, deep-fried risotto burger patty, cheese, crispy onions, chilli sauce, mayo. And yes, it’s all vegan.

The burger itself is a straight-up knockout. Pure vegan fried decadence. Crispy and gooey in all the right places. The special mayo. The spicy kick of sriracha. The crunch. Oh man, the crunch. And the blissful, sticky juiciness of it all. I was literally licking my fingers and scooping up every last crumb. Wishing I had more risotto balls to dunk in my last drop of special mayo.