By Christina Wilmowski, author of the blog Artichoke Zine
On the whole I’m fairly basic with my cooking; I tend to stick to vegetables and use very little in terms of vegan replacement products. However sometimes they really do excite certain dishes and it’s amazing how you can veganise previously loved dishes, with a few simple products. Here is a list of what I think are the best vegan products around at the moment. Some I chose for their flavour, some for their resemblance to the original product, and some because they make cooking even better!
Alpro soya cream
This handy little carton can be found in all major supermarkets and health food stores, and for less than a pound this creamy tub of joy will make both your sweet and savoury dishes beautiful. I add it to peanut butter curry, pour it over a home made crumble and swirl it into some tomato sauce for a creamy pasta dish.
I try to avoid having all of my products soya based, so Oatly is perfect. The consistency is slightly thinner than soya milk, with a warmer colour and the flavour is delicious. Oatly can be found in all supermarkets and health food stores.
This company is literally brilliant. 100% vegan, they make such wonderful meat and dairy replacements; my favourites being chorizo, chicken pieces and Brussels pate. Stir the chorizo into spelt pasta with slices of sun dried tomato, green olives and a drizzle of oil. Eat on their own, with chunks of pitta bread and houmous (and more olives). Tear the chicken pieces up and add them to any kind of sauce; the longer you cook them for, the more tender they become. The Brussels pate is fantastic with a crunchy French stick and slices of fresh cucumber.
This is the creamiest vegan butter you will find. Heap it into a risotto with white wine and spread it onto freshly made bread. Available in Tesco, Asda and Iceland. Pure butter is more readily available in all supermarkets, and it comes in soya, sunflower oil and organic.
Smoked cheddar- best eaten on its own, in small cubes. Most of the Sheese range is brilliant, but this flavour is my favourite. However it doesn’t melt that well, and becomes quite sweet. Sheese Cream Cheese is delicious and the majority of the Sheese range is available in health food stores. Cheezly is another brand of vegan cheese- owned by Redwoods. Opt for the Gauda- style, which is best for melting and has a strong flavour. Grate it onto pizza and lasagne, and don’t eat it raw.
One of the leading vegan brands, everything which they produce is 100% vegan and delicious. They cost a fair bit more than other vegan companies, but they are a brand to trust, and the quality of their vegan meats is superb. The burgers are fantastic in summer on a bbq, the wok strips make a great addition to stir fries and the chicken nuggets are great. Available in most health food stores.
Gourmet ice cream from the makers of oh so delicious truffles. It’s creamy and thick and comes in three different flavours. Available in most health food stores. Swedish Glace can be found in all supermarkets and health food stores, and comes in a larger variety of flavours, including vanilla, raspberry ripple and blueberry. The vanilla is beautiful.
A few pointers:
Bacon will never be how you remembered. Even when they have an imitation white stripe of fat around the edge. Even if you grill it and have it in sugary white bread with plenty of ketchup. Nonetheless it can be a nice addition to a fry up (which must include all of the following: vegan sausages, hash browns, beans, toast and mushrooms).
Meat replacement, in general, does not taste like meat. Or feel like meat. Or cook like meat. It is another texture, another protein and another flavour to be used in your cooking.
You can still eat at restaurants if you are vegan. Chain restaurants such as Pizza Express, Wagamamas, Wetherspoons and Nandos all have vegan options advertised on their websites. Follow vegan forums for updates on new vegan options and new restaurants. Ask at your local restaurant for more vegan options to be made available on the menu. You can still eat with your friends and family, and you can eat well!
Isa Chandra Moskowitz is a vegan superstar. One of her most recent books, Vegan Brunch, is your veganising bible! Recipes such as omelette, quiche and chorizo make this book an essential.
Products which you don’t expect to be vegan
Aldi croissants. Literally the holy grail of vegan products; these bake-yourself tubes have caused quite a stir amongst the vegan community. They can sit in your fridge for weeks, tempting you with the opportunity to have croissants any day of the week. Combine with Vitalite for a truly buttery breakfast, or pop in a couple of squares of dark chocolate for pain au chocolat
Co- op doughnuts: Yes, really. The jam and custard flavours are both vegan, and both amazing. Co-op labels all of their products vegan, and also offers iced buns, apple pies and a huge range of cleaning products which are all vegan and eco- friendly.