Sustainability is one of the key issues at the moment, making sure that foods are sourced through both ethical and planet-friendly memes is becoming more and more popular as the bid to tackle climate change carries on.
One of the main changes people can make, and probably should expect to make, is to eat less meat and switch to plant-based alternatives.
Over the past few years plant-based foodstuffs have come along in leaps and bounds, menus at restaurants offer some great vegetarian and vegan alternatives and, even more recently, we have seen the introduction of vegan butchers.
The term ‘vegan butchers’ does seem a tad oxymoronic but then maybe that’s just through association, the one I visited at Asda in Watford was far from an illusion, it was genuinely incredible.
I had wandered past the store within a store a number of times whilst doing my shopping but never went over, I just assumed it was a counter with Quorn and Asda branded plant-based foods with their own dedicated area.
I was wrong, it was a full counter of different (non) meats, fake bacon, mock lamb and so much more. I actually said to the lady behind the counter when I approached: “I thought this would have been terrible but I’m actually quite impressed”, not my best moment.
There were shelves with flavoured tofus, pizzas, vegan pasta, vegan marinades, vegan cream cheese, sausages, steaks, burgers, the list is exhaustive.
And the actual ‘meat’ counter was full of vegan salmon, cod, sashimi, seitan, lamb, duck, honestly, it is a plant-based dream.
It all looked fantastic and naturally, I was there to pick up some products to review, the lady on the counter did offer me some tasters including mock lamb and meatballs.
The lamb was okay, kind of typical fake meat and a little chewy but with the curry marinade it was decent. The meatball was ace, however. It tasted like a standard meatball, which might not sound like a compliment, but when you think it’s entirely plant-based that’s actually quite impressive.
Anyway, on to what I actually bought which, unfortunately, because I had skipped breakfast I was using my stomach to choose and could have grabbed a lot of stuff. Thankfully I managed restraint and I got some vegan pasta, garlic and tomato vegan sausages and the most interesting, vegan shrimp.
I decided to go for a couple of staples by choosing the pasta and sausages, as they have been around for a while, and I was keen to see the Veelicious take on them.
The prawns – or ‘shrimpz’ as they are so named – were the most interesting choice to me because vegan seafood is tricky and a shrimp can go either way.
Now onto the taste, texture and overall trial of vegan butcher produce.
We shall start with the sausages, these were just something I grabbed because I knew they should be good. Linda McCartney and Quorn – even supermarket brands – have done well with plant-based sausages but for Veelicious however, no, these were not a good version.
They tasted okay but the tomato and garlic were barely noticeable. The texture was my real issue, they were mush, imagine a mushy meat sausage – sounds rank yeah?
Well, that’s why it threw me off, I cooked them both in the oven and in a frying pan just to be fair and both times they came out mushy and more like potato croquettes as opposed to sausages.
They were a no-go and need some work.
Onto the main dish, my pride and joy if you will, I did a garlic shrimp and tomato pasta.
Now I cheated by not making my own pasta or breading the shrimp but I was there to try off the shelf plant-based foods so that wasn’t my job.
This was banging, the shrimpz were just amazing and I was properly blown away. This is why I chose something a bit different to a vegan burger or vegan steak because shrimpz/prawns are difficult to get right and somehow they managed it.
This is a testament to Veelicious’ capabilities.
The texture was light and had that bite to it that well-cooked prawns should and the batter was infused with lemon, which added a lot to it. Fried for five to seven minutes in a bit of olive oil and served on top of fresh pasta with a tomato sauce, they were the perfect lunch.
The pasta was pretty stellar too, it was not unlike regular fresh pasta if not a little denser and less attractive probably due to having no eggs which add to the golden colour.
Now let’s come to the price, this is where it gets a little bit less exciting. The sausages were £3.92 per pack and that was for four, that’s steep and whilst I appreciate they make the sausages, burgers, pizzas etc in house that is a little steep especially when they aren’t nice to eat.
The pasta was £3.99, now for fresh vegan pasta that’s not silly – it’s actually quite reasonable – and there is always this argument that vegan foods have less ingredients and therefore should be cheaper.
But that is an incorrect take, more has to be done to maintain the quality of these foods when you take out eggs and richer ingredients.
Finally, the shrimpz, these were expensive at £5.13p. As it’s a butchers everything is done on weight which I find a bit strange because being plant-based and manufactured why can they not all be the same weight?
It’s cute that there is an emulation of meat butchers but it seems a bit bizarre to sell sealed packets that are all different in weights but then again I don’t know how they are made so I may be being ignorant.
Overall, it is costly and until that cost comes down, non-vegans or vegetarians are not going to flock to buy these ingredients and until there is a consistency in quality then certain things are hit and miss (I’m looking at you sausages.)