From a soya ‘roast’ to mushroom ‘pigs in blankets’, the supermarkets are trying to convince us vegan food can be festive but … Can you REALLY have a merry meat-free Christmas?
- Sainsbury’s predicts that a quarter of Britons will be vegan by 2025
- Frankie McCoy gave verdict on vegan Christmas food on offer in UK stores
- Selfridges’ vegan pumpkin spiced panettone is among the best options
Decadent food is one of the treats of Christmas: the festive season gives us free rein to indulge in rich meaty gravy, buttery mince pies and puds drenched with cream.
And true enjoyment generally means being a full-blooded, dairy-devouring carnivore.
But more of us are passing on the pigs in blankets, turkey and even the cheese board. According to The Vegan Society, 600,000 Britons were vegan in 2018, while Sainsbury’s predicts a quarter of us will become so by 2025.
So this year the supermarkets have been busy — it’s now possible to have all your favourites, from pate and pigs in blankets, through to gravy, bread sauce and stuffing, to mince pies, panettone and chocolate puds — all without harm to the hair of a single animal. Impressive.
But does any of it taste nice — and can it replace our meaty favourites?
Frankie McCoy gave verdict on vegan Christmas food on offer in UK stores, including Morrisons Free-from mince pies (pictured)
The ghost of mince pies yet to come . . .
Morrisons Free-from mince pies, £2 for a pack of four, groceries.morrisons.com
These mince pies are pale and wan: they’ve seen the ghost of Christmas future, and it’s vegan and gluten-free. The horror! The rice flour pastry has a good crumbly texture, but that’s about it.
What they lack in most traditional delicious ingredients, they make up for in sugar. The mincemeat is wincingly sweet to atone for the ghostly pastry — each 55g pie contains 20.7g of sugar.
Useful as a hangover energy boost, but Santa, baby, don’t slip these under the tree. 2/10
Savoury sarnie with everything but taste
Co-op Vegan Festive Christmas Sandwich, £2.65, coop.co.uk
Frankie said Co-op Vegan Festive Christmas Sandwich (pictured) tasted bland and is very sweet with 16g of sugar
What to put in a Christmas sandwich instead of turkey? This effort has a parsnip fritter, cranberry sauce, vegan sage and onion mayo, raw spinach, red cabbage, apple, sultanas, mixed seeds and fried onions, all inside slices of cranberry and poppy seed bread.
Phew. So why does it taste so bland? Carb inside carb is in keeping with festive excess, but it all blurs into a pile of vaguely herby mush with a deeply unfestive handful of raw spinach to confuse matters.
And it’s very sweet: 16g of sugar in this savoury sarnie. 5/10
A jolly ‘roast’ and hit-or-miss gravy
M&S Plant Kitchen Festive Roast and Vegetable Gravy £12, christmasfood.marksandspencer.com
Frankie claimed M&S Plant Kitchen Festive Roast and Vegetable Gravy (pictured) is a lump of stuffing that can’t replace a turkey
This soya and mushroom log is delicious: packed with sage, great crumbly sausagey texture; an almost truffled savouriness from the mushrooms mixed with the soy, and a sweet nuttiness from cranberries, caramelised onions and chestnuts.
But whichever way you slice it, this ‘festive roast’ is really one big lump of stuffing: a jolly side dish that can’t replace turkey.
The roast has its own impressive gravy — a glossy, shiitake-rich jus. The Plant Kitchen gravy sold separately is a gloopy soup more suited to Scrooge than a feast. Bah humbug.
Roast, 6½/10; gravy, 1/10
Smokey bacon with a whiff of plastic
Sainsbury’s Pups in Blankets, £5.50, food-to-order.sainsburys.co.uk
Frankie revealed that the fake bacon on Sainsbury’s Pups in Blankets (pictured) tastes of nothing, scoring them just 4/10
Opening this packet of raw mushroom sausages wrapped in oily orange seitan strips, a wave of Smoky Bacon flavouring hits you in the face. Not a good start.
Fourteen minutes in the oven later, there’s hope: the seitan is sizzling like bacon, albeit with a whiff of burning. And the mushroom sausage is fine — squidgy and peppery and parsley-flecked, although lacking that joyous porkiness that make real bangers banging.
For all its pong, the fake bacon tastes of nothing. You’ll have enough plastic hanging on your tree to bother with these. 4/10
Egg-free panettone — but is it easter?
Selfridges vegan pumpkin spiced panettone, £19.99, selfridges.com
Frankie was most impressed with Selfridges vegan pumpkin spiced panettone (pictured) for it’s miraculous taste
Selfridges has form with alternative panettones. In 2016, it launched the first salted caramel version — a real winner. Lush with butter and milk and eggs, vegan it was not. So how can a new vegan, pumpkin-spiced alternative possibly compete? Oh me of little faith.
As fluffy as the fur on Santa’s hat, this is thick with cinnamon and nutmeg, studded with sweet nuggets of candied pumpkin.
To make this without eggs or butter — coconut milk and oil take their place — is a miracle. But there’s a problem . . .
This pumpkin spice panettone tastes not of pumpkin spice or panettone, but a big hot cross bun. Right religion, wrong festival, Selfridges. I’m knocking off half a point. 9½/10
Past the pastry, it’s a disappointment
Tesco Finest Butternut, Mushroom and Chestnut Wreath, £4.50, tesco.com
Frankie said Tesco Finest Butternut, Mushroom and Chestnut Wreath (pictured) is fine but anticlimactic for Christmas
The cooked pastry looks inviting: all golden, crisp and seed- scattered. But, like a lovely ribbon-tied box that only contains socks and a book token, the pastry is merely a cover for mild disappointment.
It’s fine, just not celebratory, a ring of vegetables, sludgy and brown, with lumps of soft chestnut and a one-note thwack of bruising festive cinnamon. Anticlimax — the real taste of Christmas. 5½/10
Not-so-melted chocolate puds
Iceland No Moo Melt-in-the-Middle Chocolate Puddings £2, iceland.co.uk
Frankie recommended Iceland No Moo Melt-in-the-Middle Chocolate Puddings (pictured) to those who hate traditional Christmas pudding
These chocolatey sponge cakes made with soya milk are OK. They don’t melt as such, there’s none of the oozy, seductive, buttery, Nigella-licking-off-a-spoon chocolate sauce you get from a traditional fondant.
They’re not decadent, but with a bit of Oatly cream (75p, oatly.com), they’ll fill a gap for haters of Christmas pudding. 6/10
Mushroom bangers are really bang-on!
Waitrose Vegan Sausage Wreath, £5.99, waitrose.com
Frankie said Waitrose Vegan Sausage Wreath (pictured) could be preferable to an overcooked turkey and is very good
Besides the novelty value of bringing a sausage wreath to the table, this is very good. Two kinds of vegan bangers — apple and cranberry, and mushroom and leek, the satisfying squish you get with meat — wrapped round a hunk of properly stodgy sage stuffing, studded with cranberries and pumpkin seeds.
A parsley crumble to finish it off? Waitrose, you’re spoiling us. Maybe preferable to an overcooked turkey. 8/10
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