Tag Archives: meat substitute

Mock Meat: Meet the Alternative Sausages

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I think it’s probably about time I came clean and admitted that I’m obsessed with sausages. I liked them when I ate meat and now I’m a vegetarian I don’t see why I shouldn’t be able to eat sausage-shaped alternatives (and Jay Rayner and the rest of the Kitchen Cabinet can just lump it!).

I was pleased and intrigued to find a new veggie sausage in the chiller cabinet on my last grocery shop. These are from Meet The Alternative. The website calls them Pork-Style Sausages, but the packaging just calls them Sausages. They are vegetarian, but not vegan.

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I gave them my standard test and fried them.

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They look OK with a decent bit of browning. Texturally I have to say they’ve got it spot on. The sausages are chewy without being dense and give a great mouthfeel. Flavourwise, they’re very bland. They’re up there with tofu in the taste stakes. If I were them I’d stop trying to make them taste like pork and concentrate on getting more umami tastes in there. They’d be OK in things, but I wouldn’t be rushing to eat them on their own.

It’s great to see new veggie products coming out there, I might try some of their ‘meat’ chunk style offerings, but I can make better tasting sausages than this.

Mock Meat: Vegetarian Hot Dogs

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Good food shouldn’t just be about the gourmet cordon bleu stuff. You should be able to relax and have fun with food. Hot dogs are about the best for that. If you’re a vegetarian, that pinkish-brown tube of hot pig products with dubious smokey flavour is off the menu. Unless you go for the veggie version that is!

There are two version up for tasting here – Tofu Weiner by Taifun and Quorn hotdogs. The Taifun product is vegan, whereas the Quorn product isn’t.

Hotdog packaging

I cooked both of them the same way, boiling as per the packet instructions.

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The tofu-weiner is on the left, the Quorn hotdog is on the right.

The tofu weiner has a good smokey flavour, but little other taste otherwise. The texture, once past the skin, is very soft, which isn’t a good substitute for the real thing, but there is something to chew there.

The Quorn hotdog doesn’t have as strong a smokey flavour, but does have a good savoury flavour in addition to the smokiness. It also has a firmer texture, much closer to the real thing.

As with most mock meats, I wouldn’t put either on my regular shopping list, but if I really wanted a hotdog, either would be acceptable in a finger bun with ketchup and mustard. If you want hotdogs on cocktail sticks stuck in a foil-wrapped potato for a 70’s party – I’d go with the Quorn ones, they stand up better on their own.

Product Review: Quorn Chef’s Selection Sausages

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I first came across Quorn sausages before I was a vegetarian. Quorn features heavily in the Slimming World diet because it is so low in fat. I would eat Quorn mince, Quorn ‘chicken’ pieces and Quorn sausages as a way to lose weight.

As with most vegetarian meat substitutes texture is everything, the appeal is not just the taste, but the mouthfeel to replace the meat you’re missing. The sausages tasted savoury enough but had a very solid, smooth texture. They felt as processed as the cheapest banger or the little sausages in tins of sausage and beans. And that’s how I usually ate my Quorn sausages – cut into pieces and microwaved with a tin of baked of beans – a safe and filling food.

I was intrigued to find a couple of new varieties in the chiller cabinet recently. Quorn Chef’s Selection sausages. They come in two flavours: Wild Garlic and Parsley, and Best of British.

Packs

I’ll pass over the marketing genius who came up with ‘Best of British’ as a flavour with a quick eye-roll.

Raw

The wild garlic and parsley sausages are on the left. Raw, they have the same solidity as the ordinary quorn sausages, but it looks like they’ve tried to give some texture to the body of the sausage.

Cooked

I gave them their best shot and fried them, and I have to say they do fry to a nice golden colour. There’s a very fine ‘skin’ which crisped up to give slightly more of a normal sausage feel. However, the texture inside was as homogenous as before, although slightly looser in feel. In terms of flavour, Best of British appears to mean pork sausage of the cheaper end of the market, savoury but very bland. The Wild Garlic and Parsley sausage had a garlicky-oniony flavour, but there was no hint of parsley, and I wouldn’t use this sausage as a means to introduce anyone to the delights of wild garlic.

In summary, they’re OK. They’d be fine as part of a cooked breakfast. I’d be careful about cooking with them though. I’ve already had a problem with them turning to mush in a cassoulet and I think the softer texture might be their downfall in stews or anything that requires long cooking.

Recipe: Cassoulet with runner beans

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It must be the weather getting colder, but I fancied a bean stew this week. I wanted to try my hand at a veggie version of cassoulet. Now, I know a cassoulet without duck or meat sausage is not a real cassoulet and I believe Raymond Blanc just suffered a sudden unexplained twinge at the mere concept, but there are some nice veggie sausages out there that seemed making it worth a go.

Quorn have recently come up with a new Chef’s selection range of sausages (of which more later) and I used the wild garlic and parsley sausages in this recipe.

I made this in the slow-cooker, but I wouldn’t do so again with these sausages. They disintegrated and went mushy after the long cooking. It was still tasty, but the texture wasn’t there. I have made adjustments in the recipe so it shouldn’t happen again.

Cassoulet with runner beans

Cassoulet
110g pinto beans
1/2 onion, chopped
2 veg sausages, cut into pieces
300 ml water
1 tsp veg stock
1 tsp marmite
Thyme

Soak the pinto beans overnight then drain and rinse.
Soften the onion in a little olive oil in a saucepan until translucent.
Add the beans, sausages and the rest of the ingredients. Add a pinch of thyme and some black pepper, but no salt yet as it makes the beans take longer to cook.
Bring to the boil and then reduce to a slow simmer.
Cover the pan and cook for 2 hours until the beans are tender.
Stir in salt and serve.
Serves 2

Runner beans with tarragon and lemon
I got the idea for this recipe from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s ‘Veg Everyday’, but he cooks the beans for 20 minutes, which is way too long for me.

1 clove garlic, chopped
6 runner beans, destringed and chopped on the diagonal
pinch tarragon or 1 tsp chopped fresh tarragon
Squeeze lemon juice

Soften the garlic in some olive oil in a saucepan.
Add the runner beans and the dried tarragon (if using) and stir in the hot oil for a minute.
Pour in a few tablespoons of water and simmer the beans for five minutes until they are tender but still bright green.
If you’re using fresh tarragon now is the time to add it, along with a squeeze of lemon juice and salt and pepper.
Give it a good stir and serve.
Serves 2.

Recipe: Seitan

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I hadn’t been a vegetarian for long before I started coming across references to seitan, mostly from American food blogs. I gathered it was something close to tofu in function, if not origin. I put it on the list of things to try when I found it and forgot about it.

Only I never did find it. Unless it’s marketed in the UK under a completely different name, I just haven’t seen it in any healthfood shop – including the excellent one near me.

I kept seeing references to it in recipes but had no way of getting my hands on a supply. Luckily, you can’t search for seitan for long on the internet without coming across a recipe for making it. It looked reasonably easy, so I decided to give it a go.

I didn’t want to make a huge amount to start off with so I took 500g of plain white flour and mixed in enough water to make a workable dough. I wasn’t expecting this dough to rise, so I didn’t make it as wet as I would make a bread dough, but it was softer than a pastry dough. I needed it for 20 minutes, until I had a smooth ball.

Kneaded dough

I rested that for half an hour.

Then came the fun part. Seitan is the gluten of wheat dough without the starch. So I put the bowl in the sink, turned on the tap and started to rinse the starch out of the dough, working it in my hands all the time.

Remember when you were a kid and were chewing gum when you decided to eat a sweet at the same time? Remember how the gum went all soft and gooey? That’s what the seitan felt like in my hands. I kept going and hoped that this was what it was supposed to be like.

Once the water had run clear, I was left with a lump of gooey dough about a third the size of the original.

Washed seitan

The next stage was to cut it into lumps and simmer it in stock for 20 minutes. I simmered it in water and soy sauce. It does swell during cooking. When it was cooked and drained, I was left with uneven chunks of something resembling cheap chicken breast.

Cooked seitan

I tried a bit to eat and it was essentially flavourless, chewier than tofu, but not as dense as real meat. Still, it wasn’t unpleasant in itself, so I decided to try it in a recipe.

I did a Seitan and whatever veg were in the fridge stir-fry with black bean and hoisin sauce.

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It wasn’t bad. It’s not like eating meat, but it does give you a satisfying mouth-feel that’s all its own. There are far worse meat substitutes out there (Quorn Bacon I’m looking at you) and I’d happily eat it again. It is a bit of a faff to make though, so unless I find somewhere to buy it, it’ll come behind quorn and tofu in my preferences.

MacSween Vegetarian Haggis

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The veggie haggis

A comment on the Guardian food blog introduced me to the concept of Vegetarian Haggis. The commenter recommended it for Christmas Dinner. Well, Christmas is long past, but when I spied <a href="http://www.macsween.co.uk/our-products/macsween-vegetarian-haggis/macsween-vegetarian-serves-2-3/"the MacSween vegetarian haggis in the supermarket, I had to give it a go.

I’ve had the real haggis a few times when I was a meat-eater and enjoyed it. It’s far tastier and nicer than its ingredients suggest it was going to be, so I was intrigued to see how the veggie version was going to stack up against it.

Naked haggis

The instructions with the pack said that it could be microwaved, but you have to take it out of the casing to do so. The texture is quite open and crumbly, but that is true of traditional haggis. It kept in slices when put in the dish and microwaved.

After cooking

It tasted light and savory. The predominant flavour is lentils, with a chewiness provided by the oatmeal and mushrooms. It is softer in texture and far lighter in flavour than the traditional haggis and they went easy with the pepper as well.

Serving suggestion

Served with veggies and gravy it made a satisfying meal.

The MacSween website has a list of recipes for their vegetarian haggis, somehow I feel that Vegetarian Haggis Crostini will remain untested in my household!

Verdict: A tasty and filling ‘nut’ roast. It may well show up at Christmas this year. But it’s not haggis.