What better way to keep the Veganuary vibes going on into the rest of the year, than by reviewing *and* giving away some of the best vegan ‘meats’ and ‘cheeses’ going? And just for good measure, there are some hints and tips at the bottom of this post for those of you who have recently switched to a vegan lifestyle.
Let’s start with a big shout out to Yumbles for facilitating this whole thing. If you aren’t familiar with them, here’s what you need to know: Yumbles is a website that sells all manner of food and drinks from independent producers around the UK. They have an amaaaaaaaaaaazing selection of vegan stuff, which is updated all the time, and if you’re ever stuck on what to buy me for my birthday or Christmas, please be advised that there are plenty of vegan gifts from Yumbles that will do the trick. M’kay?
They have vegan meats, cheeses, chocolates, cakes and all kinds of other stuff that should solve any cravings you have but can’t quite find the answer to. So when they got in touch and asked if I’d like to try out anything they had to offer, obviously – OBVIOUSLY – I said yes. And I asked them to give me a bit extra for you lot too, as a special Veganuary treat. Yep. The giveaway is now closed, but read on for product reviews!
Sgaia Mheat: The low-down
Don’t worry if you had to Google the pronunciation, I did too. Sgaia (Sgah-ee-ah) is a Venetian word meaning a positive and versatile person, according to the company’s Italian founders. Fitting then, as a name for an excellent vegan ‘meat’ company who prove that animal-free eating doesn’t have to be about beans and veg all the time.
The Mheat range includes vegan versions of things like bacon, steaks, burgers, and charcuterie meats. At least three of those four are things that historically, veggie food brands have done very, very, very badly. Thankfully, it looks like Sgaia are set to turn that bad track record around – and I’ve got a whole spare taster pack of their goodies to give away.
I was pretty sure I’d crossed paths with Sgaia’s vegan bacon before, at The Plasterer’s Arms in Norwich who do a solid vegan fry up – and I was right. This is the only fake bacon I would suggest a herbivore bother with: I have sampled many, and I’m sorry to say that most fake bacon is absolute trash. Not this stuff though.
The Mheat rashers come as four wide slices, which can be split into eight smaller rashers if you’d prefer. They’re smokey, salty and just the right texture to mimic the real thing – meaning that as well as cooked breakfasts, you can also include Sgaia’s rashers in carbonara sauce (chopped into small chunks) or use them to cook brussels sprouts for a roast dinner the ‘traditional’ way.
Sgaia’s vegan steaks
According to the description, Sgaia’s 150g vegan steaks can feed 2-3 people, depending on what you’re doing with them. I mean, I just wanted to eat mine like it was an actual steak. Ergo, I say that one steak = one person. The end.
You can get Mheat steaks in original, smoked flavour or hot chilli flavour – and having now tried all three, I can tell you that while they’re all good, the smoked flavour is the stand-out winner.
They only take 3-5 minutes to fry in a pan, and where the hot chilli steak has a standard seitan initial flavour followed by a spicy kick, the smoked Mheat steaks have a consistent flavour and are much more meat-esque on the tongue.
The texture is different enough from actual steak that you’re not going to think you’ve accidentally picked up the real thing, but these are tasty and filling, and a great, quick weeknight protein fix. The packaging says there’s 72% of your daily protein intake in 100g of this stuff, so eat the whole thing and you’re basically set.
You get two packs of charcuterie Mheat in the taster boxes from Yumbles, and can choose from Herbed Roast, Spack, Hot Chilli Salamino, and Pastramheat.
Our flavours were the Salamino and the Herbed Roast, and they’re both really tasty morsels. We ate ours charcuterie style, as cold cuts with stuffed olives and sliced vegan cheese, but the salamino is very much like a classy, spicy pepperoni and would be the absolute bomb on a homemade pizza. Next time I eat this, it’s going to be with sliced jalapenos on a stonebaked pizza base. Fact.
The herbed roast is definitely made to be eaten in a gourmet sandwich, coming in super-thin beef-like slices that deserve to be consumed within crusty sourdough or a decent ciabatta. Mustard mayo and a bit of salad on there, and you’ll be living the dream. The herbs are Mediterranean-style, so the roast slices would also be killer with sundried tomatoes and olive tapenade, if that floats your boat. MmmHmm.
Juicy vegan burgers
So this was a novel bit of food sampling; Sgaia’s Mheat burgers aren’t your standard faux beef or faux chicken fare. On the contrary.
The taster box contained an Aromatico burger and a Fragrante burger, which are both full of more interesting flavours than you might expect. The Aromatico is a sun-dried tomato and herb number, while the Fragrante was a bit tagine-like with its sweet and savoury combination of peaches, cinnamon and rosemary.
Yes. Peaches. And cinnamon. In a burger. It sounds like it would be awful, doesn’t it? But it actually totally works. That said, if I was having these again I wouldn’t pair them up with fries and onion rings – these are calling out for a side of Vitalite-laden new potatoes and some fresh veg, I think. It’s how I imagine burgers taste if you eat at fancy restaurants instead of takeaways.
Bourgeoisie burgers, rather than prole patties, is what I’ll be calling these.
The Tyne Chease range
Next up: Tyne Chease. Vegan cheese is a hard thing to pull off, and I tend to stick to things like Applewood’s Smoked Vegan cheese or Sainsbury’s garlic and herb cream ‘cheese’, where the addition of an obvious flavour ensures that the vegan version tastes just like the real thing. There are definitely far more bad, smelly vegan cheeses out there than there are great ones.
I’ve had the pleasure of eating Tyne Chease before, because Tofurei in Norwich stock a tonne of it in both block and cream cheese form. It’s not exactly cheap, but it’s a nice payday treat and a brilliant vegan gift idea. If you’ve just gone vegan, it’s also one of the only things you’re going to want to spread all over a cracker and devour, for now.
The selection boxes you can buy on Yumbles include miniature versions of 10 different hard Tyne Cheases:
- Ethiopian Spice,
- Za’atar Spice,
- Sundried Tomato,
- Pink Peppercorn and
They’re all made with cashew nuts, which gives them a rich and creamy consistency that I can’t get enough of. I still love the garlic and the smoked varieties the most, but there is no bad choice in this selection.
As I just got the one taster box of these and I hadn’t tried half of them myself, five of these delicious morsels are going into the giveaway. The other five are mine. Not even sorry. (I am a little sorry)
You can win the original, garlic, smoked, sundried tomato and chive, while I’m over here professionally tasting the spiced cheeses, truffle cheese and the dill one. These are all very much cheeseboard cheeses / cracker cheeses, which is very rare for vegan fromage. Don’t waste them by burying the flavour in a sandwich, whatever you do!
How to enter the giveaway (closed)
Congratulations to Lynne and Leo who won the taster pack of Mheat produce (containing burgers, steaks, charcuterie meats and bacon) and mini Tyne Cheases!
This competition has now closed.
Tips and pointers for going (and staying) vegan
The lovely lot at Yumbles suggested I share my infinite wisdom with you all (or something like that) so before you go, here are my top four pointers for newbie vegans.
1. Go easy on yourself – and on other people
Whether you’re switching from meat eater to vegan or vegetarian to vegan, realistically, there are going to be times to begin with when you really crave something that involves animal products. There’ll probably also be times you accidentally eat something you’re trying to avoid without realising it. If you have a slip up, it’s not the end of the world! Take it slow, keep aiming higher, and don’t beat yourself up for mistakes while you’re adjusting to a whole new diet and lifestyle.
Equally, and I hope it doesn’t need saying, but try and avoid going all angry militant vegan at friends and family who haven’t yet decided to make the switch like you. Whether you’re coming at veganism from an animal welfare or environmental standpoint, or both, it can be frustrating having conversations with people who Just Don’t Get It. You don’t win anybody over by playing holier than thou, so my advice is to play nice; as somebody somewhere once said, don’t hate – educate.
2. Follow pages like Accidentally Vegan and Vegan Food UK
When it comes to finding awesome new products in supermarkets, in restaurants and online, Instagram’s Accidentally Vegan and Facebook’s groups like Vegan Food UK are really useful resources. People from all over the place share their latest discoveries and news of new releases, and you can see honest peer reviews of whether each item is worth your while.
There are so many products I see on those pages that I take it for granted other people know about, and actually if you aren’t keeping an eye out, you can miss raaaaaaaad new bits and pieces (as well as finding out that things you’ve always bought are actually vegan – like most bacon crisps, Mr Kipling Apple & Blackcurrant pies, and Tesco dark chocolate digestives…)
3. ‘May contain’ warnings are irrelevant, unless you have an allergy
I know a lot of new vegans see ‘may contain traces of milk and eggs’ etc on packaging and think ah sh*t, I can’t have that. But unless you have an allergy and really can’t risk it, I wouldn’t bother worrying about the faint trace possibility that an otherwise vegan product, made in a factory near non-vegan things, carries that warning. If none of the listed ingredients are animal products, go eat! It’s just the manufacturer covering their back.
4. Watch out for milk powder in places you’d never expect
Milk, in my salt and vinegar crisps?? Why?? Who came up with that stupid idea? An allergy warning saying my bottle of wine contains egg??
Honestly, the mind boggles at how and why some animal products end up in our food, but the first few months of being vegan are going to involve a lot of reading the back of packets. Heck, I don’t know if it ever ends. Just double check things even if they seem obvious, because you never know when some big, bold allergen font will rear its ugly head.
Anyway, this concludes another gargantuan post. A huge thanks to Yumbles, Sgaia and Tyne Chease for gifting such wonderful products to review, and for enabling me to give away such a great haul to one of you lucky lot!
Let me know any of your own tips for new vegans in the comments below!