Plant power: Eight vegan meals put to the taste test

Plant power: Eight vegan meals put to the taste test

World Vegan Day on Friday celebrates animal-free food and clothing. While researching vegan options in Cork city, the wide variety on offer — cappuccinos, lattés and hot chocolates, milk substitutes such as oat, coconut, and soya alternatives — suggests huge demand.

There is a difference on menus and supermarket shelves since our first vegan survey last January, when I was hard pushed to find more than eight that tasted well. Some supermarkets have failed to embrace the concept in any interesting way, so if a dish wasn’t clearly labelled vegan, we didn’t buy it.

In adjusting to less/no meat or dairy, we need to be careful about nutrition, so we looked for high protein content. If we are not satisfied from meal to meal we end up snacking. It’s better to encourage children to drink high-protein, inexpensive milk, and continue to avoid fizzy drinks which lack nutritional value and damage teeth.

In the strict vegan diet, the cheapest and wholesome form of protein — eggs — is excluded. But I will continue to champion a fried egg or omelette as the best instant food. Going vegan doesn’t have to cost the earth. Baked beans on toast is a nutritious alternative to vegan pizzas.

I am wary of the source of GM soya in cheap alternatives. Hopefully, England’s soya crop will increase and we can have closer scrutiny.

Centra Inspired By Cauliflower & Chickpea Dahl with basmati rice 450g €5

Plant power: Eight vegan meals put to the taste test

Good, separate rice is a foil for tasty cauliflower, chickpeas, lentil and split peas, punctuated with cherry tomatoes and baby spinach. The creaminess from coconut milk calms the spices for a well-balanced and smooth finish. A big hit with tasters. Protein 17g, fats 15g are fair proportions. Serves one. Made in Ireland.

Score: 9

Quay Co-Op Sag Aloo 420g €3.95

Plant power: Eight vegan meals put to the taste test

Potatoes, spinach, bok choy, onions, garlic, ginger, spices, coconut, fresh coriander, lime juice, cumin, coriander, garam masala and turmeric combine to provide a comforting dish with interesting soft textures and flavours.

No nutritional values given, but no worries about fats. There are no forms of secondary protein — beans, lentils — but the decent thick slices of potato are satisfying. Plenty for one in another top scorer.

Score: 9

Marks & Spencer Plant Kitchen Lasagne 400g €4.70

Plant power: Eight vegan meals put to the taste test

This divided tasters, particularly at first as the texture of the sauce was silky but didn’t bubble or brown like a cheese topping would. However, the overall flavours which included a mushroom stock rich in umami savouriness won them over.

The ragu made from soya protein and tomato also took some getting used to. Protein content is a good 21.2g with 7.6g fat per pack. Made in Britain.

Score: 6.75

Tesco Plant Chef Triple Bean Chilli 400g €3

Plant power: Eight vegan meals put to the taste test

A tomato-flavoured sauce had plenty of substantial cannellini, red kidney and butter beans, with decent chunks of butternut squash, flavoured (though not enough) with garlic, coriander, cumin and a hit of jalapeno chilli. Tasters thought the slightly watery texture was like a good soup. Protein good enough at 12.5g and 6.7g fat per pack.

Score: 6.75

My Goodness Mezze €6.50

Plant power: Eight vegan meals put to the taste test

This stall in the English and several markets around Cork was ahead of the vegan curve. Delicious tastes and textures blend well. Vegetable crackers (not crisp) have sunflower and flax seeds to spread with red and green patés made from seeds and flavoured with tomato, smoked paprika/seasonal greens.

Pickled cabbage and daikon, falafel made from raw beetroot add to a superbly wide range of nutrients. Excellent. Good with the stall’s kombucha.

Score: 9

Maki Sushi Rolls €4 each

Plant power: Eight vegan meals put to the taste test

A visually appetising range of four sushi rolls each cut into four in this newly extended English Market stall in Cork. Avocado provides a creamy contrast (and minimal protein) to bright cucumber, spinach, red cabbage, carrots and tahini. The Nori seaweed has plenty of micronutrients,

so a light, healthy option, but, as with many rice dishes, not likely to sustain you for many hours. The eight year old wanted more. Low calories a plus.

Score: 9

Bombay Pantry Goan Vegan Curry with Pulau Rice 450g €4.79

Plant power: Eight vegan meals put to the taste test

The spiciest of the curries, the tomato base has sweet potato, onion, coconut milk, chickpeas, red pepper, shards of kale, garlic, spices, including strong chilli, with basmati rice nicely flavoured with more spices. Protein is a decent 11.25g per pack with 23g fat. The most adventurous liked it. Made in Co Wicklow. We bought in Tesco.

Score: 8

Vegetalia Basmati Rice with Curry 285g €5

Plant power: Eight vegan meals put to the taste test

Curry sauce is made from soya protein in quite toothsome bites like gnarled beef which were satisfying to one taster. Most of the ingredients are organic — rice milk, chickpeas, tomato, coconut milk, onion, coconut oil, rice flour, ginger, coriander, garlic and spices. The overall effect was popular with the tasters who don’t particularly like curry. Protein at 9.97g is fair, fat 13.7g. Made in Spain, we bought in Dunnes Stores.

Score: 6.5

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