I get it – Veganuary can feel like a bit of a drag. For some it’s a challenge – can you really go a whole month without the temptations of animal-based products? For others it’s a way to not just dip their toes in the water but to take the full plunge. And for the rest of us it is – alongside dry January – just a way to make January feel even longer (and it doesn’t need much help in that department).
Rather than giving up on the ‘greens’ altogether though, how about this; cut down, make meat, fish and other animal-based goodness the treat as it always used to be rather than a daily occurrence, and opt instead to go plant-based on your ‘normal’ days. I’m not here to preach or tell anyone what to eat but I do think the world would a little better if people just cut back a little bit here and there. For those who need a meaty fix in their lives, there are of course a plethora of so-called plant-based meat alternatives. I always approach these with a degree of hesitation and for good reason; a lot of them suck. However even I have been surprised, in the best way, by the team at Squeaky Bean – self proclaimed ‘your new sidekick in the kitchen’ – and their plant-based products.
I’m not sure what sorcery they use, but my favourite thing from Squeaky Bean, which launched at the end of last year, is their Cured Meat Style Slices. I know what you’re thinking – how can anything plant-based be as good as fine charcuterie. And I won’t lie, I don't think these are intended to be presented on a platter at a dinner party or draped over nothing but melon or perhaps alongside a morsel of cheese – mainly because I’m still trying to find a good vegan cheese (any suggestions welcome!). But they do make a fine sandwich, there is no denying.
We tried the New Yorker Style Sandwich duo in a bagel, New York style, layered with slaw and pickles and vegan mayo. Yum. The Pastrami-style slices genuinely had a nice herby flavour and the American style cheese, despite being made from coconut, didn’t have that overwhelming coconut back taste that so many have. The only criticism – the cheese kind of evaporated a little bit when popped under the grill for extra gooeyness rather than melting in a wonderful fashion. Maybe don’t make that mistake.
The Spanish Chorizo-style slices have that wonderful paprika pepperiness that you want from your chorizo; what’s more, they don’t leave your hands with a sheen of red grease. Again, these went in a sandwich accompanied by roasted Mediterranean veg, and made a very tasty sarnie indeed. They also have a Milano Salami-Style slice – I didn’t get a chance to try these as they were woolfed down by my partner. However, he seemed to enjoy them so I’ll take that as a third thumbs up.
Squeaky Bean make their vegan options with wheat and tofu, coupled with flavoursome seasonings to give them a realistic texture and high protein content – something that is always important for those who don’t eat meat. Alongside these, they also have ‘chicken style’ pieces in various flavours, a vegan tortilla and are always coming up with new things, so keep your eyes open for Squeaky innovation.
So, perhaps as we head out of the dreaded month where, after the opulence of December, we all feel the need to make a sacrifice and give up our vices, you instead take the positives and see it less as a challenge and more as a way to incorporate the things that are a little better for you into your daily life.
RRP: From £2.50 per pack. Available in Ocado, Sainsbury’s, Asda, Waitrose, Co-Op and Tesco.
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Chatting Food Contributor: Chloe Walden
Chloe has a passion for all things food and drink. Whether that’s getting stuck into cooking a new cuisine in the kitchen, dining out in a new London hot spot, or adding a new tipple to her drinks trolley, her life revolves around what’s next on the menu. On the weekend, you can often find her with a G&T in one hand, and a cookbook in the other.