I’m sure that you, my fellow vegans (or vegan-curious) will not need me to tell you about the new Marks and Spencer Food range: PLANT KITCHEN. I’m actually very fond of the name they’ve chosen here; I think they’ve cleverly avoided the (still) somewhat stigmatized label of “vegan” though I hope that the tide is turning where such presuppositions are concerned… M&S has rebranded some of its previously splendid vegan-friendly offerings like the chick’n pieces and the tofu, and now the range has expanded to include more goodies than I can realistically mention here.
However, in order that I didn’t have to wrap my head around the extraordinarily large choice available to me, the M&S folks got in touch and offered to hand over a box of samples, and of course I said yes ruddy please and pottered over to my local M&S food outlet to collect a nice little package of goodies. Thank you M&S folks!
Here I’ll talk through some of the items we tried, and let you know what both I (a vegan of 11+ years) and N (a pescatarian of about a year) thought of them.
First up we tackled the Sweet Potato Falafels with a Cashew nut and Cannellini dip, alongside the Mexican Supergrains salad AND A GREGG’S SAUSAGE ROLL DON’T JUDGE OKAY.
The falafel was perfectly yummy, if a known quantity, but the delicious creamy dip really sets it aside from other off-the-shelf falafels out there. I, the woman who cannot happily digest kidney beans, was thrilled to see there were none in the Mexican supergrains salad. Just black beans, lots of healthy grains, and a whole load of yumminess. Call me a philistine if you will, but the Gregg’s sausage roll was a perfect accompaniment to the falafel and salad. Talk about fusion.
Once we’d polished off the healthy option, we decided to try some of the very delicious looking junk food options. YES. I’m afraid that the No-Pork Sausoyges are not pictured here as we guzzled them for breakfast in bed one morning. We were highly impressed with the texture and ‘skin’ of these sausages and I can’t wait to try them on a BBQ come summer. The taste is peppery, but not too strong, equally not very “sausagey” (as I recall them) but they are absolutely top notch in terms of appearance and I hope M&S will continue to tweak the recipe, or, better yet, introduce a few more varieties!
We turned next to the No-Beef Burgers, which looked mightily impressive in their packaging. We chose to serve these with tomato, avocado, and fried onions. We chose the ever-classy option of crinkle-cut chips on the side. Yes, I am five years old.
These burgers were DEElicious and a very impressive contender for the ever-more-popular ‘bleeding’ veggie burger. Once again I am absolutely DYING in anticipation of BBQ season this year, and I think I’ll be splashing out on a new barbecue just so I can do all these new fake meats justice.
Finally, we moved onto a couple of items I was very excited to try. The BBQ Jackfruit pizza, and the Dirty Fries.
I was super impressed with the stonebaked-ness of the pizza. The jackfruit was wonderfully seasoned and the cheese was entirely delicious. It’s been a long time since us vegans have had a (mainstream) supermarket pizza option we can simply take home and throw in the oven, but even if this weren’t so exciting due to its rarity, this would still be an objectively tasty pizza. Sure, it isn’t a Pizza Hut deep-pan carb-fest, but for everything there is a season my friends, and sometimes a nice crispy stonebaked base is just the ticket.
I regret bitterly that I did not photograph the dirty fries, because no words could really do justice to their perfection. To create a chilled (not frozen) dish capable of producing CRISPY CHIPS at the same time smothered in delightful TOMATO AND CHEESE GOO is a feat that impresses me greatly. I cannot gush about the dirty fries enough. Buy them. Eat them. Light a candle at your altar to the Vega Overlords and pray for the day we vegans can buy Findus crispy pancakes as well.
Finally, we also gave the very exciting Popcorn Cauliflower a go. This is definitely a side dish for two as there aren’t a great many pieces in the box, but along with the not-too-spicy buffalo dip and a deliciously herby crispy crumb, these were excellent and I will definitely purchase again.
In all, I enjoyed all the Plant Kitchen offerings and I’ve already made repeated purchase of a few of these items. It’s a strange feeling after all these years being able to wander into a supermarket at entirely short notice and pick up ready meals for dinner when I don’t fancy cooking. My only complaint is that the range does seem to be packaged in an awful lot of plastic for the most part. I’m not entirely sure how one could avoid this and still produce oven-friendly trays/sleeves, but I for one would be happy to decant into an oven dish of my own if I knew that I could recycle the packaging. Perhaps that’s one for the future!
Have you sampled the Plant Kitchen range yet? Do you have any firm favourites?