It seems that each month there's an announcement from a large chain about a new vegan product that's being released. It’s so exciting to see so many big brands supporting plant-based diets! This month, Marks and Spencer released their new vegan food range called Plant Kitchen, with more than 50 new vegan options. This range spans the full spectrum, including on the go foods such as the Sweet Biryani Wrap or the Roasted Vegetables & Avocado Sandwich, as well as meal components like tofu, burger patties or fishcakes, and entire ready meals like their Mushroom Stroganoff and their Margherita Pizza. It’s always so positive to see big brands recognising the growing vegan movement and providing so many convenient options for us. We’ve seen the market change so much in our time as vegans and now with options such as Plant Kitchen, making the move to a vegan diet is becoming a much less daunting task. We’ve seen the Plant Kitchen range posted online all over the place recently, so with all this buzz building on social media we had to head over to our local M&S and see what all the noise was about.
We walked into M&S and found a well stocked and easily recognisable shelf dedicated to the Plant Kitchen range. We wanted to try out a variety of different options they have so decided on two meal components, the Fishless Fishcakes (£3.20) and the No Pork Sausoyages (£3.20), and two larger meals, Cashew Mac (£3.00) and Mushroom Pie (£2.00).
To start we had the No Pork Sausoyges (top marks for whoever came up with that pun) as part of a full English breakfast. We’ve just come back from our trip to Mexico and have been craving some British food. We had them with toast, beans, avocado, mushrooms and tomatoes. They fit in perfectly as part of this ensemble. My favourite thing about them would be the texture, they were firm and springy. This is something I immediately noticed when I went to cut into one. This is helped because much like a pork sausage they have a ‘skin’ surrounding the filling. It’s just a little extra addition that is missing from a Linda McCartney sausage for instance. I think because of this ‘skin’ the Sausoyges would stand up better on a BBQ than other brands. As for the taste, the flavours were quite subtle and maybe could’ve done with some extra seasoning. Perhaps in the future, it would be nice to see an extension to the range with additional flavourings added into them, much like (to use the comparison again) the Linda McCarney Red Onion and Rosemary sausages. Overall I wouldn’t walk the extra distance to get these over what my local Tesco stocks, however, if it were summer and I had been invited to a BBQ I would see if I could take a route that passed an M&S to pick these up, as I think they'd make great hot dogs!
Next, we tested out the Mushroom Pie for lunch. I made up some lemony mash and some minty peas to accompany it. I was much more impressed by the pie than I was with the Sausoyages. I think I would even say that I enjoyed this the most out of everything we tried from the Plant Kitchen range. The mushroom filling had a really deep and rich flavour and the pastry was lovely and crumbly. This is quite a nostalgic dish for me, especially the pastry, as it reminds me of dinners my mum used to make for the family. The only thing that I felt didn’t live up to expectations was that the pie seemed a little under filled. To see the top caving in slightly when I got it out the packet was a little disappointing. I would note that it might look a little small at first but in reality, it is quite a large meal, especially when eaten with the mash and peas. I'm definitely glad we shared one between the two of us.
For dinner one evening we tried the Fishless Fishcakes with a simple side salad of green leaves, carrot, cucumber and some peas. The fishcakes, much like the Sausoyages, had a nice texture to them but were lacking in the flavour department. It seemed to me that there was a lot of low flavour filling such as whole beans. It was a little surprising to find whole pinto beans in the fishcakes, but I think this is actually what made the texture work so well. For my taste, I would have liked them to add in a few more capers and gherkins to try and push that fishy taste-of-the-sea flavour even more. I think in the future I would try to make up a vegan tartare sauce to help jazz it up a bit. However, it’s refreshing to see vegan fish cakes as an option in a larger store as it makes a great change from all of the burger patties and falafel that are offered all over the place.
The last dish we tasted was the Cashew Mac. It was really lovely and creamy and had a very distinct taste of mushrooms. If you aren’t a fan of mushrooms, then you won’t be a fan of this mac and cheese. Luckily I love mushrooms. The Cashew Mac was full of flavour, the cheese sauce is lovely and rich which is only added to by the salty deep flavours from the mushrooms on the crust. I did think that the pasta was a little overcooked and mushy, but it’s incredibly hard to make a pasta ready meal where this won't happen. I think for such a simple meal, I would be more likely to make this at home myself rather than purchase this as a ready meal. As a positive, for the price this was quite a large portion and seeing as it’s mac and cheese, having it on its own seemed more of an option. Rather than a full meal, this would also make a great side dish to share with 2 or 3 others.
We really enjoyed a lot of what we tried from the Plant Kitchen range, and are looking forward to trying out some of their other dishes. I would say though that perhaps these aren’t replacements for when you have time to make a home-cooked meal. If I had the time and didn’t feel like cooking, I would always look to get something from one of my favourite take outs as a special treat. Instead, I think these meals are more for those times when you are in a hurry. I always seem to find an M&S conveniently located at a train station or a motorway services, and I think these products are perfect in those sorts of situations. If you are coming home from a long journey and just want something sorted without having to shell out the cost for a full takeaway, for just £2 to £3 these ready meals are a perfect option. I definitely think they are a positive step in the right direction, and it's brilliant to see M&S stepping up to the plate with their new Plant Kitchen range.
Have any of you tried the Plant Kitchen range from Marks and Spencers? We’d love to know what you thought of it, leave us a comment below, or find us on social media.