Vegan Christmas: Speculoos Cookies from Lidl

Dutch Windmill Cookies as they're sometimes called, or Speculoos as we prefer. Lidl have avoided the German name Spekulatius and gone straight for the rather dull Spiced Biscuits. These are traditional caramelised cinammon biscuits enjoyed at Christmas in the Netherlands, Belgium, France and Germany. Lidl have plain and almond ones on offer and both are vegan this year (not every year). We picked up the almond speculoos:

Vegan Christmas: Fairtrade Pralines at Oxfam

Oxfam vegan pralines dairy-free

Organic, Vegan, Fairtrade and Handmade - pralines from the Christmas range at Oxfam. These could hardly be more removed from the Poundland confectionery we covered yesterday, but then the price is a little different too. Six quid for six. That's the same cost as our entire haul from Poundland. The vegan market is polarised like that...really cheap stuff (with no butter or other 'luxuries'), or really expensive stuff aimed at the discerning shopper. Are they worth the outlay?

Budget Vegan: Christmas at Poundland

Chocolates, Jellies and Wafers, all vegan, all one pound. Welcome to Christmas at the nation's favourite pound shop. Poundland isn't the first place you'd think to look for vegan confectionery at Christmas, but there are bargains to be had there. Our haul comprises three types of jellies, two sorts of choccies and a huge bag of wafers:

Dream Team: Almond / Oat / Rice Dream milks

Rice Dream has been produced since 1971 and is still unbeaten as the best rice milk available. It now has some younger siblings in the form of Oat Dream and Almond Dream. The Dream brand (Hain Celestial) doesn't have quite the same penetration in the UK as Alpro does, and we had to order these milks online. Tesco list Oat Dream on their website, but it isn't available at the moment. Having got our hands on them, are the oat and almond milks just as good as the rice milk?

Review: Alpro Almond and Hazelnut Milks

Nut milks from dairy-free market leader Alpro. Plant-milks made from nuts have been around for years, but only recently has the market for them taken off. Alpro arrived late to the party, but with their huge brand name and supermarket presence they are sure to make an impact. Their almond and hazelnut milks even launched with a major poster campaign.

Roving Review: Razzle Dazzle Ice Cream

The last of our WMVF reviews is South-West independent vegan ice cream makers Razzle Dazzle. Their vegan ice cream is not available in our part of the country so we took the opportunity to sample three flavours at their stall in Wolverhampton last week. The flavours we sampled were Coconilla, Cookie Dough and Hintamint:

Profile: Hannah Banana Bakery

Award-winning one-woman vegan bakery. When Hannah Banana Bakery was announced as the winner of Best Vegan Cakes at this year's UK Vegan Awards last Saturday, there was a huge cheer. This wasn't just because host presenter Dominic Berry was whipping up the crowd, but was a genuine celebration of the achievements of a single-handed champion vegan baker:

Congratulations: Winners of the UK Vegan Awards

Dominic Berry announces the results of the Vegan Awards at WMVF

The results are finally out. Winners of this year's UK Vegan Awards were announced at the West Midlands Vegan Festival last Saturday and published in full today.

The UK Vegan Awards are an opportunity to recognise and celebrate the products, places, companies, organisations and campaign groups that make a real difference to veganism, animals and the planet.


Best vegan chocolate
Booja Booja -

Best vegan footwear
Vegetarian Shoes -

Best vegan catering service

Best online vegan recipe guide
Mouthwatering Vegan Recipes -

Best vegan cheese

Best animal rights campaign group
Animal Equality -

Best supermarket for vegan products
Sainsbury's -

Best vegan cakes

Best vegan meat

Most animal/vegan friendly environmental organisation
Greenpeace -

Best vegan bodycare products

Best vegan cafe/restaurant
inSpiral, Camden -

Best national vegan awareness raising organisation
The Vegan Society -

Best vegan milk
Alpro -

Best vegan product/company/service not nominated elsewhere
Sweet Vegan -

Review: Barrow Boys Potato Crisps

Vegan Cheese & Onion and 5 other flavours. We finally got our hands on Barrow Boys vegan crisps at WMVF after having chased them since August. Barrow Boys promised to ship us some for review but they never arrived (never mind guys, we forgive easily with a pack of vegan cheese and onion in hand). Ethical Treats were able to supply us with all the flavours except Bombay Spice...that's Simply Salted, Salt & Vinegar, Sweet & Sour, Hickory BBQ and of course...Cheese & Onion:

Review: Shambhu's Cheesecakes

Another one from our #WMVF haul...vegan cheesecake from Shambhu's. We've been waiting a while to get our hands on these so we were glad to see them on the One Earth Shop's stall. There are three flavours available - mixed berry, choc orange and mint-choc chip. We picked up the mixed berry initially...intending to go back for the others:

Review: Daisys Marshmallows (coconut malibu)

Daisys Vegan Marshmallows

Part of our WMVF hoard was a tub of Daisys vegan marshmallows in Coconut & Malibu flavour. That flavour description was all we needed to hand over our cash and squirrel these away for review. Daisys is an artisan producer of gelatine-free marshmallows run by Lynda Marshall who sells the marshmallows to raise funds for animal rescue:

Liveblog: West Midlands Vegan Festival

WMVF West Midlands Vegan Festival 2012 - Wolves Civic

The sun always shines on vegan festivals this year and #WMVF is no exception. The atmosphere here in Wolverhampton is great, and that's just the queue to get in! We're outside the beautiful Wolves Civic building which is glistening in the autumn sunshine.

New Vegan Biscuits: Maryland Snapjacks Review

Burtons Maryland Snapjacks Biscuits are vegan

Vegans can't eat Maryland Cookies, but we can indulge in their new stablemates... Maryland Snapjacks. It's a sad fact that the choc chips in Burton's Maryland Cookies are actually dairy-free, but the biscuits themselves contain whey powder. Not so with these new Snapjacks, which are crunchy dunking style biscuits, perfect to accompany a lovely brew (that's a cup of tea...for US readers...):

Vegan Version: Yuba Mayo (Tuna Mayo)

Yuba Mayo (Vegan Tuna Mayo)

The Veganizer in action: fish-free but flaky, oily, meaty and delicious. If you've ever bought one of those cans of tinned yuba (soybean skins) and looked at the recipe on the back, you might have tried this before. If not, you'll also need some nori (seaweed), some lemon juice, sea salt and some egg-free mayo:

After Party: West Midlands Vegan Festival

This Saturday: #WMVF and After Party
Not content with running one of the biggest vegan festivals in the UK this year, the WMVF organisers are holding a 7 hour, 10 live band after-party that kicks off the minute the festival closes. The party will offer a vegan food menu for those who haven't completely stuffed their faces throughout the rest of the day:

Review: Lazy Day Vegan Tray-Bakes

Lazy Days Free-From Tray-Bakes vegan cakes

Gluten-free, dairy-free tray-bake cakes from Scottish producer Lazy Days. We only recently discovered the chocolate ginger version of these tray-bakes and thought it was a good opportunity to review the range together. The headline grabber has to be the caramel shortbread a.k.a millionaire's shortbread with that still rare sight...vegan caramel. 

Budget Vegan: Aldi Soya Milk Review

Aldi Soya Delight Soya Milk

Can 59p Soya Milk be any good? Times are hard, money's tight, but you may have been put off cheap soya milk from a bad experience. There was a time when budget soya milk was a definite mistake - gritty, beany, watery concoctions. These days the 'value range' soya milks taste pretty good, and we were surprised how good "Soya Delight" was from Aldi:

Review: Aldi Choceur Mint Chocolate Thins

Aldi Choceur Mint Chocolate Thins are vegan

Vegan after-dinner mint chocolate thins. Alternatives to Nestlé's After Eights are plentiful and many are dairy-free too, but few are actually thin. We were surprised to find these budget mint thins from Aldi are one of the best options around....being both thin, and great tasting too:

5 products that give vegan food a bad name

The worst vegan food product EVER was Plamil Veeze - a late 1980s vegan cheese spread that came in a glass jar and consisted of margarine, soya flour and vinegar...or something like that. It was revolting in a way that's hard to describe, with the taste of smelly feet and the texture of wood filler. The worst thing about it was that it gave vegan food a bad name. We were reminded of Veeze when we bought another Plamil product this week:

Review: Aldi 'Dairyfine' Chocolate Bars

Aldi Dairyfine Vegan Chocolate

Dairy-free chocolate from budget supermarket Aldi. It's quite odd to name your entire chocolate range 'Dairyfine' as if somehow chocolate and dairy products are inseparable, but that's Aldi for you. We vegans like our chocolate without the cow juice, so it's just as well that Aldi make a large range of dark chocolate without so much as a drop of milk fat in it. These two bars of plain dark and mint creme chocolate offer great value for money too:

Gluten-Free Vegan Kids: Orgran Itsy Bitsy Bears

Orgran itsy bitsy bears vegan biscuits

Aussie gluten-free specialists Orgran make a dozen or so products aimed at kids, from pasta to cookies to breakfast cereal. Their itsy bitsy bear biscuits have been on the market for a few years now, but they're not widely stocked in shops so unless you order online you may not have seen them. Like all Orgran products they are vegan and yeast-free, and like much of their range these are nut-free too. They do have lots of lovely stuff in there though, including 14% chocolate chips:

Review: Sainsbury's Vegan Cake Sprinkles

Review: Sainsbury's Vegan Cake Sprinkles

A couple of vegan options for sprinkling your vegan cakes with. Most cake decorations contain animal products in one form or another, from gelatin to cochineal, shellac to beeswax. These ones from Sainsbury's are free from all of that stuff. The vegan sprinkles at Sainsbury's are the Sugar Stars and the Eric & Erica Sprinkles (elephant shapes):

VEGANWURST: Wheaty Toro Sausages Review (Weenies)

Topas Wheaty ToRo vegan sausages

Four fat sausages sizzling in a pan... Fantastic vegan sausages from German firm Topas, sold under their Wheaty label. These Toro sausages are a mix of tofu and wheat protein and that makes them rather special because the texture is just right. The German word 'knackig' best describes these little beauties. Knackig translates as 'crispy/crunchy' but also 'luscious' and that's the perfect description for these sausages:

Vegan Beer Review: Nottingham Beer Festival

Vegan Beers at the Nottingham Beer Festival

We got half way through the 14 vegan beers on offer at the Nottingham beer festival before running out of drinking time. 14 vegan beers is almost a vegan beer festival in itself and it's great to see so many of them actually labelled as vegan on the barrels. If you're at the Nottingham Beer Festival tonight or tomorrow night, the vegan options are: 025, 053, 054, 055, 316, 347, 485, 527, 531, 808, 812, 1008, 1009, 1029. Here's what we thought of the 7 beers we tried:

Review: Celtic Choices Chocolate Orange Bar

Celtic Choices Choc 'n' Orange Bar is vegan

Fantastic vegan faux-milk choc 'n' orange bar. We've reviewed Celtic chocolate previously and we're big fans of their faux milk chocolate which is really smooth and creamy. Celtic have now extended their Choices free-from range to include chocolate bars and chocolate buttons. This chocolate orange bar is the closest vegan alternative to that classic Terry's Chocolate Orange taste (that sadly isn't vegan even though they make a dark chocolate version). 

Suffering Scoreboard: Vegetarians -vs- Vegans

Vegetarians vs Vegans Animal Suffering Scoreboard
Vegetarians have more in common with meat eaters than vegans, so why are they so often grouped together? On the scale of animal suffering, vegetarians do badly. Animals are not saved from slaughter by being vegetarian... cows and chickens are still killed when they stop being productive, it's just that vegetarians don't eat their flesh.

Review: The Raw Chocolate Co choccy bars

The Raw Chocolate Company Vegan Chocolate Bars

More from the Raw Chocolate Company after our review of their chocolate covered berries. A selection of dairy-free mini bars in an unusual range of flavours. Rich cocoa packed Pitch Dark at one end of the spectrum through to sweet caramel Vanoffe at the other. All of it raw and some of the bars sugar-free too:

Next Year: Vegfest 2013 Dates Announced

Bristol Vegfest 2012

Brighton and Bristol Vegfest dates have been revealed for next year. The UK's biggest vegan festivals will be held in Brighton in March, and Bristol in May.

The dates for the VegfestUK shows in 2013 are as follows:

Brighton - March 16th 17th - website now live

Bristol - May 24th 25th 26th - website now live

Review: The Raw Chocolate Co chocolate berries

Organic vegan dried fruits covered in raw chocolate.

Appearances can be deceptive. Some vegan foods can look quite 'worthy', and that was our first thought on opening up these packs of dried fruits. These various berries are covered in chocolate and then dusted in cocoa, but they do look like a bit like animal droppings. Luckily for us, they actually taste fantastic:

This Month: West Midlands Vegan Festival

West Midlands Vegan Festival
It's October already and that means it's only a few short weeks until this year's bigger and better West Midlands Vegan Festival takes place in Wolverhampton. The festival has expanded again and will now take place in two large halls, with 6 smaller rooms for talks and demos. Upwards of 2000 people are expected to attend and we'll be there to bring you news and photos from the event.