Every year, people ask me what it is like to have a vegetarian Christmas. What is it like? What do we eat? Do we have a traditional Christmas dinner or something more unusual? The purpose of this post is to illustrate what a typical meal might be for us at Christmas time, although we always eat something different year on year. My Mum always cooks for us, using a combination of recipes she finds leading up to the date and her own inspiration, as well as a few classics which come back time and time again.
Ever since I was a child, I’ve been eating a veggie bean burger from Burger King when we needed fast food. Although it’s not something I do on a regular basis, it is the one option which has been consistent for as long as I can remember. Some fast food outlets will not offer a veggie option at all, and McDonalds have changed from offering a veggie burger, to having nothing at all for a while, to a short-lived wrap, to the new wrap which is now available. Burger King, however, have always had a veggie bean burger – and while it may have changed a little (I’m sure I always used to have one full burger instead of two patties, and there used to be ketchup included), it is something that I know I can rely on if we have to pull into a service station for a meal.
Recently, I spent some time in Budapest, and gathered plenty of information about where you can find the best vegetarian or vegan meals while you are there. This is by no means a comprehensive list, but is based on my own experiences – and I did a lot of research both beforehand and while we were there in order to find the best possible options throughout the week. There is a lot to cover here, so I will get started right away…
The main criticism that I would give is that it was quite dry – I think it really needed a sauce of some kind, perhaps tzatziki or thousand island dressing. The problem is that the houmous just isn’t moist enough to counteract the dryness of the bread and the burger put together, so there is a little something missing there. The texture was fantastic, however, and the rest of the burger was well put together with tastes that fitted and did not have to wrestle with one another for attention too much.
At the start of this year I found myself in Kennwick, Washington, staying in a hotel for the week. I did sample quite a few veggie burgers while I was over there (particularly mushroom burgers, which seem to be very popular in the US – much more so than in the UK), but this was the only one that I have images of, and also the only one that I ate more than once. The hotel we stayed at was the Red Lion, and they had a small bar facility on site which served food, including the veggie burgers which we ate.
One of the staples of the frozen section for vegetarians is Quorn, and although I’ve got a real love/hate relationship with it, I can’t deny that it comes in handy. Living with a meat-eater means that we can compromise by having something that is at least intended to be a bit like meat – and it’s an interesting exercise to see just how closely it hits the mark with someone who knows what it should taste like. For this review I’m looking at their Southern Fried Chicken Burgers, available frozen, which are the kind of thing you’d pick up for a proper burger in a bun or just to eat on the side with fries. The cooking time is around 16 minutes, which is a little better than some burgers from the frozen section, and could make them quite a convenient choice when you’re in a rush. Here’s what the burgers look like frozen, before going into the oven:
This review concerns a burger that I ate quite a while ago now at Ed’s Diner in Norwich while staying there for a short break, so if some of the details are a little vague, hopefully you will forgive me. I do remember one huge point which stuck out to me during even the ordering process and which certainly coloured my experience of the burger right from the get-go: the price. £6.55 for a burger on its own – no fries, no side salad, no drink, nothing but the plate it sits on – seems a bit excessive to me. We aren’t talking about prime Kobe beef here, but a simple Cajun Vegetable burger served with lettuce, tomato, onion, dill pickle, mayonnaise, mild mustard, and a lightly toasted seeded bun. In order to figure all of that out you have to read up and down the menu a few times, too, as the entry for the Cajun Vegetable burger itself unhelpfully describes it simply as “the Original”, meaning you then have to go and read up on that menu item in order to get anywhere.
Recently I ate at The Two Brewers in Hadlow, which is a Harvey and Sons pub. It’s not the kind of place that I would normally choose to go, but a Secret Diner opportunity came up so we decided to give it a chance. First off I’ll apologise for the quality of the images that are included with this article – unfortunately the lighting was so low that my phone camera couldn’t handle it, and as I was trying to be somewhat incognito, flash seemed like a bad idea! On the menu, the burger is listed as the following: “Vegetarian burger in a sesame bap served with straight cut chips, homemade coleslaw & mixed leaf salad”. It only costs £6.95, which isn’t bad for pub food, but when compared to something like the Wetherspoons brand it does seem a bit pricey – particularly after you taste it.
The Pitcher and Piano in Tunbridge Wells is local to me, so I’ve tried most of the vegetarian items on the menu – including, of course, their veggie burger. This happens to be a tomato, houmous, and sweetcorn burger, served with (according to the menu) goat’s cheese rarebit, tomato, lettuce, and Russian dressing. On the occasion I’ll be describing here, I also had pan fried halloumi and chilli oil, as well as a delicious milkshake. The burger on its own costs £8.50, and is served with chunky fries, as you can see below.
Recently I went to Smith & Western in Tunbridge Wells, one of a handful of branches around the area. Of course I had to try their Prairie Meat Free Burger, and here I bring you the results! It costs £11.25 (although you can add extra toppings at a higher price), and is served with house relish as well as your choice of potato product – I went for the curly fries. Strangely, it is served open – although this does make sense as it means that you can put in your relish or other condiments more easily. This is how it was served – I then took out the tomato, added relish, and mayonnaise to the inside of the bun: