A meat free barbecue with Quorn

Burger and sausageA couple of weeks ago, I was invited to a barbecue by Quorn. As it’s still early days for ‘It’s not easy being greedy’ in terms of making friends with brands and PRs, I’ll pretty much go to the opening of an envelope if it’s food related, so I accepted the invitation despite the fact that I have never eaten Quorn and have never had any desire to do so.

There are a few reasons why Quorn has never appealed to me: primarily because I heard it is derived from a type of fungus, and mushrooms are also a type of fungus, and I hate mushrooms (stellar logic there, I am sure you will agree). Secondly, I heard that the texture of Quorn is a bit like tofu, which I am not fond of. Thirdly – and perhaps the main reason – Andrew cannot understand the point of a meal if it doesn’t contain a hefty portion of meat or fish (preferably meat) and refuses to entertain the idea of a vegetarian meal. Even when we used to have our dear, staunchly vegetarian friends Bree and Noah over to visit (although Bree has since fallen off the wagon since their son Woody became a sausage-addict), Andrew insisted that I cook a piece of meat for his plate. The baby.

However, there’s no denying that lots of people are big fans of Quorn, including my friend Tracie who eats Quorn pepper steak for dinner every single night (I’d like to say I am exaggerating about that, but I am not – she really does have it for dinner every night). So, whilst the prospect of a free barbecue was particularly appealing, I was genuinely interested to find out a bit more about the Quorn product range, and try it for myself.

PimmsJo from Alphabet Adventures came with me, and when we arrived at the barbecue (in the beer garden of a lovely little pub in Fulham), we were greeted with jugs of Pimms and canapes of Quorn cocktail sausages and party eggs (like scotch eggs but smaller and with egg mayonnaise inside instead of a whole egg).

So we got munching for research purposes, and I am pretty sure that I wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between a Quorn party egg and one made with meat, as the texture and taste are probably identical. If anything, I’d say that the Quorn version probably has more flavour as the ones we tried were very herby and tasty.

I wasn’t so keen on the cocktail sausages, which had a very smooth texture inside. I like sausages which have a coarse and meaty texture, and you are never going to get that with Quorn. Saying that, they weren’t bad, and again were strongly flavoured with pepper and herbs.

bbqMoving on to the barbecue, we were offered a choice of burgers or hotdogs. Naturally I chose one of each … purely for research purposes. The big sausages are the same as the little sausages except, well, bigger. The burger was quite juicy (apparently the trick with Quorn is to make sure you don’t overcook it), and if it was put in front of me as part of a blind tasting, I am not sure I’d pick it out as a vegetarian burger, although again the texture was not ‘meaty’ or particularly coarse, so wouldn’t be the kind of burger I would pick if I had a choice. Once again, it was quite heavily flavoured with herbs, which was nice. But overall I prefer the taste of beef!

In terms of taste, although there was nothing wrong with the Quorn products, I wouldn’t choose them over a meaty option, as I prefer the texture and taste of meat. However, in terms of lifestyle and ethical reasons, there are some compelling arguments for introducing more meat-free meals into your diet, and I was interested to learn a bit more about how Quorn is derived and produced.

What I discovered is that Quorn’s main ingredient Mycoprotein is indeed a member of the fungi family (incidentally, none of the products I tried tasted of mushrooms!) and is grown by fermentation (similar to the production of bread, yoghurt and beer, for example). As a plant-derived protein, it is a good source of dietary fibre and is low in fat, especially saturated fat. So it’s no wonder all my health-conscious and Weightwatchers pals eat Quorn regularly.

I have SkyPlus so never watch adverts if I can help it, so didn’t realise that olympian Mo Farah is promoting Quorn as part of the current promotional activity for the product range, and according to the press pack I received, he uses Quorn as a healthy protein in his family meal favourites such as Spag Bol and Chilli.

SausageI must say that the idea of having less meat in my diet is appealing. My packed lunches are usually meat-free (although I do often include fish or shellfish with my salad), and when Andrew is out for the evening I tend to have a veggie meal such as cauliflower cheese, or broccoli and courgette pasta (all things he hates!), and we tend to eat fish twice per week, but I should probably do more.

So I have decided to set myself a Quorn challenge. I am going to buy some Quorn mince and make a lasagne, to see if Andrew can tell the difference between a Quorn version and a beef mince version. If Andrew can be tricked, then I’ll be glad to introduce  this healthy, cost effective and sustainable product into our regular menu plan. I’ll keep you updated in a future post, and if you have any tricks for using Quorn, please do let me know in the comments section.

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