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The veganning of something truly special

Will plant-based treats woo this sceptic?

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John Toner tries out a Vegan burger at Tribal Burger. Picture Colm O'Reilly 24-01-2020

John Toner tries out a Vegan burger at Tribal Burger. Picture Colm O'Reilly 24-01-2020

Sunday Life reporter John Toner tries the Sweet Potato and Lentil Taco.

Sunday Life reporter John Toner tries the Sweet Potato and Lentil Taco.

Sunday Life John Toner tries the Vegan sausage roll from greggs. Picture Colm O'Reilly Sunday Life 22-01-2020

Sunday Life John Toner tries the Vegan sausage roll from greggs. Picture Colm O'Reilly Sunday Life 22-01-2020

John Toner tries out a Vegan burger at Tribal Burger. Picture Colm O'Reilly 24-01-2020

Greggs' vegan sausage rolls are the most fiercely debated rolls since that argument I had with my mate about which one of us was fatter just after Christmas.

That discussion didn't end well for me and when Veganuary - going vegan throughout January - eventually rolled around, he suggested I give it a go in a bid to fight my flab.

I accepted the advice and headed straight down to my local Greggs to try out their fabled vegan sausage roll which, when it was launched, had Piers Morgan gurning: "Nobody was waiting for a vegan bloody sausage, you PC-ravaged clowns."

I didn't have long to wait for mine and biting into the crispy golden snack was no different to the meat version at first with that familiar, delicious pastry flaking all over the place.

Once you taste the flesh of the vegan sausage roll you immediately know you're no longer in pork country as the consistency and flavour are distinctly different.

Softer and not as burn-the-roof-of-your-mouth hot, the vegan filling was surprisingly flavoursome and carries a hint of the herbs and spices which have made the Greggs sausage roll one of the nation's favourite snacks.

As I chomped my way through the pretend porker I found it growing on me, like a song you're not sure about at first but end up playing to death.

Next up on my Veganuary hit list was everyone's favourite Mexican, Boojum, which has introduced a new sweet potato and lentil-filled taco (below) especially for this month. I was sceptical about missing the meat but my fears were dispelled as I bit into the tasty, fresh, soft-shell taco. It was stuffed with coriander rice, guacamole, peppers, lettuce and vibrant pink pickled onions on top of the lentils and sweet potato.

Sprinkled with lime juice and dressed in a zingy vegan sour cream, the tacos were a flavour sensation - a proper party in my mouth.

The bulk of the sweet potato along with the guac and rice really does make a more than capable substitute for pork or beef. I did not miss the meat.

Tribal Burger on Belfast's Callender Street was the next stop in my hunt for Veganuary delights.

The menu already proudly sports two vegan burgers and this month introduced a special falafel, red onion and sweet chilli burger.

Dressed with garlic mayo on a vegan burger bun, this thing was a hearty slab of flavour.

The beautifully cooked falafel was complimented perfectly by the garlic mayo and soft red onions.

Tribal's new vegan-friendly taco fries - basically a healthy version of loaded fries - were a fresh, zingy delight.

The light, freshly made salsa over the top of garlic-salted chips was so moreish I had to wrestle them away from our photographer.

After stuffing my face with fancy flora for a week instead of recklessly swallowing meat, I'm now a changed man.

I thought veganism was for trendy do-gooders and eco-warriors but actually the plant-based alternatives on offer these days are just as filling, delicious and varied as meat staples.

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