I first heard about Secret Sausages, Vegetables in Disguise back in August, after a less-than-successful appearance on BBC Dragons’ Den. Company founder Rachel Wicklow had pitched her range of vegetable-based sausages to the Dragons, hoping to secure £50,000 investment for a 15% stake in her business.
It didn’t go down well. The Dragons didn’t understand why Secret Sausages were hiding what they were supposed to encourage (the ‘secret’ being that the sausages contain no meat or meat substitute), and they all seemed to have such perfect, amenable children that simply giving them an extra portion or two of vegetables in their natural state would be as easy as asking them to eat more ice cream. Even the concept of a vegetarian sausage didn’t sit well with Peter Jones, who slammed the product saying, ‘It’s not a sausage and you’re making no secret of the fact it’s vegetables in a skin.’
As a viewer, I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. Here was an experienced mother and passionate food entrepreneur, presenting a tongue-in-cheek range of healthy, convenient and appealing vegetarian sausages for even the most vegetable-sceptic child. What’s not to like?
Speaking as someone whose favourite childhood foods were broccoli and bananas, for me to have eaten (and been open to eating) a wider variety of fruits and vegetable would have been no bad thing. Secret Sausages are crammed with 75% ‘yummy garden vegetables’, and contain 90% less fat, 50% fewer calories and 55% less salt than your typical meat sausage. Stick some broccoli on the side and I would have been a very happy (and healthy) kid.
Taste-wise, there’s no hiding from the fact these are a vegetarian sausage. Use directly in replacement of meat and yes, you will be disappointed. However, when chopped into pasta sauce, stirred into a risotto or sandwiched between two slices of thickly-buttered bread, there’s really no reason go on pretending. The vegetable and rice filling is flavourful and fresh, kept succulent through added water and differing combinations of herbs and spices. The unique vegetarian casing of seaweed and rice is also surprisingly tasty, and does a good job of holding together the almost meaty centre.
So no, it’s not a sausage. But it’s not just vegetables in a skin either. Secret Sausages aren’t pretending to be your classic pork banger, but they are just as versatile, appealing to eat and convenient to cook. And if it means getting over that first hurdle of getting kids to try something new? Well, the rest really is just child’s play.