“ Brand: Scrumptious Sweets / Type: Marshmallow „
Marshmallows and bacon, bacon and marshmallows. No, not some weird pregnancy craving, but the two foods I and many of my vegetarian friends miss the most since giving up meat and animal by-products. The bacon problem has been resolved, to a greater or lesser extent, by the introduction of Quorn bacon and the now defunct Morning Star Farms, but marshmallows proved rather elusive. Until now.
~~~ Why are "normal" marshmallows out of the question? ~~~
Normal marshmallows are made with gelatin, which is obtained from the inside of animal bones, and thus they are unsuitable for true vegetarians. I have no issue with people eating what they want, but by standard definitions you simply cannot be vegetarian and still eat fish or anything containing gelatine or rennet or similar, and I really don't think people should call themselves that if they do, as it tends to dilute the idea of what vegetarianism is, and you then get served all sorts of unsuitable things at dinner parties. To put it out there, vegetarians do not eat ANY meat (game, poultry, fish, shellfish included), or products of animal slaughter such as animal-derived gelatin and rennet. Many cheeses like Parmesan, for example, are often not suitable for vegetarians. Ditto a whole lot of yogurts and most of the delicious looking chilled desserts in supermarkets these days. Vegans have an even tougher time of it, as all things dairy are out of the picture for them, along with eggs, honey and so on.
NB: many people have told me that vegetarian marshmallows are readily available in their local shops. They're not - what you tend to find is that they stock Kosher marshmallows, but these still contain gelatin, it's just from a different animal.
~~~ So what about these? ~~~
These are the first vegetarian marshmallows I have ever seen, and I gave up eating meat 17 years ago. Not only that, but they are suitable for vegans too, so even if you don't know where someone is on the spectrum, there's virtually no one who cannot eat these. (They are made in a plant that also processes peanuts, wheat and soy, so allergy sufferers might not be ok with them).
There is a common misconception that vegetarian and/or vegan = healthy but that's not the case, and it's quite possible to be a fat vegetarian with high blood pressure or other ailments. Similarly, just because a product is suitable for vegetarians and/or vegans, does not automatically make is 'natural' or good for you. Marshmallow Meltaways are made from a range of ingredients including cane sugar, coconut flakes, acacia, carrageenan, locust bean gum and cornstarch. You might not be familiar with some of those ingredients as a few are a little obscure - carrageenan comes from seaweed, for example, while acacia is a plant sometimes used in chewing gums. The only thing you need to realise, though (besides the fact that the main ingredient in these is sugar...) is that they are vegan which, by definition, also makes them suitable for vegetarians.
~~~ Mmmm, Meltaways ~~~
My sister bought these from a Vegan fair in Leicester, but I have since found them available online from various websites. They come in a little plastic pot with a lid rather than a bag, and are cube shaped rather than the usual round marshmallows you can get, so they fit in neatly. They are cut by hand, so not all exactly identical in size, but they're pretty close, and unless you have OCD you're really not going to notice a sliver of a millimetre difference here or there. You are advised to keep them in the fridge, but remove prior to eating and enjoy at room temperature.
These Meltaways are the Coconut variety, and this is certainly not something they've scrimped on. Not only are you hit by the strong scent of coconut when you lift the lid, but the individual marshmallows are literally drenched in the stuff on all sides, with extra falling off into the box. They have used toasted coconut which gives a stronger flavour, and a nice, tanned brown colour. However as a result the coconut is drier than the usual moist stuff you find in a Bounty.
If you think of a normal marshmallow, you might think of a lighter-than-air sugary treat, but these are different, denser and heavier. As a result you don't need to eat these by the dozen - one or two will be enough to satisfy you so a box can last a while which, as you'll discover when we get to the cost, is quite a good thing.
While the outside of these Meltaways is entirely covered with coconut, the inside is noticeably moister than a traditional marshmallow, almost heading towards Marshmallow Fluff consistency. The inside is also sticky to touch when you bite in but apart from this, the texture is pretty authentic. The coconut adds a tiny bit of crunch to them, but not enough that you really have to chew hard. The only slightly funny thing is the mild squelching noise you sometimes get when you bite into one, as a result of that moistness in the centre.
The marshmallow part is supposed to be vanilla flavoured but it's very subtle. You might notice it more in the plain variety, but with these ones the coconut is the predominant taste. These are not too sweet or sickly, but still sweet enough to taste like a treat, and simply delicious. The real test for something you've not eaten for a long, long time is if they taste as good as you remember: these taste better.
Following a little investigation, meltaways have proved to be as versatile as traditional marshmallows. You can toast them on a stick which makes the coconut even crispier, and the centre even more gooey. Alternatively, you can make them into a S'more by using a couple of biscuits (digestives work well) and either a layer of chocolate spread or a few squares of a chocolate bar. If you make rice crispie treats using marshmallows, you could use these too though they melt a bit quicker (since they're less solid to start with) so you need to keep an eye on them. I wouldn't recommend dunking these ones in hot chocolate (they're too big, and the coconut would flake off) but if you buy the plain version, especially the mini ones, you certainly could.
The shelf life on these is not as long as the traditional variety, because fewer preservatives are used. They will stay fresh for about 12 weeks (though this depends on when you buy them too, as they're imported from the USA) though you can also freeze them, which sounds weird to me but is stated on their website. I've not tried this, so I can't vouch for what they're like when you subsequently defrost them.
~~~ Pricy...but worth it? ~~~
The price of these will have some people blinking in disbelief, I'm sure, as they cost around £6 for a box which contains a measly 8 marshmallows. Yes, that is an awful lot of money, and though they taste good, I doubt anyone who does eat meat and animal products would even for a moment consider switching to them in place of their regular fluffy gelatin containing treats. But, for someone really missing that fluffiness but unwilling to sacrifice their dietary principles to save a few pounds, these are an understandably popular alternative which have a bit of a cult following online. We won't be buying them every week, or even every month, but for a special treat they are hard to beat, and I'm sure we'll have a box going back and forth at Christmasses from now on. They are an excellent attempt at recreating a classic product using different ingredients and I was very impressed by how authentic they looked and tasted.
In the UK, these can be bought online from:
None of my local health food stores stock them, but keep an eye out and you might get lucky.