You are currently browsing the monthly archive for January 2012.
I have just got my first smartphone so this is my first attempt at writing a blog post from it – fingers-crossed it works ok!
We are making a vegetarian curry for tomorrow’s lunch with my in-laws, so wanted to give it a night to ‘mature’ its flavours. It also means we have less to do in the morning. Have a lovely evening!
If I don’t hurry up and finish sharing details of my Christmas Paris trip I’m going to have forgotten it all, and there’s a few more lovely places I wanted to share. In particular I wanted to share this meal with you – our first meal in fact, that we ate in Paris, and probably the nicest for a number of reasons.
We had been wandering around the Christmas market up by Sacre Coeur as dusk fell, it was chilly and we’d warmed ourselves on (the best!) hot chocolate from one of the stalls. I had received a few recommendations on where to eat (thanks Ellen and Brigitte!) but once we got there we were seduced into a rather shabby looking building by a piano player inside.
The red paint was peeling off the brickwork, but this gorgeous tune wafted out and as soon as we entered we received a warm welcome to this tiny place. All of the walls and ceiling were covered in photos, notes, and drawings from people who had eaten there. The place was called Le Tire Bouchon and it made crepes.
Wow, on typing the blog post title I’ve realised we are 2 weeks into our meat-free month and therefore about half-way through. It feels like a positive achievement – I never stick to anything like this. Today’s post sounds like rather a lot of days to cover, but I’m going to miss out day 12 and maybe write a separate post about that experience.
Thursday 19th January
Leek and Roquefort pizza (we also made a plain pizza with tomato sauce and mozzarella, but for this post I’m focussing on the leek one). Pizza dough spread with garlic and chilli infused oil, scattered with a mixture of grated mozzarella, Parmesan and herbs, then topped with lightly cooked leeks and blobs of Roquefort.
This pizza is from the Riverford Cookbook but I must say it was a bit much just on its own – and I found the Roquefort quite overpowering. In the end we shared one leek and Roquefort pizza and one tomato and mozzarella, just to balance it out. An interesting version though, perhaps one I would tweak to our tastes another time.
Friday 20th January
A post for another day.
Saturday 21st January
Mushroom ‘Stoup’ from Hugh’s Everyday Veg – a cross between a soup and a stew. A soup of onion, celery and carrot all chopped very finely, sliced fresh mushrooms and dried Porchini mushrooms, and a good amount of mushroom stock (I’ve discovered Kallo do a lovely organic mushroom stock, although the only place I’ve seen it is The Organic Farm Shop in Gloucestershire).
Hugh’s recipe serves it with dumplings, which are one of my favourite foods ever – however, we only had meat suet and I couldn’t be bothered to buy a whole box of vegetarian suet just to make a few dumplings. Instead, we added a couple of handfuls of pearl barley as also recommended in the recipe, and ate it with large hunks of butter bread. Such a comforting bowl of yumminess, although Mr Rigg felt it was rather ‘mushroomy’.
Sunday 22nd January
Raw vegetable and glass noodle wraps with a soy and ginger dipping sauce. Thinly sliced carrot, cucumber and lettuce (and a few spring onions this time) mixed with glass noodles, coriander and mint. This mixture is then wrapped up in rice paper wrappers, before dunking in a dipping sauce made with soy sauce, Mirin, rice vinegar, fresh ginger and chopped spring onions.
I am really enjoying our meat-free month and not really finding it a challenge so far – it’s really great to be trying out a lot of recipes that I would usually not cook because we seem to default to others. The only downside was this evening realising that we couldn’t eat fish and chips at the pub – I was pretty gutted.
Monday 16th January
Dev-Mex Pumpkin Soup from the Riverford Cookbook. Pumpkin and tomato soup with a hint of chilli, topped with crumbled tortilla chips, avocado chunks tossed in lime juice, grated Jarlesburg, and coriander.
Utterly, utterly amazing. It’s always those dishes that you want to like, but don’t think you really will, maybe because it contains an ingredient you don’t think you like, and WHAM - so delicious! If there’s one recipe so far I would recommend you make, it would be this one.
Tuesday 17th January
Mushrooms, creme fraiche and pasta. This is Hugh’s mushroom risioniotto…at least I think that’s what it’s called. He does make up some odd names. It’s basically tiny pasta that looks like rice, I love it, it’s very comforting and moreish – probably because you can eat big mouthfuls of it along with some rich sauce. The mushrooms were simply fried in butter until they start to go golden, then some wine and creme fraiche stirred through to make a sauce. I miss calculated the amount of mushrooms and did half the recipe…turns out it was only for 2 people so I definitely won’t mess this up next time, as it did need more mushrooms.
Wednesday 18th January
Roasted tomato and mozzarella risotto. Another from Hugh’s trust Everyday Veg book, and one that we had been cooking regularly before we even considered doing a meat-free month. Yes, perhaps eating tomatoes in January isn’t the most seasonal choice, but my body was craving it and they were bought from Unicorn Grocery in Manchester so not as bad a supermarket tomatoes.
Hugh’s recipe uses a roasted tomato sauce that he also provides a separate recipe for – I just sliced a whole load of plum tomatoes in half and roasted them in the oven with olive oil, sliced garlic and herbs until they were soft and gooey. I think pop the whole lot through my mouli, a carboot bargain that I couldn’t now live without. If the Dev-Mex Pumpkin Soup was my top recommended recipe, the mouli would be my top recommended piece of kitchen kit.
I mentioned in my previous post that we’d made a birthday cake for my parents, who both celebrate their birthday’s during January. This is it. I am pretty proud of this cake, I usually seem to have all kinds of disasters when it comes to cake making or they are disappointing. Not this one however.
After these first few weeks back at work after the Christmas break, Mr Rigg and I, like most of the population I imagine, are exhausted. We didn’t want to make a complicated birthday cake, so opted for this simple chocolate cake recipe. My dad had requested a chocolate cake with fresh cream, so that’s what they got.
We also made the chocolate butter icing from the chocolate cake recipe, but just half of it. In the centre we put freshly whipped cream, and a good layer of it too! On the top we spread the chocolate butter icing, which was actually a brilliant recipe as it was dark and chocolately, rather than overly sweet or buttery.
I had this vision in my head of topping the cake with crushed Crunchie bar and crumbled chocolate Flakes. We also picked up a big bag of Maltesers as I suddenly imagined them around the edge like a border. Anyway, I am pleased to say the cake looked exactly how I imagined it, and my parents we delighted.
My only regret? Sending them home with the majority of it.
So I’m lagging behind on updating what we’ve been eating on our meat-free month, so I will speedily try and do some catching up. On the weekend we had a day at home and a day visiting family. Visiting family wasn’t a big deal as my parents don’t really eat meat, in fact I’m sure my mother was quite pleased!
On Saturday morning before we headed off to Leicester to see my granny and meet my parents, we whipped up a quick salad from Hugh’s Everyday Veg book to take as our lunch offering (we were each making something). We also had made a birthday cake as both my parents’ birthdays are in January – pictures of that to follow.
Saturday 14th January
Pearl barley salad with roasted squash and fennel, lemon juice, parsley and cheese. This is a fresh wintery salad with the roasted squash and fennel tossed through the cooked pearl barley, and the other bits added to taste. I am neither a huge fan of squash or fennel, but all together it was delicious. I am learning to trust a few certain chefs to the point where I know I can make most of the recipes, irrespective of whether we think we like the ingredients, and know that we’ll love it.
My mom loved the salad and decided she might give in and buy the book – although she refused to watch anymore of the TV series after Hugh slaughtered a sheep during one episode and didn’t think it was appropriate for a programme encouraging vegetable eating. I do see her point, although I understand Hugh’s motivations to encourage us to eat meat that is well-cared for. Mommys.
(Sorry for the measly picture – I forgot to take any photos on Saturday so this is my leftover lunch on Monday)
Sunday 15th January
Broccoli and chilli pasta. Penne pasta with steamed broccoli that had been tossed in lightly cooked garlic and chilli flakes and a good knob of butter. I used to eat broccoli pasta all the time at University, but in the past few years haven’t been enamoured by the idea so have been reluctant to make it. I’m so pleased we did though because there is something very comforting about this combination. We didn’t follow a recipe we just made it up as we went along – some of the best cooking is done this way I think.
My meat-free month thoughts at the end of week 1
Last night we were chatting about how we were finding our meat-free month so far. We’ve both had the odd pang for meat, salty crisp bacon in particular. Bacon, egg and toast even more specifically for me. But otherwise, I haven’t really had any meal where I’ve missed meat. Mr Rigg says the one meal we’ve had that he would have enjoyed more with the addition of meat, again bacon, was the colcannon baked potatoes with the poached egg.
I am feeling much more cheerful about what we are cooking and eating, and I am excited about carrying on this way. It is great to be challenged to come up with interesting and diverse meals that don’t contain meat or fish, and in the process we are discovering some firm new favourites, which we might not otherwise have found.
It also makes me want to carefully look at and work out how much meat we eat in the future – I’m sure somewhere I read guidelines on the suggested weight of meat we should each eat a month, I believe this was from a sustainable point of view, but probably also good for your health.
Days 3 and 4 of our meat-free month have seen some good old favourites appear – the quesadilla and baked potato. Quesadillas we most often make meat-free, but baked potatoes are often adorned with crispy bits of bacon or fragrant honey roast smoked salmon – but not this week.
Wednesday 11th January
Quesadillas filled with onion, jarred roasted peppers, jarred jalepeno peppers, grated cheese and coriander. I gently fry the sliced onions, peppers and jalepeno peppers so they’re cooked, then it’s just a case of popping a flour tortilla into a fry pan, sprinkling over some cheese, the onion-pepper mixture and some coriander, then slapping another tortilla on top. Once the underneath starts to go golden you carefully flip it over and wait for that side to go golden and crisp. We pop the finished ones in a warm oven while we make the rest.
We eat them with homemade salsa (sliced spring onions marinated in red wine vinegar and salt, then chopped cherry tomatoes added along with salt and pepper – quite a lot of liquid will appear, I’m weird and like to drink it with a spoon while I’m waiting for the quesadillas to cook – my husband thinks I’m weird, but you could always just strain it off) and a dollop or sour cream or cream cheese.
Thursday 12th January
Colcannon filled baked potatoes with a poached egg. Hot potato with a bit of boiled celeriac mashed into it, then mixed with gently fried leeks, sprout tops, and savoy cabbage, and the likes of salty butter, a dash of milk and seasoning. Quickly baked again before topping off with a poached egg.
Last week we watched How to Cook Like Heston - I must admit I was sceptical about it, and didn’t think much of many of his suggestions (his way of cooking scrambled eggs sounded way too fangled), but I was interested to see how he recommended making poached eggs. We find poaching eggs hit and miss, so we thought we’d give his poaching method a go. In short – we won’t be trying his method again, it didn’t work for us.
When I’ve got the time I love making those baked potatoes where you take the potato out of the skin once they’re baked and mix nice ingredients into, then pop it back into its skin, scatter cheese over the top and cook it a bit longer. Inspired by a colcannon recipe in an Abel & Cole leaflet that came through our door yesterday, I wonder why not apply it to my filled baked potatoes.
The whole idea of colcannon filled baked potatoes with a poached egg on top was delicious, and I would definitely make them again.
Friday 13th January
At the end of a very tiring week we didn’t have the energy to cook from scratch, so it was two plain frozen pizzas – once they were cooked I added to mine a handful of salad leaves and a drizzle of truffle oil, which made them more palatable. I am too disappointed by readymade food that it makes me feel terrible for giving into conveniance. Not worth a photo.
Yesterday saw the start of our meat-free month. I must say it hasn’t felt too momentous a change yet, because on average we eat a few meat-free dishes a week and most meals only have a small amount of meat in them. But I’m sure it will feel more of a challenge as the weeks go on, like tonight I couldn’t help but think that crispy bacon or pancetta would have been a nice addition – aah!
So here’s the start of our meat-free diary…
Monday 9th January
Winter veg stir-fry. Egg noodles, carrots, parsnips, mushrooms, and shredded sprouts, all bound together with a delicious sauce of soy sauce, mirin and Chinese five spice.
From River Cottage Everyday Veg
Tuesday 10th January
Cavolo nero pesto pasta. A homemade pesto made from boiled cavolo nero and garlic, drained and blitzed up, with olive oil, salt, pepper and Parmesan. Stirred through hot spaghetti and sprinkled with a tiny bit of grated cheese.
On Monday our plan is to embark on a Hugh F-W style meat-free month. Armed with my trusty River Cottage Everyday Veg and numerous other recipe books and ‘old favourites’ I am quite looking forward to a meat-free month. I’m not sure the same goes for my husband.
For most of my life I didn’t eat meat – I ate fish, and ate meat politely at other people’s houses, but at home we never had meat. My mom claims it’s because I refused to eat meat as a child that they stopped eating it, but it’s all I’ve really known.
Pop a steak in front of me and I’m not quite sure what to do with it, nor do I enjoy the taste or texture. I have always had a weakness for bacon and cured meats like salami. As a teenager boyfriends were also a sticking point which as a result I began to eat and try more kinds of meat. I am at an unhappy place recently, however, where I struggle to think or dream up a meal which doesn’t contain a hint of meat, usually crispy bits of bacon.
But I don’t want to be like that, I don’t think I will ever stop eating meat or fish, but I want to eat them in small quantities and of the best quality and provenance when I do. I certainly don’t want to continue in this default setting of adding a hint of something meaty to most dishes.
So, like a number of people, I have been inspired by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall to try and have a meat-free month. I am really quite excited about it and have been busy tagging recipes we can try. I also have a number of firm favourites that we have been eating recently, so I will defintiely be eating lots of them.
I am hoping to try hard to document every meal we eat, at least I’m hopefully one meal a day I can capture with a picture and share here. If anyone else is trying this out (my lovely friend Caroline started at the beginning of January) I’d love to hear how you’re getting on and if you have any recipes to recommend.
I am almost living off crumpets at the moment for breakfast and tea breaks – with this howling gale and rain crumpets seem to fill the right cosyness hole inside me. I have been perfecting the art of toasting my crumpets just how I like them – a long session in the toaster to begin with, then a shorter session on the bagel setting just to crisp the top.
Some friends of ours (the same ones who suggested topping cheese on toast with chilli con carne) said they eat their crumpets with Marmite – a topping I’d never considered for a crumpet, thinking it only a carrier of sweet goodness. Anyway, Mr Rigg like his with butter and jam, I’ve grown up with butter and golden syrup, and it got me thinking how other people like their crumpets.
Do you like them really toasted and crisp on top, or soft and wobbly still? Do you like lashings of salty butter or none at all? Do you put so much of your chosen topping that it seeps all the way through and makes a puddle on the plate (this is my preferred method – otherwise why bother!)? Do you have them sweet or savoury or both ways depending on how you’re feeling? And have you tried Jamie Oliver’s version where he soaks them in beaten egg to make a crumpet version of eggy bread?
I’d love to know! I have tried crumpets with homemade quince jelly, but I feel I need to expand from simply loads of butter and golden syrup, although it will still always be my favourite.