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I couldn’t bear the idea of going to bed tonight without writing a short blog post to mark the end of our meat-free month. No, I haven’t yet finished writing up my meat-free diary, and promise I will get round to it, but I really wanted to say “it’s the end.” I can’t quite believe I’ve actually stuck to something like this, it feels like a good achievement.
I feel like I am over the craving meat feeling, but perhaps that is because I know I can eat it again from tomorrow – Mr Rigg has just reminded me I promised to get up at 6am to make him a bacon sandwich before work. If there’s one thing this month has taught me, it’s to be more adventurous and make those recipes I’ve bookmarked but never tried.
I’ll be back soon with the final details of our meat-free month.
Yesterday was my favourite local farmers market at Abbey Leys so it was a great chance to stock up some lovely food. On top of this, I braved the icy cold with the other stall holders to promote a website I’ve set up to promote local, seasonal food in my community. It was so blinking cold in the barn, and although I was so pleased with my display of seasonal vegetables and old-fashioned seed packets on stick, a number of people did mistake me for a grower. Oh well.
But enough of that and back to the real bread. For a while now, a fantastic bread lady (officially known at Jane’s Handmade Bread) has been coming to the market. She makes heavenly real bread. My favourite is her Miracle Bread which is stuffed full of all kinds of seeds and has a lovely golden brown colour to it. She never arrives before 10.30am, having been up since 3am baking, but everyone waits and queues for ages just to get their hands on some of her beautiful breads.
Last weekend we had the most lovely food all weekend – and, obviously, all meat-free. We had Mr Rigg’s parents over for lunch on the Saturday so it was quite a challenge for us to come up with something we thought they would love, as they both really enjoy meat and fish. We decided on a curry feast and some little nibbly bites to start. Then on Sunday we seemed to eat well, or at least what I would consider to be eating well. See what you think.
Saturday 28th January
Beluga lentil crostini. It’s always nice to do something a bit special when you have guests, so we made these little tiny nibbles, a lovely recipe I’ve been wanting to try from 101 Cookbooks. They are small toasts topped with a goat cheese and herb mixture – utterly scrumptious!
Now the pictures get a bit less lovely as I was testing out my new phone and rushing to get everything out!
We made Jamie’s 30 Minute Meals vegetarian Rogan Josh curry – it’s got butternut squash, cauliflower, spinach and chickpeas in it and is utterly delicious – one of our favourite meals to cook. From the same meal in the book we also made the lemon pickle (I thought it was disgusting, but everyone else said it was quite nice in small amounts with everything else) and carrot salad (I leave out the almonds and don’t add much chilli).
It has been days and days since I last posted about our meat-free month. During those days (weeks really) we have had highs and lows of eating meat-free. When I last posted, with a snapshot of a vegetarian curry we were making, I was on a real high, thoroughly enjoying our meat-free month and the delicious new recipes we were trying out.
The past week has seen that go downhill with real desperate cravings to eat bacon and egg, and sausages. I don’t know why, but my body has just been desperate for something else – the result is we’ve eaten a lot of stodgy comfort food as you might get a glimpse of in my diary. My lovely friend Caroline who has just finished her meat-free month also said they experienced this, getting more and more desperate for, again, bacon and egg by the end of their month.
For now, here is my better week of eating…
Monday 23rd January
Stilton, onion and potato pie. Really, it is just that. Make some mashed potato, sweat some onions down until nice and golden, then in an ovenproof dish layer mash, onion, stilton and then more mash on top. Bake in the oven and eat. Fabulously stodgy and simple comfort food. Really should be eaten with lots of greenery.
Tuesday 24th January
Ah! No idea of what we ate! Didn’t take a picture so can’t remember. Oh well.
Wednesday 25th January
Macaroni peas. This is a new firm (and super easy and quick) favourite from Hugh’s Everyday Veg. You basically cook peas, then blitz half of them to a puree with some of the pea cooking water. You also add some sliced garlic you’ve gently softened in butter, along with some grated Parmesan (it’s a bit like a pea pesto). Then you mix together your cooked macaroni, pea puree and the remaining whole peas. It’s really delicious.
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!
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.
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.