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I am struggling. Earlier this year we did a meat-free month (which I know, I don’t think I ever finished blogging about), which was a choice we made to stop over-indulging on meat and remember what we love about vegetables. We chose to do that.
Due to some health issues, I have recently been told I have a sensitivity to dairy (among a long list of other items). So, for a month I am cutting dairy out completely – or almost completely. It has been a week, and I am struggling. I love to torment myself by watching Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives with all the gooey cheese that goes with most things.
By some miracle I resisted a pot of burrata in the mozzarella section at Waitrose yesterday – AND it was discounted! That is a sign that I am truly unwell, or more positively committed to spending a month dairy free to see if I feel better at the end of it. I’ve had a good moan at my husband, so I thought I’d moan to all you lovely lot of grace my blog.
It really is terribly challenging – no milk, no yoghurt, no cheese, no chocolate (although I have found a delicious alternative that has no dairy called raw chocolate and the brand I’ve found is scrummy – but I’ve temporarily run out). I utterly love all things dairy and I try to buy the best quality of all these items – organic milk (or even occasionally organic unpasturised from the farmer’s market), organic yoghurt, artisan cheeses, organic chocolate.
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.
There are some fantastic Christmas markets in Manchester at the moment, full of delicious foods. From Raclette melted over new potatoes and gerkins, to spaetzle and paella there are all kinds of goodies.
One of my favourite things at the Christmas markets is Flammkuchen – a German style pizza topped with a creamy sauce, bacon and onion. When I cook so much at home, it always feels quite expensive to eat at the markets. So instead we decided to give it a go at home.
I went in search for a recipe – mind you, it took me a while to get the spelling correct! I was inspired by this recipe because it used quark – an ingredient I’ve seen before but never known what to do with it. Here was the perfect opportunity to quell my interest – turns out it’s like cottage cheese without the lumps. Quite nice!
Pancetta or bacon
Preheat your oven 220°C.
Roll out the pizza dough as thin as you can.
Finely slice the onion – the thinner the better as the onion isn’t pre-cooked. I used pancetta rather than bacon and sliced it into lardons.
In a bowl mix equal amounts of creme fraiche, sour cream and quark.
Spread the creme fraiche mixture over the pizza dough, top with sliced onion and bacon before popping it into the oven for about 10-15 minutes or until it’s golden.
All it needs before eating is a good grind of black pepper…or not if your Mr Rigg.
Any other suggestions on what to do with the remaining quark would be graciously received!
My laptop power cable broke – think sparks and spitting sounds! Thankfully, I live with a super resourceful man, who minutes later had ordered a new lead on ebay.
However, since the end of last week my laptop power supply has been diminishing so quickly there was only time to briefly check my emails. I do have some lovely bits to share in the coming days if I can just catch up.
Here’s a sneaky peak of our Flammkuchen we made this week…it was scrumptious…
With my head full of thoughts of food for the week ahead, I thought I would start with a quick weekend round-up.
Friday saw more of Mr Rigg’s incredibly good homemade pizza topped with buffalo mozzarella, Serrano ham and rocket. An unbeatable favourite.
On Saturday we spent lunchtime collecting a HUGE tub of homegrown raspberries at the bottom of the garden. I am amazed by how many there were – and there are still lots more to come that are ripening.
Mr Rigg and I made some of our delicious homemade granola – I will definitely post more on this as it’s a staple in our house and best enjoyed on a base of plain yoghurt and fruit purée (even the purée was homemade this time!).
Last night we ate an omelette with eggs from Abbey Leys filled with grated yellow courgette, baby plum tomatoes and shredded roast ham.
Packed lunches for this week include bitter lettuce and pea soup - an excellent (if slightly grassy tasting) way to use up the garden lettuce that is beginning to go to flower. Toasted pitta bread with lashings of goat’s butter is needed in my opinion to help this soup go down…!
Tonight we made a Nigel Slater inspired grilled tomato pasta sauce with roasted tomatoes, garlic and a dash of cream. He is a genius.
We must also use up the gorgeous local gooseberries we bought to make gooseberry fool. They are blushed a claret red so should make a deep coloured fool.
And for the week ahead – maybe a chicken tagine with fennel and preserved lemon and homemade blackcurrant cordial. A plan is needed and some shopping doing.
Mr Rigg rustled up some homemade pizzas last night to enjoy in the garden for dinner. This incredible heatwave we’re experiencing in England this weekend has rendered us useless – the heat is just too heavy to do much of anything.
We used our tried and tested Jamie Oliver pizza dough recipe which can be found here. I made a simple tomato sauce: some sliced garlic cooked gently in olive oil, a sprinkle of dried wild oregano, add a tin of blitzed up cherry tomatoes, and season with salt, pepper and Agave syrup or honey if a little extra sweetness wanted/needed.
After the pizzas were cooked in a hot oven topped with the homemade tomato sauce and grated mozzarella we wandered down to the bottom of the garden in search of some extras.
We garnished our pizzas with some baby salad leaves, a sprinkle of chive flowers and some shreds of proscuitto. Sliced into wedges on a wooden board to share – no cutlery needed.
I wish the weekend would never end.
We arrived in Naples on Friday lunchtime with bellies rumbling having eaten a couple of sorry chocolate-flecked brioche for breakfast.
After dumping our bags at our B&B – Donna Regina – set in the heart of the Centro Storico we headed out in search of lunch.
Only a short distance onto Via Del Tribunali there were lunch options all around us. Fantastic street food, incredible smells, people bustling about, scooters whizzing past.
In the end we chose a small shop front that seemed popular with the locals, a large queue outside who occasionally were invited behind the counter and swallowed up by darkness as they disappeared into the depths of the building. We could only guess that there were seats hidden away.
Behind the plastic counter top was a small selection of freshly cooked items. One of these items was pizza – pizza al forno, and this is what we choose. The pizzas were folded into a piece of paper and handed over to us for 1 euro each!
These delicious pizzas were spread with a thin layer of fresh tomato sauce and one small piece of mozzarella in their centre. The edges were singed black from the wood-fired oven they had recently been baked in, the gritty burnt taste I came to understand is vital to the flavour of a true Neapolitan pizza.
We made it as far as a bench on a small, grubby piazza before we tucked into these tasty pizzas. Throughout out holiday we saw people eating these kinds of street pizzas, folded in paper, during their lunch breaks. Even smart Italian women in their suits and high heels were seen tucking into them.
As we sat licking tomato sauce from our fingers on the small piazza, we spotted a gelato shop on the corner.
Here we order two ice creams – for me a ‘cioccolata’ (chocolate) and for N a ‘limone sorbetta’ (lemon sorbet). Both were homemade and incredibly tasty. My chocolate ice cream was a deep, dark chocolate flavour – the best ice cream we had all holiday.
On the way back to our B&B we stopped at a small cafe – Bar Tico – and had a cold Peroni (for N) and a small cup of lemon granita eaten with a spoon. These became our signature drinks for the holiday – photos of lemon granitas to come.
The B&B that we had booked into was run by a family of artists on the 4th floor of an ancient building. Reached through an unassuming wooden door off Via Luigi Settembrini and up many stairs made from large grey stone, inside it was tranquil and charming.
Our bedroom overlooked the street below, and despite the scaffolding on the building opposite was quiet and cool, sheltered from the strong Italian sun.
At dinner time we headed back out onto the warm, sticky streets and settled at a local pizzeria for another dose of good Italian pizzas.
N ordered a ‘Napoli’ pizza, topped with tomato sauce, mozzarella, anchovies and oregano.
Mine by called ‘Pizza Re’ and was topped with small chunks of fresh tomatoes, mozzarella, some other kind of cheese, and once cooked finished with rocket and olive oil.
Whilst eating our pizzas we watched them busily making pizzas – deftly spreading out lumps of dough into pizza bases in no time at all, adding the various toppings and sliding them into the wood-fired oven.
For our first afternoon in Naples, we had eaten incredibly well already, and couldn’t wait for the rest of our food adventures.
N and I got back from our week in Italy last night, having had a truly wonderful holiday in Naples and on the Amalfi Coast. I have religiously kept a food diary of all the food we consumed and can’t wait to share the high’s and lo’s with you all.
I have also got over 400 photos (I know!) to go through so there will be a couple of installments over the next week or more, so please check back.
Here’s a sneak peek in the meantime of some of the delicious food we found and ate on our travels in Italy…
On Thursday two bundles of squeaky green garlic scapes arrived in my veg box from Northern Harvest. I’ve had garlic scapes before, but they were thin and spindly, these were much fatter and incredibly beautiful with their bulging flower heads tightly encased in a wafer thin skin. Garlic scapes have all the taste of ordinary garlic, but more subtle, and with a fresher, grassier tang.
I decided to make a garlic scape pesto, using a bunch of the garlic scapes (stalks chopped and flower heads), a handful of pine nuts, lots of olive oil, and some grated Parmesan.
Blitz up the garlic scapes and pine nuts in a blender, before adding the olive oil. Add more oil to get the desired consistency and salt for flavour. Tip the pesto out into a bowl, add the grated Parmesan and some ground black pepper.
But what to do with the freshly made pesto? N was making pizzasusing bases that we’d frozen, so I thought why not try using the pesto to make a sort of garlic pizza bread. It was gooooooood. Simply spread the pesto over your prepared pizza base…
…bung in a hot oven (250°C) for about 6-8 minutes until the dough is golden at the edges and the pesto sizzling.
Raw this pesto has quite a kick to it, but none of the lingering, overpowering garlicky taste that a clove of garlic has. But cooked it mellows out, has a softer garlicky flavour and is altogether very enjoyable. It made quite a lot of pesto so I’ve popped one pot in the freezer for another day, and one in the fridge to use this week.
As I mentioned in a previous post we recently spent the weekend with my family. My family (myself included) have notoriously different diets: my little sister is a vegetarian (but eats marshmallows…naughty naughty), my dad is gluten intolerant, my mom eats fish but not meat, and my little brother is, well quite fussy, but likes his bacon, ham and sausage.
So finding a meal that everyone can enjoy is quite a challenge. Risotto is often a good bet (the little brother still struggles with this a bit). But as it was my birthday weekend, so it was about everyone enjoying their food, so we decided to make our own pizzas and let everyone choose their own toppings. My dad was supposed to buy himself some gluten free pizza bases, but he rebelled saying they taste like cardboard (I don’t doubt they do) and that some things were worth it – homemade pizza base being one of them.
We use Jamie Oliver’s pizza dough recipe from his Jamie’s Italy book. You can find the recipe together with my simple tomato sauce recipe here. We put together a whole range of toppings and laid them out on the counter top for people to help themselves to. These are the resulting pizzas:
The little brother’s ‘meat feast’ pizza: German salami and roast ham
Notice the token piece of greenery…
The little sister’s ‘veggie delight’: grilled peppers, aubergine and courgettes
The little sister decided the little brother had more cheese, so after it came out of the oven she grated lots more cheese over it.
Dad’s ‘absolutely everything’ pizza: grilled peppers, aubergine and courgettes, German salami, and Parma ham
But he wasn’t finished there, no, once cooked he then added…rocket, basil, Parmesan shavings AND truffle oil!
Mom’s pizza was the same as the little sister’s but she added a smattering of rocket leaves and basil oil just before eating:
My ‘classic’ pizza (classic in that it’s what I always make): a basic margherita topped once cooked with ribbons of Parma ham and a scattering of rocket
N was the last to make his pizza, so by this point I was tucking into my pizza and had no time to take pictures. The little brother said he thought it was the best pizza he’d ever had, better even than Pizza Express (from him that’s saying something). So if you haven’t made this pizza dough yet, do – it has the little brother’s seal of approval.