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Recently I’ve been trying to wean us off cereals – by wean, I mean I’ve just stopped buying it, which for poor Mr Rigg has meant going cold turkey on cereals at breakfast.
If you’re interested why I’m keen to steer away from cereals it’s because I’ve come to realise that there isn’t much good in them, despite what they like to tell us on their TV adverts.
We had this lovely recipe for granola that we used to make, which was delicious both with milk and yoghurt. The only problem is that I’ve also developed an interest in how grains were traditionally prepared, and how they used to be soaked before drying.
This is because things like grains and nuts and seeds have enzyme inhibitors in them, which unless soaked first, prevent us from absorbing all the goodness in them like vitamins and minerals.
It must be admitted that I am not a burger person. Before a few weeks ago I probably had only ever had two burgers ever in my whole life, and I’m not exaggerating. I grew up in a family who didn’t eat meat, and even when I did start eating meat I never liked burgers. I’ve had the odd bite of someone else’s to see whether I might like them, but no.
A couple of year’s ago we had a Uni reunion in Bath – a group of about 15 of us hired a house and spent the weekend there. Mr Rigg and I were nominated to cook dinner one night, and so decided to do burgers – probably because Jamie Oliver’s America cookbook had just come out, with a recipe for burgers (and everything that man makes seems to taste delicious) and in theory it seemed like a good thing for a large amount of people.
Obviously I ate a burger that night, and I actually really enjoyed it. They were really tasty burgers, and I love all the extras you stuff in a burger – in particular I love gerkins. Fast forward a few years and recently I just really had an urge to make those burgers again – they were one of those food moments that stick with you as being a really delicious meal.
This morning I have attempted to make millet porridge using millet flakes and rice milk with a hint of vanilla. I searched the internet to try and find out how to use the flakes to make porridge as most recipes I came across used the whole millet grain. There wasn’t a lot of information but it seemed to suggest double the amount of milk/water to millet flakes, so I took the suck-it-and-see approach.
It took quite a while to bubble away – I’d read 15-20 minutes, but for my little pan for one I was worried about burning it dry. Anyway, after adding a few more sloshes of the rice milk and a tiny drizzle of agave syrup for a little extra sweetness I gave up stirring and poured it into a bowl.
It looks ok, although it reminds me of wallpaper paste. It has a slightly bitter note in the middle of tasting which then disappears. The texture I imagine is a bit like eating wallpaper paste, but then again I have no idea if I’ve cooked it correctly. I’m not sure I’m a convert, but as my breakfast’s recently have consisted of a small carton of chocolate rice milk I thought I should attempt at some other breakfasts on this new way of eating I’m following.
I must say, the new way, which I will share more about one of these days, is doing wonders for me – body and skin – so I can’t diss it. Anyone else make millet porridge with millet flakes? Any tips or advice would be much appreciated as I now have a bag of the stuff! Perhaps I’ll try quinoa next time as I know I already like it.
Oh, and as promised – I came across this picture of a mummy partridge and her babies that my parents took on my camera when I was staying with them last weekend – so cute!!
Ok, so I’m trying really hard to get our French trip written up, but there’s so much I want to share that I’m still working on it when I have the time. It will come, I promise. With it very damp and grey outside (and on Midsummer!) I wanted to share our cheerful, warm, sunny evening meal last night which we made and ate on our allotment.
This is by far my favourite thing to do at the moment – cook and eat at the allotment. I wish moments like that would never end. We wanted to recreate a meal we made in France, which was broad beans and beans tossed with crispy ham and loaded onto slithers of fresh bread.
I adore the repetitive but satisfying business of podding peas and broad beans – some might find it mind numbingly boring, but I love it. After they’d all been podded, we blanched them in a pan of boiling water over the camping stove and then quickly cooled them down was cold water. Next I spent ages more slipping the broad beans out of their silvery green coats.
We have spent the last week away in the Perigord/Dordogne region of France and had a lovely time, eating lots of good food and visiting a market every day to buy ingredients – I’ll be sharing photos as soon as I can set aside some time to pull them together.
Last night we had soup for dinner, which I don’t often think is ‘enough’ to make an evening meal, which is silly really because we always enjoy it and never go hungry. I made up a soup, knowing that I wanted a big hit of green vegetables, so I gently fried a red onion, two small bulbs of fennel, a couple of garlic cloves and then added chopped courgette.
Once this had cooked a little I added 1 litre of vegetable stock and simmered before adding some peas. Finally I added shredded spring greens and mint from the garden, then blitzed the whole thing before it went from that vibrant green to sludgy green. We ate it sprinkled with a little finely sliced mint, a blob of herby garlic cheese and decorated with some edible flowers, and a sliced of toasted homemade bread drizzled with olive oil.
Why didn’t I ever try these before??? They are one of the most delicious things I’ve eaten in a long time, perhaps even ever! A little while back I did a post asking you how you eat your crumpets, and a couple of people mentioned grilling cheese or marmite and cheese on top of them – to be honest, I thought the idea of a savoury crumpet sounded a bit weird.
But today, with not much else around and pretty bored at the idea of eating crumpets with golden syrup on for lunch, I thought it was about time I gave them a go. I toasted my crumpets first – I am a bit particular about how I toast my crumpets, on my toaster I put them in on setting 6 first, then toast them again on setting 2 but on the bagel setting so only the tops get another toasting.
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.