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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 goat cheese crostini

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!

Jamie Oliver Rogan Josh vegetarian curry

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).

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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

potato onion stilton pie

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

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.

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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!

Naples vegetable market

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.

homegrown vegetables

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.

winter veg stir fry

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.

mushroom ragout and soft polenta recipe

This weekend it’s been all about Hugh.  Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall that is.  Hugh has to be up there with one of my favourite cooks, so I’ve been enjoying watching his new Veg Everyday series, albeit it a little slower than everyone else as I’m watching it online when I get a free hour in the evenings.

We made two meals this weekend that he’s made recently and both were delicious – I hope they become part of our cooking repetoir.  The first one I wanted to share was his Mushroom Ragout with Soft Polenta, which we made for tea last night.  I’ve only tried cooking polenta once before and it was a disaster – it didn’t taste of anything and we ended up dumping the lot.

This time the polenta was delicious – I think maybe last time I was too shy with my seasoning – a nice loose texture spiked with chopped rosemary from the garden and finely grated Parmesan.  The mushrooms too were to tasty – I added quite a bit more red wine than the recipe asks for because the liquid kept disappearing (we were doing half the recipe) but it didn’t seem to be a problem!

We ate it with a pile of peashoots and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.

hugh fearnley-whittingstall mushroom ragout

I’ve spent the last hour cooking, which is a real treat.  I have attempted to make chard and Brie mini muffins from Alice Hart’s Vegetarian book – hers look a lot more attractive, I shall have to imagine she had a fantastic food stylist making hers look beautiful, but they taste really nice.

Always good to find a meat-free savoury snack, these are pretty good.  I’d like to try out some other different ingredient combinations within these tiny savoury muffins.  Any suggestions?

For someone who loves his meat, I love that one of Mr Rigg’s favourite meals is mushroom burgers. 

This week we decided to make a summery version, with a little mayonnaise smeared on the sliced buns, the mushrooms grilled with a garlicky butter, then filled with blobs of soft goat’s cheese and a sprinkling of chives.  Finally they were topped with a handful of salad, including tiny nasturtium leaves.

During our travels last weekend, we visited Mr Rigg’s granny and went out for lunch with her.  We went to The White Oak in Cookham and ate the most delicious lunch.

Now we’ve been to The White Oak once before, but it was on such a sad occasion following a funeral that I can’t remember the food.  However, this time the food will stick with me for a long time.  It was superb. 

Not only has this pub been lovingly refurbished, but the staff are so friendly and polite and the food utterly scrumptious.  Sadly I have no photos of our meal, but Mr Rigg and his granny ate beer-battered fish and chips which was served on a wooden board, the chips (which were excellent) came in a tiny metal bucket. 

For my meal I choose a vegetarian main of Parmesan gnocchi in a winter vegetable broth.  When it arrived it the portion seemed quite small compared to the hunks of batter fish beside me.  However, it was delicate, delicious, beautifully presented, and incredibly tasty.  Just three homemade Parmesan gnocchi sat upon a heap of tiny cubed vegetables surrounded by a pool of clear broth.  Wow – just excellent food.

It was the kind of food I would like to eat every night of the week, but I’m quite sure it would take me many years to learn how to make gnocchi so soft and melt in the mouth, and a clear broth packed with oodles of flavour.  I guess I had better get started!

Images: The UK Restaurant Guide

I’m set on making this meal one of my winter staples.  It was so delicious, and not difficult at all to make. 

Somewhere between mushrooms in a cream and wine sauce and a Stroganoff, this is a vegetarian meal full of flavour – I could have quite happily eaten it straight from the pan.

The mushrooms
Clean and cook the mushrooms in a knob of butter – I used a mixture of tiny button mushrooms (from the market) kept whole, and sliced white and chestnut mushrooms.  Cook them until all the liquid has evaporated and the mushrooms are tender and starting to go golden.  Season with salt and pepper.

The cream and wine sauce
In a separate pan, melt another knob of butter and soften a finely chopped small onion.  Add about 200ml dry white wine to the pan and let it bubble until it’s reduced by about half.  Then add in about 150ml double cream and stir until the mixture begins to thicken. 

Creating the creamy mushrooms
At this point, simply add the cooked mushrooms to the cream sauce and stir in.  I added a glug of milk to loosen my sauce up a bit and give us more of it.  Once the milk was added, I just allowed it to heat through a thicken a little.  Finally, taste and season, and stir through some chopped parsley if you want.

What to eat it with
We ate our creamy mushrooms with a pile of steaming rice and a crisp seasonal leaf salad, but it would also be delicious on toast.  We also added a naughty sprinkling of grated Raclette cheese – not essentially but delicious.

So following on from my weekend (last week) with my family and then the little sister, this is what we got up to when she came to stay…

We made French toast or eggy bread.  The little sister had hers with cinnamon sugar and I added some crushed (and homegrown!) raspberries to mine…

We made ‘cheats’ wraps – seed flecked tortilla wraps filled with Moroccan style hummous, sweet potato falafel and homegrown lettuce.  Sadly only the salad was homegrown…

We also had a delicious girlie lunch at Tampopo (the little sister’s favourite) – we shared Vietnamese goi cuon, she ate yaki udon noodles and I ate pad Thai.  Sadly we ate it all too quickly and there are no photos to show for these delicious dishes.

However, we also grabbed some lunch from Selfridges which I did snap a few quick photos of before we devoured it.  A selection of Indian delights and a pesto, mushroom and cheese pretzel and a mango smoothie to share…

A vegetarian breakfast for a hungry sister – a fried egg, sunny-side up with diced vegetarian sausage…

As part of her final parting dinner we did a baked Camembert eaten with crusty white bread that we picked up at the Abbey Leys farmer’s market.  Recipe for how to bake Camembert (it’s really easy) here.

We also made to-die-for cookies.  These are Hugh’s 10 minute cookies from his River Cottage Everyday recipe book, and they are everything you want from a cookie.  They are moist in places but crispy in others, chewy, sweet, and bittersweet with dark chocolate…

And finally, just before we left to pop her on a train home, we whipped up a quick quesadilla.  Two tortillas pan fried in a little oil with grated cheddar cheese and chopped cherry tomatoes sandwiched in the middle…

I miss you little sister!

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Eat the Earth

I love food, especially locally grown and seasonal food. This is my place to share my food finds and the food I like to eat.

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