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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.
Somehow I think a dish like this for dinner won’t fill us up – certainly not a hungry man. But it does. And it’s incredibly satisfying and you’re not left wanting more.
Here’s how to make it…
Warm salad of winter leaves, crispy pancetta and a poached egg
Serves 2 for a scrumptious dinner or a light lunch
Couple of handfuls of winter leaves
6-8 thin slices of pancetta
Half a ciabatta loaf
1 clove of garlic
Squeeze of lemon juice
Extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper
Preheat the oven to 200°C.
Tear up the ciabatta into bite-sized pieces and spread out on a baking sheet. Thinly slice the garlic and sprinkle over the ciabatta, along with a good drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and some salt and pepper. Bung in the oven for about 5 minutes or until the ciabatta starts to go golden.
Whilst the ciabatta is crisping up, put a pan of boiling water on ready to poach your eggs.
Place your salad leaves in a bowl and squeeze over some lemon juice, drizzle on some extra virgin olive oil and toss well. Sprinkle over a pinch of salt and some freshly ground pepper.
Once the 5 minutes is up, quickly remove the baking tray from the oven and lay the slices of pancetta on top of the ciabatta. Pop back in the oven for about another 5 minutes or until the pancetta is crispy.
Meanwhile, poach the eggs. This is how I poach eggs:
1) bring a pan of water to a simmer
2) I add a dash of white wine vinegar to help the eggs as I’m never confident without it!
3) carefully crack your egg into a small ramekin so the yolk doesn’t burst
4) using a spoon, I start to rapidly mix the water to create a whirlpool effect in the middle
5) carefully pour the egg into the centre of the pan where the whirlpool is and pray that it holds together!
Usually I just judge by eye when the egg is how I like it – with a runny golden yolk. I do one egg at a time. For a more accurate way to poach eggs I’d suggest Delia.
Whilst your eggs are poaching, start to plate everything else up.
Pop a good handful of dressed winter leaves onto your plate. Follow this with a scattering of the crunchy, garlicky ciabatta croutons. Next I lay over the crispy pancetta.
Finally, as the eggs are ready carefully remove them from the water with a slotted spoon and let them drain for a moment. Gently rest the poached egg in the nest of leaves, croutons and pancetta and dust with a little sea salt and black pepper.
Now cut open that beautiful orb encased in its fluffy white cloud to let that silky golden yolk dribble down over the croutons and pancetta. Yum-ee.