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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.
When it comes to pasta bakes, I’m usually pretty unadventurous – favouring a simple tomato sauce and lumps of fresh mozzarella or the grated version. Cooked until the cheese top is golden and crisp.
Last night I decided we needed a bit of a shake up. Still featuring lots of cheese, of course, I made a cheesy broccoli pasta bake. So simple, and yet it tasted nicer than I thought it would.
Heat your oven up to about 180 – 200°C. Cut the broccoli up into bite-sized pieces. Pop a pan of water onto boil and add your pasta.
You want to just undercook the pasta (it carries on cooking in the oven), and add the broccoli for the last few minutes to cook a little. Drain the pasta and the broccoli.
While the pasta is cooking, make a cheese sauce. I use equal amounts of butter and flour to make a roux, then add hot milk a bit at a time, and stir like mad with a whisk to keep it smooth. Bring to the boil and keep whisking – this was my job when I was growing up.
Add lots of grated mature Cheddar to the sauce and stir in until melted. Pour the cheese sauce over the drained pasta and broccoli and mix together.
Put the whole lot into an ovenproof dish, sprinkle over an extra bit of grated cheese and bake for 20-30 minutes until golden and bubbling.
I would pop this firmly in the category of ‘Comfort Food’. Good for cold wintery nights or when you’re feeling low. This is food that hugs you.
I am always on the trail of great local food, and some of the best places to explore are the areas where our families live. N’s family live in a gorgeous North Yorkshire village, and last year I sent off to the local tourist board for their ‘local produce guide’. It was actually a lot better than I was expecting, with more than just the standard tourist trail.
We spent a day travelling about, took a ride on a steam train, and visited a number of local food retailers. There was a large farm shop selling the touristy deli items, a fantastic farm making their own jam and the best strawberry jam that I’ve ever tasted, and then we discovered The Wall at Coulton.
The Wall is…well…a wall. It’s an old wall that runs around a lovely old farmhouse with a stunning cottage garden when in bloom. On the wall are a good variety of the vegetables that they sell. They have a simple, but honest sign that reads ‘We grow ALL we sell.’
In addition to homegrown vegetables, they also sell pork and lamb, and cut flowers in summer. Every time we’ve visited since it’s been raining, so the pictures look a bit dismal. But this place is fantastic, a real gem, with real seriously local food.
It works on a simple honesty tin system where you pop the money you owe in the tin on the wall.
Soggy looking carrots – God bless the British summer.
Bags of calabrese and romanesco cauliflower.
For more information visit their website http://www.thewall-coulton.co.uk.
I’m not quite sure where I would be without food at the moment. It is my little bit of space to escape to, whether it’s lovingly prepared home-cooked food, or the guilty pleasure of frozen pizza comfort food – it’s there for me in a quite, steady way.
Last night we made a simple but delicious dish of Purple Sprouting Broccoli with a Mustard Holandaise sauce. It was the first glimmer of those summer dinners which are flung together from a few ingredients but turn out to be to be the most satisfying and memorable. Amidst the snow storms and freezing temperatures that have descended on us this week, this was my first taste of the new year.
Delicately cooked spears of purple sprouting broccoli smothered in a glossy egg yolk sauce have been a food dream for a couple of weeks now, and one of my favourite recipe books helped my realise this meal. The recipe was taken – and always it seems in my case, adapted – from the Riverford Farm Cook Book from the people who bring us the Riverford Organics box scheme. This is a fantastic book for anyone who needs a bit of inspiration for cooking with vegetables, although it does include some meat elements in some of the recipes. It is truly a celebration of the humble vegetable.
The recipe, slightly adapted to my just-got-in-from-work-and-not-enough-time needs, is simple – boil the spears of purple sprouting broccoli. Whip up a hollandaise sauce (a sensible thing to attempt for the first time, I feel, after a long day at work…). Pile the broccoli on a plate and drizzle over the sauce. Eat standing up, at the kitchen counter, with a fork (and a knife if you wish). And don’t forget to mop up any remaining sauce with your finger!
It took my two attempts to make the hollandaise, the first I cooked the egg yolk and lemon juice just slightly too long and it went all lumpy. I am not good at admitting defeat, but it was well worth it to accept it had gone wrong, wash the bowl out and start again. The resulting sauce was beautiful.
Our local box scheme – Northern Harvest (www.northernharvest.co.uk) – supplied the first of the seasons English purple sprouting broccoli, and the eggs were laid by my colleagues hens. That’s local enough for me!
Purple Sprouting Broccoli with a Mustard Hollandaise Sauce
200g purple sprouting broccoli, trimmed
For the hollandaise
125g unsalted butter
1 large egg yolk
juice of 1/2 lemon
1 tsp wholegrain mustard
salt and pepper
Bring a pan of salted water to the boil and add your broccoli – cook until just tender but still a vibrant green.
In a separate pan, gently melt the butter then remove from the heat.
Whisk the egg yolk and lemon juice in a bowl over a pan of gently simmering water, just until it starts to thicken. Then start to gradually add the melted butter, a little at a time, whisking it until each amount has been incorporated. This is when the sauce will start to thicken and go glossy.
When you’ve whisked in all the melted butter, you can take it off the heat and stir in the mustard, and season it with salt and pepper.
Drain the broccoli and let if briefly steam dry. Pile onto a plate and drizzle over the hollandaise sauce.
This recipe is taken and slightly adapted from the Riverford Farm Cook Book by Guy Watson and Jane Baxter.