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Yesterday saw the start of our meat-free month. I must say it hasn’t felt too momentous a change yet, because on average we eat a few meat-free dishes a week and most meals only have a small amount of meat in them. But I’m sure it will feel more of a challenge as the weeks go on, like tonight I couldn’t help but think that crispy bacon or pancetta would have been a nice addition – aah!
So here’s the start of our meat-free diary…
Monday 9th January
Winter veg stir-fry. Egg noodles, carrots, parsnips, mushrooms, and shredded sprouts, all bound together with a delicious sauce of soy sauce, mirin and Chinese five spice.
From River Cottage Everyday Veg
Tuesday 10th January
Cavolo nero pesto pasta. A homemade pesto made from boiled cavolo nero and garlic, drained and blitzed up, with olive oil, salt, pepper and Parmesan. Stirred through hot spaghetti and sprinkled with a tiny bit of grated cheese.
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.