Meat Free Freak

So this week is ‘Meat Free Week’ in the UK (and I believe, Australia). I must confess, it has taken me by surprise – I only found out about it yesterday (after having already bought food for the week… with meat in it!). What a bad food blogger, I should have my finger on the pulse(s). Sorry.

Although I won’t be taking part fully this year, the OH and I are regular meat-free eaters here and have fairly easily gone a week without it in the past, so I don’t feel too bad…

If you want to find out more about the campaign the official website is here, but the general aims of this week seem to be to raise awareness of how much meat we as a nation eat (more than double the world average!), and how this can impact on our health and the environment. Also thinking more about where our meat comes from, and whether it is ethical or sustainable, which is something I personally find important.

If you are attempting Meat Free week this year, or just want some veggie ideas, then here are some of my favourite non-meat meals, and some I can’t wait to try!

For those needing a burger or similar:

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Portobello burger with broccoli pesto & almond-crusted courgette fries (Sheerluxe)

When burgers look this good, what’s not to like? The recipe doesn’t include how to make broccoli pesto, but I (helpfully) made some last week to go with gnocchi so here is a super-quick run-through of how I made it:

Take 1 head of broccoli, chop roughly and blanch in boiling salted water for approx 3-4 minutes. Lightly fry a garlic clove, and dry fry/toast approx 75g pine nuts. Drain the broccoli and add to a blender or food processor with 100ml olive oil, the toasted pine nuts, the garlic, 1 mild chilli and approx 50g of grated parmesan cheese. Blend to a paste to create the pesto. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Yum!

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Epic Crispy Quinoa burger with beer-caramelised onions, gruyere and sweet potato fries (half-baked harvest)

WHEN BURGERS LOOK THIS GOOD, WHO NEEDS MEAT?! Sorry for shouting, but this looks ridiculous and I need to make it soon. When only something dirty will do…

Something a bit healthier:

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Broad bean, feta and new potato quesadilla’s

These beauties are a delight, and quite spring-like. Broad beans, peas, new potatoes, feta, mint – just lovely.

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Carrot Fritters with halloumi & sweet lemon dressing (sheerluxe)

Another spring-like delight, these went down a storm at a veggie dinner party we gave a while ago. The sweet lemon dressing makes it special.

Comfort food:

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Truffled gnocchi with mushroom ragu (simply delicious)

Posh comfort food that is… anything with truffle in I will eat (I think), and a ragu with mushrooms sounds comforting and stodgy and lovely when there’s still a chill in the air – like today!

d96d56cc14c6ca4713149d6adc2f9987 Tenderstem & Split-pea curry with caramelised shallots (Red online)

Chilly comfort food again – lentils, pulses and split-peas are some of my staples and they are elevated with the caramelised shallots and tender stem broccoli in this recipe.

Lunch:

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Roasted cauliflower & mushroom quinoa salad with balsamic vinaigrette (closet cooking)

A lovely salad which is excellently very tasty cold as well as hot. Make a big batch of this and it’ll last most of the week! We tend to put blue cheese in it instead of goats, but whatever you choose it’ll taste great. Very filling too.

Brunch: 

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Griddled sourdough with halloumi and mushrooms (Red online)

Three of my favourite words in one sentence there – sourdough, halloumi, and mushrooms. Could easily be supper instead of brunch if you (i.e I!) wanted.

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Baked eggs with spinach and black garlic soldiers (red online)

Had to get eggs in there for brunch! This sounds delicious, and I’m sure normal garlic would work just as well as black – or maybe even wild garlic?

A Quick one:

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Molletes (sheerluxe)

The recipe for these little mexican delights involve making your own re-fried beans and fresh tomato salsa which, although admirable, is not needed if you just want something tasty – as you can buy both quite easily at the supermarket. It is therefore just a case of opening a couple of tins, putting it all on some ciabbata buns and putting it under the grill. Simples 😉

You might recall I did a post on an (almost) meat-free week a while back, and the recipes there are some of my favourites too, but I didn’t want to replicate. Therefore, the link is here if you’d like to take a look.

Meat-free or not, have a tasty week!

Pigging Out – At the Pig near Bath

For my Birthday this year I decided to check out The Pig near Bath. It is a boutique hotel (near Bath, funnily enough) with a restaurant that prides itself on its ’25 mile menu’. Ever since it opened last year I’ve fantasised about spending a weekend there – lazing around in the ‘Potting Shed’ spa, gorging myself on food in the ‘Greenhouse’ restaurant, and then retiring to one of their luxurious but rustic bedrooms for the night. Alas, the whole package is a bit out of my price-range for the moment, but myself and my family did definitely gorge ourselves in the restaurant – and it was wonderful.

Firstly i’ll apologise for the grainy, bad quality photos – the lighting in the restaurant is more conducive to romanic, cosy meals than good-quality food photos (as it should be). So i’ll have to try and woo you into going with descriptions rather than pictures – and if you check out their website here that will give you a pretty good idea too.

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Onto the food: What caught my eye straight away was the ‘Piggy Bits’. Above the starters on the menu, and £3.75 each, these were the equivalent of a bar snack in size. Pretty much all incorporating pig in some way, these were my idea of heaven! We chose 3 and shared them out – from left to right on above photo: Crackling with Apple Sauce, Honey & Chilli Pork Belly Bites, and Ham hock Scotch Eggs. The pork belly was ridiculously good, and therefore not big enough 😉 – sticky and sweet with a hint of heat from the chilli – I knew then I would be going home happy! The crackling was crisp and salty and more-ish, and the apple sauce contrasted perfectly. The scotch eggs had runny yolks and crispy outers – just as they should.

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It was then on to starters. I had Venison Hash & Crispy Hen Egg with a Pickled Garden Salad. Crispy eggs are an excellent invention – not to be confused with another eggy marvel, the scotch egg (invented at fortnum & mason’s in the 1700’s apparently – see sidebar), a crispy egg doesn’t have any meat, it’s a soft-boiled egg coated in breadcrumbs – Yum. The venison hash was rich and went well with the egg, the crispy outer giving the dish an extra texture. Dad had the platter of cured Mendip Meats which came with sourdough bread and chutney, and lots of little pickled bits, like caper berries. I tried a bit (in the name of research of course), and in my opinion these local meats were just as good and tasty as any you’d find in Italy or Spain, and it’s great that they’re so local! The OH had the standout starter of the evening though – Sweet & Sour Tripe (not pictured – it went too quickly). Neither of us had tried tripe before, but the OH very sensibly decided if he was going to try it, here would be a good place, and he was right – delicious.

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Ashamed to say I was already getting full by this point – I must have gorged myself too much on the piggy bits, but I soldiered on nonetheless and had a Rabbit Escalope with lentils, capers, lemon and parmesan – a winning combo. Mum had Lamb cutlets with a lamb ‘bonbon’ – breadcrumbed of course. It was given the thumbs-up. We ordered some of their triple-cooked chips which came in a flowerpot but tasted lovely, and also some of their steamed garden greens. It’s nice to know that so much of the produce has come from just outside in their kitchen garden – just a shame it was too dark to see any of it (we’ll have to go back for lunch some time).

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By the time we got to desserts I was seriously stuffed. Dad managed a New York-style cheesecake flavoured with rosemary (from the garden of course) and the OH ordered some ‘Piggy Fours’ (their version of petit fours) which included homemade fudge. I felt I had to have something but it needed to be VERY light and small – step forward the ‘Shot of Foragers sorbet’ – at £3.50 this was the cheapest dessert option too, the rest being £7.00 (the piggy fours were £4.50). This was very refreshing and light, with the added bonus of popping candy on top! It also had a biscuit in the shape of a pig, with ‘Happy Birthday’ on it 🙂

Our waiter had found out during the meal that it was my birthday (and commented on how young I looked for my age, so I already liked him!), and he also overheard us mentioning how nice it was to see the italian dessert wine Vin Santo on the menu (I once had an italian boyfriend whose family made it), so when he brought out my birthday sorbet, he also brought us out a glass each on the house!

This is a good example of the excellent service we received all night, and it really helped to make the evening special and memorable. Our waiter was attentive all evening without being overbearing, and obviously knew the menu well enough to offer suggestions on the food. They also had a dedicated sommelier to help further with wine.

The only negative point I can think of about the restaurant is the lack of vegetarian options (there were about three, including starters), but I suppose with a name like ‘The Pig’ it’s not that surprising…

I think a trip out to The Pig for Sunday Lunch is definitely in order at some point – although they seem to be booked up pretty far in advance – but I can just see myself lazing on a sofa in the snug with coffee and petit fours, and wandering around the kitchen garden.

So the moral of this review is – go and be satisfied! (Unless you’re a veggie)