I was recently invited to review Luigikhans restaurant on Westgate Road, Newcastle, and decided to pop along having not been near a naan, poppadom or lamb saag in some time. Being asked to review local restaurants and attend menu launches and events is one of the real pleasures that’s come my way since starting my blog and while I can’t make it to all of the places I’m asked and don’t accept every invitation to eat for free, it has helped me get more of an overview of what’s on offer in the region and brought to my attention some places I may otherwise have missed.
Luigikhan’s is homed inside the Best Western Ryokan on Westgate road, which is why I probably would have been unlikely to come across it had I not been asked to visit. Though the building itself is easy to miss from the road, once inside the interior is rather surprising. The hotel won the first prize in the refurbishment category of the Lord Mayor Design Awards a few years ago and you can really see why.This snap of the restaurant’s bar makes the place look rather darker than it was, but my dining partner and I were big fans of the dark wooden furnishings, sturdy tables and the ample space. Too often when you go for a curry with friends (in certain town centre establishments) you are rammed elbow to elbow with the next table. Here, we were impressed to find lots of space between tables, large booths for dining groups and a separate area for private functions, which was full when we arrived for a very early dinner at 6pm on a Tuesday evening.
We arrived a little early for our booking but were welcomed in and started working our way through the fairly extensive menu. Luigikhan’s is a Punjab restaurant, so I was expecting lots of ghee and paneer. I was a little disappointed to spot standard pub starters like potato skins and garlic mushrooms on the menu but presume these are here to accomodate hotel guests who aren’t fans of Indian cuisine.
I ordered the Lahori fried fish to start ‘cod marinated in Asian spice and coated with gram flour & deep fried. Served with a mixed salad’ and priced at £4.25. Hungry Hannah my dining partner, who had purposefully had a very light lunch to make room for curry, chose Baghbanpuri Samosa Chaat, which was described as ‘slightly roasted vegetables with a hint of spice wrapped in pastry, served with chichpea curry, fresh salad, mint yoghurt and tamarind chutney’ (£3.95).
I was very pleased with my fish when it came out – a perfect portion for a starter, though the tamarind chutney it came with was a little runny and sour for my tastes. The moist fish was perfectly cooked in a very light batter, though the spices in the batter were slightly overpowered by the chutney – I think they may have been better set off with a mint pickle, a little lemon, or even a mango chutney. When Hannah’s starter came out the food envy started, the samosas at Luigikhans are served a little differently to most Indian restaurants I’ve been to and were all the better for it.
As Hannah is a good friend she gave me a taste of the samosa, which was light and crunchy without a hint of grease with a delicious middle. The vegetables within had been delicately spiced and the samosa itself would have been just grand on its own. However, it was the other elements to this dish that made it a real treat – a slightly sweet chickpea curry, tamarind sauce and yoghurt. I’m a real fan of raw red onion too, though the generous chunks of this may have been too much for lesser onion fans. In short, Hannah won in the realms of the starter.
After a short wait our main courses arrived and we were slightly scared to see the generous portions. We looked around the room to check if our bowlfuls were more plentiful than those served elsewhere, but ours seemed to measure up with everyone else’s. I can rarely resist lamb when at an Indian restaurant – when it’s slowcooked with spices it’s one of my favourites, so I chose Luigikhan’s Special Lamb Handi Lamb on bone with an onion, tomato and garlic sauce (£8.25). Hannah selected another lamb dish, this time with spinach puree – the Palak Goshat Lamb cooked in fresh tomatoes and onion sauce (£8.95).
I’ve never had Handi before but was impressed with the amount of meat (which came on the bone) that was nestled in the sauce, which was somewhere between a dopiaza and rogan josh in taste and consistency. I was given the choice of hot or medium spice and chose hot, though the spice temperature was a little lower than my usual madras.
Hannah’s chosen dish seemed to have a greater depth of flavour than my own, though thanks to someone leaving the flash on (sorry, should have warned you about that, Han!) it looks a little plastic and shiny in the photo. It really wasn’t. Though the dish was described as medium spice it had more of a slow-burning kick after it, with quite a strong gingery taste (which I love). The lamb in both dishes was nicely tender. To mop up the sauce we ordered a roasted fennel seed and cottage cheese naan (£3.25) and a garlic and coriander rice (around £3). The naan was perfect in every way other than being a bit sparse on fennel seeds – the roasted seed flavour didn’t really carry through here, though the naan was delightfully ungreasy and just the right size for two. The rice was a good amount of garlicky, about the level where you can’t stand too near anyone who hasn’t just been to dinner with you.
Feeling rather full but not wanting to fail on sampling something from each course, we requested a glass of water each to wash down our two courses and make room for a third. This is a backwards type of logic that usually only serves to make me feel fuller, but in this instance I think it actually worked. In case of serious struggling with the final course, we ordered soft, melty looking desserts that could be eased down gently. Myself – Rassmalai – a creamy soaked paneer and milky blancmange of almonds and pistachios (£2.95) and Hannah – Galab Jarman (little warm donuts in syrup) served with ice cream (£3.95).
I’ve discovered a love for almonds and pistachios this year having previously been a nut-free zone and this dessert added fuel to my new nutty passion. Of course, it was far too milky for someone who isn’t supposed to have milk and I did feel a little poorly later as a result, but it was worth it.
My dessert was delicious but the smell of Hannah’s fresh donuts again caused a little food envy to stir. We really had no room left for coffee so thanked our hosts and left. As we departed the waitress remarked that she was surprised we’d opted for the Indian desserts, which confirmed my earlier suspicion that the restaurant is attempting to cater to all and while this usually upsets me (don’t get me started on what I think about takeaway pizza places that also sell Chinese food), I think in this instance, it is probably a strength.
During our meal there was a real mix of diners – from single hotel guests through to a large private party of Asian diners. We were also intrigued to spot Shisha on the menu. We really enjoyed our meal – particularly our desserts. With it’s spacious dining area, friendly staff and a menu to please all I’d say Luigikhan’s is an ideal spot for a family meal or an outing with colleagues and I hope to bring my own family back to sample the cuisine in the near future.
* I was invited to taste test Luigikhan’s menu free of charge but have endeavoured to give a fair representation in this review and observed diners at other tables in order to compare their experience with my own.
It is T minus two days until Father’s Day and I’m in a bit of a tizz. Pa Berg has requested weedkiller for Father’s Day! Weedkiller?! I’ve offered to take him out for lunch (to the Old Boathouse in Amble, which I’m desperate to try) , for brunch (to the Mal, because I’ve been waiting for an excuse to sample the new menu for months) and even to the cinema (as I fancy a bit of picamix and seeing the Great Gatsby) but all he wants is weedkiller. “Dad, we can’t consume weedkiller!” Why can’t he be more like Ma Berg, who gratefully received her Mother’s Day gift of a trip to La Bodega when I wanted to test their tapas? (review here).
The usually very hungry Daddy Berg has even gone as far as banning me from buying him anything he ‘doesn’t need’, which I think sort of goes against the sentiment of the day. In a way I think many dads are quite unassuming on Father’s Day and don’t like to make a big fuss. Personally, I consider cheese a bit of a necessity and he seems to really enjoy meat every Sunday lunch time, so I’m pondering making a purchase from the TASTECLUB’s Father’s Day collection. I had hoped to win their Foodie dad competition and circumvent the whole rule about ‘buying him anything he doesn’t need’ but alas, I just checked the winner’s details and it’s not to be. So, in the running for Dad’s special gift, along with a bottle of weedkiller, is…
A turophile tour
A mountain of meat
My thinking is that if he really doesn’t want anything, I can at least help him get rid of it when it arrives (ahem), which is definitely not possible if I opt for the weedkiller. Plus, I’m almost 100% certain if I did buy him the weedkiller he’d go in the huff like the time I made him a mini-breakfast (he’d already eaten toast, I was trying not to bloat him).
So, what’s it to be? Weedkiller? Cheese? Steak? Is anyone else’s father being a total grump this year? Should I respect his wishes and not buy him anything? Guidance, please!
A review of Lulu’s Chinese cookery class, Newcastle
I’ve been dying to write up my review of this Newcastle cookery class since I went along a few weeks ago because the evening was simply too good to keep to myself. It was the perfect Friday evening – there was food, new friends, laughs and a real belly-bloating serving of seriously sensational carbs.
This is no exaggeration: every single day since I went to the Xi’an noodle making class held by the very lovely Lulu at her home in Newcastle, I have found myself drifting off and dreaming of these noodles. Several times I have found myself salivating at the wheel on my drive home from work as I replay the eating of these noodles in my mind - they tasted that good!
The handmade noodle class is just one of the events Lulu, originally from the Xi’an region, holds at her home. It’s a cross between a supperclub and a cookery class and you can find out about other classes/events she has coming up on her website here. You’ll also find lots of easy to follow recipes on her blog and details of her appearances at regional food events with her authentic street food.
My friend and I paid £36 each to attend the Friday night class, for which we received an extraordinarily warm welcome into Lulu’s home, a hefty starter, several hours of extremely hands-on cookery tuition, a shed load of giggles, some new friends, a superior supper and a take home goody bag too! As with my previous review of Maunika Gowhardan’s Indian cookery class at Blackfriar’s – I won’t be sharing all the secrets of Lulu’s class here as it’s very much in your best interests to head along and experience it for yourself, but I will be touching on some of the simple things I learnt and sharing some snaps I took on the night. it’s also worth noting that the recipe we cooked didn’t require lots of hard to find ingredients and Lulu gave insiders tips on where to buy items we might need in the future.
The evening started with a pile of ribs and a truly lipsmacking cucumber salad, which Lulu prepared before our eyes. Cucumber as the feature of a dish is a strange concept, but we couldn’t stop eating it, despite it being seriously difficult to pick up with chopsticks. The secret was the garlic, chilli and oil Lulu poured on the dish to flavour it. The chilli, which came from Xi’an had a heat that made your lips tingle and tickle but wasn’t so hot that it overwhelmed everything else, it did make you pout a lot though. The ribs were soft and sticky and I stopped eating them only because I was afraid I wouldn’t have room for my noodles.
Lulu started the cookery demonstration by showing us how to make the sauce that would accompany our handmade noodles. The dish itself was a little like a Chinese bolognese and she explained there was some shared ancestry for the dish. Rather than cooking the meat first (pork mince and shredded chicken) she added it directly to the sauce base, which is a tip I’ll be using to keep my meat sauces more moist – Chinese or otherwise.
The very laborious task of kneading the noodle dough for the class was performed by Lulu in advance of our arrival, though she did demonstrate it for us – armed with a chair to allow her to put all of the weight of her petite self behind it while working on her wooden work surfaces (which I eyed enviously).
The main task of the evening – which somehow locked both my shoulders and had us all in fits of giggles – was the noodle slapping. The process of stretching Chinese noodles is all in the wrist action and involves tapping (or more slapping for me and my fellow pupils) the dough off the bench. Here’s my friend Danielle making it look easy:
I’m not sure how long I was slapping my noodles for but it felt like hours and I certainly worked up an appetite doing it. Whether it was my poor technique or just my general arm weakness – by the end of this activity I felt a bit like I’d taken part in the Oxford-Cambridge boat race. However, my efforts were rewarded when Lulu served up my bowlful of noodles topped with sauce and a generous helping of the lip-smacking chilli that transformed that cucumber. This topping with the hot oil dripped through it added a whole other level of flavour to a dish that had been slow cooked with Chinese spices.
My noodles came in a proper deep bowl, as noodles should and though I did eat them with chopsticks at first I was soon shovelling them in with a fork. They were moist, almost sweet and with that slight tingle from the chilli. As a real greedy guts I managed to finish my plentiful portion but some of the other pupils took leftovers home in boxes Lulu thoughtfully had on hand.
For those looking for authentic Chinese food or a different dining experience, Lulu Cooks Chinese will really hit the spot. It’s a bonus that you can take along your own booze to make the evening even cheaper and the teaching group is so small (6-8) that you get a lot of individual attention and very generous servings of food. I’m watching Lulu’s website closely (in a friendly non-stalker fashion) to see where she’s appearing next in an effort to get my hands on some of her street food. Meanwhile, I’m once again daydreaming about these noodles.
“My favourite type of diet is seafood, I see food and I eat it!” It’s a proper dad joke but it’s also pretty true – I do love seafood and there’s nothing in life I like more than a good buffet. Forget fine dining, if I ever get married there’s going to be a buffet of dreams at the reception. In fact, forget the wedding – let’s just have a buffet.
I was recently invited to try out the Brunch menu at the Hotel du Vin on Newcastle’s Quayside. I’m quite a fan of brunch and I’m glad it seems to becoming a more established meal time on these shores – as far as I’m concerned it’s express permission to have your breakfast really late and eat more to make up for it. When I found out one of the four courses of the £19.95 Hotel di Vin Sunday Brunch was a seafood buffet course I said I would be there with bells on – though what actually happened was I got lost en route and turned up so late I missed drinks in the beautiful bar and the soup course.
I was offered belated soup (vegetable) but decided to save space for the other three courses. My meat-free month lingers on in my memory and the opportunity to graze on plentiful seafood and meats from the French-inspired market table made me apply common sense and sidestep the liquid course. I also opted for wine instead of a cocktail, though I did steal some very pleasing sips of my dining partner’s Kir Royale – It was good.
I paid two gluttony-fuelled visits (one meat, one seafood) to the market table and spoke with the very knowledgeable chef about the impressive spread.
The sheer volume of quality meat, fish, prawns, mussels and oysters on offer would easily be worththe £19.95 fee alone and this was without the breads, pastries and condiments to accompany them.
On hand during the meal was Hotel du Vin’s sommelier in residence who recommended the perfect fresh, crisp, white for me to wash my salmon down with before embarking on my main course. I’m happy to admit that I’m just as likely to visit a cafe with a BYO policy as a bistro with a sommelier, but on this and during previous visits to Hotel du Vin bistros the sommelier has always been approachable, helpful and never hit a bum grape note. I was so impressed on this occasion that I asked if the hotel ran any wine-focused events (they do, see their site).
Unlike the majority of my fellow diners I decided to plump for a juicy burger rather than a roast for main course. This was in part because Ma Berg has been generously feeding me a roast every single week since my repatriation (I’m getting roast-tund). The roasts looked great, but when my burger arrived complete with a pot of very French Fries any Yorkshire pud envy I may have had disappeared. The burger was nicely pink in the middle and came oozing with gruyere and topped with crispy bacon.
After failing to finish my fries I was a little edgy about making room for dessert but it turns out there’s always room for ice cream, and profiteroles. I always tend to order starter instead of desserts in restaurants, which is a habit I formed after being fed too many pre-packaged, sub-par desserts. However, the profiteroles at Hotel Du Vin were freshly made and came filled with not-too-sweet and creamy vanilla ice cream, along with a good ladleful of milk chocolate sauce.
I’m always very particular about giving a fair representation of all the places I review – whether I’ve paid for my feed or not and on this occasion I’m happy to give Hotel Du Vin and their brunch a bloated thumbs up. At £19.95 this four course brunch really is a bonanza and a great choice for a special family gathering or catch up with friends and I’ve already recommended it to several people looking for somewhere to eat over the weekend.
Of course, Hotel Du Vin are not the only ones pushing brunch at the moment and having happily adopted this extra meal of the day into my eating routine I’ve been trying out brunches far and wide since dining there to see how they compare. My efforts have been concentrated out of town so far but I’m hoping to try out the American-inspired fare at the nearby Mal shortly, which is also offering a £19.95 Sunday Brunch Menu. All other brunch venue recommendations are gratefully received (and brunch buddies)!
Despite my good intentions I always seem to be writing about my foodie penpal parcel of the month about five days after reveal day. Reveal day is usually on the last day of the month and the idea is that everyone who takes part in foodie penpals Europe and America posts a link to their blog on the Lean Green Bean site so we can all take a look at what everyone else has received. As a former journo I’m extraordinarily nosey so I love taking a peek at what everyone else has received in their parcels and it always incites inspiration and jealousy in equal measures (even if I have a fantastic present on my table at home). Moving forwards I’ve decided to be extra strict with myself to try to meet the posting deadline, in fact, I’ve decided to spring clean the blog in general over the Bank Holiday weekend and polish up part-written posts and semi-perfected recipes, as well as having a bit of a restructure.
Anyway, enough of my weekend world takeover plan, here’s a little look at what I received in this month’s foodie penpal parcel, which came to me all the way from the lovely Lina in Lithuania.
Lina had a hard job as I’ve been trying (and failing) to diet this month – so she put together a parcel of authentic Lithuanian foods including Lithuanian crackers and sweet vanilla biscuits (great for tea dunking), as well as some other healthy-ish bites. There was a lot of variety in this package, which included everything from meat marinades and oats to add to smoothies right through to a coffee bean lollipop! I’ve recently become semi-addicted to the chocolate beans from Hotel Chocolat and I’m pretty sure this lolly was a lot kinder calorie-wise. It was also a lot kinder to my pocket as at £3.99 a packet the beans are an expensive new addiction – does anyone have a good recipe/technique for making their own? The package element I’m dying to try is the dried mushrooms – I got really into mushroom consumption during meat-free March and I’m contemplating putting these into a pasta or risotto dish.
I sent a parcel to Stephen in Belfast he doesn’t have a blog and I unfortunately forgot to photograph the goods before I sent them over – but I went for a mix of sweet treats and Asian cooking ingredients, which I’m hoping hit the spot. If you’d like to get involved with foodie penpals, take a trip over to Thisisrocksalt and read up on the fantasticness that is Euro foodie penpals.
Confession: Why I’m now Newcastle cookery class mad
I like to pack as many things into my life as I can and a lot of these things (as my expanded waistline pays tribute to) are food based. I hate feeling like I’m not being productive in some way and though I love socialising – more often than not I’ll try and tie in testing out a new restaurant or a new bar if I’m meeting with friends and as I edge out of twenties (ouch) I find myself looking for options other than gannin oot on the lash at the weekend. Recently I’ve translated my geekery/food love and fear of hangovers into a hunt for food-based learning fun and first on the list was a cookery class with the exceptionally talented Maunika Gowhardan.
I headed along to one of Indian chef and food writer Maunika’s classes held in the workshops at Blackfriars on a cold evening at the end of last month and it was money exceedingly well spent. Not only did I get to eat some fantastic food, which was much appreciated during the month of bland dairy-carb overload, but I also picked up some tips and advice I know I will be able to use whenever I cook with Indian flavours from now on. The class itself was extremely good value at £40 for three hours tuition, a three course meal, wine, recipe car and a goody bag to take home and instead of picking up a nasty hangover I caught the cookery class bug (can anyone recommend any in the area?).
I won’t be revealing all of the secrets Maunika shared during the course of the evening – it would probably take me a week to write a post long enough. The class itself was very relaxed and interactive and Maunika covered everything from tackling people’s personal indian cookery issues right through to recommending her favourite Indian restaurants across the country and she did it all with infectious enthusiasm. I might be gushing a bit as I think I have a bit of a girl crush on Ms Maunika, but not only was she incredibly helpful and friendly but she was a cooking neat freak!
As a bit of a newcastle newb I was slightly late to the class, but when I did get there I was greeted by some fabulous indian pancakes and chutneys including a mint pickle, which was almost like a pesto and so very different to the raita usually served in restaurants.
On the menu at the Maunika Gowardhan class
- Bengali Murgir
- Mattar Paneer
- Spiced Cabbage Thoran
When the various curry dishes were cooked we were quickly served up a generous portion and I was sorry to be missing out on the delicious smelling Bengali Murgir with it’s tender looking chicken, until I tucked into my paneer along with some roti, cabbage thoran, rice and chutney.
I did brave a lot of dairy in this particular dish but it was worth it – the full fat yoghurt gave the sauce a creamy taste without feeling too heavy and though I’d never had paneer not in a light batter (and it is soooo good in a light batter) I’m a complete convert and will be eating it in batter-free guises from now on.
Dessert came in the form of a kulfi and spiced barfi, which slipped down effortlessly despite the hefty amount of food that came before. I’d never had barfi before and found it delicious – somewhere between a sweet and a cookie and thoroughly moreish.
And there were even some essentials from the class to take home to help us recreate the evening in our own kitchens.
If you fancy a fun, tasty and hangover free activity or are looking for an original gift – I’d strongly urge you to give the class a go. I’ve got a fair few Indian cook books but the insight Maunika gave into why you need to do a particular process at a particular time or why a specific ingredient is used was very helpful – as were her restaurant recommendations, which I’ll be signing friends up to try out as soon as possible. I’ve now well and truly caught the cookey class bug and went along to another class Lulu cooks Chinese this weekend and i’ll be posting my review on that soon!
A few weeks ago I was invited along to test the menu and learn the art of sangria making at La Vina on Grey Street in Newcastle. I consider myself to be a bit of a sangria expert on account of spending several breaks in Barcelona supping two euro Sangria from the local Spa. I also ‘invented’ mulled Sangria a couple of Januarys ago after becoming really obsessed with mulled wine. In addition, I have extensive experience of eating tapas in as many places I can find it – including authentic tapas bars that are not anywhere near La Ramblas (go Gothic, there’s some beauts). You could almost term me a tapas buff.
La Vina: The review
As a recent repatriate of the Toon I was not aware of the background of La Vina on Grey Street, which was formerly La Tasca and has recently reverted back to La Vina – it’s previous identity. La Vina is of course a chain restaurant and I know plenty of people who frown upon food bloggers who step foot in chains but the truth is, though I dine at them infrequently, they do come in ruddy useful when I’m dining with picky types – which is a lot since I have a vegetarian boyfriend, a mate who won’t eat any form of mince and several friends who won’t chow down on anything slightly spicier than an ice-cool korma – (sorry, love you all really).
From a good chain I expect: affordable prices, a pleasant and clean dining room, plenty of menu choices for all, cracking service and consistently good standard of food. I might not expect to be blown away by originality or authenticity of a menu but I want to have a good meal with friends and not to worry that any of the basics will let me down and it’s this criteria that I judged La Vina against.
I was marching towards the end of my Meatfree month on the night in question and did find the menu a little carb and dairy heavy as a vegetarian wannabe, though the staff went out of their way to make me feel welcome and catered for, even bringing over some potatas bravas to munch on when the meat eaters in my group were otherwise engaged. The venue itself was a tad cold, but that’s maybe something to do with it being big and old and underground. There were plenty of diners in aside from us meed-ja types and most seemed to be happily scoffing or engaging in chat.
Also on my vegetarian menu for the evening was a Spanish cheese board or seleccion de quesos, which went down really rather well. Predictably, I was a big fan of the blue cheese and goat’s cheese, which was served with some traditional Manchego, quince paste and a sweet crunchy torta. It’s the kind of thing I’d order with friends during Friday wine time, though I can’t really judge the value as the prices aren’t on the La Vina website (I hate it when that happens, it means I can’t mentally choose my menu choices before I arrive).
One item worth a mention was the croquetas de espinacas – a crumbed croquette filled with gooey goat’s cheese, spinach and bechamel and I suspect – a good whack of garlic. These were pretty tasty but in combination with the other vegetarian choices rather heavy, though after my visit to La bodega last month I’m starting to think this carb+cheese is an inevitable menu domination if you are seeking out vegetarian tapas choices. Less tasty were the grilled aubergine rolls, stuffed with tomatoes, sweet peppers and goat’s cheese, which were a little chewy for me (as aubergine can be).
And thus we come on to my particular area of expertise – the sangria. Although an actual sangria masterclass didn’t take place, the friendly bar lady did talk us through the sangria menu and its ingredients, which I sampled EXTENSIVELY (read: I got quite squiffy). On a side note, we asked the assistant manager if there was some kind of policy of only hiring brunettes at la vina so that it looked more authentically Spanish – he confirmed that there is no such semi-racist policy in place.
I have to admit I was quite a fan of the sangria – or more accurately the sangria-based cocktails. I could have questioned the authenticity of the Kir Royale Sangria but it was really rather refreshing and far more suppable than my mulled monstrosity. Again, I’m not sure of the prices, but I can imagine this cocktail-sangria and the sangria blanco in particular going down rather nicely during some afterwork drinks and I’m going to have a bash at making my own when BBQ season finally comes round.
All in all my La Vina trip was none-too-shabby. The setting and ambience was perfect for trips with tipsy friends, though I’m not sure I’d ever take anyone on a date there and the food I sampled on the whole was of a good standard – though as you probably would have guessed it’s not anything to rival some of the fantastic tapas I’ve had in Spain. The sangria cocktails are worth a punt for a change from Friday wine time and the service was fast, warm and friendly. One thing I’m sorry to have missed testing was the paella, though I’ll be back in Barcelona in just eight weeks and hopefully chomping on some seafood and meat packed bowlfuls while I’m there.
My meatfree month is well and truly behind me and over the passed week I’ve been happily munching on meat and fish of all kinds. I did eat some fabulous foods that aren’t all forgotten though and since I don’t have time to blog about each and every new vegetarian recipe I discovered, or the golden oldies I called upon to pull me through, I decided I’d do a photo roundup. Here are just a few of the tasty meatfree meals I tucked into during March. if there are any you would particularly like the recipe for please just leave me a comment and I’ll try and do a post for it or at least email you the recipe. Many of these snaps were taken on my phone so apologies that the quality isn’t fantastic!
I tucked into this lovely lentil daal with some damson chutney and a garlic and coriander naan one tea time. Quick, easy, filling.
This drool-worthy Sunday brunch was full of colour and the Cauldron vegetarian sausages really hit the spot.
Porcini mushroom stock cubes and dried mushrooms made sure there was plenty of risotto in this tea time risotto.
Ma Berg kindly prepared me my own vegetarian toad in the hole, complete with vegetarian onion gravy.
This simple snack was one of the best things I ate all month and made use of the homemade chutney sent to me by my foodie penpal last month along with some probably too generous chunks of goat’s cheese.
I usually make this colourful curry with butternut squash and pineapple but swapped in sweet potato and mango and chillies from my dad’s allotment.
Along with a few extra pounds in weight I gained through the extra consumption of dairy and carbs while attempting to be vegetarian, I picked up a few other things last month. Thanks to the Meatfree March Recipe swap I also accumulated a few new friends and some fantastic vegan and vegetarian recipe ideas. The swap saw bloggers and non-bloggers alike swap meat-free recipes and a few ingredients and then dive into the kitchen for a cook and blog off.
To make this extra interesting, up for grabs for the best blog post about the recipe swap was a month of veg boxes from Abel and Cole and a meal for two at Handmade Burger Company. The original plan was to present these prizes to one overall winner, but after much salivating and deliberating, Becs and I decided to award the prizes separately to two swappers who were actually partners. So, drum roll, please…..!
In first place, and the worthy recipient of the Abel and Cole prize, is Susie. We found her post over at susiestummytales informative and engaging. She made it very easy for anyone wanting to recreate the recipe she was sent to do so and got extra brownie points for linking to the buttery biscuit base video. These points are awarded for 1)innovative use of multimedia and 2)because Becs has a not-so-secret thing for Greg Wallace. Here’s a photo of the drool-inducing lime and coconut cheesecake she made.
This fantastic concoction was sent to Susie courtesy of Sharon, who is our second prize winner and will receive a free meal for two at Handmade Burger Company (there’s one in the metro centre so you can pop in on your next shopping trip and there are lots of vegetarian choices that can be made vegan). We decided to award Sharon this prize because of the massive effort she went to in order to put her post up – it was the first ever post on her blog Virtually Vegan and featured the chilli recipe Susie sent her, along with an extra side of guacamole, which as an avocado addict, I couldn’t resist!
Not only is it a cracking post, but we were super impressed that the recipe swap had inspired Sharon to make her leap into the world of blogging and we can’t wait to read more posts from her. The ladies will now need to contact Becs with their details to arrange prize delivery.
I really enjoyed reading all of the posts and have transferred many a recipe over to my to-make list as a result of reading about them. Some of them were visually stunning (like Amy Liz’s post on spinach and filo pie here). Some of them were witty like Ewan’s efforts with quinoa over at tonights-menu, some demonstrated how good cooks innovate in the face of adversity like Rebeca’s version of vegetarian Sloppy Joe’s at bigspoonmylittlespoon. Then there was Hannah’s double whammy of recipe swap fun (Warm pumpkin and chickpea salad and squash and puy lentil salad with flatbreads) at girleatsvegan here and here, which takes the reader on a heart-warming and chuckle-inducing journey to the supermarket, through Hannah’s mind and finely articulates the experience of her tastebuds. The cornbread complete with chilli drizzle sauce made by Rebecca looked Really Nice, which is unsurprising considering her blog name and the other fabulous things on there.
And of course, there’s Bec’s post over at Bitsandbobsbecs, which gets just a little sidetracked by the accompanying mini eggs that wouldn’t look out of place alongside orange segments amongst your cheese and chocolate raisins, but is actually about Amy Liz’s rather tasty-looking penne alla vodka recipe.
Apologies to anyone I have missed off the list, please do leave a link on the bottom and I’ll add them in. Congratulations again to Susie and Sharon, I hope you enjoy your prizes – perhaps we’ll get to read a post or two about them? Becs and I have a few foodie ideas in the pipeline, so do stay in touch and hopefully we can all have some more kitchen adventures together!
Once upon a time there was a girl who really hated beans – their shiny, slimy skins, their squishy, icky inners and in the case of baked beans, their sick-inducing smell. That girl was me. One of the main reasons behind me going meat-free last month was to spur me into trying new things and on this level at least the experiment was successful – I have finally embraced the bean, well sort of.
Mid-way through Meatfree March I bought a really big organic butternut squash, pretty huge in fact and after turning part of it into chips I got a bit stuck as to what to do with the rest. I’d been craving sweet things all month so decided to make a batch of cupcakes with some of the squash and stumbled across this recipe from my beloved Domestic Sluttery, which helped me to find a use for the rest. Although some of my Meatfree March teas were less experimental (thank you Quorn for inventing battered sweet and sour Quorn pieces) I did make a massive effort to make appealing lunches during the month, so that I didn’t feel temped to stray from the vegetarian path. So, armed with two very colourful antipasti jars I’d been given to review from the Pegalonia range (which I picked up from the lovely Country Whey Deli in Jesmond, they usually cost £3.50 a jar), I decided to make some mezze wraps complete with my own version of a butternut squash and bean spread. Here is my take on the Sluttery recipe – it came out really rather scrumptious:
Butternut squash and butterbean spread
- Half a large butternut squash (cubed and roasted in olive oil)
- 5 garlic cloves
- 1 large glug of olive oil
- 1 small tin of butter beans
- 3 tbsp lemon juice
- 2 tsp sea salt
- ½ tsp smoked paprika
- ½ tsp cumin
- ½ tsp cayenne pepper
- ½ tsp ground coriander
This was a really easy spread to make – it was just a case of roasting the squash in olive oil, letting it cool and then blending all of the ingredients together, adding the lemon juice and olive oil gradually until I got the correct consistency. Then it was onto the wrap creation.
On the hunt for tasty meat-free treats at the start of March I was pointed in the direction of the Pelagonia range, which is made up of jars of Macedonian vegetable loveliness. I chose the Lutetiniza – roasted spicy pepper and Malidzano – smoky aubergine , to sample and thought they would be just the thing to go in a wrap with my butternut squash spread. Turns out I was right.
My butternut-squash-bean dip was quite hot, which meant it went really well with the creamy, smoky aubergine and even better with the hot, spicy and sweet peppers. These sauces had no hint of the usual antipasti oiliness, so I felt nice and healthy as I tucked into the wraps, which i microwaved and served with a side salad at lunch time. I can honestly say they were better than a beefy burrito and they had the added bonus of being completely dairy-free, which meant my tum was extra happy.