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!

Homemade red lentil daal with naan

Lovely lentil daal

I tucked into this lovely lentil daal with some damson chutney and a garlic and coriander naan one tea time. Quick, easy, filling.

veggie sausages, poached eggs, toast, samphire, cherry tomatoes, samphire

Proving you don't need meat for a tasty brunch

This drool-worthy Sunday brunch was full of colour and the Cauldron vegetarian sausages really hit the spot.

 

Porcini mushroom

Porcini mushroom risotto with asparagus spears and a smear of cheese

Porcini mushroom stock cubes and dried mushrooms made sure there was plenty of risotto in this tea time risotto.

giant vegetarian toad in the hole

Veggie toad in the hole

Ma Berg kindly prepared me my own vegetarian toad in the hole, complete with vegetarian onion gravy.

Toasted goats cheese with tomato chutney

Gooey goat's cheese on toast with tomato chutney

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.

 

Red thai curry with mango and sweet potato

Red thai curry with mango and sweet potato

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.

Photo courtesy of Susiestummytales

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!

Photo courtesy of Virtually Vegan

 

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

Method

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.

butternut squash dip, antipasti, hummus and tortilla wraps

My midweek mezze lunch ensemble

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.

wraps filled with spicy butternut squash dip and antipasti

Butternut squash and spicy pepper/smoked aubergine wraps - better than a burrito!

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.

 

Parcels really brighten my day, which is why in addition to Foodie Penpals, myself and Bitsandbobsbecs set up a vegetarian/vegan recipe swap this month. As a result, it’s been a pretty busy month for our postie and a busy month for blog posts. With this in mind, I’ve decided to do a double whammy penpals post this month. Las month, my parcel  arrived a little late month so I didn’t have time to blog about it. The contents of my parcel from my partner  were so lovely I thought I’d share them this month along with my set of surprises from my partner this month Kathryn.

 

February's foodie penpal parcel

Tasty teas, mustard and szechuan spice

I’d told Rose that I’ve been getting into herbal teas to try and avoid caffeine and she sent me a lovely mix of really special teas along with a defuser to pop in my tea mug – such a thoughtful gift. I’ve really enjoyed the Thai style chai in particular. Alongside the teas she sent me some German mustard and a szechuan spice, though I haven’t yet tried these as they seem like natural partners for meat. I was paired up with Eeefke from the Netherlands who eats a vegan and gluten-free diet and blogs about it here and the pairing gave me some good insight ahead of Meat-free March. I sent Eefke some ras el hanout, chipotle chilli, dark chocolate drops, mojo sauce and crystallised pineapple for snacking

This month I was again matched with an overseas partner – this time based in Austria, Anette. I’m still waiting to hear if she liked the parcel I put together for her, which I’m hoping will add a little spice to her life. Annette unfortunately doesn’t have a blog or Twitter, but I put  together a parcel of currry spices, a latska kit, crumble fudge and popping candy as she said spices weren’t so easy to get hold of where she lives.

Foodie penpals Uk parcel march

My mass of parcel goodies for March

My March came courtesy of Kat who blogs about pretty and prestine lunches over at Sushisushibento , if you find yourself in a bit of a packed lunch rut you should definitely take a look at her blog, it made me up my lunch game! I nearly burst with glee when her parcel arrived. Not only did it contain a homemade condiment and a conserve, WHOOP! But it was really packed out. There were so many things packed into my parcel and all vegetarian – so I’ve been able to enjoy them throughout the month. I unfortunately started enjoying them a little too soon though, as what isn’t pictured among my amazing haul below is some toffee chocolate biscuit that Kathryn had made herself from TUC biscuits. I tried one piece and couldn’t put the tub down, so they missed out on being snapped. Kat really had everything covered in her parcel – my love of condiments (she sent homemade tomato chutney and damson jam), my love of snacking – crisps AND nut bars, and my new sweet tooth – the biscuits. She also included some mini eggs for Easter, which was a lovely thought.

If you fancy  getting your own selection of goodies through the post every month, click on the foodie penpals button at the bottom of the site.

I’ve been following a vegetarian diet for almost a full month now, but thanks to a bout of food poisoning at the start of my quest followed by a non-commital cold, which I presume snuck in when my immune system was low and now won’t fully depart – I’m sad to report I’ve really not been feeling any benefits so far. The illness has bred laziness and though I’ve prepared lots of exciting lunches, I’ve been a little lazy on the tenacious tea front. Even worse, on the occasions where I’d ventured out to eat with friends, I found a lot of places interpret vegetarian as ‘dairy plus carbs’. I love dairy, dairy does not love me. I love carbs, I love them so much I can feel myself expanding right now as I write, bloated by their comforting starch molecules, which I have consumed far too wantonly in the past month. I’d started to feel a little cheesed off with myself for ever setting the Meatfree March challenge and decided to pick myself up with a trip to the Sky Apple Cafe with some blogger friends Hannah (myfirsthome) and Katherine (itsaboobyfullife).

Review time

Sky Apple has been on the top of my to-do list since mid-January and I’ve actually tried to go once before but was scuppered by the fact the place isn’t open on Monday and Tuesday evenings – take note. This bright and cozy cafe was a little cold when the three of us entered on a weary Wednesday evening but the lights, decor and waitress were very welcoming. We’d come straight from work, I’d got lost en route and two of us had germs threatening to turn into full blown colds. This meant we were hungry, cold and perhaps harder to please than the average customer. However, we were soon put at ease when the waitress heard us debating over herbal tea choices and came over to help us choose. Yes, I know it’s traditional to have alcohol when you eat out and Sky Apple allows you to BYO and has it’s own licence, but in case you didn’t know, it’s snowing up here and has been for about three months. I chose some calming chamomile.

Under the guidance of owner Andy, Sky Apple opens as a cafe during the day and restaurant evenings wed-sat menu is very much a fusion of different cultures and shows a lot of imagination. The evening menu also changes every six weeks to keep things fresh and give you plenty of reasons to go back. There were cheesy and carby options as choices but these were as part of an actual meal and the range of flavours in just a small menu compared to choices I’d been facing in other establishments had me a little overwhelemd. It was great to have so much choice and I felt all special, which is not how I have been feeling dining out recently. The three of us had decided to eat a main couse and dessert as I’ve developed a terrible sweet tooth since quitting meat (no meat=love of sweet) but we couldn’t resist trying the mini fish and chips starter (£4.70) and I’m glad we did. The halloumi sandwiched between aubergine in a crisp, light batter was a texture and taste delight and really did resemble fish and chips. I tend to eat fish a lot when I go out so this was a nice comforting choice and it came with three whole condiments – homemade ketchup, mint puree and homemade tartare, which is out of shot. I double dipped all my chips to up my condiment quota.

Mini 'fish' and chips and dips

On to the main courses, which arrived in a reasonable time after the starters, Hungry Hannah chose a rather phallic-looking strombolli (£8.70). It looked a bit like a calzone or massive pasty but with the addition of reassuringly healthy looking seeds and was oozing with mozzarella intertwined with lots of tasty seasonal veg.

Rolled thin pizza from Sky Apple Cafe

Stromboli and salad

Full-time vegetarian Katherine made the culinary coup of the evening by choosing the Cambodian Curry £8.90, which came with banana fritters. I’ve never eaten Cambodian food before but was impressed by the layers of flavour in the thick sauce, which had the balance of coconut just right.

Vegetarian Cambodian curry, rice and banana fritters

Cambodian curry, banana fritters and rice

My main was Moussake filo (£8.90) which featured layers of sweet potato, aubergine and bechamel sauce inside some crisp filo pastry, alongside a very generous Greek salad. what I found most pleasing about the dish was the fact the layers had been retained – I was afraid I’d be eating moussaka veg mush – but I was very wrong, it was tiered and tasty.

Sweet potato aubergine and bechamel in filo with Greek salad

Moussaka filo and Greek salad

After the generous main course portions, Katherine was flagging and said she couldn’t fit in a dessert but Hannah and I were keen to get the full Sky Apple experience and I was super keen to try out the vegan ice cream, which wouldn’t hurt my stupidly sensitive stomach. The ice cream was made with lots of cinnamon and ginger and I’m pretty sure it had medicinal benefit – it was very strongly scented and soothed my sore throat. The plum crumble £4.80) that accompanied it was lovely, you could tell it wasn’t packed with butter – but this is not a criticism and it in no way lacked taste or crunch, it just felt a little healthier than usual.

vegan ice cream and plum crumble

Plum crumble with throat soothing cinnamon and ginger ice cream

Hannah chose lemon possett and this came with some dippable shortbread biscuits.

Lemon posset from Sky Apple Cafe, Heaton

Lemon posset and shortbread legs

I really enjoyed my meal at Sky Apple Cafe and came away reassured that there are people out there catering for vegetarians and doing it well. Refreshed and nourished I threw myself back into my final week and a half of Meatfree March and I’ll certainly be swinging by Sky Apple again once the month is over – the meal was affordable, delicious and I cant stop thinking about the ice cream. Whether you are vegetarian or not, it’s a great place to meet and eat with friends.