The Drunken Butcher’s Vegetarian Supper Club

This time last week I was in a stranger’s house with 8 or 9 other strangers filling my face with some delicious vegetarian grub, cocktails and shots of Jim Beam…. courtesy of Iain aka The Drunken Butcher and The University of Manchester Foodies Group, this was my first supper club:

First up was our complimentary cocktail; a Martini complete with green olive. Whilst we got to know each other and waited for the rest of the group to arrive Iain (@drunkenbutcher) would keep us up to date with what he was doing and answer any questions we had. It was interesting to hear about his life and how he had ended up doing these supper clubs – mainly because I would love to see myself doing them one day.

We watched Iain prepare the veg for the celery and celeriac soup and were given various tips; from where to buy the best knives to hints on preparing celery for a salad. His ability to multi-task was impressive as he juggled sautéing the base for the soup, with boiling pasta, with chopping peppers and god knows what else was going on in the kitchen.

The food was served as it was ready – no real set course pattern. Each dish was put in the middle of the table and we served ourselves, I think this is always the best way to do it and as Iain reminded us, this was a supper club – not fine dining.

First we had macaroni cheese – the cheese sauce was made with soft cream cheese rather than lots of hard cheddar which meant it stayed lovely and saucy rather than setting solid. The topping was made with a mix of grated cheddar and breadcrumbs. To add further flavour and texture and to cut through the rich cheese sauce it was served with softened red peppers and chillies (initially Iain meant to stir this through but forgot so it was served on the side – this kind of added to the charm of the night). Needless to say the whole dish was delicious – so creamy and indulgent!

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Next up was mushroom risotto. Iain is lucky enough to be married to a Finn (I think?!) and shortly after we arrived he presented the hoards of wild mushrooms which his mother-in-law had recently sent over from the forests near her home. Together with some regular button mushrooms they made a flavourful risotto which was enhanced with the ‘stock’ from soaking the wild mushrooms. Celery tops were chopped and stirred in at the last minute to add a hint of freshness too.

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Last of the savoury dishes was the celery and celeriac soup, I’d never had celeriac that I could remember but it was really tasty even though my stomach was already about to burst at this point. Chunky croutons topped with parmesan added a nice crunch.

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All the while we were eating Iain would keep us updated with what was going on in the kitchen. He often came and took a general vote of our preferences too so that he could tailor the meal, ‘do you want the brownie really gooey or more cakey’ – of course we said gooey! And although the price of the ticket (£25) only included the cocktail at the start of the night, Iain regularly offered us a beer or a shot of his favourite, Jim Beam. I declined on the beer but couldn’t resist a couple of shots!

After a little break pudding was served – chocolate brownie with cherries and peanuts served with an orange sorbet and a Jim Beam custard. The brownie was, as promised, soft and gooey. The addition of peanuts and cherries was a great idea too. The sorbet was refreshing and the custard was sweet and caramelly from the bourbon.

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By the end I was painfully full! We had been advised to bring Tupperware, I think we all forgot, but if we had there would have been plenty to take home.

Overall for my first supper club I thoroughly enjoyed it. The food was delicious and it was nice to meet some fellow foodies. I think next time I’d like to go on a weekend night when it might be more of a party atmosphere. I was also left feeling very un-vegan! Iain is actually doing a vegan night tonight so I think next time there’s a vegan one I’d love to try that!

So despite his name, The Drunken Butcher really can cook a vegetarian feast and I would definitely recommend his Supper Club to anyone looking for some good cooking and excellent grub.

To find out more about The Drunken Butcher and his upcoming events find his website here http://thedrunkenbutcher.co.uk/

6 days into veganism; so far so easy

Ok so granted I haven’t exactly pushed the boundaries of vegan cooking over the last 5 days but I really thought I’d be finding it much harder than I am.  I have loads to say already but I will just pick out a few of the main things I have experienced so far….

I spent 2 of the first five days hungover and mainly stuffing my face with bagels, peanut butter and crisps but I have constructed some meals and most importantly not felt like I was missing out!

I’d say the hardest moment so far was Sunday evening, usually I’d order a big cheesy pizza to try and dull the realisation that the weekend is over. After sulking for approximately 3 minutes I decided I would have to find a similarly stodgy vegan alternative. Instead, I stuffed my face with a bagel, Pom Bears dipped in houmous and Metcalfe’s Sweet ‘n Salt Popcorn…I felt pretty satisfied with that and better for not spending money on takeaway and consuming a disgusting amount of calories/fat.

Yesterday I popped into Holland & Barrett (I can barely walk past there without heading inside these days) and perused the vegan fridge/freezer section. I think my favourite part of this challenge is discovering new foods that I haven’t eaten before. I came out with VegiDeli’s Gourmet Meat-free Meatballs and Meatless Feast Pizza, Amy’s Kitchen Black Bean and Vegetable Enchilada and Linda McCartney’s Vegetarian Country Pies. I had no need for any of them but felt like having some quick and easy meals in my fridge/freezer would be a good idea for the days where I can’t be bothered to think about what I want to eat. I justified the expense by saying to myself ‘it’s better to bulk buy at the start of the month when I still have some money left than wait until the week before pay day’.  Plus I’m not buying the usual cheese and eggs which cost money! I haven’t tried any of them yet (although my mum did used to buy the country pies when I was growing up and they’re delicious) but I’m hoping I will find a new favourite! Reviews to follow….

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I also popped into Tesco – mainly to see what they have to offer a new vegan and partly because I’ve heard so much about Violife Dairy-free Cheese on the vegan-grapevine and supposedly Tesco is the place to find it. There was no sign of the Violife L and I didn’t come across anything that particularly excited me. I might not have been looking hard enough. I have a Sainsburys close to my flat and to my work and have really been impressed with their vegan labelling of own brand products. Tesco don’t do this which makes everything 10x harder! I did however buy a couple of Glorious! SkinnyLicious Soups (2 for £3.50) I got ‘Starry Thai Sky’ flavour which apparently is a pumpkin and coconut cream soup with carrot, coriander, ginger and less than 1% fat! They were marked vegan and this fact alone probably encouraged me to pick them up – take note food companies!

Fancy soup

A highlight of the week so far has been my first vegan chocolate bar! I’m not what you would describe a chocoholic but when I closed a deal at work I was upset to think I wouldn’t get to have my earned dip in the ‘deal bucket’ (literally a bucket filled with chocolate and sweets). I thought I’d have a look anyway….pretty much everything had milk or gelatine EXCEPT a Fry’s Chocolate Cream bar. I’d always thought it was an old-fashioned sort of bar and given it was launched in 1866 I guess it is! Nevertheless I was impressed by my first chocolate experience as a vegan. The dark chocolate had a lovely snap to it and the centre was a bit like a solid Crème Egg filling.

Old Man Chocolate

Like I said I’ve not been hugely inventive with my meals so far. I accidently bought a second pot of houmous when I already had some in the fridge and coupled with falafel, pitta breads, cous cous, olives and salad it has made a number of tasty meals. I’ve had a couple of Innocent Veg Pots and porridge made with almond milk and dried cranberries for breakfast every day.

A few of my meals have looked like this..

A few of my meals have looked like this..

Next week I hope to be a little bit more productive and maybe follow a few recipes…..watch this space

Preparations for Vegan November

Again a slight diversion from the initial intended use for this blog…After introducing myself as a vegetarian only yesterday, I am now preparing to go vegan for the month of November and therefore this blog will follow suit…

I can’t really remember what made me decide to try veganism. For years now I’ve understand why people choose to be vegan and fully admired them for doing so but the thought of giving up cheese and butter just seemed too hard! More and more over the past year or so I’ve thought about it though and I must have been Googling something vegan to come across Animal Aid’s ‘Go Vegan’ website (http://www.govegan.org.uk/). I absent-mindedly signed up to the ‘Great Vegan Challenge’ and (half)committed to give up eggs and dairy for the month of November to tie in with World Vegan Month (if that’s actually a thing).

I say half-committed because I was dubious I’d be able to do it, I imagined it would be costly and complicated and I didn’t know if I had the will-power or drive to actually stick it out. Anyway, a few days later I received an unexpected package in the post….a little welcome pack with lots of info, help and recipes from Animal Aid.  By this point I had mentioned that I might be going vegan to a few people at work and was talking myself more and more into the idea. The more people recoiled in horror or told me it was a bad idea the more I wanted to do it. So here I am, tomorrow is my last day of dairy and eggs(and the rest) before I start my vegan adventure on Saturday.

I don’t want to ramble on about veganism but I think I will quickly outline some of my main motivating factors.

Animal Welfare: This might shock some of you but I’m not exactly an animal lover. I mean I don’t mind animals but I’m not one for giving £100s to the donkey sanctuary – obviously they do a good job but I prefer to put people first. However, industrial farming is disgusting and seeing the way animals are reared and kept would put Ronald McDonald off his Big Mac. But it’s not only the meat industry that contributes to awful animal welfare – countless male calves are killed because the dairy industry has no need for them and similarly male chicks are killed at just a day old because they don’t lay eggs. If I can opt out of this industry, even if it’s for my own peace of mind then I will do.

Environment: The food industry as a whole is out of control. Farming so many animals for meat, eggs and dairy puts huge pressure on the environment; from growing crops to feed the animals to the methane produced from all the cattle we rear, to transporting all of these animal products around the world. This is a hard one because in some ways I think we’re already fucked but I don’t think I’d be a very good human to just give up on the world.

Health: I don’t really know what’s going to happen with my health during this month but I do know that the majority of the saturated fat I have consumed throughout my life has been through cheese! I’m planning on not using too many cheese/milk/yoghurt alternatives and really cutting back to pulses, beans, vegetables and nuts….surely that’s got to be good for you! And if I’m really honest I’d love to lose a bit of weight during this month.

So preparations so far have included purchasing this lovely looking recipe book; ‘Keep it Vegan’ by Áine Carlin. I’ve flicked through it and some of the recipes sound delicious. I also really enjoyed reading about Áine’s conversion to veganism. She has such a positive outlook on veganism and reassured me that going from a full-blown omnivore to a vegan really wasn’t that hard. So hard can it be for me? As and when I get round to trying her recipes I will let you know….

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In addition I went shopping tonight. This weekend is busy….I’m out straight after work with friends tomorrow evening then have to get up Saturday morning and jump on a train to Reading for a Halloween party. I will no doubt be hungover and in need of immediate food Saturday morning and didn’t want to fail on 1st November so I have been and got a few easy to grab bits and pieces which should keep me going until I’m ready to start cooking lentils and what-not.

vegan provisions

vegan provisions

Overall I’m excited! I love food and I’m seeing this as a new challenge. I’m interested to find out how easy/hard I’ll find it and what meals I will come back to  (the blog won’t be very interesting if I have peanut butter on toast everyday). I don’t know how I’m going to feel when November is over but regardless of whether or not I remain vegan I hope to take something away from it.

For more info on veganism see http://www.vegansociety.com/