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/

Guerrilla Eats

I stumbled on an absolute beauty of a find a few weeks ago. Since the Manchester Food & Drink Festival 2014 I have been following The Hip Hop Chip Shop (Untraditional Fish & Chips) on Facebook. When I saw a picture of them squeezing their van into a tight spot at ‘Guerrilla Eats’ I was intrigued.

Guerrilla Eats has been going for 2 years apparently so I’m well behind the times but basically they get together a collection of street food vendors under the same roof every Saturday evening (5pm – Midnight) with a bar, some music and seating to provide food, drink and a bit of a party…..sounded good to me and a perfect spot to take my non-vegan friend to get some scran.

I tweeted @Guerrilla_Eats to ask about vegan options and they got to back to me pretty much straight away….isn’t social media marvellous!? I was pointed in the direction of @Manjitskitchen who indeed confirmed that they would have something for my tea that evening.

Me and my friend headed out. The venue is in Ancoats around the same area as Sankeys in a big open warehouse type place. I think it is also based outside sometimes depending on the weather.

A chalk board near to the door listed the different street food possibilities that were available and coloured-coded strips lead along the floor to guide you to each one. Inside included a raised platform with a tropical themed bar and deck chairs, long tables with benches and a DJ in the shell of a black cab! I surveyed the various options before heading across to Majit’s Kitchen; a beautifully decorated yellow chaat cart and asked what I could have that was vegan.

Turned out that all the options except the paneer were vegan-friendly so I had choice! I opted for a lentil dahl with rice and some sweet potato and spinach pakoras. Dahl is always a favourite of mine and this one was particularly good, not too spicy but warm enough and the rice was perfectly cooked too. A garnish of some raw onion, coriander and tamarind was a nice touch. The pakoras were also yummy; freshly fried, crispy and soft at the same time.  My friend had a Jian Bing from MeiMei’s Street Cart an interesting Chinese pancake thing which I think was equally tasty.

The atmosphere of the whole place was impressive, I didn’t expect many people to be there; the location isn’t exactly central and we went relatively early on in the evening. It was quite busy and if we didn’t have other plans for the night I reckon we could have stayed for a good few hours.

I am definitely going back to Guerrilla Eats and the beauty is that with their ever-changing selection of food stalls there’s going to be something for everyone – vegans, veggies and omnivores alike!! I could definitely see it as a good spot for an evening of food and drinks or even pre-drinks before a night in town. They’re also putting on a NYE party which I’m tempted to suggest to friends.

If you’re into food I definitely recommend you try it out… just don’t get too jealous of the street food vendors living out the dream so many of us have!20141108_185207

Lentil Dahl

GO GO GO TO GO Falafel!

I can’t remember how I came across Go Falafel recently but its existence certainly wasn’t news to me. When the branch on the ‘Curry Mile’ opened I was student and I’d see it every day through the steamed up, rainy, Magic Bus window. Although it intrigued me a little at this point – what vegetarian isn’t drawn in by falafel?! – I already had a favourite Middle Eastern takeaway joint just a few doors down (namely Falafel – this is going to get confusing). Like I say my falafel needs were already catered for and the fancy exterior and offer of fresh juices and smoothies seemed gimmicky and more suited to the student population (I, of course, was different to them – only interested in legit Arabic snacks)

That was until I decided I was going to go vegan and began doing my research…..where could I eat out easily as a vegan?

I knew plenty of places in and around Fallowfield, Withington and Didsbury (Fuel, Greens and The Hub to name a few) but now I’d moved to town I was out of my depth….oh the struggles of a young vegan in a big city!!

Anyway Go Falafel cropped up somewhere along my internet search and I was surprised to read that everything sold in there is 100% vegan. I was excited to test it out and decided to treat myself last Friday lunchtime.

The menu is pretty straightforward; the main options are falafel wraps, a falafel lunch box or a salad box. I opted for the falafel lunch box – it was lunchtime and given it was the most expensive thing on the menu (£5.50) I guessed I’d get a big portion. I also ordered a smoothie – mango, passionfruit and peach.

The lunch box consisted of a selection of delicious and imaginative salads. I can’t remember them all but there was a grated carrot salad with a lemony dressing, a pasta salad coated in a herby pesto, tabouleh, mixed roasted veg and spinach with red onion. I love when salad isn’t just lettuce, tomato and cucumber and Go Falafel really excelled here. In the centre of the salads was a pot of houmous – an essential with falafel! This was drizzled with some olive oil and paprika which was a nice touch. Then to finish off, 4 freshly fried falafel and a warmed flatbread. I hurried back to the office in the rain with my salad and smoothie and tucked in. I wasn’t disappointed and the wonderful variety with each component kept my interest until the end. The smoothie was also great; tropical and sweet as you would expect.

Go Falafel is a great place to grab a bite to eat – vegan or not – and they’re open late too (Piccadilly: 10am – 10pm and Rusholme (Curry Mile): 10am – 2am) so could provide some hangover-reducing sustenance after post-work drinks.

The only downside I can think of is that they are only takeaway – there are no tables or chairs inside and so not a great option if you want somewhere to go and have lunch with friends – then again you could buy your falafel and sit in Piccadilly Gardens (if it isn’t raining!). Overall I was very impressed and I’m looking forward to going back and trying the rest of the menu!  And like I said GO GO GO TO GO Falafel!  5/5  gofalafel.co.uk

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A couple of vegan ready meal reviews

Sorry for the delay with these reviews….another pretty heavy weekend meant I’ve only just got round to writing again.

 

Amy’s Kitchen Black Bean and Vegetable Enchiladas

One evening last week (I think it was Thursday) I came home starving and wanted something quick and easy to eat. Thankfully, and as you will know if you read my last entry, I stocked up last week on vegan goodies to stick in the fridge and freezer. I opted for the frozen enchiladas by Amy’s Kitchen. I had a bit of salad and some frozen sweetcorn to go with it and seeing as it could be microwaved I thought I’d give it a go.

Taking it out of the box it didn’t look particularly appealing and the frozen chives sprinkled on the top didn’t do much to whet my appetite. I wacked it in the microwave and after artistically arranging my salad leaves on the plate and defrosting some sweetcorn it was done.

I’m afraid it pretty much lived up to the appearance. The sauce was ok, the texture was a bit grainy but overall the mildly spiced and slightly smokey flavour was good, if a little salty. The filling was also mediocre. It was nice to have little bits of tofu in there; something I don’t think I’ve had before in a ready meal and I could also pick out some beans and sweetcorn but it was all much of a muchness. Worst of all was the pancakey outside. I don’t know if it’s just me but I expect a tortilla when buying an enchilada but this was definitely more of a pancake. Maybe it had something to do with it being gluten-free or whether it was down to it being American but it really wasn’t to my taste. The pancake seemed rubbery and had no flavour and half way through I was really struggling to eat it. Overall a bit of a disappointment but what can you expect from a frozen readymeal?! Maybe it would be better in the oven (but I’m not going to hang about for 50 minutes to find out!) I’d eat it again if I had to but definitely not one for the shopping list! 1/5

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VegiDeli Meatless Feast Pizza

This was my Sunday evening treat. After very little sleep and far too much intoxication across the weekend, comfort food was needed!! The result of cooking this little (definitely only enough for one) frozen pizza was better than expected. The base – was as predicted and indistinguishable  from a non-vegan base – it was medium thickness, nothing fancy but crispy and tasty. The tomato sauce was also good and pretty standard for a frozen pizza. The cheese definitely didn’t look great  – it remained in solid strands and wasn’t particularly appetising. However, this was my first taste of vegan cheese and actually it wasn’t too bad. There wasn’t tons of greasy melted cheese as you might expect in a non-vegan version but the flavour was definitely there – if anything the cheesey flavour was quite strong! Then the various meatless toppings were all pretty good too, probably nothing like the processed meat they are trying to replicate but then who wants that?!?!  Instead they were soft and salty and smokey and sometimes spicey. Not the best pizza I’ve ever eat but served a purpose and depending on the price I might buy another…. 3/5

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Oh and just as an aside…. I was going through my Vegan Society emails last night (I signed up to their 30 day pledge) and came across this a link to their Making the Connection film. Made up of 8 short clips the film explores the various reasons behind veganism. Although a bit like an educational film that you might watch in school I was really drawn in…. find it here https://www.youtube.com/view_play_list?p=932A35B5E6B8965A

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

The Last (Non-Vegan) Supper; Solita, The Northern Quarter

Halloween was my last day as a vegetarian before starting my Vegan Challenge for the month of November. It also happened to be the first Friday after pay day and a few of us from work had arranged to go out for food and (a few, which turned into many) drinks.

Solita on Turner Street in the Northern Quarter had been suggested and although it primarily looked like a burger joint I liked the look of the menu. Rather than having one vegetarian burger option the menu revealed that any of the meat burgers could be substituted for either a veggie bean burger or halloumi cheese. That way I could still have the pick of all the exciting toppings and variations!

When we arrived we were shown to our big round booth, it was good that we could all see each other and chat together this way. We ordered drinks – I had a Rum infused Cuban beer called Bachata; it was tasty and at £3.75, not too pricey. Some of the other had cocktails and they looked good but were around the £7 mark.

The menu was the same as the one I’d looked at online and after glancing over the starters and deciding against the amazing sounding ‘Lucky 7’ (7 Layers of Guacamole, re-fried beans, sour cream, salsa, cheese, lettuce, olives. Served with blue corn tortilla chips)  I just needed to pick my burger. There was lots to choose from , I could have opted for the ‘Jack Daddy’ with toppings of onion rings, Monterey Jack cheese and Jack Daniel’s grill sauce or the ‘Catalan’ with roasted red peppers, manchego  cheese and roasted tomato aioli.

In the end I went for ‘The Big Manc’; brioche bun, iceberg, home pickles, Monterey Jack cheese and Big Manc sauce. Usually coming with 2 x 6oz minced chuck steak patties I decided to swap them for the halloumi (make the most of being able to eat cheese!). All of the main courses come with skin on fries, I could have decided to upgrade these to sweet potato fries or cheesy curly fries but didn’t feel it was necessary given the double-deckeredness of my burger.

I should also note that when I was ordering I asked about prices; would my vegetarian burger price reflect that of the meat counterpart? The answer was no 🙂 as long as I wasn’t adding meat to my veggie burger mine would cost £8.90…much cheaper than the meat ones!

My burger came and didn’t disappoint. It was huge and looked impressive compared to every else’s measly one-tiered burgers! The brioche bun was soft and tasty, the halloumi had been fried in a crispy coating of polenta which gave it nice crunch around the edges, there were plenty of pickles and lots of Big Manc sauce which was creamy and tangy. The fries were also delicious. Any criticism would be down to my ordering. Realistically there was too much cheese – not only 2 large halloumi patties but also the Monterey Jack cheese. I was stuffed by the end of it and had to leave some of the halloumi – on reflection next time I would probably just ask for one patty and go for the bean burger so as to cut down the risk of a heart attack from cheese overload!

Overall I was impressed with Solita it was nice to have the same amount of choice as everyone else and I would definitely go back again. 4/5

The Veggie Big Manc