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/

Chilli Non Carne

So I’m sure most people can make a bean chilli but I thought I’d share my recipe. When I say ‘my recipe’ it suggests I follow a strict method every time I make it, I definitely don’t! Regardless, this is what I made tonight, it’s still bubbling away but it looks hot and tasty and should keep me warm and satisfied for the whole weekend!

Ingredients

Splash of oil – I used normal olive oil but you could use any cooking oil; sunflower, vegetable or even coconut if you’re fancy!

1 onion – I used red tonight, my preference would be white but I buy them in multipacks from Aldi and I’m not gonna buy a bag of white and red onions each week! There’s only so many onions a girl can use.

2 peppers – I always like to include a green, mainly because I know that’s the one that will be left in the fridge out of my 3 pack if I don’t and also the slight bitterness goes well in a chilli, I also used a yellow

About 5 medium-sized mushrooms – I don’t always add these but had a craving tonight and they add an earthy note that I guess makes it a bit ‘meaty’ (I wouldn’t really know!)

2 – 3 cloves of garlic – mmmmmm garlic!

A fair bit of dried oregano and paprika if you have it (smoked paprika would be best)

A sprinkling of frozen/tinned sweetcorn – or fresh (again if you’re fancy!)

1 tin of kidney beans

1 tin of borlotti beans – I don’t usually use these but I have a new-found love for them so they’re going in!

2 tins of chopped tomatoes

Ok so controversial bit of the recipe….. Instead of fresh chilli or chilli powder I used Sriracha hot chilli sauce – firstly because I have neither of the aforementioned and secondly I love Sriracha and thirdly I didn’t want it to be too spicy – I’m going to be eating this on a hangover and I can’t be dealing with too much spice. Basically use whatever you want here to add as much or as little spice as you want!

Method

  1. Chop the onion, peppers and mushrooms into whatever size chunks you wants – I like sort of 1cm cubes
  2. Sauté the veg in a large pan in the splash of oil, finely chop the garlic and add (this is where you would add fresh chilli)
  3. When the veg is soft and starting to go a bit brown add the sweetcorn, paprika and oregano
  4. Follow with the tins of beans (drained) and tomatoes
  5. If you are using hot sauce stir in now and leave to simmer from anywhere between 20 minutes and an hour
  6. Once it’s looking thick and amalgamated have a taste and add seasoning and maybe more spice if it needs it
  7. I’m going to serve with brown rice and my new favourite vegan alternative – soya yoghurt. I’m waiting until tomorrow though by which time my chilli non carne should have had time to sit and get even tastier

How do you make your chilli?!

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300kcal Mexican Bean Pitta

About 2 ½ weeks into my weight-loss/fitness plan and I’m still pretty motivated. On my 500kcal days (5:2 diet) I’m having 200kcals of raw food (fruit/veg/nuts) for my breakfast/dinner. Today this consisted of – 1 carrot, 2 clementines, 100g cherry tomatoes, 100g red pepper, about 5 green olives, a few slices of pickled jalapenos, 2 spring onions and 8 almonds. This is actually quite a tasty and fulfilling lunch – I used to just eat a tin of soup for the same calories and it was nowhere near as satisfying.

Then for tea (dinner/supper….whatever you want to call it) I have 300kcals to play with.

*See my previous post for one option: Moroccan-style Vegetable and Chickpea Stew – I actually made this a 2nd time but changed the carrots & squash to cauliflower and substituted the cinnamon for curry powder and hey presto I had chana gobi for same number of kcals 🙂 *

Tonight though I tried something a little different….

Mexican inspired pitta pizza type thing

Ingredients

1 wholemeal pitta

150g re-fried beans (one of my favourite things ever)

2 or 3 spring onions

About 4 cherry tomatoes

1 heaped teaspoon of capers

2 teaspoons of jalapenos

Some fresh coriander

NB This is a rough guide! If you’re wanting to keep the calories down I wouldn’t mess too much with the amount of pitta or refried beans but an extra tomato or two isn’t going to make much of a difference. Also, if you don’t have capers or jalapenos or spring onions for that matter it shouldn’t impact too much; you could easily slice a bit of red onion or sprinkle a few chilli flakes on instead.

  1. Preheat the oven to 200°C
  2. Slice the pitta in half so you have two thinner pitta-shaped pieces of bread – put them on a baking tray
  3. Spread over your beans
  4. Slice/chop the tomatoes, spring onions, capes, jalapenos (or whatever other toppings you may be using) and sprinkle across your beany flatbreads
  5. Cook in the oven for around 10 – 15 minutes, you just want them to be hot and a little crispy
  6. Sprinkle with coriander and enjoy!

For non-dieters you may want to add cheese/vegan cheese or sour cream

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This is another adapted recipe from 5:2 Vegetarian by Celia Brooks

Another Low Calorie Recipe for January

One of my new year’s resolutions this year was to try to eat healthier and lose some weight (original ey!?). I’m hoping that reverting back to a mainly vegan diet (only sometimes picking the vegetarian option when eating out) will automatically contribute to this but I’m also going to make an extra effort by doing the 5:2 diet.

I know it might be ‘faddy’ but to me intermittent fasting makes some sense and I feel like I need structure otherwise I too easily drift into eating rubbish again. So, twice a week I am only eating 500 kcals. I am also going to do ‘rawtill4’ on these days – any raw recipes welcome!

Anyway I made this for my low calorie evening meals this week and it’s pretty tasty and filling so I thought I would share….

Moroccan-style Vegetable and Chickpea Stew

Totals 600 kcals – either 2 large portions or 3 or 4 smaller ones

Ingredients

8 spring onions

600g vegetables – I used celery, carrots and butternut squash but you could also use cauliflower, courgette, celeriac, peppers, turnips or swede etc…

200g tomatoes – I only had baby but it would be easier to use big ones

1 tin of chickpeas

2 tsp cumin

1 tsp cinnamon

½ tsp chilli flakes

4 tbsp tomato puree

1 tsp balsamic vinegar

Method

  1. Slice the spring onions and chop veg into bitesize pieces
  2. Put the onions and veg in a pan on highish heat with 4 tbsp of water and a sprinkling of salt, cover with a lid (or baking tray like I did) and steam
  3. Meanwhile, chop the tomatoes and assemble the rest of your ingredients
  4. When the veg is starting to soften around the edges chuck in the rest of the ingredients (nicely pre-assembled) and 250ml water
  5. Give it all a stir, bring to the boil and simmer until the veg is cooked.

Adapted recipe from 5:2 Vegetarian by Celia Brooks

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Vegan yoghurt by The Coconut Collaborative

Tried one of these the other day…..

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Since my month of being vegan in November I’m still always on the lookout for vegan options when I’m food shopping or eating out.

Last week I came across this dairy-free alternative to yoghurt in my local Sainsburys. Despite its fairly hefty price tag (£1.50 for a little pot) I thought I’d give it a shot and feedback to the vegan massive and whoever else might be interested. Here are my thoughts…

Now you have to bear in mind that I’m not exactly a yoghurt connoisseur in the first place, I quite often buy them thinking they will be a healthy alternative to other puddings then end up having to throw them out once they’ve gone way past their use by dates. So for any yoghurt fanatics this might not be the review for you.

Basically, I thought it was delicious! The yoghurt part had a bit of a grainy texture but it wasn’t unpleasant and you could really tell it was made from coconut with a nice coconutty background flavour (a negative or positive depending on whether you like coconut I guess). In this case I thought the coconut flavour really complimented the passionfruit and mango compote at the bottom and I mixed them up to make a lovely tropical treat. I knew for sure I’d definitely liked it when I realised I was scraping the empty pot for remnants….!

The Coconut Collaborative look like a fairly wholesome company and claim to plant coconut trees, help farmers and support charities on their website, which is nice and probably goes some way to explaining the slightly elevated price. I also found natural and raspberry flavours in my local Sainburys if they’re more to your taste. It also looks like they also do a berries and seeds one as well as various flavours of frozen coconut yoghurt (must…find…..this!)

Overall, delightful! Although probably only justifiable as a treat 4/5

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

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