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/

Red lentil and vegetable soup

Lentil soup is my absolute favourite. I used to make it with my dad when I was younger and we’d have it on cold winter evenings, sat next to the coal fire, after a chilly walk around Easby Abbey. My dad’s version wasn’t much like the one I make now (apart from the lentils); we always kept it more like a broth with lots of chunky veg. When I came to uni I decided to blend it and now I always do, it makes the soup really creamy without adding anything naughty. Sometimes I add some spice (cumin, coriander seeds, turmeric, chilli etc) but I think I prefer it without.

This recipe makes about 2 servings

Ingredients

A splash of oil

1 white onion

2 cloves of garlic

2 peeled carrots

2 sticks of celery

2 bay leaves

Freshly ground black pepper

Red lentils – I have never weighed them but probably around 100g

2 stock cubes dissolved in 500ml of boiling water

Method

  1. Dice the onion, carrots and celery into small (1cm) cubes and finely slice the garlic
  2. In a large pan heat the oil over a medium heat and add the chopped veg
  3. Add the bay leaves and black pepper and sweat for 5 – 10 minutes until the carrots are starting to soften – don’t brown
  4. Add the lentils – there should be enough just to lightly coat the veg. Stir for around 1 minute – careful the lentils might stick to the bottom of the pan!
  5. Add the stock and top up with enough water to cover all the veg  and lentils
  6. Leave to simmer for around 20 minutes, until the carrots are soft and the lentils are cooked – you may need to keep topping up with water.
  7. Bring it off of the heat, leave to cool for 10 minutes, FISH OUT THE BAY LEAVES, and blend until smooth. Add more water if too thick and season if required

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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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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

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

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/

Toby Carvery

This first post might surprise you…but sometimes I just get excited at the prospect of not being the odd one out. And after mocking my ex-boyfriend and his family for going to a carvery for their Mother’s Day meal a seed had obviously planted in my head somewhere and the thought of stuffing my face with Yorkshire puddings and as much Sunday dinner as I could physically manage was too much to bear…

The problem is most carveries (the proper plural of carvery) aren’t particularly catered to vegetarian customers and I guess the most you could expect is a plate of veg and gravy. Little did I know how well catered for us vegetarian folk are at TOBY CARVERY!

After a little google search brought up the current menu and revealed not just one veggie option but a selection of vegetarian (and vegan!) delights I headed down to my local in Stockport.

Vegetarian

I went for the Nut Roast Wellington and was pleasantly surprised! It wasn’t exactly as I had imagined; more of a tart as the nut roast wasn’t fully encased in the pastry but overall it was really tasty. The puff pastry was cooked well (no soggy bottoms) and the filling was mildly spiced and warming.

I was allowed to help myself to the rest of the carvery along with everyone else and heaped on mashed potato, roasties, cauliflower cheese, cabbage and broccoli (I could have had extra but I HATE peas and carrots) and then covered the whole thing in the very clearly labelled vegetarian gravy.

I want to be clear here I’m not saying Toby Carvery is a fine dining experience but for a hungover Sunday it definitely fits the bill and as a vegetarian provides more choice (and interesting choice at that) than most other restaurant chains. YES the veg is overcooked and soggy but people don’t go to Toby Carvery for al dente veg they go for warming, stodgy food and lots of it!! and that’s exactly what you get….even as a vegetarian!!

So don’t go expecting sautéed Chantenay carrots with chestnuts and a red wine jus but for a satisfying veggie Sunday dinner I’d recommend it… I’ve since been back and tried the broccoli and brie parcel and was similarly satisfied 🙂 3/5

Sorry about the lack of photos, I’m a novice blogger at the moment…next time there will be photos