Meat Free Week

Ok, so this is a little late for a post on #meatfreeweek – but hey, I’ve just been enjoying not one, but two 4-day weekends. And now that’s nicely sinking in… ūüėČ

Two weeks ago was indeed Meat Free Week. I heard about it through BBC Good Food Magazine, and as we are running a pretty low-meat diet anyway, and Dave wanting us to consider going vegetarian, I thought it would be a good idea to give it a go. We normally only have meat or fish two to three times a week, so it really wouldn’t be too much extra effort for us to cut it out completely, and it would give me an excuse to search out even more amazing veggie recipes.

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I’ll be honest – it didn’t pan out so well. We were eating round our parents twice that week, and whilst my parents are coming around to the idea of veggie meals being satisfying and interesting, Dave’s parents are more of a traditional ‘meat & two veg’ kind of family. This wasn’t about preaching or some kind of detox for me – so I wasn’t bothered about missing out on a couple of days. For me it was more about trying to spread awareness of the excitement of veggie food, and getting our friends to understand how much better we feel for having a low meat diet, and how much money we save. My friend¬†certainly got a load of links to my favourite BBC veggie recipes, though he declined to give Meat Free Week a go himself.

Day#1 was a recipe I adapted from my Gino D’Acampo pasta recipe book – I share the Italian chef’s love of artichokes, and his recipe for artichoke & parma ham pasta is divine, zingy flavours with a really comforting, homemade feel to it. I had recently been talking (gushing) with¬†a friend about halloumi, and he said that halloumi is like the bacon of the cheese world, and it seemed to me like that was a pretty spot on comparison! So I thought I would try swapping out the parma ham for some diced halloumi – fried separately and added at the end. Unfortunately, it didn’t quite work ūüė¶ the artichokes completely overpowered the halloumi, and the rubbery texture of the cheese didn’t really work with the soft pasta. But hey, you live and learn right!

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The meal for Day#2 was much more successful – fennel and red pepper chickpea salad! You can’t go wrong with chickpeas, and I am in love with fennel at the moment, it’s just such an unusual flavour that actually works with a lot of things. It was a fairly sweet meal, with the red peppers, fennel and onion, but the earthiness of the chickpeas rounded it of nicely. I was a bit concerned with how filling the salad would be when I plated up, but chickpeas are always surprisingly satisfying – worst comes to worse, add 50g couscous per person to fluff it up a bit.

Day#3 is an old lunchtime favourite – black bean & feta chimichurri. I love the way the feta cheese gets all over the avocado, and the contrast in texture between the slightly firm black beans and the juicy tomatoes. The only thing I should try and remember with this is to cut down on the onion – mixed with the cumin it just gets a little to sharp and vicious for my liking. To ramp this lunchtime salad up to a filling dinner, we simply served up with nachos and used the bowl like a really chunky dip – I couldn’t finish mine, it was so delicious but I was well and truly stuffed!

And finally, Day#4 was a meal I’ve been meaning to try for ages – chickpea and vegetable¬†curry. Again, can’t go wrong with chickpeas, and I love how perfectly they work in a curry, soaking up all the flavours and creating nice texture within the sauce. This recipe was a bit of a learning curve though – whilst preparing the ingredients I found I was a little dubious about the amount of coconut cream I was instructed to use compared to the time needed to cook the broccoli – whilst the tomatoes would create a reasonable amount of liquid, there was barely anything else. I started out as per the instructions, but found I had to quickly improvise with some veg stock and keep adding more hot water. Even after doing that, I didn’t want to include the spinach at the last minute for fear of soaking up the last of fairly dry curry sauce and ending up with curry flavoured veg. The flavours were beautiful, but the recipe just needs a little tweaking to get a proper saucy consistency.

And there you have it! I must say I was a little disappointed with the lack of #meatfreeweek I found on social media – granted I mainly use instagram these days but there still wasn’t much interest for this particular hashtag, not even from the chefs I follow. Whilst I do think we are really getting there with the idea of healthy eating all round instead of these stupid fad diets and god knows what, I think the concept of veggie food being boring is still quite prevalent. I had so many people saying to me “Meat free for a week? God I couldn’t do that!” and whilst I do love my meat, I did find it a shame how few people were interested in giving it a go for just one week, just to broaden their horizons a little and discover some new food. I am a huge fan of veggie and vegan food even, and though I do believe we are meant to eat meat as omnivores, I think it’s an important balance to get as much green goodness into us as possible. The other benefits are that a low meat diet also means you can afford to be choosier with the meat you do buy, meaning better quality (food for us, quality of life for the animals)

And if anyone still says that veggie meals are boring, take a look at this I made the other day…

Yours,

The Vintage Housewife x

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Easy Homely Dinner

There’s nothing quite like a filling, homely meal when you’re feeling under the weather. Be it a cold, killer busy week or just feeling a bit naff, there are certain types at meals which are just so warming and satisfying, they go a long way to making everything feel better. The problem is, a lot of these meals take an age of hard work to make. Roast dinners, good bolognaise, any kind of stew.

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Luckily, one of my favourite go-to recipes comes straight out of Reader’s Digest 30 Minute Cookbook, and is so easy to make when your head feels like its stuffed with cotton wool. Arabian Beef – it really is as good as it sounds, and easier. Beef mince cooked with tomatoes and spices, served with fresh cucumber and pitta breads, it is a wonderful homely meal and can be eaten for lunch as leftovers the next day.

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Unfortunately the book is no longer in current print, but if you ever come across one on eBay etc. you MUST buy it! This book was perfect for my expanding repertoire as I moved on from learning to cook what Mum taught me, to picking my own meals to try and make for the family. And it still contains most of my favourite basic meals – beef stroganoff, breadcrumb tagliatelle, salmon pasta – the variety and simplicity of these recipes is brilliant, and I don’t know what I would do without it. So sorry, you won’t be seeing mine for sale any time soon!

cookbookYours,

The Vintage Housewife x

 

The Rockabilly Housewife

Being a vintage housewife certainly doesn’t mean I’m going to be floating around the kitchen, in prim and demure tea dress with my hair in rollers all day. Who has the time for that? Don’t get me wrong, I love looking classic, glamorous and homely – my forties outfits always make me feel amazing, and sometimes I wish for nothing more than to be able to stay at home, get my house in perfect clean in tidy order and cook. Cooking just makes me happy! Whip up those lunches that are supposed to be really easy, but really aren’t worth getting up half an hour early to make (let’s face it, nothing is). Bake cheese cakes and muffins and red velvet cake until you run out of containers to put them in and mouths to offload them into. And at the end of the day, pull out of the oven a perfectly golden chicken, with precisely timed potatoes and veg, and a gravy that makes it into the stuff of legend. All that whilst avoiding a stray wisp of hair or makeup sliding down your face.

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But I have to be honest – good old English cooking scares me. I’m ashamed to admit it, but I’ve never made a pie, or roasted a chicken. I was brought up on almost anything but typical English roasts, once I’d grown up out of my diet of hot dog and chips, and this continued as I learnt to cook and move out cooking for me and my hubby. My range of herbs and spices is bigger than most supermarkets, generally there is at least one item on my shopping list each week that I have no clue as to what it is, and we very, very rarely have the same meal twice in any given month. I love trying new recipes, especially from Asian cuisine. I love the vibrant flavours and bright colours – in the same way that I adore my bright, spunky rockabilly dresses, and plan on growing that section of my wardrobe till I have petticoats bursting at the seams, and enough nautical clothing to sink a battleship!

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On that note, I think it is interesting to note that everyone has a favourite celebrity chef. Whilst you might give other recipes or cooking shows a try, there is generally one who suits your learning/cooking style best. Me for example, I cannot get on with Jaime Oliver’s recipes for love nor money – they just don’t make sense to me. My dad is getting on famously with his new Gordon Ramsay book, and I have found a chef after my own heart – Nadia G of the Food Network’s¬†Bitchin Kitchen. I discovered¬†Bithcin Kitchen¬†one evening as Dave was dozing on the sofa, and I was flicking through the channels for something to watch. As always, nothing was on, so I ended up on the Food Network, to be met by a crazy, rockabilly chick with what sounded like an Italian-Brooklyn accent that could put the Godfather to shame (which I later found out is a heady mix of Italian, French and Canadian, with some very local slang thrown in for good measure). The kitchen was a wacky combination of pinks, reds and chrome, with all sorts of crazy decorative additions, and the food she was cooking was out of this world. Combinations you’d never think to try, as well as the perfect meal for any occasions, from impressing the in laws, to rock and roll food to keep the dream alive.

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As a comedienne as well highly skilled cook, Nadia makes the cooking show hilarious with her dry and borderline psychotic quips, whilst keeping the instructions for making stunning food simple and easy to follow. I recently bought her cookbook as well,¬†Cooking For Trouble, which has the same funny anecdotes that may or may not be true, as well as advice and information from Panos the meat and fish guy, and ‘The Spice Agent’, who knows everything there is to know about flavours from around the world. Not to mention Hans, the Scantily Clad Food Correspondant, to remind us of the health benefits of what we’re eating! It certainly is a well rounded show, in content if not stable personalities! Nadia rocks the kitchen in a multitude of fantastic stilettos, which I think should be a rule in all women’s kitchens! It really is an amazing cooking show, incredible that it started out as as a video blog and has made it to the Food Network all the way over here in the UK! You really must give it a go, Nadia’s vibrant attitude is sure to get you dressing yourself up to look amazing, throwing on some killer heels and cooking like you’ve never cooked before!

Yours,

The Rockabilly Housewife x