So last night J and I went to see The Revenant. Wow. What a movie. If it doesn’t walk away with about 10 gazillion Oscars, there’s something wrong with the film industry. But besides the huge talents of Leonardo “Give Me Best Actor Already” Di Caprio and Tom Hardy, there’s another big star in the film: the bear.
The bear attack is harrowing, tense, and visceral. Bloody and terrifying, it serves as a reminder that nature is often far stronger and more vicious than simple man. So what better way to pay homage to that than with a cute, sugary bear claw?
Well, maybe not cute so cute. We added coconut shavings on top of the bear claws so that they would blacken as the pastry cooked, creating the claws and a bit of dark fur (if you squint). We made these bear claws in a super-easy way, using pre-made puff pastry that we cut and rolled into the right shape. As for the filling, we used Scarlett and Mustard’s zesty orange curd for a really zingy interior. We felt that red strawberry jam might have been a little too on the nose…
Once you have your pastry filled with curd, all that is left is to fold it over (coating the edges with egg wash to ensure it all sticks together) and cut the claws out. Then you pull it apart slightly to make that almost-crescent shape, and stick it in the oven for about 20 minutes. Gooey, melty, and delicious bear claws are the result.
Don’t worry about the coconut, by the way – it may look horribly burnt, but the taste is barely noticeable over the pastry. You could probably cremate them a lot further than this and still get away with it!
Finally, here’s the Vine to show how we made them:
Just think – if Leo had come up against these in The Revenant, he might have met a sticky end. Ha!
It’s that time of year again! After last year’s Christmas post, I couldn’t let the occasion go by without another round-up of our Very Vegetarian Christmas. We always eat such amazing food at this time of year – I’m in awe of my Mum’s menus – and this year was no exception. This time around I even helped out to make Christmas lunch, which means I can proudly say I helped make and then plated up the starter below…
This was roasted halloumi served on a bed of baby spinach and roast vegetables with a harissa dressing. Zingy, delicious, and served absolutely beautifully even if I do say so myself. (Alright, I’m exaggerating my own skills. But we all dream of being on Masterchef and serving up that beautiful plate, don’t we?)
I’ve already told you about the mushroom pie we made for the main course, and here it is in full glory with pastry lid. This was just glorious – so rich – and it was served with some fantastic sides. Celeriac mash was just sweet enough, roasted parsnips are always my favourite, and hiding under the mash were carrots and a vegetarian sausage. There’s also red cabbage and apple in some kind of crazy-good mixture that tasted better than you would believe, and a (broken up) little Yorkshire pudding.
This was all so good. As always there was tons left over, but some of it (like the cabbage) made it into our next meal on Boxing Day. The rest of it found itself put inside wraps, heated up, and eaten as my lunches for a few days. You would not believe how good it tastes warmed up – although the best on that front was yet to come.
Around this time we also made a gingerbread sleigh, which I’ve also Vined already. That was pretty hilarious and only mostly successful, but we continued to nibble on it (and there is actually some left even now!). It was pretty tasty, even if it didn’t hold together for very long.
Next we move on to Boxing Day. For us, the sit-down meal on this day is just as big as the day before. We don’t really start getting into leftovers until the 27th, and then it’s only a short while before New Year. What I’m saying is, a lot of food ends up in tupperwares in the fridge.
The starter above was a Welsh rarebit-style topping served on a large field mushroom, with a bed of rocket. It was cheesy and delicious. So much cheese. So good. The rocket worked really well with the starters, providing that little bit of zing to bring all of the flavours together.
The main course included this amazing loaf/stack/awesome thing. Parsnip slices on the bottom, a layer of stuffing, then cranberries in a home-made cranberry sauce (which was actually the best cranberry sauce I’ve ever tasted), and the same mirrored on top. Oh, also the stuffing had chestnuts in it. I love chestnuts. They are the king of all nuts, and this is the perfect time of year to eat them.
Now, THIS was absolutely the best thing to eat in a wrap the week after. All of those amazing flavours just work so well together. It looks beautiful too. Probably the most impressive thing is how it all stayed together when she took it out of the pan! It was served with the same kind of mash, cabbage, and parsnips as the day before, along with some stuffing, roast potatoes, and French peas with shallots. Mmm.
Recently we spent some time in France, with a week first in the Loire region. We stayed in a beautiful countryside cottage, which was absolute bliss – surrounded by the moos of cows and not much else, we were able to relax and enjoy home cooked food in the evenings. We also ventured out each day to explore the nearby regions, including some magnificent châteaux, some local towns, and a few other tourist spots. I then went on to stay at Berny-Riviere for another week while J returned home to work – one of the joys of being a freelancer is not having to worry about how much holiday time you’re taking!
Here I’ve prepared a guide to some of the vegetarian options we found around and about. One word of warning for veggies is that there is not much going in France. Don’t expect to find very many options which are specifically for vegetarians, or that are marked as such on the menus. However, you will find things to eat – it just might mean going for a Margherita pizza a few more times than you would like to. Here are a few options you might enjoy.
The first place we headed for was Le Saint-Louis, a cafe in the grounds of the Chateau de Chambord. This was our first tourist day out, and we spent a long while in the car to get there. We needed some lunch by the time we arrived, and having had a look on TripAdvisor beforehand, I suggested Le Saint-Louis. Here we ordered a croque-monsieur and some croque-madames, all without ham of course. They were a little odd – my mother was convinced that we were eating lard when she tried the gooey, oily cheese spread inside – and the service left a lot to be desired. Still, it was one of the cheapest options at Chambord, and they didn’t taste all that bad. We also had a serving of fries each, and those were quite delicious. One word of advice which quickly became apparent: in the late French summer, wasps are everywhere. We shied away from any food which was on display, as they were crawling all over it.
I won’t wax lyrical about the burger that we had in Angers at the VF Restaurant here. Mostly because I already have. The Fraich’burger was delicious and you can read a full review of it at that link.
As we were leaving Angers on the first day, we stopped at Ma Petite Boulangerie, a little place near to the chateau where we could get a croissant and a dessert each. In fact, the tarte au citron which I picked up on the first day – and the treats that everyone else had – were so good that we went back the next day. The tarte is above, and it was amazing – so delicately balanced, it was not at all sour or bitter. It was perfectly shaped too, and decorated with the little sprinkles of pistachios around the edge.
I then went back for a macaron with raspberries, although it was absolutely ginormous compared to what you normally see. The fruit was fresh and the inside was a creamy mousse. I would have the tarte au citron again if I had to choose between the two, but they were both amazing.
Our next stop was a tour of the Cointreau factory. I have to say, this was AMAZING. You learn all about the history of the brand and how it is made, and you also see the equipment itself – this is the only place in the world that makes Cointreau, as well as a few other drinks, so it’s very interesting. Then you get to try it out in a tasting session. You even get served a cocktail made with Cointreau to show you what it can do. Afterwards, you’re unleashed on the shop, where we maaaay have spent a little too much. The good news is, I got a new lemon/lime squeezer and a cocktail measure, which made me very pleased.
Our next stop happened to be in Angers as well – on the second day in this area, we went back to a place we had heard recommended by someone on the Cointreau tour: Le Pub du Ralliement. There I had the Mediterraneenne pizza, which consisted of aubergine, courgette, peppers, onion, mozzarella, feta, mushroom, and basil. It cost EUR 9.60, which isn’t bad at all. We had a nice quiet meal, and the pizza was delicious – particularly the cheese! We also got a little glimpse of the rugby here, which turned into a running theme throughout the trip.
The last big meal I have to share with you here was at the Creperie St-Pierre la Quichenotte, this time in Saumur. I’d actually seen this one on TripAdvisor as well, spotted that it had a funny name, and also checked out whether or not it had vegetarian food. After a day spent exploring the chateau at Saumur, however, being choosy was the last thing on our minds: we were starving, and just wanted to eat. We tumbled down the hill from the chateau and into the town, following the directions of a local, and stumbled into an open square flanked by restaurants. There we saw the sign for St-Pierrre la Quichenotte, and of course had to go in.
I had a beautiful galette, full of cheese and mushrooms and an egg, topped with tomato sauce. It was basically wonderful. The egg yolk bursts underneath the galette and leaves a mixture of flavours that are just fantastic. I hugely enjoyed the meal and would certainly go there again – it’s very well hidden unless you manage to stumble on that little corner of Saumur, but it’s a real treat if you find it.
Lastly in this region, we headed off to the Fontevraud Abbey to take a look at our last history lesson before leaving. Just outside the abbey we were able to purchase some beautiful little cakes which were on sale in a patisserie there. They were marked as the Fontevraud speciality, so of course we had to try them! They were SO cute and really tasty too. I have absolutely no idea what was in them, but they were thoroughly enjoyable.
Every year, people ask me what it is like to have a vegetarian Christmas. What is it like? What do we eat? Do we have a traditional Christmas dinner or something more unusual? The purpose of this post is to illustrate what a typical meal might be for us at Christmas time, although we always eat something different year on year. My Mum always cooks for us, using a combination of recipes she finds leading up to the date and her own inspiration, as well as a few classics which come back time and time again.
I’m sharing here our Christmas Day and Boxing Day menus, although we also have special meals on New Year’s Day/Eve. I have not included the recipes as I did not make them myself, but I very much enjoyed eating them! Starting with our appetisers, we ate spinach and mushroom open ravioli with sweet potato. It was drizzled with a balsamic vinegar, soy sauce, and olive oil.
This was followed up by a delicious main course, consisting for the most part of a mushroom, chestnut, and ale pie with a stilton crust. It was accompanied by roast potatoes, a Yorkshire pudding, miniature vegetarian sausage, roast parsnips, carrots, mash, and the traditional Brussels sprouts. After this image was taken, we then added our own bread sauce, gravy, cranberry sauce, and apple sauce to taste.
This was a delicious meal, and extremely filling too. We had dessert later on in the day after we had digested enough to make a little more room! As you can see, a lot of the elements are what you would expect from any Christmas meal – the parsnips, Brussels sprouts, roast potatoes, mash, and pudding would be at home next to any turkey. The only difference is that we get to eat something different every Christmas, instead of having to eat that same turkey dish year after year!
Moving on to Boxing day, we started with a bowl of root vegetable soup. This was carrots, sweet potato, and parsnips, along with cream, garlic, and onion. This is a bit of a tradition for our family at this time of year after the first time we tried it, as it is always so delicious that it just cannot be missed.
Then it was time for the main course. This consisted of a fig, feta, and thyme tart with filo pastry. It was accompanied by celeriac mash, mashed new potatoes, carrots, a chestnut and cranberry stuffing ball, tomatoes, and roast potatoes in orange sauce. We added our own gravy and cranberry sauce as well. This was not quite as heavy as the Christmas lunch, as the tart was very light, but it was still enough to really fill us up for the afternoon.
Even if you aren’t able to create your own dishes like this, there are plenty of options that you can buy in supermarkets to replace the turkey – and the best news is that they aren’t likely to sell out before the holidays either. It’s very easy to enjoy a fully vegetarian Christmas, and it can be very rewarding too – bringing down both the cost and the calories of your Christmas meals.