Sunday, October 31, 2010

Beacon and Eggs

This is a small cafe in the same strip mall on Beacon Avenue as the Safeway.   I was there for a lunchtime meeting with Wally du Temple who is running for North Saanich council.

The setting is generic but clean.   There is nothing about it that says you should go out of your way to go here.   The first issue of concern for me was the coffee, it was bitter with an almost burnt flavour but at the same time not very strong.   Entirely unforgettable though still better than Tim Horton's.

The service was friendly and good, what I would expect of this sort of restaurant.

I ordered a BLT with a salad.    The salad was decent enough and not just some iceberg lettuce and a few tomatoes.  The greens were fresh and there was some shaved beet on it, problem is I am not big salads, for me it was all about the sandwich.

I found the bread overly toasted and very dry.   There was not enough mayo on it to counter the dry toast.   They were light on bacon and used tomatoes that were about texture and not flavour.   I am not sure why any restaurant would have a dish on the menu that used fresh tomatoes if they can not source good local ones?   Drop the BLT till next year if you are not getting juicy amazing local fruit.

Can I do better at home?   No problem at all, especially when it comes to the coffee.  Am I being harsh on a local small cafe?  Not at all, the basics needed to make simple stellar food is around us and too many people are willing to accept 'OK' as good enough.

Would I go here again?   Sure, if someone wanted to meet at this location, but I am very unlikely to choose to go there on my own, there are too many other places I would like to try in the area.

Beacon and Eggs Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Bon Rouge

A little talked about French bistro style restaurant brought to you by the same people that bring you Pescatores and Oyster. I rarely hear about this place but we have gone twice now and I have been impressed both times.

In the summer we went with another couple and sat in their enclosed patio which felt very secluded from the street while still feeling lively and a bit boisterous – particularly when we had a seagull come and visit. Our more recent visit was just the two of us and we were inside. The experience was a quieter, more intimate and had a more lush feel to it. On both occasions the service was very good - knowledgeable, well paced and attentive.

But for the main show. The food. The prices ran a range from the mid-teens to the high twenties for a main course. The selection was fairly large and featured seasonal options – though they didn't change between our mid-August visit and our early October visit, except dessert. The best deal in the house is a three course prix fixe option. You get a set appetizer (prawns), two choices for the main (steak frites or bouillabaisse) and your choice of desserts – all for $30 which is a real bargain.

On my first visit I had halibut wrapped in sage and bacon that was lovely. I skipped the appetizer and had the creme brulee (served with truffles) for dessert. It was just the way I like it best - lightly chilled custard with a crispy brown bruleee. The brulee was not neither burned nor soft, and thick enough to truly crack when you hit it.

On my last visit I did the three course prix fixe. I dithered over this as I do not eat prawns (the mandatory starter) but on request to the server I was given a house salad instead. I was delighted, the salad was perfectly dressed with excellent quality vegetables and a bit of goat cheese added some tang. My steak was perfectly cooked medium rare, the fries were nice and crisp, obviously made in house they still had skin, were thin and still hot. I finished with a red velvet cake with cream cheese butter-cream icing. I was less overwhelmed as this was almost too rich and a bit bland. The cake was moist the the icing tasty but I didn't think the combination really soared.

Bernard has stuck with the prix fixe both times and had nothing but praise for the prawns and the steak, which has come blue rare as requested both times. On our last visit he had the raspberry cheesecake for dessert and it was a winner. The raspberry flavour was strong and had a nice acid bite that paired very nicely with the sweet chocolate crumb crust.

The cocktail menu is extensive with multiple champagne cocktails and the wine selection was quite good and reasonably priced. On our first visit we had the waiter match a wine to our food – two steaks, one halibut and one salmon – and he served us a white that fit the bill.

Bon Rouge is a restaurant that is doing all the right things. A nice environment, great service and wonderful food, that they are actually making themselves. This trifecta is a hard one to achieve in Victoria and I know we will be going back in future to enjoy it again.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Planting for the winter and thoughts about the yard in the depressing time of year

This year I am going to try and plant so that I get some greens all winter long.   I am thinking lettuce, spinach and mache.   I am also going to plant a bunch of fall rye as a green manure, the soil seems to be a bit light in power at the moment.   I also need to turn out the compost and the chicken manure on the bed soon as well.  

I should have done all of these things last weekend as we now have hit the waterlogged time of year.   I need pay attention and work outside for an hour or two when the weather permits even if it is a weekday.

I had been thinking about planting some broccoli in the fall to have it for the spring, but I left it too late to sow into the ground.   I should have had that done in September, maybe next year?   I still have not managed to make that transition in my mind to year round veggie gardening after all those years in Lillooet.   I also have to admit that I hate rain, I really, really hate rain, I can not stand to be out in it and even find the sound of it at the moment from the cars on the street depressing.  

Beyond veggies, I have some major outdoor jobs that should be done but I am avoiding because of the damp cool weather.   I have a fence to finish and I need to majorly prune the fig tree - the think is an unruly monster and I have to bring it into some manner of control.

I have thought about cruising the nurseries and seeing if anyone has any deals on trees or perennials, we could still plant them and expect them to survive.

Should it clear up, I will take some pics.

Thursday, October 21, 2010


What can I say about McRae's?   Meh is about it.   I had hopes for something good here, but what I got was a non-chain White Spot/Applebee's sort of place.

The menu was nothing to be excited about, the decor was a bit odd with one wall reminding me of Big Bad John's.  I had an $11 chicken burrito that did not measure up to Cafe MexiGo where I could have had the same thing for a lot less.

I know a lot of people were hoping for something more upscale because in that whole area of the city east of Quadra and north of Hillside there are basically no decent restaurants

So what are they trying to do?  I think they may be looking at trying to be a quasi pub for the area and focus on pub snacks and beer.

I really doubt that I will be going back anytime, I may end up there sometime if someone suggests going there for beers.

Bard and Banker on Urbanspoon


last 1/3 of the apples

Apples drying in the oven
  A friend has been giving me some of her windfall apples.   This is the third batch I am processing.  I dry a lot and make apple sauce with the waste.   The whole process is very fast and easy and something almost anyone could do.  I admit I have one tool that really helps, the apple peeler/corer, but it is cheap to buy and readily available to find in stores.
Close up of the tool
Apple sauce will come out of this, trust me
Apples ready for use

For drying I gave up using a dehydrator and switched to the oven a couple of years ago because the dehydrator could not handle the volume I was trying to dry.   I set the oven at 65 degrees C and dry them for about 8 to 24 hours.  It works very well and allows me to produce a lot of dried apples at once.

The skin, cores and any other waste I put into a pot and make apple sauce with it.   Using the Victoria food mill it is a very easy process.   The final left over pulp ends up being fed to the chickens.

The apple corer is an amazing piece of 19th century technology.   I processed about 80 apples in 30 minutes.   Fast and efficient.   The tool leaves with apple rings ready for drying.

Some the apple sauce is going to get mixed with either blueberry, strawberry or cranberry puree and made into fruit leather.   Turns out we really do not eat a lot of apple sauce.

Sheila is also making a pie and a crisp with the apples.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Bon Rouge Bistro

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Last night we went to Bon Rouge Bistro, we had been there in August with some friends and liked it especially the ability to sit outside on their enclosed terrace. I am sure they have other good food, but both times I have ordered the Steak Frites, the classic bistro dish.   My steak was cooked exactely as I wanted and the frites were hot, crispy and tasted of potatoes.  

It was a Tuesday night so the place was not full but it was also not deserted.   The ambiance in the restaurant is comfortable and reminds me of basic bistros I have eaten at in Paris.

I had the Andalusian prawns for a starter, nicely cooked and well flavoured.   My desert was a raspberry cheesecake, once again well done but in this case it was not really what I wanted.   I had some indecision and ended up choosing desert almost at random.

In the end for three courses and one drink for two people we came away having spent $83 with tip.

So can I do better at home?  No, with very hard work and everything going right I might be able replicate the dinner but not without a lot of work.

Bon Rouge Bistro on Urbanspoon

The Victoria Tuna Butcher! A Crime Against Fish!

I bought another whole tuna on Sunday from a boat at the government wharf in Sooke. I massacred the beautiful albacore tuna.

I did this a couple of years ago and discovered how different a tuna is than any other fish I have cut up.  I did an awful job of that one, I did not even know a tuna came in quarters and not halves.   I thought I had learned enough to do a good job this time.   I was wrong, so very, very wrong.

I started off fine, but soon my cutting actions were ripping the flesh in each quadrant and my handling of the fish was crushing the flesh.  I ended up with a lot less fish than I wanted and it was not in solid chunks.

It is depressing to even look at the fish let alone cook with it.   I am not sure where I am going to go with he tuna.

The prawns I got were amazing.

Heron Rock Bistro

Last week I was out for an appointment in James Bay and found myself with a craving for soup. Not a common thing for me and always a bit of a dilemma when eating out as so often the soup is not so good.

I decided I would try Sips, which is Spinnaker's bistro in James Bay. It was closed. But just around the corner is the Heron Rock Bistro at #4-435 Simcoe. From the outside it was a bit iffy. Nothing fancy outside, but the inside looked like it might be a bit for formal than I was looking for, or a bit more expensive. I decide to try it though as I was there.

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There were a few people there but plenty of seats and the staff greeted me promptly. I must admit I didn't examine the menu to closely as right at the top I saw what I was looking for – a soup and salad special with fresh bread. Perfection. There soup of the day was Carrot Pumpkin, which I found promising because I had never seen that combo on a box in Fairway.

With good speed I received a small cup of soup, a mixed lettuce salad and a giant bun/small round loaf. It was just what I wanted. The soup was just enough in terms of portion, had good flavour and was made there. The salad was nothing extraordinary but had a light vinaigrette of crisp good leaf lettuce so it was not a let down in anyway, and I could get all the leaves in my mouth without cutting them. The bread was a bit of a highlight I must say. I am quite certain it was made in house, it was fresh, tender and chewy without being hard to eat, it came with whipped herb butter and was slightly warm. Given I had been fearing a slice of brought in baguette or french bread, this was a very nice treat.

The whole thing, with a cup of coffee to finish cost me under $15 dollars and came with good service and a nice quiet environment. Having perused there menu on line at I would go back to try out some more things. Their prices are reasonable, dinner being more than lunch or breakfast, but they have a menu that looks interesting. They have the option of building a canape platter to order. As they offer live music a couple of times a week I can see Bernard and I going for a drink, a canape plate and some nice music as a very grown-up treat.

Heron Rock Bistro on Urbanspoon

Thursday, October 14, 2010

It was not all my fault, the overcooked turkey was actual mainly caused by a broken element in the oven.   Our bottom element died recently it seems and this has lead to disasters in the oven over and over again.   I finally figured it out today.......

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Bard and Banker

I finally ended up at the Bard and Banker after having meant to go there for ages. I was at a municipal election fundraiser at the pub last night which featured free booze and appies for the people attending.

The location at Fort and Government is not one that is at all convenient for me, this is one of the few parts of town I almost never go to. Consequently I have never been to the pub and rarely go to the Irish Times which is a block north on Government.

The fundraiser gave me a chance to try numerous appies prepared by the pub and a chance to really test drive how they do food.

They had small deep fried fish bits which were very good and I had trouble stopping eating them. They were nicely battered and then deep fried.    The presentation was a bit clunky, they just piled them on a platter around a bowl with dip in the centre, but I can forgive that when the flavour is good.

They had cold cooked shrimp with a shrimp cocktail sauce - boring, bland and predictable, the shrimp was also over cooked and tough. Shrimp can be served in so many interesting ways and can taste out of this world, but when it is done so ala 1975 and even then badly it just makes me sad.  I have not idea who came up with this idea or why they thought it made any sense.  We have amazing local shrimp, but the ones they served looked like they were the types that come frozen and pre-cooked.

There were generic plates of veggies and dip, clearly nothing local and really just looked like the sort of party platter you could buy at an grocery store. These plates said to me there is zero attention to detail or to excellence in the food.  Local food is such a big thing at the moment and not to use it for this local election fundraiser was clearly an error.  The pub could have highlighted where the food came from.

There were small pizzas with a nice thin cracker like crust. They were not too bad, but not something that would make me want to back and eat more of it. It was also somewhat big and clunky as an appie, ideally they should be one bite that you can eat with your fingers while holding a drinking. Drooping pizza does not really meet the requirements.

There were also some small crab cakes with an aioli on it. This looked like the only appie on offer that took some skill and finesse. They were not bad, but they were not good. They were ultimately a bit bland. The aioli could have been Hellman's mayonnaise for all the flavour it had. The crab cakes themselves had a nice texture but nothing going on with the flavour, it was that I was missing some subtle flavours, they were simply bland.

It looked like the food had been over ordered for the event and plates of food were building up as people did not eat it fast enough. The staff should have been clearing them because there was a lot of food out that was no longer warm. The pizza and crab cakes really suffered when they got cold. It did no favours to the event or to the pub to have food that has lost its good qualities still available for people to try.

Thinking back to it now, I have to say that I am stunned that they would offer veggie plates like one I would expect to see at an elementary school pot luck. There was no attempt to even do something interesting in cutting up the veggies and even the pieces were not consistent in size.  We have a region in the middle of the harvest and all that was on the plate were generic veggies from Sysco.

I am amazed that the shrimp was allowed to leave the kitchen if it was so over cooked as to rubbery. The rubber shrimp and the veggie plate says to me there is no passion in the kitchen and no attention to detail. The food reminded of that long term attitude in restaurants in this city that has only begun to change in the last few years, an attitude of "this is good enough not to be awful".  I had hoped for more from the Bard and Banker because of the attention to the detail in the decor.

The look and feel of the interior of the pub is amazing, I really like the styling and the attention to detail. They have done better with the Bard and Banker than with the Irish Times. But at the end of the day if the energy goes into the looks and not into food there is something not right with the management.  The difference the time and cost between generically bland food and good food is minimal, certainly at the price point the pub is charging for food there is no reason they should not be striving for excellence.

Based on the food, I am unlikely to ever choose to go to the pub as a place to eat, I am likely to go there for drinks if someone else suggests it but it is not going to be coming from me.

Bard and Banker on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Turkey massacre

Yesterday I cooked the worst meal I have cooked in a very, very long time. I am stunned at how badly it went as I know how to do the turkey thing. I am putting it down to a wicked headache I had yesterday, the sort that makes you nauseous.

Error 1 - I wildly over cooked the turkey. My pain addled brain meant I made an error in timing, I ended up cooking the turkey about 25-30% longer than I should have. Dry, that bird was dry like Lillooet in the summer.

Error 2 - I screwed up the cranberry jelly, it did not set and has still not set as of this morning. I have no idea what I did wrong, I make jams and jellies all the time and it goes right all the time expect for yesterday.

Error 3 - The beets and turnips were not roasted properly - this comes down to the oven is not really big enough to roast a turkey and do anything else. I tried to boil then fry the beets, they ended up being insipid. The turnips and parsnips were not horrible, but they were not exciting either.

Error 4 - The pumpkin pie was not setting. This was not my error as my niece made it. It was her first pumpkin pie and I have no idea what happened to make it not set.

What worked out was the stuffing and a warm roasted corn and scarlet runner bean salad.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Thanksgiving dinner

So I have turkey and I plan on brining it, but nothing else is appealing to me for all the sides for the dinner.

The North American traditional sides really do not speak to me.

I am looking for interesting inspiration for anyone out there - please give me your ideas or links - I have till Monday afternoon

Friday, October 8, 2010

Eating at Fairway Market on Quadra

After I was finished throwing pottery at Hands On Pottery Studio on Quadra, I released it was three o'clock and I had not eaten lunch. I knew the Fairway was nearby and offered various foods you can eat in the store.

I ordered the three selections with rice for $8.99. The portion was huge, actually too much for me to eat, though I did because I was very, very hungry. The food itself was mall food court quality, which was a disappointment as I had hoped for something better.

I had chicken and greens beans with black sauce - not too bad. The sesame chicken was gloppy and heavy. The honey garlic pork was gloopy as well. The flavours, other than the beans, were muted and forgettable.

As I said, this mall food court quality and is nothing more than fuel. It is still much, much better than what you can eat at Wings, but then I have yet to have had as bad a meal as I had at Wings. There was a meal with my parents in communist Poland in 1979 that still takes the prize for worst meal ever.

All said and done, I will still shop at Fairway, they have an interesting selection and good prices, I am not going to eat there again.

Fairway Market on Urbanspoon

Liquor Plus 2915 Douglas Street

I have never gone into Liqour Plus, the name and location said down market to me and therefore I gave it a miss.   I went in yesterday for the first time and I was impressed, very, very impressed with the wine selection.   I know of no other place near where I live that has anything close to their selection of wine.   They even had a Hillside Estate Riesling I have never seen outside of the winery.  I am going to need to go back and explore the shelves some more.

I found one product interesting, Just Over a Buck a Beer.  The beer is made for them by Kamloops Brewing, the former Bear Brewing.  This is a decent quality micro brewery, not some industrial beer.  I am going to get some and try it.

You can also connect with Liquor Plus on Facebook.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Scarlett Runner Beans

I have too many of them.   Do you want some?  Please drop me a line if you do.  Bernard at shama dot ca

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

JACK FM Burger Poll - seeking the best burger in the City.

JACK FM will be starting a poll on October 11th to try and find the best burger in Victoria.  The burgers in the run for the title are also being offered at a discount, either it is a lower price or 10% off if you listen to JACK.   The Canoe Club deal is $13.95 for the burger instead of $15.95 (not $3.95 as I earlier mentioned, the typeface and my aging eyes played tricks on me)

The burgers that will be in the running:

I know there are better burgers out there because I have been reading the Victoria Burger Blog, but I understand that this is really a marketing thing, but still I am going to follow it and see what comes of it all.  It certainly gives me some incentive to try them all out.  I will see how many I can get through in the next week.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Local Chicken News:

Hello Group!

A VERY fast note being sent to let everyone know the last of this great FIRST season of the Metchosin Poultry Swap & Sale will be on Sunday October 17th, 2010 11am to 12:30pm. This has moved from the 'second Sunday' (Oct 10th) to allow friends and family to celebrate a long Thanksgiving weekend.

I will send out another reminder email & do my post on UsedVic next week..........with more details, so stay tuned.

There is the possibility of some Point of Lay hens coming............if you are looking for POL let me know asap, to help encourage this breeder to attend! :-)

If you have poultry you will be bringing to sell, let me know and I will include in the reminder email next week to help spread the word of what you have.

There are now close to 120 email addresses in this group and many spread the word to other forums, friends and family, so do let me know so I can add what you have for sale or are looking for!

Until next week............enjoy the super Autumn weather we have been graced with.



Dunlop House Restaurant @ Camosun

This year I do not want miss eating at Dunlop House.   Dunlop House is part of the culinary program at Camosun College Landsdowne campus.   They are only open on Tuesday and Wednesday for lunch from October to March.

I last ate at Dunlop house in 1989 when I was a Uvictim.  I remember the food was good and interesting, but this was 21 years ago - Victoria was not a foodie place at all and I was only 24 and had not been introduced to much food in my life.   I have meant to go back for ages, but the limited openings simply means I keep forgetting.

This fall and winter their menu is as follows:


  • Soup du Jour - Our Student Chefs selection of the Day
  • Local Greens - Artichoke Hearts, Crispy Okanagan Apples, Sweet Baby Tomatoes, White Balsamic and Mustard Vinaigrette
  • Seafood Cakes - Red Onion Compote, Lemon Aioli
  • Benedictine Blue Cheese and Sweet Onion Tart Balsamic Reduction, Green Apple and Grapes


  • Cowichan Bay Farms Chicken Confit Veloute of Leek, Onion and Truffle Goats Cheese Potatoes
  • Smoked Pork Tenderloin - House Smoked Filet of Pork, Seasonal Veggies, Red Currant Demi
  • Halibut Nicoise - Filet of Halibut, Grilled Fennel Nicoise, Baby Roasted Potatoes, Asparagus Cream Sauce
  • Chef's Special Creation - Our student "Chef of the Week" presents their personal selection in every changing variety. Please allow for a greater amount of time for a quality preparation.


  • Vanilla Bean Brulee - Pure Vanilla Decadence, One Spoonful at a Time
  • Lemon and Lime Tartlet with Hazelnut Biscotto
  • Chocolate, Chocolate, Chocolate - In Ever Changing Variations. Please Consult your Server for Today's Selection.

Reservations are recommended.

As I understand it, the food gets better over the year - this is being done by students and they are learning.

Anyone interested in joining in a week or two and go check it out? Drop me a line through a comment on this page. If there is interest, I will book a table.

Dunlop House on Urbanspoon

Monday, October 4, 2010

Tomato Sauce This Weekend - And Kaffir Limes at Root Cellar

I am have ordered 100 pounds of tomatoes from Glanford Greenhouses for Friday.   They are charging me $0.80 a pound this year for them.

My plan is to make a very basic reduced tomato sauce/puree out of them and can in them in 250ml, 500ml, and 750ml jars.   Sheila asked that I make as basic as possible so that it can be used for more applications.   The 100 pounds should net me about 15 to 20 litres of tomato sauce.   My Victorio food mill will get a good workout, one of the best investments I have made. The pressure canner is another one.  It is because of the two of these that I can process and preserve as much food as I do.

If I have the time, I will order another batch of 100 pounds and make more sauce, but also make some basic canned diced tomatoes as well.  


The Root Cellar has Kaffir Limes from Thailand available at the moment, I bought some and I going to try and experiment with them.

I have been reading up on them and it looks like I will have to make some sort of Thai food.  

The limes are very tart, almost antiseptic in their acid.   The skin and fruit are very fragrant.

I have to thank the Root Cellar for consistently have interesting fruits and vegetables to choose from for experimentation.   It is also amazing how cheaply they manage to do it for.

Garden 2010

OK, it has been a bad year for my garden, the start was late and the growth has been weak for everything but the scarlet runner beans, those I have more than enough of.

So why the bad year? 

I got a late start - I planted some stuff early but it suffered, then it took my a long time to get the bulk in.
The soil needs more fertilizer - I know I was low in what I added this year and I can see the results.  I need to add more manure and compost.   My plan is to plant a bunch of fall rye as a green manure crop.

I also seemed to be short of time to get outside to get into the garden this year - I know this had to do with the scope and scale of renovations I took on in the spring and summer.

I have a whole bunch of strawberry plants to plant, I just need a location, I think will simply dig a whole and plant them all there to keep till the spring.

The chickens are slowing down and one has died.  I am getting only about 2 eggs a day at the moment, sometimes less.  I wonder about how well they will do this winter and if they are coming to the natural ends of their lives.   I actually have had to buy eggs for the first time in several years.

Total value of my crops this year?   Maybe $1000 this year and most of that is from the eggs.  

Dry Dog Food

I have now made the dra dog food for the second time and  I am happy with how it turned.   Louie seems to love it, he prefers it to the kibble we used to feed him. 

 I know that the homemade kibble looks a bit like one bit brownies, but when you see and feel them, they are quite different.

Louie sitting on the stairs watching the world outside
The cost is also quite reasonable, my estimate is that it costs me about $12 to make this recipe.   The time it takes is also no very long, you can put the mixture together in ten to fifteen minutes.   The baking and cooling process will add another two hours or so, though you are not very busy during that stage.

Here is the recipe:

  • 5 cups of whole wheat flour
  • 3 cups brewer's yeast
  • 1 cup cornmeal
  • 1 cup skim milk powder
  • 9 cups stock
  • 6 eggs
  • 5 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 5 tablespoons peanut better
  • 3 cups of pureed vegetables
  • 1 tablespoon salt

  1. Set the oven to 400 degrees
  2. Steam and puree the veggies with about 1 cup of the stock - I use a lot of soy beans for the protein
  3. Combine all the dry ingredients in a bowl and mix
  4. Mix all the wet ingredients 
  5. Pour wet into the dry and mix till a smooth pancake batter consistency
  6. Pour the mixture onto cookies sheets covered in baking paper - keep you depth to 1/4 - 3/8s of an inch.
  7. Bake for about 35-40 minutes
  8. Pull out the cookie sheets and let cool
  9. Take out of cookie sheets using the baking paper to lift it and turn over onto a cutting board.
  10. Cut the slab into thin long strips and return these strips to the oven and back for a second time for about 20-30 minutes, you are looking something that has the consistency of a biscotti.
  11. Take out of oven and let cool and then cut into chunks.
The recipe can be vegetarian, the only meat product I use is my stock.