Sunday, March 22, 2009

Dinner Party

I woke up with a feeling that today was something to look forward to, and after eagerly checking my calendar, I discovered that dinner at a collegues's house was on the agenda. Not just any collegue, but the only other vegan in the entire of the company I work for.

Dinner with friends is one of my favourite activities for sure. I like food, and I like friends! But having friends cook for me, a rare occasion in itself, can sometimes be less than inspiring if they are having to cook differently to how they normally cook, just for me.

And its to be expected - I wouldn't expect a Mexican to be able to cook up a great bit of sushi for a Japanese guest, but he'd sure know how to make a damn fine burrito. Although don't get me wrong, I have had some truly delicious meals cooked up for me by some of my closest omniviouous friends.

Having a vegan couple cook up a dinner party is a different kettle of fish. Vegans know how to cook vegan, what tastes good, and what doesn't. How to make traditional dishes without just leaving out any non-vegan elements, but substituting in something that will work. How to get the most flavour out of food, without simply throwing salt it. Thats the advantage of eating healthily.

Chocolate Torte with Raspberry Coulis

Enter the vegan dinner. This wasn't just your average one-pot meal for 6. This was a 3 course banquet, with printed menu and everything - the whole nine yards. And it was superb! For starters, we had falafels with tahini dressing, and salad, with pina-colada and puppodums to wet the appetite further. Then came a thai curry for the main meal. Followed by the simply wonderful chocolate torte, served with raspberry coulis and soya cream. We also had one of my quinoa and almond muffins that I'd baked earlier, which looked a little out of place amongst such royalty, but actually went quite nicely with the sauces!

So there you have it!

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

The Queen Of Tarts

Not to be outdone easily, by the food venues of London, I decided to try my hand at one of my favourite desserts. This recipe has been optimized over the years by my Mum, originally coming from a big not-even-vegetarian hardback cookbook, which is so old that the front page has been bleached colourless by the sun.

Bakewell Tarts

Bakewell Tart
(makes 12)

For the pasty
  • 6 oz (170 g) Plain Flour
  • ¼ tsp Salt
  • 1 ½ oz (40 g) Solid vegetable fat (Trex)
  • 1 ½ oz (40 g) Margarine
  • 1-2 tbsp Water
For the filling
  • 4 oz (110 g) Margarine
  • 4 oz (110 g) Sugar
  • 1 oz (30 g) Ground almonds
  • 3 oz (90 g) Rice flour
  • ½ tsp Almond essence
  • 1 tsp Baking powder
  • 1-2 tbsp Soya milk
  • 4 tbsp Blackberry jam
To make the pasty, rub together the flour, salt and fat, until it resembles breadcrumbs. Add gradually water to form a dough.

Roll out dough, and cut into 12 circles. Place in shallow muffin tray, and bake at 160ºC for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, make the filling. Melt margarine, and add the sugar. Cook for 1 minute, then leave to cool slightly. Add all the other ingredients, except the milk and jam, and combine. Add enough milk to get a dropping consistency.

Into each pastry case, add a teaspoon of jam, and cover with a tablespoon of the filling.

Bake for 25 minutes, at 160ºC, until golden brown.

Bakewell Tarts

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Whats For Dessert?

Like a rollercoaster, the past few months have flown past, with plenty of ups and downs, and barely no time to stop and take stock. Wheeling and diving around the office has taken up most of the time, on this bumpy ride. Spiraling up towards the final milestone, there are still a few revolutions to make before it'll be finished, and I can jump off onto something a bit more relaxing.

All the extra time spent in the office has meant I've had to be a little more creative with my food, as dinner at home is becoming a luxury that I'm starting to miss.

Overtime Preparation I
Overtime Preparation II
Overtime Preparation III
Overtime Preparation IV
Overtime Preparation V
Overtime Preparation VI

On the flip side, being so busy during the week makes you really appreciate your spare time. Saturdays and Sundays are no longer spent idle, which would be a waste of such a precious commodity. Even staying in bed past 9 in the morning seems like a waste of time. Travelling to London is my favourite way of spending my weekend. There are so many nice places to look round, interesting people to meet, and plenty of restaurants that serve way more than the ubiquitous salad ala chips.

I've discovered that a slice of cheesecake is an activity in itself. I've never liked the sound of this particular dessert. Two seemingly incompatible things rolled into one word, sounds about as appetizing as curry flavoured fruit smoothie. However, not wanting to judge a book by anything less than the words within, I took the plunge, starting with a slice of Inspiral's rasberry cheesecake.

Rasberry Cheesecake @ Inspiral

And oh my! It's cool velvety berry filling melted instantly in my mouth, like icecream. Not too sweet, which made it quite easy to knock back, and it sure hit the spot.

Next up on the hitlist, from the same venue, was the tiramisu:

More Cheesecake @ Inspiral

This had a distinct coffee type flavour, and is apparently one of their most popular numbers. Personally, it was my least favourite of the bunch - the white layers tasted a bit like raw sugar mixed with margarine, sandwiching together damp coffee infused hobnob crumbs. I'm guessing that's probably what it was, which was slightly dissapointing at £3.20 a slice.

Finally I made it to Mildreds for the somewhat pricier Chocolate and Raspberry Truffle Torte, weighing in at just under £5.

Chocolate and Raspberry Truffle Torte

This one was totally worth every penny, and blew the others out of the water. Similar in texture to the rasberry cheesecake, but with a much more intense chocolate flavour, it was the clear winner. My only complaint with this one, besides the inevitably slow table service, in this ever-busy restaurant, was the icing sugar. Made it look pretty, sure, but made every bite quite treachourous, if you accidentally breathed in too much whilst eating it. Icing sugar in the lungs isn't the most pleasurable of experiences.