Monday 17 June 2019

A vegan dinner party menu

My attitude to vegan food is fast changing. We need to eat less meat. Without doubt, a plant based diet is better for us and better for the planet. Would I applaud you to for going vegan? Yes. Will I be giving up meat? Not a chance. Actually it's butter I'd struggle to replace. There is no vegan equivalent for flavour and cooking qualities. Brown butter - beuure noisette - is possibly my most favourite aroma. I'd splash it on like aftershave if it didn't mean third degree burns. Also cheese. Vegan cheese is an abomination. Oh... and a world without dippy eggs and soldiers. Damn. No. Not yet. Selfish Jason. Yup.

Elena sounded hesitant when she called. It was her birthday. She wanted a meal with eight friends. Was it fair to make it meatless and dairy free. I thought so. Anyway, I can't do a carne/vegan split. It would virtually mean two separate dinners, with a high degree of cross contamination: the absent minded stir.

Restrictions are often a pathway to creativity, certainly has been in my TV writing. The sudden absence of a character, a sick actor, a lost location forces you to think tangentially; peeling apart possibilities. I was once told, days from filming, that my episode of Casualty which revolved around an armed robbery and hostage situation in an ambulance, could no longer feature a gun. Get thinking.
I wanted to use tofu, for no reason other than I've never cooked with it. I've only tasted it when very drunk too, probably in one of the slightly suspect Lisle Street Chinese restaurants that are still open at 5am. Tofu has a rep for being tasteless and rubbery so I wanted to tackle both issues. After some research I decided to deep fry some 'extra-firm' tofu to a satisfying crunch and serve it with a flavoursome sauce.

Which brings me to my major issue with vegan cooking. At least, vegan cooking in the UK. I try to use local and seasonal ingredients where possible (Lemons! Busted). In warm countries flavoursome ingredients are available all year round. Not so in the UK. What does local, English vegan fare look like in the frozen heart of February? Pickled turnip all round? My starter ended up looking eastwards, with ginger, soy, mirin and yuzu whereas dessert went West, to Caribbean pineapple and coconut so I was determined that my mains would be an all British affair.

I decided to blog the menu as a whole because while looking, it becomes obvious that not many people do this. I'll list the entire menu below and link to various older recipes and new blogs.

The New River Dining Vegan Menu #1
I'll be adding the recipes over the next few days.

No changes to the bread. Substitute walnut oil for the brown butter in the nut recipe.

Roasted cauliflower soup with toasted hazelnuts.

Tarts of sweet onion, roasted celariac and smoked beetroot pureé with dill oil. Served with crushed peas in a mint vinaigrette, sweet and sour red cabbage.

Spice and citrus roasted pineapple. Served with coconut ice cream, rum and coconut cream and a salted peanut praline.

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