Theme: Brunch: the under-appreciated get-together meal.
I hate it when cafes stop serving breakfast in the morning. ‘Breakfast served until 11am’ What the hell?!!! That’s like saying you can only have so much fun. ‘All-day-breakfast’ now, that’s more like it – knock yourselves out! And why not? Here are some I made earlier and some I ate out – none before 11am I am fairy certain.
Theme: Meals for the young (at heart)
Most British adults of a certain age will remember fish fingers, chips and peas being the classic go-to dish served up for kids in the 1970s. Especially be people who didn’t know what else to feed kids – it was either that or a trip to the Wimpy!
Birds Eye food manufacturers have been making fish fingers in the UK since the 1950s and reckon that around half of all households buy them. However, in 2013, sales dropped by five per cent. The amount of meat bought by UK households is in decline, and has been since the 1970’s. On the other hand, the meat-free market is booming and it looks like the same might be happening in the fish-free aisles of the supermarkets and health food shops…
VBites introduced their Making Waves Fish Style Fingers some years ago now. You can buy them from Ocado. They are a favourite of mine – hard to beat in a sandwich with ketchup! But now, Quorn have launched Quorn Vegan Fishless Fingers too so there is even more choice! This is great news as we can no longer keep pulling fish out of the sea – it is simply unsustainable with the number of fisheries collapsing, accelerating over time. If trends continue, 88 per cent of the world’s fish will be overfished by 2050. Up to 90 per cent of all large predatory fish such as cod, sharks, halibut, grouper, tuna, swordfish and marlin have already been depleted. Leave the fish alone and go fish-free!
Theme: Showstopper Dessert – Something that would earn a handshake from Paul Hollywood!
I got the idea for this dessert from Masterchef. One of the contestants made it up and I veganised it! It’s made from fresh raspberries and whisky (soak them for a few hours in a bowl in the fridge). Top with chocolate mousse and toasted chopped pistachios and dark chocolate mini-buttons, decorate with a couple of leaves of blackcurrant sage or mint.
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Theme: Party! – Canapés, finger foods, something to share.
Recipe adapted from: www.italianchips.com/spinach-pie
for the pastry:
- 500 g of flour
- 90 ml of extra virgin olive oil
- 200 ml of dry white wine
- 2 tsp of salt
for the stuffing:
- 350 g of steamed spinach chopped
- ½ tub of Tofutti cream cheese
- 100 g of grated vegan cheese
- 1 handful of walnuts, chopped
- Pinch of salt
- Freshly ground pepper
- 1 slice wholemeal bread, toasted and blitzed to make breadcrumbs
- Mix all the ingredients for the pastry but avoid overmixing – you just need to combine it all together, then set aside in the fridge.
- Steam the spinach and roughly chop.
- Mix the spinach with the cream cheese, grated cheese, walnuts, salt, pepper and breadcrumbs.
- Preheat the oven to 180°C.
- Divide the pastry in two.
- Make two circles (one around 30cm the other slightly bigger~35cm) using a rolling pin.
- Place the first circle on baking paper.
- Place one large handful of the stuffing in the centre of the circle, shape into a uniform mound.
- Arrange the remaining stuffing into a ring around the mound.
- Using a little soya milk or water, brush the borders of pastry around the edge and around the mound.
- Place the lager, second circle of pastry on top and gently press down around the mound and using a fork, gently squash the edges together around the entire circle.
- Place a small bowl over the central stuffing and punch with a fork all around to make a circle.
- Brush the whole top with soya milk or water.
- Then comes the exciting bit. Using a sharp knife cut the borders into 3cm slices (they will be slightly fanned in shape).
- Be bold now and turn each one firmly but gently onto its side to reveal the stuffing.
- Bake for 30 minutes in preheated oven at 180°C.
Serve at a party, to share with friends.
Theme: Fancy AF – Dazzle us with your haute cuisine or gourmet dishes.
These tofu beignets are inspired by a meal I had a the Bulrush restaurant in Bristol around this time last year. The tofu is marinated in arame, wrapped in nori and deep-fried in batter then served with lime mayo and pea purée.
- 150g plain tofu
- 1 tbsp. of arame or 1/2 tbsp. of seaweed condiment
- 100g plain flour
- 3 tbsp. vegan mayo
- 1/2 a lime, zest and juice
- 2 tbsp. peas
- 1/2 a sheet of nori
- 1 dessert spoon of baking powder
- Pinch of salt
- 1 teaspoonful of toasted sesame oil
- 125ml (more or less) chilled water
- Vegetable oil
- Chop the tofu into 2cm cubes.
- Crush the arame seaweed in a pestle and mortar and toss over the tofu cubes and leave to marinate for at least an hour.
- Put the flour in the freezer in a small glass bowl to chill.
- Mix the mayo with the lime zest and juice in a small bowl.
- Boil the peas for a minute or two, drain then mash in a pestle and mortar.
- Roughly break up the nori, soak in water for a few minutes, then wrap small pieces around each tofu cube (don’t worry about covering the whole cube, half-covered is fine).
- Mix the chilled flour, baking powder, salt and add the oil.
- Then add the chilled water slowly and whisk until you get to the consistently of very thick cream.
- Coat each cube of tofu in batter and deep fry in hot vegetable oil until golden brown – around 3-4 mins.
- To assemble, put a few blobs of lime mayo on a plate and place a beignet on top of each then top with pea purée.
Theme: Unconventional grains – Cooking with freekeh, buckwheat, sorghum, etc – try something you wouldn’t usually!
Greenwheat Freekeh is made from young grains of wheat harvested and toasted. It has a nutty taste and chewy texture. It can be used place of rice, couscous or bulgur wheat. Artisan Grains reckon that: “These highly nutritious small, light coloured toasted grains have a delicate smoky flavour and masses of health benefits including 4 times the fibre of brown rice and low GI“. 100g of cooked Freekeh contains nearly 9g of protein, around a fifth of your daily requirement. I thought they were a bit like pearl barley and worked well in an autumn salad with beetroot and kale.
Serves two as a meal or four as a side.
- 100g wholegrain Freekeh
- 350 ml cup vegetable stock (Bouillon)
- Pinch of salt
- ½ tsp Dijon mustard
- 1 tsp maple syrup
- 1 tbsp red wine vinegar
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 4 handfuls of kale, tough stems removed and finely shredded
- 1 apple, chopped into slices then each slice, halved
- Small handful of pumpkin seeds, toasted
- Small handful of cup walnuts, toasted
- 2-3 roast beetroot, chopped into small chunks
- Cook the freekeh and stock (Bouillon) in a medium saucepan.
- When cooked, drain and set aside while you prepare the vinaigrette and salad.
- Put the salt, mustard and maple syrup into a small bowl and whisk together.
- Add the vinegar and whisk vigorously until you have an emulsion.
- In a large bowl, mix together the shredded kale, apple, pumpkin seeds and walnuts and mix together (don’t add the beetroot until last as it will make everything pink!).
- When ready to serve, add the vinaigrette and toss to coat all the salad then scatter the beetroot chunks on and serve.
Theme: Making the humble potato the star of the show
These take a little time and patience to prepare but they are a bit of a treat and great for dinner parties or fancy roast dinners. You need to use a good roasting potato like Maris Piper, go for long, oval shaped ones, not round. Choose spuds that are roughly the same size so that they all cook at the same rate and are ready at the same time.
- 18 medium potatoes (try to buy long ones, not round)
- 45 grams vegan margarine
- 5 tbsp. olive oil
- Preheat the oven to 200°C.
- Thinly slice the potatoes nearly all the way through but not quite. You must leave the base of each potato unsliced so that it holds the top together. A clever trick to help with this is to place each potato in the bowl of a wooden spoon so that when you cut into it, the knife can’t slip and go all the way through. Use the sharpest knife you have.
- When you have sliced all your spuds, drizzle olive oil over them and roll them gently in your hands to coat them.
- Sprinkle with salt and bake in a hot oven for around 1 hour. They are ready when they are golden brown and when you can easily slide a thin knife in and out of them.
You can eat these with a roast dinner or with a rich bean stew, ratatouille and sausages or anything you fancy really!