Partly as a way to stave off boredom, and partly as a celebration of the immediate freedom from exams I was experiencing, I decided that it would be a good idea to have a dinner party thing for my vegetarian friends in June, and this also luckily coincided with a friend of mine from America being over here. She’s also vegetarian, and has inspired a lot of my cooking experiments. It was Lindsey that first introduced me to summer rolls, and also her who first cooked me tofu which had been properly pressed (thank the lord, or I would NEVER have been able to get through eating it). Lindsey is a great cook and loves food and knows a lot about it. She also has her own food blog, although is pretty busy so doesn’t get to update it that often; little shout out to her though: http://s0ydivision.blogspot.co.uk/. She also graduated this year, and was travelling around Europe for a bit with her boyfriend, although he didn’t come to the UK. So with the dinner party having been shouted over to people and placed in their diaries, I had a bit of time to relax. Lindsey decided to go to Bath for a couple of days to see the loveliness of the English countryside, and I hopped up there to visit her for a day, and have a mooch around. Also, having done Latin at GCSE, I know a little about that baths themselves, and fancied re-living my teenage years and school trips and having a look around them. Having gotten up at horrible-o-clock in the morning, I got a coach up there, and arrived around 11. Having the idea of walking around to get a feel for the place, we stumbled upon an amazing city garden/ allotment project, and when one of the people noticed us hanging around, he offered us a quick tour of the place! It was a great project, and was growing some lovely things, a range of fruit, vegetables and herbs. They had chickens too, and had apparently been going since the end of the Second World War.
We managed to have a wander around before both getting peckish (and HOT, wow it was warm that day!). Lindsey had discovered this trendy little pub (the name of which I cannot remember unfortunately), which did a load of vegetarian and vegan food, and we headed for lunch there. Normally we’re both fairly adventurous eaters, but this time we both went for the veggie burgers, not out of cowardice, but just because they sounded so freakin’ awesome. And they were. Definitely. Very awesome. Handily enough, I had also happened to pick the day to go to Bath that was when the olympic torch relay was going through the city, so after lunch we chose a spot on the side of the road and waited for the relay. I managed to scorch my shoulders at this point, and the relay was, as British tradition dictates, late. As a Londoner I’ve got pretty negative feelings towards the Olympics, and I can’t say that these were changed with the torch relay. It was certainly an interesting event to witness though, especially in Bath without the crowds and madness that London will have come late July. It also gave an idea of just how corporate the Olympic games are getting, with a myriad of corporate sponsors with their logos plastered on everything, taking part in the procession and making a spectacle of themselves.
After a wander round the city, the Baths, and some ice cream down by the river, Lindsey and I headed to dinner at a Thai restaurant. Lindsey had scoped it out beforehand and as it was an easy option for finding a variety of interesting vegetarian dishes, it was a fairly safe option. The food was really good and VERY pretty. We even got to have summer rolls together again!
After that it was a rush to the train and home again for me, receiving tempting texts on the way from the Boy, about his and his flatmate’s adventures making vegan pizza. I can’t say I wasn’t a little jealous, especially after a chilly and long trip home on the Hammersmith and City line.
The planning for the dinner party was next priority, and for that I turned to the Vegonomicon yet again for inspiration. Given that the book has a set of potential menus for this kind of thing, that was a pretty easy one, although I didn’t want to follow one verbatim, and although I’m not that picky, there were a few dishes that I wasn’t sure about using the dinner party for experimenting with. I ended up with a menu consisting of chilli crusted tofu, green pumpkin seen mole, baby stem broccoli, and mexican dirty rice with a pile of jalapeno corn bread on the side (which we spent the next week trying to give away to people to use it all up).On a plate, that ended up looking like this:
This picture is actually the leftovers that one of my friends took home and ate as a midnight snack, and then posted on tumblr. I was drinking far too much beer and wine that night to take photos. And anyway, that wasn’t the crowning glory of the meal. THAT was the desert. I had been promising the Boy for ages that I would bake a vegan chocolate-peanut butter cheesecake, since I had a recipe. I had, it seems, been tormenting him with the idea of this cheesecake, and decided that this would be a good opportunity to break out that recipe and have a bash at it. However, during my trip to Bath with Lindsey, I discovered that she had NEVER had a rhubarb crumble, which, in my book, is a crime against humanity. OK, possibly I’m exaggerating, but seriously, they’re so good, and it sucked she’d never tried one. So, rather than make life easy and stick with the original plan, I actually made both as desert. Rhubarb crumble is fairly simple, even using fresh rhubarb, so I’m not going to post a recipe here. The cake was the big deal, because it was one of the few bake-y things that I made without a full recipe. I’d had a few floating around, but they didn’t quite cover all the options I wanted in my cake, and thus although I used them as starting points and references, I essentially made it up as I went along too.
I don’t know the exact measurements anymore, and unfortunately didn’t write it down or photograph it as I went along, but this is the basics of it.
- tofutti cream cheese
- silken tofu (2 cartons-ish)
- dark vegan chocolate
- peanut butter
- vegan digestive biscuits
- soy margarine
For the base I blended crushed biscuits and soy margarine, and then added about two table spoons of crunchy peanut butter, pressed the mix down in to a springform tin, and stuck it in the fridge. For the cake itself, I got out my mum’s ancient robochef (apparently older than me), and basically started chucking ingredients in. I melted down the dark chocolate, and blended that with the tofu and cream cheese. That mix was pretty bitter but quite creamy, and as I started adding peanut butter it gained a bit more flavour. I had to sweeten it a fair bit, and used Splenda rather than sugar for that, just for experiment’s sake. I did it to my taste, and it took a little while, but eventually we got there. After that, all that was needed was to whack it in the fridge and let it chill while the other cooking went on.
When people finally arrived and we all got eating the food went down really well. We mucked around, had multiple servings, ate too much dessert, then too much cheese, then too many after eights, and then listened to too much 90s R’n B, until eventually everyone drifted home. My cooking got the seal of approval and all was good.