It’s only 7 days til Christmas, and you know what that means. The presents are bought, the neighbours have got their cards, so now the only thing to worry about is the food.
Or if not, just forget everything else and just worry about the food anyway.
Yesterday I posted up this recipe for the dish that’s going to be my vegan Christmas dinner starter: a delicious Mushroom, Walnut and Spinach Puff Pastry Roll. You can serve these as they are, but I like to serve a couple on top of a light and fresh salad – and so I’m giving you the recipe for that salad today!
Christmas dinner in our house has always been a pretty joyous occasion. Folk from Yorkshire love a roast, and at our Christmas table, amongst the napkins and crispy veg and crackers with shit jokes in you can find a little present for each person, a little something to make the excitement of the morning last through lunch.
My mum cooks a mean turkey, and her roasties are well known to be fantastic – but these days, she has two little grandkids running around as well as a house full of bickering relatives, so you might say that she has enough on her plate without having to deal with crafting an entirely different meal for her difficult vegan daughter. You might also say that a meal that nut roast and stuffing are basically the same thing, so a vegan Christmas dinner might not want both. For these reasons, I have taken Vegan Christmas Dinner into my own hands this year.
And oh, I have some big plans.
Butternut squash is one of those odd ingredients that I seem to forget about for a large portion of the year. I suppose that this is the ideal for seasonal cooking, but I can’t claim that I’m an entirely seasonal shopper; rather, I get more obsessed with beetroots and cashews and a whole host of other things and squash just falls out of my head entirely.
My friend brought a beautiful butternut squash home from the market (yes! A winter market!) last week, and when I was scouting through the fridge post-yoga with a ravenous need to eat, there it was: just what I needed.
Even the most hardcore curry lovers amongst you (I know you’re out there) might be a little perplexed by the name of this recipe. Don’t worry; you’re not out of the loop. Rather, thoran is much a lesser-known dish than the korma, tikka masalas and even the daals that regularly appear on English-language recipe sites and in cookbooks.
Thoran is a “dry” curry from Kerala, which means that it may not be what you consider to be a traditional curry – it doesn’t have any sauce. Instead, the vegetables are cooked in a spice-laden oil with a little water, which might go against everything you consider a curry to be, but it’s incredibly delicious.
I’ve never really been a toast girl. I mean, I’ve eaten a frankly obscene amount of it in my life, especially as a child, but later in my life I’ve never considered it a decent breakfast, and the thought of choking down soggy toast covered in beans makes me feel so ill that I wonder if I’m a Yorkshire girl at all.
Lately, though, I’ve begun to appreciate the sheer brilliance of a great slice of high-quality bread, toasted well, and topped with something simple but gorgeous; last week, my friend Craig made us garlic mushrooms on toast and with some black coffee and the Sunday papers, it was some kind of heaven.
I’m really into Harissa right now (okay, always) and while most people cut it with yogurt, I love to pair it with a little squeeze of lemon and some fresh basil for a very layered but not too complicated flavour. Some good quality olive oil will bring all these elements together beautifully.
Parsnips? Pomegranate? Edamame? This can’t surely be good, can it?
Well, yes it can. In fact, it can be tasty as hell as well as incredibly good for you! Parsnips are everywhere right now, and a little sweetness from the pomegranate seeds in a dish like this will go a long way! Little bursts of colour are super important in a dish that contains lots of brown and beige, so the edamame here will brighten up your plate and make it look as delicious as it is. And who can argue with kale?
This ginger-tahini dressing will steel your immune system against the coming season of germs everywhere and sniffly noses, so don’t hold back on the garlic and ginger – and if you want to spice it up a little more, add in some paprika and maybe even a little turmeric. It’s all good for you in winter time!
*Please note that the time for this recipe does not include 4-8 hours resting time for the dough!
I am approaching that horrifying yet wonderful time; my last 2 weeks in yet another country.
In 2 weeks, I’m moving from the stifling, exciting, wonderful Panama City to the freezing, exciting, glorious Edinburgh (yes, in Scotland), and it’s all starting to hit home that my cab drivers will no longer play merengue at deafening levels and my rice and beans lunch will longer cost $1.50. It’s time to go, for sure, but that doesn’t make the going any easier.
When I leave a place, I always do the “why didn’t I” dance. Why didn’t I learn salsa? Why can’t I speak more than barely passable Spanish? Why did I never go to Las Tablas on Carnavales? Another, worse one occurred to me this weekend: why have I never made empanadas?
When I’m putting together a menu (which is a fancy way of saying “when I’m trying to decide what to make for friends”), I’m a big fan of sticking to one cuisine for several courses. Or, if that’s not possible (or preferable), taking the best out of similar cuisines and serving them up in a way that complements each one.
Last night, I had my wonderful friend Sofia of Beautiful Imperfect and her partner over for a rooftop dinner, and I couldn’t help myself; it was going to be 3 courses. A sesame salad / slaw thing, Vegan Laksa (always) and…something else. Something using Malaysian flavours, something coconutty but fresh. Something simple that would go nicely with the intense flavours of the Laksa.
This recipe was it.
When it comes to baking, less is often more.
When you’re whipping up a tasty little something, you can add chocolate or cream or icing or cinnamon or caramel or more cream ’til the cows come home, and sure, it’ll be some sort of delicious sensory overload in the end (maybe) – but the true test of a good baker is making something with simple ingredients that ends up being perfection. Lemon drizzle cake is that thing.
The origins of this cake aren’t clear, although it is often referred to as a French tea time favourite (of course it is; the French have wonderful taste in desserts) and us Brits absolutely adore it too. The combination of the sweet sugar and the tart lemon within the fluffy, light sponge is the very definition of subtlety, and there’s nothing better to enjoy on a light afternoon with a good bit of gossip from a friend.
You may have noticed that I’ve been on something of a soba noodle kick lately. This is because I’ve suddenly found a place to buy them in Panama, and this is a huge deal for me; I LOVE soba noodles. Not only are they ridiculously healthy for you, they’re also ridiculously tasty and ridiculously easy to cook.