Thursday, 29 March 2012

The Vegan Dinner Party - A Retrospective

I was just skimming through my old posts and I realised that I had never posted about how the vegan dinner party went.

The short answer, from a culinary point of view, is: badly.

The starter was to be leek and potato soup, the leeks and potatoes having been purchased by my fellow hostess as I was embroiled in rehearsals for a concert later in the week. Due to a variety of commitments on both our parts, I didn't get hold of these vital ingredients until an hour before the guests were due to arrive. It was at the same time that we realised neither of us had bought any fruit for the trifle.

Luckily, I had some frozen red berries in the freezer. The strawberry jelly was ready and set in its bowl so I defrosted the berries and added them to the jelly layer. Then we decamped to the kitchen to start cooking.

The risotto was fairly straight-forward. The only advance planning required was soaking the porcini mushrooms, which I had done that morning, so I threw the whole lot into my rice cooker and left it to be switched on at the appropriate moment so that, in theory, the perfectly-cooked risotto would be ready as the last soup spoon hit an empty bowl.

The soup itself presented more of a difficulty. We didn't have a large enough pan to boil all the veg at once, so it was split into several smaller pans and boiled, fried and generally blitzed into softening enough. Then we poured some (again, not all would fit) into the blender. Half of the soup blended. Then the motor burnt out.

Batch Cooking for the Freezer

In the last three days I have made quite a lot of food. I've cooked for between 2 and 5 people each night, although admittedly often it only involved shoving something out of the freezer into the oven for a while, but in between times I've made spaghetti bolognese sauce, curry, meatfree meatballs in a tomato sauce, spinach spaghetti, and shepherd's pie. I've filled fifteen individual portion containers and I've not even divided up the pie yet.

Monday, 26 March 2012

The Freezer of Doom

I decided it was time to clear out my dad's freezer to see exactly what was in there, so that I could more efficiently plan my attack for the next week and a half.

It was a scary, scary place.

This is kind of how I felt. Image by Michal Marcol.

Saturday, 24 March 2012

Tracking Nutrition

As I mentioned before, I've started using MyFitnessPal to track what I'm eating, and how it compares to what I need. There's a certain amount of estimation involved, as I don't weigh out the portions I eat but I'm getting better at guessing, but the food database is very impressive and I've added the recipes each time I eat something I cooked myself.

So far, I've discovered that my diet is very random and I eat far too much one day, far too little the next. I also eat way, way too much sugar - although today I had a banana and a boiled egg for breakfast, and according to the food diary that contained 15g of sugar. I think I shall take their figures with a pinch of salt, so to speak.

Lately I've definitely not been eating enough fruit and vegetables so I'm hoping to improve that. At the moment I'm staying with my dad and his partner, or alternatively my brother who is living on his own in the house my dad is going to sell fairly soon. He's still at school and doesn't get in until 7.30 most nights (sounds familiar to me!) so my project for next week is to cook him a stack of freezer meals to get him through next term on something more substantial than toast and biscuits. It will be good practice for my own freezer stash which will need rebuilding once I've emptied and defrosted the freezer.

Monday, 12 March 2012

Dipping my Toes into the Diet Pool

For the first time in my life I have decided to take a proactive approach to my diet. I'm not particularly overweight but my doctor advised me last year that I don't want to keep gaining weight and could do with losing some to prevent health problems when I'm older. I'm also getting frustrated by being unable to find clothes (particularly dresses) which fit properly.
I find it hard to believe she is actually having that much fun

Saturday, 10 March 2012

Eating Seasonably

I find this time of year a rather depressing one, in fruit and vegetable terms. I am making an effort these days to buy my fruit and veg locally, and if that isn't possible then at least to make sure it is coming from Western Europe, usually Spain,  rather than Morocco (where for some reason Sainsbury's appears to source almost everything at the moment).

The "everything from Spain" rule was true in France too!

The difficulty is that in March, there is very little fruit available from anywhere closer than Spain. According to this handy seasonal calendar, it's because there isn't actually any fruit in season in the UK at the moment. The closest we are to fresh fruit is rhubarb in May - not really my favourite fruit without an accompaniment of strawberries or similar.

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Vegan Trifle Ingredients

An exciting parcel arrived today - and I knew what it would be before I had even seen it! The vegppl sticker on the front confirmed it.

What did it contain? Well, if you've been paying attention you will know that I'm hosting a vegan & gluten-free dinner party at the end of next week and I decided to serve vegan trifle as dessert. So I ordered some soy squirty cream, some vegetarian jelly and a box of egg replacement.

I'm still trying to figure out what to do about the sponge layer. I will have a go at making sponge fingers myself, using gluten-free flour and egg replacement, but I have a feeling it might take a few attempts. So far a couple of recipes have turned up; I'll keep you posted.

Saturday, 3 March 2012

"What's for Dinner?" "Food. Eat it."

This exchange echoes through my memories of my childhood. I always liked to put a definite name to my meals, and I wanted to know that my mum had consulted a recipe and was following The Rules. If something wasn't instantaneously recognisable I started questioning. It must have been very annoying.

Tonight's dinner, I have to admit, made me ask myself the same question.

It's certainly colourful, whatever it is

Thursday, 1 March 2012

A Challenge - Vegan, Gluten-Free Dinner Party

A few days ago a friend and I were eating dinner in her kitchen when somehow we had the idea of giving a dinner party to celebrate the end of term. We talked about who we might invite, and I made a few suggestions. Of the people I asked, two of them can't make it on the date we chose.

Our table will not be this fancy, but the company will be good! Click for source
And the other two are my "food fussy" friends. One is a straight-forward vegan, which as a vegatarian I don't feel is a very big step. The other is lactose-intolerant (not a problem when the cuisine is already vegan) and also gluten intolerant, with a few other exciting allergies to spice things up.

So that has presented me with a challenge! Not prepared to opt out and cook separate dishes for each guest, I have been scouring the internet for vegan, gluten-free dishes.