I consider myself a fairly worldly Domestic Goddess. I’m up with all the newest superfoods, and latest diet trends and fads. I’ve cooked gluten-free gingerbread (read about that here), we have play dates with kids that are lactose intolerant (Oreos are a god/dess send!) and with a vegetarian sister-in-law I am quite adept at modifying my cooking and baking skills to whatever dietary requirements the diners may require. And, (if I do say so myself) I’m pretty good at it.
But this weekend I hosted a dinner party for a work mate and his girlfriend who are Vegan. They have previously been Paleo, but decided to try vegan for health reasons, and as she was already vegetarian. They’ve been doing it for about 4 months and have been going along quite well – lots of yummy looking salads for lunch, an amazing brownie made with applesauce that was sent along to work, as well as cool new cafes with vegan menus they had discovered. So I though having them over for dinner would just mean looking through my recipe book and picking a handful of potentials.
How wrong I was.
Let’s start with entrée or nibbles. My Go-To is usually a cheese/dip platter, with maybe some cabana/cured meats. So just make it vegetarian dips, carrot/celery and crackers right?? Easy! Well yes, but most “crackers” (apart from water cracker and rice crackers) have butter as well “milk solids” in them. So none of my fave Lavosh bikkies got put out, but I did get to whip out the recipe for a roasted capsicum dip (muhumara) and make that. And I also made the good ol’ bake-in-your-oven pita crisps (olive oil spread on a pita bread with or without a sprinkle of paprika and baked at 200’C for 10 mins until crispy). Add some carrot and celery and a (store bought) roasted onion hummus and we were starting well.
Main course I figured would be pretty easy; after all I’ve been cooking vegetarian meals for years! I had plenty of soup options (minestrone, red lentil etc) but that didn’t really say “Dinner Party Main Course" to me (more like “Casual Lunch”). I have a great stuffed mushroom recipe that I thought I could substitute pesto for the fetta – forgetting that pesto has Parmesan (fail). My dahl recipe is vegan (as long as I use vegetable stock and not chicken) but again, not really fancy. Or maybe a big plate of roasted veges? With gravy made with vege stock? Suitable but Not likely.
Not to worry, I have a Heap of pasta recipes – surely they can be vegan-ised!!
First option was a “vege bolognaise” that uses a heap of veges and some lentils to make it seem hearty and "meaty". I’ve cooked this before and it has worked well. Add some home made fettuccine and we’d be on to something! (even without Parmesan to top it off)
Husband does take issue with things that Should be meat that Aren’t (don’t get him started on vegetarian lasagna!). So that go struck out.
Then there is a great recipe that uses roast pumpkin and pine nuts, but also Persian fetta (*sigh*). Then I had several gnocchi recipes, which again, sometimes used parmesan (starting to panic slightly)
Luckily I have a sweet potato gnocchi recipe that is just sweet potato, (normal) potato and flour – phew! The sauce is a “roast capsicum with gorgonzola” which (as I despise gorgonzola) I have made without the cheese before and its still quite delicious. But then on closer inspection, it has cream in the sauce (Argh!!). Would it still stand up without cream? Just to be safe I added a few more steps from another pasta sauce recipe to give it a bit more flavour (frying onion and garlic, deglazing with white wine etc).
Dessert, I knew was going to be tough – not being able to use butter, eggs or milk pretty much cancels out all of my Dessert cook book section! I know there are lots of vegan desserts, but they seem to use a lot of dates and other very sweet things which (ironically) is what I’m trying to avoid in MY diet. I can’t even use honey with vegans! Though, thankfully maple syrup would have been ok.
I could have spent several hours searching on Google, or caught up with my vegan school mum friend and picked her brain, but as time was running short, I went with the easy option of a fresh fruit/nut platter and some of the yummy Loving Earth (vegan) chocolate that I had (conveniently) been gifted for a birthday present. I am happy to report that Salted Caramel Swayzee and Very Buck n’
were both delicious (in a totally non-chocolate way) and Husband found a yummy
(if expensive) punnett of strawberries to have with some grapes. Berry
And thankfully my guests were not too fussed when it come to which wine to drink because egg whites are a common agent used in wine production = sheesh! I’m learning so much from this!!
So the pasta sauce came together nicely (and had the kitchen smelling of roasted capsicum all afternoon). The gnocchi was a bit tricky in that it was quite a sticky dough, even with adding more flour than suggested. And also leaving it to sit it for a few hours did make it more like globs rather than lovely “parcels”. But they still tasted yummy, and when smothered in sauce, who cares what they look like!
But as with all dinner party, the most important ingredient was the people, who were lovely and gracious about the lengths I had taken to ensure I was correctly feeding them. And we exchanged tips about using applesauce and flaxseed meal as an egg alternative, which will be very helpful for the Next time we have them over for dinner.
In the meantime I’m googling vegan chocolate cake for a special Friday treat....