For the last 4 weeks I have been engaged in a month long challenge to eat only vegan food. As I was approaching the end of the month and beginning to get the hang of the whole thing I decided to run an Unseen Restaurant night where I would invite my omnivorous friends to come and share some vegan food.
This food had to be good; Unseen Restaurant guests pay for their food and I didn’t want my meat eating friends to feel short changed. In a way I feel like I wimped out by deciding to do a curry night, vegan fine dining would have been a bigger challenge but also a higher risk. I didn’t want to put people off, I just wanted to offer them something familiar but different. So I settled on curries.
Having said that curries are simple I have eaten some awful curries in my time; over or underspiced, so fiery you can’t taste anything for a week or so bland you wouldn’t know it was curry. I have also been served curries with an oil slick on top or full of poor quality ingredients, presumably in the hope that the spicing would hide the wilted veg and gristly meat.
I was really aiming for a range of flavours and textures with some layered spicing. I hope I achieved it. In the end we ate Onion Bhajis with home made Mango Chutney, Tarka Dhal, Mushroom Passanda and Butternut Squash and Cauliflower Rogan Josh with basmati rice and chapattis.
Then came my second challenge – dessert. Even under normal circumstances I am not a fan of Indian desserts. I find them to be overly sweet and many of them are based on milk which is not good if you are planning a vegan meal. Again, I really wanted to give my guests something they would love so I set about making them a very un-Indian chocolate and raspberry brownie. Again, it’s not the easist thing to make a vegan brownie – the eggs and butter are usually in there for a reason – but it can be done and it can be done well. For the Unseen Restaurant night I served them with non-dairy Ice “cream” and caramelised hazlenuts.
All in all I think my guests enjoyed the food – judging by the appreciative noises they were making. No one seemed to miss meat although one or two of them confessed to eating meat for lunch that day “just in case”.
For me? All these recipes will have a regular place on our table from now on. Vegan food doesn’t have to be an ethical choice or even a healthy choice – sometimes it’s just darned tasty.