Last weekend we went completely vegetarian. We always aim to cater for all dietary requirements at the Manor but we like to put the veggies first every now and then. I used to be a veggie when I was a student so I don’t really feel like I’m missing out if I don’t have meat. I think these days vegetarian food has a much better reputation, helped by the exciting flavour combinations people are prepared to experiment with – as demonstrated by the likes of our foodie friends at Swine that Dines. They do a monthly veggie small plates menu where I’ve eaten some of the best food of my life.
Flavour is probably the most important aspect of cooking for me, and so we picked a menu that would showcase some strong, spicy and unusual flavours, all in veggie form. In fact most dishes were actually vegan or could be made vegan by omitting the minor dairy elements. People seemed up for it as well, at least two thirds of the crowd were not even vegetarian!
Susie got me a spritz book for my birthday this year and so I’m slowly making my way through it at each supperclub, as the recipes produce such lovely, refreshing aperitifs. This month I picked a Nero Chinato spritz, which was muddled blackberries, cocchi and prosecco. Very late summer inspired!
Our canapes started our veggie tour of the world, the first being ullunde vadi – Sri Lankan street food inspired by my recent travels. These chewy little lentil doughnuts came stuffed with a punchy, sweet and sour onion and chilli relish. Then it was onwards to Mexico with a smoky butternut squash tostada. A crunchy tortilla topped with spicy paprika spiked squash, topped with pink pickled onions and coiander oil.
Next on our culinary tour was Turkey. We’ve said before how our current food obsession is Selin Kiazim of Oklava and so I was keen to test a recipe ahead of our Oklava themed event in October. Ricotta stuffed dumplings came paired with a charred wedge of cabbage, a naughty yoghurt and cream sauce, chilli butter and toasted pinenuts. The sauce could essentially make anything taste nice and the spicy chilli butter cut through all the dairy richness.
Next was a detour to Asia via Greece with a real fusion of a salad consisting of black rice, aubergine, watermelon, feta and sesame! Black rice and griddled aubergines were tossed in a salty, umami miso,ginger and lime dressing and then topped with feta, watermelon and a chilli sesame caramel brittle. The salty savoury flavours were washed away by the watermelon, leaving you ready for another mouthful. This combination sounds bonkers, but our guests seemed to love it!
My Middle Eastern take on a risotto was up next and was packed full of unusual flavours including sumac and preserved lemon. This was topped with little bread and butter pickles, made from tiny Turkish cucumbers. The tart little pickles cut through the creaminess of the risotto and provided a lovely crunch against the comforting softness.
We stayed around the Middle East for Susie’s take on another of Selin’s recipes – chilli roast roast cauliflower. Smeared with sweet and spicy Turkish pepper paste, the cauliflower was roasted and charred and then topped with a tahini sauce, pistachios and pomegranates. A herby bulghur wheat salad accompanied. Roasting cauliflower really brings out the nuttiness of the vegetable yet retains the bite.
And then it was back to the UK for dessert – using a dessert recipe from Edinburgh’s Mark Greenaway. Mark’s recent book ‘Perceptions’ is full of complicated Michelin starred recipes, most of which I will never try. However the dessert section is very colourful and appealing and he breaks down all the steps in a (fairly) accessible way. I tried out the brown sugar cheesecake, bramble sorbet and tomato caramel. This was a beautiful little dish full of unusual flavour combinations. The brown sugar cheesecake was creamy and light and with a touch of butterscotch; the bramble sorbet full of summer hedgerow flavours; and the tomato caramel surprisingly fruity and zesty. It was a bit of a labour of love, but worth it!
And so we proved vegetarian food can be as exciting and fulfilling as anything else, we certainly didn’t miss the meat! Next up is our Scandinavian double bill at the end of September, where we will probably be welcoming in the start of Autumn. You’ll also no doubt have seen that we’ll be taking a wee break after January so that Susie can go on maternity leave (not my baby I hasten to add!). If you’ve managed to book on to our last round of events, then well done! If not then keep an eye on the blog and on twitter as we’ll advertise any cancellations as they arise.