Tuesday, 3 May 2016

the cookery calendar challenge - looking back at April



This months Cookery Calendar Challenge has been just that, a challenge. You may remember that I bought a vegan cookery book, Marie Laforet's Vegan Bible. Don't get me wrong, what I cooked was not bad but it also wasn't all that great.


My first dish was the summer vegetable lasagne, my thought being that traditional lasagne is a firm family favourite and a vegan one could not be all bad. My teenager is opposed to vegetarianism and veganism, with a teenage fervour that might be worrying if not most teenagers turned into moderate grown ups. I am not sure what the issue is.


The lasagne was essentially a ratatouille layered with lasagne sheets and a vegan ricotta to substitute the traditional Bechamel sauce. I'll get to that in a moment. Aubergine, courgette and peppers were diced very finely and sauteed with garlic and mixed herbs, then the veggies were cooked slowly with passata. It was quite delicious, even the aubergine was ok (I am not a big fan). Unfortunately this is the point were things started to go wrong. The B├ęchamel replacement was not a success. The recipe said to make vegan ricotta by blending together tofu, soy cream, tahini, onion and garlic powder, and lemon juice. It wasn't nice. A big portion of freshly made pesto stirred in didn't make it much better. The flavour combination of tahini flavoured soy cream with pesto and mixed herbs flavoured vegetables just didn't work. It was a bit overwhelming with clashing flavours all fighting for taste buds. The flavours are all fine individually, and much liked in this house but in combination, I have to give it a big thumbs down. The kids were eating the lasagne as if I had served them dog turd in a sloppy sauce, washing each mouthful down with a gulp of water. I was a bit offended because it was edible after all. The take home message for me is not to mess with family favourites and stick to tried and tested recipes here. I did like the filling and would make it again, maybe with larger vegetable chunks and served with penne, or as a vegetarian lasagne with a traditional B├ęchamel sauce and cheese topping.



Learning from my mistake I cooked something that didn't include any meat or dairy substitutes. I cooked buckwheat stuffed peppers. They were good. The filling was a mixture of onion, tofu, green olives and buckwheat. I only had smoked tofu with sesame seeds but I think it added a nice flavour to the recipe, which used plain tofu. I am very fond of smoked foods. Everyone except Annie liked the stuffed peppers. Annie found the olives offensive. She turned each buckwheat grain over to confirm its identity. One last word about buckwheat: the recipe instructs you to  rinse the cooked buckwheat with cold water. Do absolutely not try to save time here, it really needs a good rinse. I rather like this grain, it makes a change from couscous or rice.

I have to confess that the whole meal was not vegan, just the peppers. The night before we were going to cook Nigella's chicken shawarma but both Richard and I were too tired to cook and we ordered pizza, much to the offsprings delight. The chicken was in marinade and couldn't be frozen so I cooked it alongside the vegan peppers. The peppers made a beautiful side dish, colourful and tasty. The recipe was supposed to feed our family but I can tell you with confidence that the cereal cupboard would have been raided within the hour of finishing the meal, had it been a main dish. You could make a big salad as a side maybe. The chicken by the way is a new family favourite, lovely flavours and easy to cook. I didn't add the pomegranate seeds the recipe calls for to this latest version. Pomegranate seeds are overrated and don't add enough to the dish to warrant stained clothes and masses of leftover seeds. I wonder if it is possible to by small jars of pomegranate seeds?

I don't think we have any budding vegans in the family and this cookery book will not be a family favourite but it will come in handy when we invite friends who have a vegan teen. There are plenty of recipes in the book that I am happy to try. I like the various bean burgers for example, the vegetable and the tofu dishes, too. I will probably stay clear of the vegan cheese cake recipe, or any other recipe that has 'cheese' in its name. I shudder at the thought of vegan mozarella on my pizza, having read the recipe. I do struggle a bit with the notion of recreating vegan versions of non vegan foods that are difficult to replicate unless the original ingredients are used. There are so many great ingredients to cook with, it seems unnecessary to try to recreate those that you choose not to eat. Talking of ingredients, I don't think this particular book is much use for someone with a full time job and limited grocery shopping time. Many ingredients come from specialist shops and to be honest, I have neither time nor inclination to go to more than one shop for my weekly groceries.

I am not sure yet which book will be dusted in May so be sure to come back and find out in about a month time. I am thinking maybe 'The Art of the Tart', or maybe the recipe collection from my children's nursery (if I can find it). I am also tempted by my home economics cookery book, for some good old fashioned Swiss cooking.

I am linking up with Penny of A Homemade Heart. Why not pop over to have a look at her latest cooking adventures? I promise you hearty comfort food and chocolatey delights. xx





19 comments:

  1. Thank you for this post - I am chuckling away, imagining the faces of your family! So well written, I feel like I was there with you xx

    ReplyDelete
  2. I have to admit, I don't have any desire to try vegan cooking and I don't think my family would be impressed either. You were so brave to try this! I'm afraid my family would revolt if I did, but then again, they do like our Meatless Monday meals for the most part (which aren't vegan, but they are usually vegetarian). Maybe I'll try the peppers, I think those sound pretty good, actually. Thanks for sharing, you're doing great with the challenge!

    ReplyDelete
  3. Your vegan lasagna actually looks quite good. I enjoy vegan meals now and then but I'm not one for using meat or cheese substitutes. In my opinion, nothing can duplicate the taste of meat or cheese, but there are lots of delicious recipes that don't include either.
    The peppers look wonderful. Good for you for trying out these new recipes.

    ReplyDelete
  4. I think my children would react in exactly the same way to a vegan lasagne and I'm with you, in that the whole substituting vegan versions of real foods is just way too labour-intensive and, I think, a bit daft. We have favourite vegetarian meals but I rarely cook anything that's vegan. Well done for giving it a go, very impressive, and I look forward to May's dishes (tarts or Swiss dishes, or whatever you go for!).

    ReplyDelete
  5. I have to agree with you on the substituting meats and cheese. I would rather skip it altogether or add a very sharp cheese in very small amounts. Both these dishes look great, but it's a shame about the lasagna. I feel for you when your kids were being picky about the meal. They should have recognized that it was quite an effort on your part and could have expressed themselves in a nicer way. You don't know unless you try, right? Good luck with your May challenge!
    Wendy

    ReplyDelete
  6. I would have had the same response if I had tried vegan recipes when my girls were teens. I did like the sound of the stuffed peppers, although like you it would probably have been a side rather than a main. Impressive challenge, particularly with teens in the house. I am hoping that you opt for tarts, we are rather partial.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Brave woman! I applaud your efforts, Christina. Some of my culinary explorations while cooking for my family brought forth similar reactions to the ones which you described from your family...which you described so well I laughed out loud, by the way :) xxxxxx

    ReplyDelete
  8. Hey Christina,
    I'd never mess with a lasagne here. There are three variations; meat, veggie and spicy. At least your kids gave it a go. Samuel is the same with mushrooms, as Annie is with olives. I find it extremely irritating (and rude) when he starts dissecting a meal to see whether I have hidden any.
    Leanne xx

    ReplyDelete
  9. I don't eat much meat and usually have a vegetarian option if I eat out, but I am not sure that I would want to be veggie all the time and I am pretty sure that I would miss cream and butter too much to be vegan, but I do admire those who do it. Sorry, gosh, long sentence! I don't think I would miss meat though. IT is a shame that these recipes didn't live up to expectations, hope that you enjoy more success next month!

    ReplyDelete
  10. Oh Christina! I love your descriptions of the family eating their vegan meal! So funny. Like you I struggle with 'substitute' foods. Although I am a vegetarian / pescatarian I almost never eat vegetarian sausages etc. as I find the flavour and texture unpleasant. Thank you so much for joining in with the challenge again this month, I really appreciate it X

    ReplyDelete
  11. That was funny hearing about your kids reaction. I was such a fussy eater as a teenager, still am actually. I was so fussy I wouldn't eat rice, innocuous rice. Love veggies, but could never be a vegetarian, too much of a meat lover.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Hi I'm working my way through Rick Steins from Venice to Istanbul at the mo so will maybe do a post at some point. Pomegranate molasses is a key ingredient in a lot of his dishes from this book but not used it yet as not a fan of pomegranates either. It will take a while as we try to keep meat and fish to twice a week however there are quite a few vegetable dishes so should keep me going a while. I think your lasagna looks very tasty though

    ReplyDelete
  13. You made me laugh about your teenager's aversion to anything damned by the label of being vegetarian or vegan! I have exactly the same phenomenon here! It has acquired an added twist in the last few months (pressure of exams making itself felt? I hope it's only that) and now any recipe with an ingredient from the "verboten" list he won't touch. Ridiculous as it includes the teaspoonful of vinegar in meringues and whey left over from cheese-making in homemade bread, neither of which can you detect in the finished article! As I say I hope it's only a temporary blip as it makes cooking a bit of an obstacle course! E x

    ReplyDelete
  14. Oh dear, you had me laughing at your description of the kids eating the lasagne. I think you did well giving it a go, it's not something I'd do with my fussy eaters and Mick would look at me gone out if he didn't find any meat on his plate.

    ReplyDelete
  15. Oh, it's good to shake things up a bit every now and again, yes? I'm a vegan living with two 'we're not eating that vegan muck'vegetarians (one eats eggs, one doesn't, which all makes for rather complicated menus here). Have to say I've never used pretend cheese as that seems to miss the whole point. Now please excuse me whilst I go and break in my new vegan boots.

    ReplyDelete
  16. I'm totally with you on the cheese substitute thing... Why would you want to? If you don't eat cheese then why would you want a substitute. It's the same with meat, which I don't eat. I can't abide meat substitutes like say a soya mince or quorn chicken. The stuffed peppers sound nice though.

    ReplyDelete
  17. oh that is a shame but at least you are trying out new things. I have been vegan for over three weeks I think it is now and the cheese is the killer! When you are vegetarian it is used so often for flavour and substance. I did make a vegan lasagne my own version and it came out well. I used lentils in it as well as veg, fried courgette slices instead of lasagne sheets, I made a gf white sauce and added a little cheese sauce powder from the health shop (vegan) and topped it with vegan pizza cheese from Holland and Barrett only a little I think it's quite strong. I will post full instructions soon. My oldest son ate it all without complaint which is rare but he did say 'why have you put vegan cheese on mine?' I think it may also be a real issue when we travel as I already struggle with the GF foods when we are away although I do cook mostly in the caravan. xx

    ReplyDelete
  18. I challenged myself to go vegan for a month last October and was surprised at how easy it was. The trick was to abandon any attempt to redesign carnivorous dishes and embrace the wide variety of fruit, vegetables, pulses and grains now available. I looked for inspiration to the cuisine of countries where veganism is prevalent, like India. Anna Jones' A Modern Way to Cook and A Modern Way to Eat were valuable sources of recipes and ideas.

    ReplyDelete
  19. oooh that sounds like a tough month!! Well done on trying the two recipes. I'm trying to pick May's recipes (a bit late to it this month) and loved your description of the cereal being raided after a small meal, as that is what I fear with the book I am using! Hope the next recipes are met with slightly more appreciation! x

    ReplyDelete

Thank you for visiting and leaving a comment, I love to hear from you, I really do. I sometimes reply by email but I am not all that reliable... Christina xx