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 Béchamel 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 Béchamel 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