Tuesday, 25 January 2011

9 courses, 8 days, 7 people, 6 veg, 5 hours, 4 ovens, 3 starters, 2 amateurs, 1 Jed.

Jed's Christmas Menu book

On Christmas Day 2010, we undertook the challenge of the awesome responsibility of cooking Christmas dinner for the family. That's seven people - not a huge gathering, you might argue, people do that all the time - but enough to get these two vegans to mentally sit up and take a sip of strong coffee.

The group consisted of omnivores, a vegetarian plus two vegans. The aim was a) to christen the new eating space built earlier that year, b) do a vegan Christmas dinner with slow panache, leaving stomachs full but not bloated, and c) to give Mum the day off. One Christmas day off in about 50 years is quite generous, we thought.

But we didn't want the usual. Traditional, yes; but grown-up and professional too. Time to call Jed Smith, friend, chef, Inkymole events food designer and wearer of unfeasably bright trousers. In Jed's words: 'No fake turkey; no fake sausages wrapped In fake bacon'.

Jed had just started working at Momofuko in New York, having moved from his London home, and had literally just arrived when he wrote this book for us full of ideas. It arrived by DHL in a charming envelope, and was full of 100% solid cooking gold. That he even had time to write it down, let alone conjure the recipes, is a source of wonderment. We spent two hours in Wholefoods in London (there for a Deadmau5 show) sourcing all the bits we needed.

Prep had to begin several days before and was hampered by a few Christmas Eve surprises - a leaky ceiling, a sawn-through cable and a busted clutch - and we didn't do everything on the menu (only because of shortness of time and the average size of a human stomach) but as it was, we got everyone here at 1pm, they had a mugful of soup, then the apple pastillos a bit later, then we rolled out the main dinner bit by bit. We ate for five hours.

Here we are then, the full menu:

Chestnut soup

Apple and tarragon pastillos

Radishes and sliced turnips with herb gremolata, and Dijon mustard and cider dressing

Salt-baked beetroots with cucumber in pickle liquor with dill oil (everyone LoVeD these)

Home-made nut roast
Roast tats and 'snips
Baked-whole-then-mashed celeriac
Carrots, sprouts and cabbage
Caramelised cauliflower cooked in juniper berry and tonic water
Home-made baked stuffing (vegan)
Vegan Yorkshire puds (Mum's recipe - to follow)
Onion and toasted mustard seed gravy

Christmas muffins with vegan cream

Christmas coffee (home-brewed decaf with star anise, cinnamon and cloves, with hazelnut, gingerbread, vanilla or cinnamon syrup

Lancashire and Leicestershire (Sparkenhoe) cheeses with vegan cranberry Cheshire, olives, home-made cashew nut cheese*, oatcakes and home-made chutney (sister and boyfriend live in Blackpool, hence the inclusion of a small-maker cheese from the Fylde)
*we made the quince cheese but have saved it for another day

Divine 'After-Eight' mints

Tea, red wine, beers, cider, and apple and beetroot juice, apple and rhubarb juice


The Rickard's Farm veg, ready for prep...

...spuds, Jerusalem artichokes, radishes*, snips, swede, sprouts
*which radish-hating sister ate raw, and having once begun, could not stop

Apple pastillos, with cider and mustard dressing being whizzed

Preparing the nut roast beginnings

Nuts being toasted for the nut roast

Nut roast done.

Whole-baked celeriac (took two hours)

Herb gremolata

Stuffing roll ready for the oven

Christmas muffins under construction

Close-up of the salt-baked beetroots with cucumber in pickle liquor with dill oil


Vegan Nut Roast (PDF) - this was a combination of a recipe from Wholefoods, and Jed's made-up version, with a bit of tinkering.

Monday, 24 January 2011

Basic Fairy Cakes.

In our house, Leigh = Bread and Sarah = Cakes. A right pair of dumplings then, you might think. Why d'you think we're in the gym so often, eh?

I was asked by our friend Toir yesterday for my best non-dairy cake recipes, for a baker friend who needed a little 'specialism'.
I am pleased to divulge below the basic recipe I keep in my holster. This is all you need for the complete and delicious sating of those sudden cake urges (they only take 23 mins or so to bake).

I'm not a fan of grammes and ounces; I prefer the simple American method of cup and spoon sizes. The bigger the cup, the larger the cake - bear that in mind!

Golden Vanilla Cup*cakes
(*the recipes are American - they've been catering for omissive diets for decades longer than we have!)
Makes 12

1 cup of soya milk (substitute rice milk if you can't do soy - but use a little less, as it's watery)
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar (very important - this a mechanical, not a taste, ingredient)
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons cornflour / cornstarch
3/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup non-dairy marge - Pure brand is best, the organic one, OR 1/3 cup of sunflower oil (canola oil if you can get it)
Note: I use slightly less than the half cup suggested - this will be a matter of personal taste after a few experiments)
3/4 granulated sugar/brown sugar
3 teaspoons organic vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 180 C.
Get your cake holders ready (silicone or paper - your choice! If silicone, oil LIGHTLY first).
Whisk soya milk and vinegar in a measuring cup and set aside to get good and curdled.

- If using marge:
Sift flour, cornflour/cornstarch, baking powder and soda with the salt into a large mixing bowl. Mix well.
In a separate bowl, use a handheld whisk to cream together marge, sugar and vanilla. Don't beat too long, the marge might begin to separate (I use a wooden spoon to do this job).
Beat in the vanilla then alternate beating on the soya milk mixture and dry ingredients. Scrape the sides of the bowl!

- If using oil:
Beat together the soy milk mixture, oil, sugar, vanilla and other extracts together in a large bowl.
Sift in the flour, cornflour/starch, baking powder/soda and salt until no large lumps remain.

Full cake liners two-thirds full and bake for 20-22 minutes till done.
Test at 21 minutes by poking a small sharp knife into one sacrificial cake. You can always put them back for a minute or two, but remember cooling toughens them up.
Transfer to a cooling rack and leave to cool COMPLETELY before attempting to remove from the cases - especially if using silicone!

Blob a load of icing on top.

You can make icing in the traditional way creaming together non-dairy marge and icing sugar, with some vanilla, lemon, cocoa etc. but make sure you increase the ratio of icing sugar to marge - it can be affected by heat and go a bit soft.

There is a whole raft of recipes for dairy-free icing - I'll deal with those in another issue. But, if you want more recipes, mine is based on one by the brilliant Isa Chandra Moskowitz, who wrote Vegan Cupcakes Take Over The World. It's something of a cake bible in this house, many of its recipes memorised and adapted time after time. For anyone serious about perfecting vegan baking in general, however, her PPK website is worth investigating. Because cakes aren't always FAIRY-SIZED, are they?

Download a PDF of this recipe here.

Sunday, 23 January 2011


This is my much-asked-about home-made gravy recipe. It's changed over time but this latest incarnation is the best so far. Stand by for me to change my mind about that at any moment.

Ingredients: this is the optimum list of ideal ingredients, and I'd suggest if you have to substitute, substitute only the hemp flour for plain white organic flour. The former is a little 'textural', the latter will be traditionally smooth. Don't try to leave anything out - it won't be as good.

Right, you need:

Generous splosh of olive oil
1 x finely-chopped onion, preferably red, but white is fine
A good few sploshes of Tamari or Shoyu soy sauce made by Suma or Meridien prefereably (DO NOT use cheapo commercially-produced soy sauce - Gravy Will FAIL) - to taste
Home-made vegetable stock (use the stuff you've just cooked your greens in)
Black pepper (you won't need salt, this comes from the Tamari/Shoyu)
Two heaped dessert spoons of Engevita (vegan yeast product, available in Holland & Barrett and all sorts of health food shops)
Two heaped dessert spoons of hemp flour

Optional: splosh of red wine (warning: makes it vulgarly rich).

Heat the olive oil and add the chopped onions, with the herbs and seasoning. Cook gently, stirring occasionally until browned and transparent.
Splash in the Tamari/Shoyu soy sauce, all over the onions.
Add the veg stock, a bit at a time, just to make a loose gravy.
Stir in the Engevita slowly and throroughly.
Keep stirring.
Put your flour of choice into a little jug or cup, and add COLD water to make a watery paste. Stir well. Add to the gravy slowly, stirring all the time.
Keep cooking gently on the stove top until the gravy thickens. It will wait for you on a low heat; just keep and eye on it and add a little more stock/water if it starts to look too thick/thin.

Link to printable PDF recipe: http://www.inkymole.com/recipes/gravy.pdf

(I know. This picture could be poo, or a terrifyingly strong curry; but it is what the gravy will look like. VINTAGE.)

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