Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Vegetarian pre-Halloween feast

Well it's the 26th October, close enough to Halloween for some pumpkin carving.

Looks quite demonic balanced on my soup plate, doesn't it? I carved the mouth too low this year and didn't want to burn the table.

My friends Frances and Ollie were coming over for dinner tonight, and so having had a week off, thought it would be a nice opportunity to try out some new vegetarian recipes on them (or riffs on a classic). I posted the blueberry cheesecake recipe yesterday, the reception of which more later.

For starters, I thought an after-work thing when we didn't know when people would arrive called for picky bits, so went for chopped crudites, houmous, sweet peppers stuffed with feta and marinated olives from the local Cypriot deli.

The crudites always look so pretty chopped up on their little plate, and really the whole thing takes very little effort. I paired this with glasses of poor girl's kir royale - sparkling wine with a splash of cherry brandy for colour and flavour. I spent the most time making the main course and sides: Individual Veggie Pot Pies, with root veg puree and buttered pepper green beans.

For the pot pies:

1 medium potato, peeled and cut into small chunks
150g butternut squash, peeled, cut into 1cm dice
1 large carrot, cut into 1cm dice
150g small broccoli florets
1 tbsp oil
1 onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 red pepper, cut into 1 cm dice
50g butter
2 tbsps plain flour
1 1/2 cups of milk
1 cup grated cheddar
2 egg yolks
Salt, paprika and black pepper to taste
Ready rolled puff pastry
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 tsp poppy seeds

Preheat the oven to GM 6-7, brush 6 one cup ramekins with oil (thanks to Laura Samuels for the ramekins!). Steam the potato, squash, pumpkin, carrot and broccoli until tender (I did this in batches as my fan steamer for saucepans was not big enough) and place in a large bowl when ready. Heat the oil in a frying pan and saute the onions, garlic and pepper together until softened, add to the veg bowl. At this point I left things alone for a while to clean up the house and get on with a few other things, but didn't want the veg to continue steaming, so left to cool in a draft for a while.

Heat the butter in a pan and add the flour. Stir over a low heat for a minute or two until lightly golden. Stir in the milk gradually and don't be freaked out when it turns to floury curds with the first few dribbles of milk - just keep stirring and adding the milk in dribs and drabs til it miraculously turns into a smooth white sauce. Once all the milk is in, stir over a medium heat for a few minutes until it boils and thickens. Boil for about a minute, then remove from the heat, add cheese and egg yolks and stir to combine. Season. (In hindsight, whilst these were delicious, I would have added mustard to the cheese sauce whilst cooking, a little nutmeg, and perhaps some cinnamon. I might also mix it up next time with some blue cheese rather than cheddar). Keep the egg whites to make macaroons with - I cursed when I read Nigella's Feast later in the day and worked out I could have made some, whereas the remainders went into the wormery. At least someone ate them!

Finally, add the sauce to the veggies and stir. Divide into the ramekins. Cut circles of pastry to top the pies, press the edges to seal, brush with beaten egg and top with poppy seeds (best sprinkled using fingers with a pinch of these rather than from a measuring spoon, as I later discovered). They look a bit like this:

Whilst these are doing (about 40 mins in a hot oven), you can start making mash. Now, I'd wanted to make the three root veg mash with goat's cheese from earlier in the year, but apparently celeraic is hard to find in north London and very in demand. So, I cubed a medium potato, about a third of a large swede, a large carrot and a large parsnip and boiled them for about ten minutes. I then creamed them using electric beaters (which handily turned up from Amazon earlier). I left them to rest for a little bit whilst setting the table and sorting out the last finishing touches.

I was going for a mash with a little bit of veg left whole rather than a complete puree, but this was a little too creamy/gluey but still with lumps of carrot. I need to work out a better way of making this (perhaps just recreating the successful version of a few months ago). Finally, I added a whole large slice of quite gooey goat's cheese (a slightly harder and more grainy version would have been better - Capricorn English goat's cheese was too runny for this), some salt and pepper, and refried on the hob with a bit of butter in a large saucepan. To finish the course, I added some boiled green beans with peppered butter.

As you can see, everything got eaten, but I'm still not entirely happy with the mash, or the seasoning for the pies.

However, the cheesecake was really, really something.

It's still not the smooth and creamy wonderfulness of the cheesecake from my favourite Brazilian restaurant in London, El Vergel, but was delicious, rich, creamy and wonderful. I'll try a cherry topping next time, and maybe a non-ricotta based cheesecake filling. Live and learn!

However the main point of the meal was to have a lovely dinner with J, Frances and Ollie, and we had a great time catching up. I'd definitely do this again as a veggie meal for four with a few tweaks.

No comments:

Post a Comment