Sophie, her college friend Vic, long-time friend Diana, and I met at The Gate in Hammersmith. Sophie and I had a bit of trouble finding the place as there was a show at the Apollo Theater. The line for the show wound around and down several blocks, and covered the set back and rather unassuming entrance to the place with a wide queue of concert-goers. When we finally found our way in we were delighted to catch up with and share a meal with these lovely folks.
They had researched and suggested four possible restaurants in advance for us to choose from. The Gate had miso glazed eggplant on the menu, which is a dish that I absolutely love. I can name the two restaurants (prior to this visit to London) where I have had a memorable rendition of this dish (Kayuga in Ithaca, NY which may not even be there any longer and Wasabi in Asheville, NC and they no longer serve it). So, of course, I chose The Gate as the place to meet.
We each had a starter. Two of us had the miso glazed aubergine, which did not disappoint! The other dishes were a three onion tart and a seared tofu tikka dish with Indian flavors. The latter I tried and enjoyed.
My main was a wild mushroom risotto cake that had a soft inside, but a crispy outside, topped with wild mushrooms and set in a flavorful mushroom puree. It was decorated with arugula. The other dishes were equally delicious sounding and one was especially artful (see largest image below). It was the rotola. The other two were called aubergine schnitzel and red Thai curry.
We sat together and told stories for a couple of hours. Vic is especially good at asking conversation prompting questions, so three of us decided to try a dessert. All but one of the desserts on the menu was vegan or had a vegan option. I hugely approve of restaurants that have vegan desserts beyond sorbet and sweet wines. I had the citrus tart. Yes, I ate the flower and the whole thing was delicious. The other one pictured was the soft cappuccino cheesecake. We enjoyed our desserts with some a small glass of Pedro Ximenex Emilio Hidalgo sherry. Yum.
I thought the creativity, taste and execution of this meal rivaled the offerings at Plant, my favorite restaurant at home (it is upscale and all vegan). And that is saying something. I hope to have an opportunity to go back to The Gate while we are here in London.
So, we had the pleasure of dining at my favorite place to eat out in Ealing again this week. Clare is so creative and thoughtful with her cooking! The vegetable action figure above was served with tasty homemade hummus and bread.
We started the evening in the sitting room with fun conversation and a tasty beverage. Then moved to the dining room for the Super Vegman surprise and first course.
One of my favorite quotes from dinner was Clare encouraging us to “have another rib” or red pepper from the Vegman. The main course was super creative, healthy and so yummy. Sweet corn cakes with an avocado mash, roasted cauliflower and chickpea salad, and lemony roasted Brussels sprouts!
It is fun to listening to these two talk about the process of cooking together. David made the sprouts as they had recently discovered that, although he generally wants to pass on them, he likes sprouts when they are made using this recipe. They are super lemony, soft on the inside with little bits of crunch on the outside.
Sophie begs to differ with David as sprouts are her favorite vegetable. She loves them even just plain boiled. And enjoyed David’s version very much. I learned to boil them properly from her. I learned two tricks, cut little “x”s in the bases and add them to the water once it starts boiling so that you can accurately measure the amount of time they are boiled. Ten minutes is the magic number.
I can’t decide which dish was my favorite. I have loved corn since I was child (some members of my family and some co-workers have made fun of me for my passion for corn. Some former co-workers gave me a cookbook called “Crazy for Corn” when I left that job to head to my current one. Several of us taught cooking classes together and apparently I was famous for suggesting or concluding that a new recipe we were making up or testing “is good, but would be better with corn.”
And, I love avocados. I am pretty sure that they are main reason I could not eat 100% locally. I would have to move to Greece or California or somewhere else in the world that they grow. My more recent vegetable passion is cauliflower. I love it the way Sophie is into sprouts. The dish above also had roasted chickpeas, mixed baby greens and a tangy dressing. All very satisfying.
And, of course, because it is Clare and David, we also had a dessert course. Chocolate almond brownies with a “pinch” of cayenne and a lovely sweet white wine (Moscatelo?) Pinch is in quotes because Clare thought that perhaps her “pinch” was a bit bigger than the recipe writer intended. The after dinner white wine was a perfect balance to the dark chocolate with finish of cayenne style heat.
Clare in her kitchen slicing bread
So much deliciousness. I look forward to whenever we next share a meal!
Last night I made a chix and chive salad for Sophie’s “to go” lunch to eat just outside the the Institute of Classical Studies Library and my “at home” one. Hers was a wrap (these do not photograph well!) And mine was a sandwich (see above). Yes, I had to manually move the cucumbers and avocado onto the other side before covering it with the seed-filled whole grain bread. It’s called “high protein” bread. Luckily, it was made so by adding lots of seeds to it (rather than some sort of highly processed protein powder).
I make a version of this salad at home using Joy of Soy “Chix” nuggets and enjoy it with crackers or on top of a green salad. Here the recipe below was inspired by the mountain of fresh chives I liberated from the plantlings in the process of splitting one pot of chives into 5 and cutting them back in hopes of salvaging the plants. When I went to split them the entire pot was filled with roots. I saw about 1 tablespoon of earth left in the pot.
Here are three of the babies after the haircut. Aren’t you glad I don’t cut your hair?
I dried the rest for use in dishes when I run out of fresh chives? Or perhaps, when the pots of fresh ones decide they are going to stop trying to recover from being torn from their brethren?
This version is made using Quorn vegan pieces.
Chix & Chive Salad
1/2 bag of Quorn vegan pieces, frozen (about a cup and a half) (a.k.a. chix)
1-2 tablespoons fresh chives, chopped
1 medium stalk of celery, finely chopped
1/3 of a sweet red pepper, finely minced
2 teaspoons grainy mustard
2 tablespoons vegannaise or other vegan mayo
1 teaspoon malt vinegar (other other light colored vinegar)
1/2 teaspoon Foxpoint Seasoning (Penzey’s) or other favorite spice mix, optional
salt and black pepper, to taste
Put frozen Quorn pieces in a small pan and add 1/4 cup water. Steam Quorn pieces over medium heat until the are tender, about 5 to 7 minutes. Drain off any remaining water. Set aside to cool. When cool enough to touch pull the pieces into small shredded pieces. In a small bowl, mix shredded chix, together with the chives, celery, red pepper, mustard, vegannaise and vinegar. Add spices, salt and pepper as desired. Refrigerate until ready to use.
Serve as a wrap in a tortilla or as a sandwich on whole grain bread with spinach, cucumber and/or avocado, as desired.
In the last week or so, we have had the pleasure of two across town adventures that included a visit to a pub. At the first we met Sophie’s college friend Clare and some members of her Real Ale group. In honor of our joining them, they chose an all vegan pub, called the Blacksmith and the Toffeemaker (not far from the Angel tube station). The pub offers only vegan beverages as well and their new line of vegan beers had not yet arrived which was a bit disappointing to the Real Ale regulars.
Nonetheless, the company was great and the food was delicious. I had the green mac-n-cheese with polenta fries and a side salad. Sophie tried the aloo tikki burger with fries. The food was plentiful and came our piping hot. I loved the polenta fries and thoroughly enjoyed the green mac. I forgot to take a picture of of it, but you can imagine it as macaroni noodles tossed with creamy pesto and topped with two colors of vegan cheese and spices (maybe paprika?). Not a dish to eat while watching calories, but a really satisfying version of vegan mac-n-cheese.
Then just a few days ago we went to the London Bridge area to see the Kings College London student production of Euripides’ Medea which was performed in a mix of ancient Greek and English. While there were some lovely things about the production, a talented singing chorus and strong acting, Sophie thought the production our UNC Asheville students pulled off in December was even better. After the play we started wondering around nearby in hopes for finding a bite to eat. The second place we happened upon was a pub called, BunSmiths at the miller. And, lo’ and behold, they had multiple vegan “buns” on the menu. I tried the one at the top of this post (pulled mushroom) with sweet potato wedges and Sophie had the vegan jerk bun with fries. I thought the filling of my sandwich was scrumptious, but oddly, given the name of the place, that the bun left a little to be desired (a little to soft and squishy…processed white bread-like).
Overall, I am thrilled that it has gotten seemingly SO much easier to find vegan offerings at London eateries, even pubs! If I where to make an wish for the next sea change in London pub offerings, I would ask for more un-fried vegetable (cooked or raw) offerings. Nonetheless, I recommend a visit to both of these places and would be happy to find myself back at either one!
Sunday was a more at-home sort of day. Although, I did take a nice long walk which took me through Cleveland Park to West Ealing and back to get some potting soil and little pots in which to repot the culinary herbs that I got from Tesco. They are planted and sold for short term harvest, but I am hoping to save a few of them for a windowsill kitchen garden and an outdoor herb garden. I also discovered these lovely little flowers in the front garden of the flat. Sweet harbingers of early spring.
For dinner we had pasta with marinara sauce made using one of the remaining, PlantPure Starter packs which I had brought with me from North Carolina. If you haven’t checked out PlantPure and their line of starter packs, I highly recommend doing so. These are awesome folks doing ground-breaking work. All of their offerings are 100% plant-based with no added oils. We are big fans of the starter packs (as opposed to the frozen meals), mostly because we love making our own food to our own tastes.With the starter packs, doctoring is easy. I only had 3 left from the set of 20 when we headed over: the potato soup, the marinara sauce, and the tahini dressing.
When I made the potato soup, Sophie said she thought it was the best soup I had ever made. Wow! Sadly, it was not completely of my creation, but I agreed with her that it was delicious. It is made creamy by nut flour and a plant-based milk (I used plain soya milk).
On Sunday, we tried the marinara and it, too, was a success. We served the pasta with portabello mushrooms stuffed with spinach.
Creamy Spinach Stuffed Portabellos Serves 2
1 smallish red onion or a large shallot, finely chopped
1 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon of olive oil (or 1 tablespoon of water)
½ bag (about 4 cups) baby spinach
½ teaspoon dark soy sauce
2 tablespoons dairy free cream cheese
1 tablespoon vegan pesto, optional
fresh ground black pepper, to taste
2 portabella mushrooms, stems removed
1/2 teaspoon of crushed ancho chilis, or smoked paprika
Sauté onions and garlic in a medium sauce pan with a teaspoon of olive oil or a tablespoon of water for 3 to 4 minutes until they begin to soften. Add baby spinach and soy sauce to hot pan and cook, stirring, until the spinach has wilted. Stir in the vegan cream cheese and pesto, if using, until thoroughly mixed. Add black pepper to taste and salt if needed.
Place mushrooms bottom side up in a small baking pan. Divide the spinach mixture evenly into the two mushroom caps. Sprinkle the tops with crushed peppers or paprika. Bake at 180 degree C for 15 to 20 minutes until top is slightly browned and the mushroom is cooked through.
We had a lovely weekend that included several meals out. The highlight of those was a late lunch on Saturday at Sidi Bou, a family run Tunisian Restaurant and Art Cafe right next to the Ealing Broadway Station. We had their mezze platter of 4 salads and the vegetable coucous, pictured above, and a pot of Tunisian mint tea. All a perfect foil to the dreary, chilly and drippy weather. The best part was the learning. The host and wait person and son of the owner was wealth of information. He shared images and information about Tunisia as well as his families home town, Sidi Bou.
We then headed into the West End Theater district to check out a gallery exhibit of Getty Images from 2017. It was a very popular place to visit on this rainy afternoon. Reminded me of how many newsworthy events have happened in the past 13 months.
The next stop was Brewdog Brewery just a few blocks away in Soho. There we both found beers they had brewed to suit our tastes. I loved that the indicated on the menu which beers were vegetarian and vegan and that they had veg’n options for bar food on their menu as well.
Sophie tried the 5AM Saint, an American Style Red Ale and I had the Cocoa Libre, a chewy, strong, sweet, (did I mention strong? 8.5%) dark beer. Sophie said that it was the first pint she had in the UK this visit that she would order again. Cool art graffiti style art on the walls, and though very busy, it was not overly loud or crowded feeling.
After walking around in the drippy rain for another hour or so and getting thoroughly chilled we decided to head back to Ealing Broadway for dinner. We tried out Turtle Bay, which offers Carribean style food and drinks. It was very large place and hoppin’ on Saturday night. We enjoyed the sweet corn fritters, super green side salad and two curries–all from the marked vegan selections on the menu. It is part of a chain, and seems to be doing good business in this West London location.
After dinner we turned up the heat and climbed under the comforter to try to shake the chill we had picked up on our central London outing. A few episodes of Channel 4 shows viewed in the computer rounded out a very fun day.
Sophie has a real fondness for pigs, especially sows, alive ones and piglike forms. I am pretty sure one of her top holiday gifts was a pair of “pig trotter” socks that actually make her feet look rather like the “trotters of a middle white sow”. And another favorite is this set of egg cups sent to her here in London by her godson, Michael who lives in Edinburgh with his family. His mum, Gill, is a very long time friend of Sophie’s from her Somerville days.
Hmm…my little vegan brain was thinking when these arrived…what other uses might these cutie piglet bowls have? Mini pots of chocolate mousse was my first inspiration. I found a bar of nice dark ginger chocolate so I made Ginger Chocolate Mousse!
We served the mousse with blueberries and ginger cookies (Anna’s original Ginger Thins), and it was a big hit.
Ginger Chocolate Mousse
1 package organic silken tofu (300 grams)
1 bar dark ginger chocolate (I used Green and Blacks; 100 grams)
50 grams unflavored dark chocolate
fresh berries, for serving
Ginger thin cookies, optional
Open tofu package and drain off any liquid. Place tofu in the bowl of a food processor or blender. Process the tofu until it is smooth, about a minute.
Melt chocolate in a clean dry glass bowl in the microwave or in the upper pot of a double boiler. If you use a microwave, heat chocolate for about 30 seconds at a time, stirring in between. It the chocolate gets too hot it can “break” and then it becomes very difficult to get it smooth again (don’t ask me how I know.)
Once fully melted, add the chocolate to the food processor with the creamy tofu and process until the mixture is very smooth. If it is too thick, you can add a tablespoon of plant-based milk, or favorite liqueur to thin. If it seems thin, don’t worry. It will thicken as it cools. Transfer into serving dishes ( I used the 4 pigpots and a larger short stemmed glass for the leftovers that served as seconds) and refrigerate until ready to serve. Serve with fresh berries and ginger thins, if using.
This week we decided that we had enough space in the flat sorted to be able to entertain Clare and David, Sophie’s god parents and her mums best friends. Last minute preparations included repairing and reinforcing two of the four chairs for the table. Quite sweetly, the chair seats covers were needlepointed by Clare and by Sophie’s mum many years back.
Clare and I are both kitchen alphas and foodies and they so graciously feed us whenever we are around so it is always a pleasure when we are able to make a meal for them. I suggested two different menus to Sophie and she chose the Thai-themed one thinking it might be more of a treat for Clare and David.
I think perhaps the fresh rolls with peanut sauce were the biggest hit. Sophie and I love these and get them whenever we are at a Thai restaurant that serves a veggie version of them. We have a place at home near school, Thai Kitchen, that serves excellent ones. They are basically salad fixings wrapped in softened rice “paper” sheets served with peanut sauce and chili paste for dipping. Recipe below.
It was an adventure trying to find the rice paper wraps, but I found them at a store in Ealing Broadway called Organic for the People, which is an all organic and vegan grocery store with products from all over the world. It is here that I found rice vinegar and the silken tofu for making dessert.
And, I made the peanut sauce twice. The first batch had slightly dodgy peanut butter. I smelled and thought, this isn’t right (but I am sensitive to that off smell of oxidized oils). I thought maybe my nose was being overly sensitive, but it still had that smell and taste when made into peanut sauce. Sophie, despite not minding the taste, very sweetly went to the lane to purchase a new jar of peanut butter.
For the mains, we had sweet chili basil eggplant, bok choy with shitake mushrooms and ginger, red curry green beans, dry fried tofu with Thai spices, basmati rice, and an avocado and cucumber salad over slaw made from the unused julienned vegetables for the salad rolls.
Fresh Rolls Makes 10 to 12 rolls
1 nest rice noodles (nests or angel hair style–thin)–about 2 cups prepared
1 large carrot, grated
2 cups, thinly sliced cabbage
2 cups baby spinach or lettuce leaves
1/2 to 1 cup fresh basil, fresh mint and/or fresh cilantro (coriander leaves)
1/2 large sweet red pepper, cut into thin slivers
2 small or 1/2 large thin skinned cucumber, peeled and cut into thin slivers
2 scallions (green onions), white and green parts, thinly sliced longwise and cut into 2 inch long pieces
1 package large rice paper wraps (about 8″ in diameter)
Other optional fillings: thin slices of baked tofu, avocado slices, other raw julienned vegetables.
Cook noodles according to package direction (usually soaked in boiled water for 8 to 10 minutes). Drain and set aside to cool to room temperature. Prepare fillings and set them near each other for making the rolls.
One at a time, soak a rice paper wrapper in very hot water (but not too hot for your fingers) for about 2 minutes until it softens enough to roll. Remove the wrap from the water and put in on a flat surface (I use a plate). Pile small amounts of each of the vegetable and noodles into the wrap in a log shape in the middle of the wrap, taking care not to overfill it. Then fold in the ends of the short side of the log and then fold one of th remaining sides over the pile of vegetables and roll as tightly as you can without breaking the wrap, like you might when making a burrito.
Set on a serving plate seam side down and cover with plastic. Continue on in the same manner until you have used up your fillings or your wraps.
Keep covered with plastic wrap (cling film) until ready to serve. Serve with peanut sauce and chili sauce/paste for dipping.
4 generous portions
1/2 cup smooth peanut butter
1/3 cup water
1-2 tablespoons lime juice
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon ginger, minced
1-2 teaspoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon, chili sauce (optional)
roasted peanuts, chopped or crushed
In small food processor or blender, blend first 7 ingredients together until smooth. If mixture is too thick add more lime juice or water to thin. Serve topped with crushed peanuts with chili sauce on the side.