JULIA SPENCER-FLEMING: Our own Celia Wakefield has always been interested in expanding her culinary horizons - in the times I've had the pleasure of pulling up a chair to her table I've been treated to every variety of cooking style and dishes from every continent except, perhaps, Antarctica. This past week, while my college roommate was visiting, we were both guests to an amazing vegan dinner - inspired, as you will see, by another stalwart Reds reader. The evening began with homemade hoummus with herbs, followed by Tikal Gomen (Ethiopian cabbage and potato stew) and naan, and polished off with lighter-than-air vegan meringues. We also polished off two bottles of very nice Prosecco - thank goodness sparking wine is also vegan!
I liked the meal so much that when Guest Son and Youngest came to visit on Thursday, I cooked the Tikal Gomen for them as well, so I can assure you it's a simple dish that comes together quickly and was well received by both the vegan and meat eaters at my house!
Good morning JRW’s and reading community, - thank you so much Julia for your trust in my cooking to the extent that you feed your family from my recipes and writing too. It is such fun thinking up new food ideas for the blog.
What’s cooking for March? Well we are not only snowed up this morning but also without internet service. Yes, only my phone line to the outside world as nothing else will respond; no emails, no browser, no TV, no Facebook and more. At least I have plenty of books to read uploaded on my Kindle app. But even without the internet I can write. Let’s talk about vegan cooking.
Back in February I was emailing with Amanda Le Rougetel who told me that she was looking into and doing some vegan cooking. She also mentioned she wanted to expand her spices beyond her experience with chili. I agreed, chili and I do not mix well. However there are so many other spices available. Even the most remote person can have spices mailed to them and one site Diaspora Co. is both growing, harvesting and importing spices. Sana, the owner writes so enthusiastically painting delightful tiny pictures of Asian life in Oakland, Ca.
You might ask why vegan? Well it seems that vegan is being talked about world wide. I learned about Nicola Kagoro, the founder of Dinners with Chef Cola, from NPR. She “is breaking ground in Harare, Zimbabwe, as one of the first black female vegan chefs. Her monthly dinners bring guests together for an intimate, culinary adventure, with entertainment and a chance to connect over food, culture and more.”
More and more people are realizing that the meat and potatoes they were raised on is not such a good choice for their health, the environment, climate change etc. I have been moving toward a more vegetarian life stye for several years now so vegan is just my attempt to broaden my knowledge. But while I try to keep meat, and particularly processed cuts (so delicious), to a minimum in the fridge, we are not really vegetarians. I had to learn the how of vegetarian cooking.
Of course the Great British Baking Open was probably where I first saw vegan baking. Here were the top amateur bakers in the UK turning out delicious bakes without blinking. I’m still not sure whether Paul Hollywood really enjoyed the vegan bakes but he is a trouper. It seems everyone is trying to put a little vegan into their meal plan. While I try to keep meat, and particularly processed cuts (so delicious), to a minimum in the fridge, we are not really vegetarians. I had to learn the how of vegetarian cooking and remember my first real experience:
When my parents retired they settled in Cornwall in a tiny cottage but the kitchen was a decent size. After a life of tropical living with servants my Mum's cooking skills were quite basic so she joined the local Women’s Institute, a backbone of rural life skills in England and worked on her cooking. However when I came home I was still the designated chef. Once a crisis phone call from my father brought tiny Olivia and me back home as my brother had been in a bad car accident and was now in Cornwall too, recuperating. My mum greeted me with, “Thank goodness you’re here, Andrew is currently a vegetarian and I don’t know what to feed him!” I think quiche Lorraine saved the day.
However with vegan there are no eggs, no cream, no cheese and I won’t even mention the "b word." So what I decided to look at was not a vegan lifestyle balancing proteins, carbs and other nutrients but how easy it might be to put together a vegan menu, and most important, would this be something I wanted to fit into our menu at home.
My go to market for this exercise was Trader Joes and the key was aquafaba. I first heard of aquafaba watching Vegan Week on GBBS. Bakers were creating fantastic desserts using this liquid found in a can of garbanzos. There on TJ’s was the recipe for coffee or matcha meringues so with only four ingredients and my big mixer I was off and running.
Stand mixer with whisk
2 cookie sheets lined with parchment
Piping tube, or ziplock bag with cut corner, or metal tea spoon
1/4 Cup Aquafaba from 1 can of garbanzo beans
1/4 Cup Cane sugar
1/4 tsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp vanilla bourbon extract
1/4 tsp TJ’s 100% Colombian Instant Coffee, plus more for dusting
Preheat oven to 200°F.
Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper.
Strain 1/4 cup liquid from garbanzo beans into a measuring cup
Add all measured ingredients to the bowl of a stand mixer. On medium power, whisk for one minute until aquafaba becomes foamy. Scrape round the bowl with a spatula to ensure all ingredients are fully incorporated.
Increase the speed to high and whisk until stiff, glossy peaks form, 10 to 15 minutes. Turn off briefly to scrape down the side of the bowl.
Once the meringue is stiff and glossy fill a pastry bag fitted with a piping tip with meringue (or a one-gallon plastic zip-top bag with a corner cut off), and pipe onto the prepared baking sheet. Alternatively, drop mounds of meringue batter using a spoon.
Bake in oven for two hours without opening the oven door. Remove from oven and let meringues cool completely before serving. Do not place meringues in refrigerator at any point; store meringues in an air-tight container if not serving immediately upon cooling.
I had a can of garbanzos left, to make make hummus. While there are many types of delicious hummus available, nothing costs less than using the beans for a starter and the bean liquid for dessert.
Add about 1/2C Tahini and several cloves of garlic.
Usually I have roasted garlic on hand but not today so here is a new hack. I put 5 cloves in a small Pryex bowl, added 1-2 Tbsp olive oil and covered the bowl. Microwave for a minute and test doneness. Add another 30 seconds if necessary, peel skins off and add to FP with olive oil. Process and taste. Maybe some salt, more Tahini, a little water to thin? Get the consistency to your preference.
For the main course, I chose Tikil Gomen (Cabbage) which I found in an article in the NYT about where professionals go on Sundays. They mentioned an Abyssinian Ethiopian restaurant in Harlem where the person loved their veggie stew. As I had a large half cabbage in the fridge Tikil Gomen turned out to be the answer to using it up. Tikil Gomen was quick and simple to make and as the guests arrival time was unknown it could be made earlier and kept warm.
As there is quite a lot of chopping, I used my Cuisinart knife blade in the food processor with most successful results. I also increased the quantity of seasonings to taste but please note, no chili!
I served Tikil Gomen (Cabbage) with Naan and with Patak Major Grey mango and brinjal chutneys which gave it a little flavor boost. This amount of veggies would serve 4-6 depending on what else is offered.
1 large onion thinly sliced
1/3 cup olive oil extra virgin
2 cloves garlic minced
1/2 teaspoon ginger minced
1 head cabbage shredded
4 large potatoes Yukon gold, diced
1 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
Add garlic and ginger and simmer for 2 more minutes or until the vegetables are just softened.
Stir in cumin, turmeric, salt, and pepper. Cook for 30 seconds. Then, mix in the cabbage.
Continue cooking for another 15 minutes, stirring regularly. NOTE: If the cabbage starts to stick, add a little water and reduce heat.
Add the potatoes and cover. Reduce heat to medium-low. Continue cooking until potatoes are soft, which may take another 30 minutes or so. Stir periodically to prevent sticking.
Once the potatoes are soft, this dish is ready to eat.
I can see adding other veggies such as jams or squash to the mix. We are surprised as to how filling this was.