Come Dine With Me - Vegan style!

So, I had my dinnerparty last night, which is being covered by a local magazine here in Derry and i'm glad to say it was a success:) I was happy with how all the food turned out - okay, a few little tweaks here and there maybe but on the whole it went as I had hoped it would. I most probably took on a far greater task than I should have; four nibbles, two of which had two or three different compenents -yikes! I must need my head checked! Being a hopeless perfectionist a few little things irked me - one being that I forgot to put the herbs into my linguine with breadcrumbs but in reality it didn't massively affect the overall taste. I also forgot to sprinkle my toasted almonds (that I'd made a point of toasting even though I was pushed for time at that point - jeez!) onto my potato salad but I remembered in the nick of time and brought them to the table for people to use if they've wished. This inadvertently worked out quite well, as I had totally forgotten one of my guests isn't keen on nuts - phew, close call!

Obviously there are way too many recipes to list in one blog post so I'm going to pick a few at a time - and in fact I may not get through all the recipes on the menu. Ah, the menu! I went for a summery feel with an emphasis on freshness - salads, summer fruits, which even extended to my choice of pre-dinner drink. I think each dish worked well in its own right as well as working as a cohesive menu - I probably over thought the whole thing but hey, ho, old habits die hard, eh?

For your perusal, my lovely readers, here is my 'Come Dine With Me' menu - vegan style, of course;)

Pre-dinner drink (Aperitif - if we're being posh!): Elderflower Prosecco Cocktail.

Nibbles: Butternut Squash Crostini. Roasted Tofu with Basil Pesto. Hummus and Guacamole with tortilla chips and crudites.

Starter: Linguine in a Breadcrumb Sauce.

Main: Minted Pea, Asparagus and Caramelised Red Onion Tart served with a Green Bean and Potato Salad in a Lemon Dijon Dressing and Summertime Succotash.

Dessert: Summer Pudding served with Cherry Sorbet and Whipped Coconut Cream.

A big shout out to the beautiful fairtrade flowers I found for the dinner table and room - you made everything look so pretty and girly. Talking to flowers? I really must've lost it!

Summertime Succotash (from Alicia Silverstone's The Kind Diet)

3 cups frozen broad beans

2 cups frozen sweetcorn

2 cups cherry tomatoes or similar small toms

1 onion

1 garlic clove

handful freshly chopped flat leaf parsley

handful freshly chopped basil

1/2 tbsp white wine vinegar

salt and pepper

Heat some oil in a pan and gently fry the onion until soft. Season with salt and pepper. Add the minced garlic and cook for a few minutes. Place broad beans in a large bowl and cover with boiling water. Let sit for a few minutes before draining. Peel the broad bean from their skins - it's a bore (or therapeutic!) but worth it. Place the sweetcorn in a bowl and also cover with freshly boiled water - leave for a few minutes before draining. Wash and halve the cherry tomatoes.

Add broad beans to the pan with the softened onion. Then add the sweetcorn and allow to just heat through before tossing in the tomatoes. Season and allow the tomatoes to soften just a smidge - ensuring they don't lose their shape etc. before tossing in the herbs, seasoning and white wine vinegar before giving it a good stir and then placing it in the fridge for later.

Green Bean and Potato Salad with a Dijon Lemon Dressing (From VeganEats)

1 bag of salad potatoes

1 bag of green beans

3 spring onions

large handful of finely chopped dill

handful flaked almonds

salt and pepper


2 tsp dijon mustard

juice of one lemon

1 tsp sugar

4 tbsp olive oil

salt and pepper.

Put the potatoes in a pan, salt and cover with water. Boil for 12-15 mins until just soft.

Blanch the green beans in boiling water for mere minutes - like 2-3mins - before draining and then plunging into a bowl of iced water. This way they will not lose their colour.

Gently toast the almonds in a dry frying pan - watch them the whole time. Give them a flip periodically so they toast evenly on both sides. Set aside.

Finely slice the spring onions and dill and set aside, covered preferably.

For the dressing put the dijon mustard into an empty jam jar. Add the sugar, some sea salt and then pour in the lemon juice and oil. Put the lid on, give it a good shake. Taste - it might need more lemon, more oil, more salt, more sugar - it's your dressing, you decide:)

Finally, put the green beans, potatoes ands spring onions into a large bowl. You can season if you wish - I chose not too because I thought the dressing would suffice and it did. Pour over two thirds of the dressing, mix thoroughly before adding the dill (and the toasted almonds! Lord I even forgot them when I was writing up the recipe - sheesh!)and the remainder of the dressing. Give a final, thorough mix and then place in fridge for later.

See what great recipes these are for a dinnerparty - mostly all prepared in advance. Bingo!

Roasted Tofu with Basil Pesto (adapted from Chow Vegan)

1 packet firm tofu

1 tsp chilli flakes

1 tsp dried oregano

1 tbsp olive oil

salt and pepper

For the tofu, remove from the packet, rinse and pat dry. Cut into large cubes. Make the marinade by mixing the chilli flakes, oregano, olive oil, salt and pepper. Carefully coat the tofu cubes and leave to marinade in the fridge for a few hours to infuse.

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees celsius/350 farhenheit. Bake the tofu for 30 minutes, checking periodically and turning if needs be.

For the pesto look at my previous recipe for Basil Pesto. I wanted a chunkier consistency this time so I simply used a couple more tablespoons of toasted pine nuts, which I toasted in the same way as the almonds and added slightly less oil. It was go-od!

Cherry Sorbet

1 bag frozen cherries

1 cup sugar (the fairtrade, organic, vegan friendly sort)

1 cup water

Put all the ingredients into a pan, bring to boil and then simmer (not gently but not a running boil either) for 10-15 minutes until the cherries completely soften. Taste - if it isn't sweet enough add another 1/4 cup sugar.

Let it cool for a bit before blitzing in a food processor until completely smooth. Place in an appropriate container - I like glass ones but you must ensure the mixture is pretty much completely cool before placing in the freezer.

I've said it once and I'll say it again - do not periodically stir like it recommends in most sorbet/ice-cream recipes. In my experience (and other home cooks I have spoken to) this only creates more ice crystals, not less! So, just leave it alone to do its thing - overnight is best.

I was so so happy with the result of this sorbet - it might've been the highlight of my meal - as it was completely smooth and the perfect sweetness for me (I just ate a bowl for my breakfast - nice!). By the way, if you are reading this my lovely wonderful husband that doesn't mean I don't want my ice-cream maker!

Okay then! I shall post a few more recipes tomorrow. A note on the photos: the ones I have mega tampered with are from the actual dinnerparty - the light was dismal, as I'm sure you can imagine, plus I didn't have the lumix and my little fuji doesn't cope very well in those conditions. I used the leftovers for the brighter shots, which I took today - I couldn't help but take a few superfluous ones of those incredible flowers too:)