Not all my friends are vegetarians or vegans of course. Life would be very dull if everyone thought and acted in exactly the same manner. However, when we have friends around for dinner, we make it quite clear that no meat will be served. Usually, there’s a typical initial reaction – precisely the kind of reaction you’d expect from people who are of the opinion that no meal is complete without at least one portion of meat. People also often confess to me that they find the idea of a vegetarian meal daunting. I ask them what they mean and they say they expect to forced to eat all sorts of weird and wonderful things, such as quark, quorn or quinoa, or anything else they’ve picked up that’s vegetarian-friendly and begins with the letter ‘Q’.
Most people are then genuinely surprised when myself and my partner manage to cook something that’s barely exotic, with common ingredients and which doesn’t leave my guests ravenous even after three courses (another common fear poeple later confess to).
Like any dinner party, I like to keep to a theme. For my latest gathering I chose a ‘New York’ theme – I was really inventive and downloaded some ambient New York sounds (heavy traffic, general shouting and underground noise – you know the kind of thing). I played it on a loop via my PC.
For my starter I chose a warm salad of diced butternut squash, roasted with turmeric and ginger and served on a bed of lentils. I made a dressing from red wine and balsamic vinegar with a little mustard and cumin seeds thrown in. I was surprised by how few of my guests had eaten squash before.
For the main I went with the ‘Q’ option and served a lentil dal on a bed of quinoa. I kept the spice to a minimum as I know not everyone likes heavily spiced food. I also served the chopped cilantro separately – I adore this herb but I’m aware some people loathe it with a passion.
We took a break before dessert and had a few rounds of Texas Hold ’em. The cards did not shine for me this evening. I think the best hand that landed for me was two pairs, queens and sixes. My chip stack was swiftly depleted.
Dessert was home-made banana ‘sorbet’ served with my patented chocolate poker chip cookies. The way I make this dessert is a trick I seldom divulge, so count yourself fortunate my secret is being laid bare – I freeze bananas then push them through a juicer! It really is that simple!
The chocolate poker chip cookies were a real hit. Should have played for the key lime pie or cookies!
All my guests went home sated and happy. I’m not preachy about my vegetarian – each to their own is my motto (as long as you don’t inconvenience anyone else) – but I must admit, when I hold a vegetarian dinner party and everyone seems to go home happy, it gives me a definite buzz!