Mezze

A couple of weekends ago I had an intense craving for baba ghanoush, so I decided to make a mezze style dinner. There were only 2 of us so I didn’t go too over the top making lots of dishes, but I did do something I don’t do very often and that is make a dessert.

I always use Nigel Slater’s baba ghanoush recipe. It is the best I have ever made or eaten, even though the aubergines were just cooked on my big gas burner and not over charcoal. He’s right though; you really do need to turn the skins absolutely black for the best flavour. I just stick to the basic version because it’s so good, but one day I may try some of his twists.

Woman can not live by baba ghanoush alone so I did a few other dishes too. I made the baked falafel from Appetite for Reduction, which I enjoy as long as I forget that they are called falafel and think of them as chickpea cakes. I added in the peperonata from Vegan Fire and Spice, with the extra chili in, some home made flatbreads and a bowl of lightly dressed baby spinach.

This was an excellent tasty dinner. It doesn’t look like much but scooping up baba ghanoush and salad with flatbread alongside the sweet oily peppers and crunchy chickpea cakes was a delight.

Unusually for me, I made dessert. Matthew had a dessert wine he wanted to open (which turned out to be corked anyway), so I had a hunt for something easy which could be prepared ahead and contained storecupboard ingredients. I found the baklava in World Vegan Feast and decided to give it a go. I made half of it to fit what I had in, and I used a combination of pistachio, walnuts and hazelnuts for the nutty element. I also couldn’t resist adding a smidge of cinnamon, but I promise it was only a tiny one Bryanna! My filo pastry was a leftover half packet from the freezer, and wasn’t in the best condition, but it really didn’t matter, I just threw into the cooking dish and it all worked out.So easy!

I adored this dish. I’m a huge fan of and filo and the delicate flavour of rose was a delight.
A little goes a long way, so I was nibbling on recrisped squares of this after dinner all through the week.

Korean fried seitan with cucumber namul

I’ve been having a total love in with Gochujang, Korean chili paste. If you’ve not tried it, the best way I can describe it is like smoky chilli paste mixed up with a dark miso. It’s seriously addictive so if you get some make sure you’ve got some good ways to use it lined up. Or a big spoon. So far my favourite way has been in the Korean tofu in the second Horizons book:

I don’t subscribe to many non vegan blogs, simply because I just don’t have time to read all the vegan blogs I enjoy, let alone meat blogs too. When I do they mainly feature Indian or South Asian cuisine so that I can find ways to adapt the recipes. So when I saw this recipe for Korean fried chicken on Terry’s blog “Cooking the Books” (Great blog title too!) I knew I’d have to have it.

I decided to use seitan to stand in for the chicken. Tempeh would probably work very well too. I chopped some of the seitan lite from “American Vegan Kitchen” to stand in for the chicken. I love this seitan; baking it in broth seems to keep it nice and firm but without getting close to rubbery. I have to say I didn’t weigh it but it was about 4 cutlets between the two of us. I made the sauce exactly as Terry did, using the full 2 tbsps of gochujang. The batter is very thin but don’t worry. I didn’t use my deep fryer but just heated a few inches of oil in my wok. I wasn’t sure if the twice fried method was just to cook the chicken properly – I tried it first but it didn’t seem to make any difference with the seitan and so for the rest of the batch I just fried them once in hot oil and they worked great. Then I drained them on kitchen paper and tossed them in the full amount of sauce. This gave a saucier result than the original but the more sauce the better for me.

I served them as a main meal. The vinegary, slightly spicy cucumber namul from “Asian Vegan Kitchen”  was a perfect foil for the spicy crispy seitan, and for a starch I used the rice and millet with sesame seeds from “Vegan Fire and Spice“.

This was such a tasty meal and totally reinforced my love for Gochujang. If anyone has any other recommendations for ways to use it then please let me know! Until then I’ll be making this again and again!