Life got in the way and somewhat derailed this project. Between moving, quitting my job and embarking on some heavy-duty travelling, I didn’t manage to write up my second quarter of recipes or to get close to my initial goal of completing all of the recipes. That said, I think the spirit of the project has been largely fulfilled: I made 53 out of 115 recipes, including most of the interesting ones (as nobody wants to read about how I made 16 different vinaigrettes). So I’ll cut my losses, write up the remaining recipes I made and call this project to a close.
You can see my recipe-tracking spreadsheet here.
Butterflied tofu with lemon–tarragon butter baste, roasted cauliflower and sautéed summer squash
Butterflying tofu doesn’t actually achieve an awful lot, and a smarter man would perhaps not have roasted the cauliflower underneath the rather drippy basted tofu, but this all worked out in the end even if I did burn the onion in the baste.
Weekday coq au vin
One of a few recipes from the book that I’ve already made several times over, I was intrigued to find out how well the tofu would soak up the wine sauce. It turns out, not great, and the vegan bacon I used in place of lardons smelt like Frazzles and felt like a gummy sweet. Not the greatest success, which was a shame because the recipe itself is one of my favourites.
Also, this was the first recipe I made after moving out of Lancaster and back down to my hometown, which meant I was suddenly cooking for three. Hence the brick-sized tofu block.
pork tenderloin with garlic, coriander, thyme and braised fennel (and round 2 on the fritters!)
Again, seitan is a very unpleasant thing to work with until the very last monent, where it suddenly becomes delicious. I have also never had a good experience with fennel before, but this came out lovely. Most importantly, I decided to atone for my past stupidity by re-attempting the chipotle–corn fritters, and they came out absolutely perfect—like some sort of spicy chipotle onionless bahji.
I tried my hand at another dessert, which gave me an opportunity to try a new egg replacement: mashed bananas. The end result was quite dense, with a very soft crust, and probably could have been sweeter to work properly as a dessert, but otherwise this was fine.
Braised lamb shanks with lemon confit and carame–pecan ice cream
Candying the pecans was super easy, and smelt fantastic; an auspicious start…
…but after three months of anticipation, the lemon confit was quite the disappointment. Small, shrivelled, rock-hard lemons and limes, with only a trickle of juice (so I’m not sure what Ruhlman was talking about when he said some people use the juice to make a soft drink). Plus, it took about a week to dry out the salt enough to get rid of it.
Then work began on the ice cream, using coconut milk and consisting mainly of caramelising a whole load of sugar; I think the experience of making ice cream will make me think twice about eating too much of it in future.
I was hoping to figure out how to make seitan that resembles specific meats (i.e., mock dock, mock pork), but I still had a couple left over from the other day that I needed to use up.
But then I burnt the caramel, which led to the ice cream turning into an unappetising-looking sludge, as well as my hand (with a load of molten caramel, but I’ve somehow managed to avoid a scar.
The candied pecans were ace though.
pork belly with caramel–miso glaze, grilled pear salad and grapefruit granita
Like the spicy tofu with bell peppers from the first quarter, this was a stand-out recipe. I imagine the glaze would fantastic on just about everything, and braising the tofu blocks as though they were pork belly really did help them to suck up the flavour.
I’m not usually one for fruity salads, but this proved to be the perfect counterpart to the sweetness of the glaze.
And I had some success with a second iced dessert recipe, although in reality granita is basically just a bowl of slushie.
Candied orange peel
A super simple one, I can see myself making these again the next time I have an orange, rather than just binning the peel.
Fish tacos, raw zucchini salad and cider vinegar tart
With a few successes under my belt, I felt like being adventurous. I’d been putting off the various fish recipes for a while, so decided it was time to try and figure out how vegans do seafood.
After doing a bit of research, I settled on banana fruit for my first attempt. The texture was somewhere in the same postcode as fish, but I didn’t find that the seaweed marinade added any real fishy flavour. The tacos were still very nice though.
I paired the tacos with another raw salad, which was better than the last one but I’m still not
I also went for another dessert, this time a cider vinegar tart. According to Ruhlman, the dessert is a lemon tart variant from areas where lemons were hard to come by. It also gave me a chance to play with agar agar jelly as an egg replacement, which was funky. Ultimately, the tart was perfectly divisive: my dad and I enjoyed it, my mum and sister hated it.
Butter-poached shrimps with grits and cold snap pea soup
I decided to replace the shrimps with shiitake mushrooms, again marinated in seaweed to limited effect, but the chewiness was there (and the mushrooms tasted great in their own right anyway). The polenta grits (I live in the UK, okay) came out quite watery, but by the following day they had solidified a bit and we managed to salvage them by frying them up. The cold soup came out very fibrous and chewy, but wasn’t entirely horrible.
Sautéed chicken breasts with tarragon butter sauce
Not much to say about this, except that I was getting a little bored of tofu by this point.
Grilled branzino, sweet bell pepper soup, warm arugula salad and lemon–lime sorbet
The last set of recipes from the book I managed to adapt were another stab at fish, again using banana fruit and again tasty enough but barely fishy, along with an absolutely gorgeous bell pepper soup in adorable tiny portions.
And then, just to tempt fate, I tried the third variant of iced dessert in the form of a sorbet, and it was fine! And better after spending another day in the freezer!
And so ended the project, sputtering out as I found myself too busy to prepare meals, or travelling around too much to find weird ingredients or reliable cookware, or just losing interest in the remaining recipes. But, as I said, I think I fulfilled my original goals of:
- making a bunch of new recipes;
- learning a bunch of cooking techniques; and
- getting to grips with vegan recipe adaptation.
As for me, I’ve put the veganism on hold whilst I’m travelling, though I still intend to return to it once I’m static again (and, more importantly, cooking for myself).