Show off post: Dinner party!

So yeah, the menu changed a bit.  I did successfully make beetroot gnocchi using chestnut flour, in that they did not fall apart and the texture was quite good… but when I tested one earlier in the day, they tasted oddly musty and unpleasant, so I discarded the idea (and also the gnocchi).  Instead, the appetiser was little roast peppers filled with a lemon, pistachio and herb risotto.  I made my own stock to be sure that there was nothing allergenic in it, scrupulously avoided any butter or cheese – and then absent-mindedly added white wine as usual.  Which was, of course, on the forbidden list, something I didn’t remember until the risotto was done and the peppers stuffed and ready to bake.  So much for the entree…

Still, you have to admit they were cute…

I also discovered that quinoa, while not on the forbidden list, was on the We’re A Bit Dubious About This list, so I decided to skip the quinoa bread or pilaf entirely, though after some consultation we decided it was OK to risk a little quinoa flour in the dessert.  In the end, the main was puy lentils with citrus and tarragon, along with saffron chickpeas for our happy legume (and protein) experience…

Citrus and tarragon lentils…

… and saffron chickpeas, also disappearing fast.

…roasted vegetables (potato, sweet potato, carrot, parsnip, pepper and red onion) with that gorgeous French lavender salt, to provide some caramelised delightfulness and really wonderful colour…

Purple carrots, red onions, and multicoloured peppers…

… are even prettier roasted!

Yellow and orange carrots, parsnips, potatoes and sweet potato…

… are too tasty to last long in their yellow bowl

Finally, for some nice, green, iron-laden vegetables, we had kale and beetroot greens sautéed with garlic and chilli, as well as cardoons boiled, tossed in almond meal, sautéed with olive oil, and topped with a mix of sage, parsley, garlic and pine nuts sautéed in olive oil (I decided that with all the citrus in the lentils and the risotto, we didn’t need citrus in the cardoons too).

For me, the standout foods were the cardoons (which tasted amazingly buttery) and the roasted potatoes with the lavender salt, which were possibly the best savoury thing I’ve tasted all year, but then, I am a mad potato fan.  So good.  And so  colourful!

Kale and beetroot greens

Cardoons, going fast

Of course, it isn’t a dinner party in my house without a really spectacular dessert, and I have to tell you, those gluten-free, vegan chocolate and berry brownies made me incredibly happy.  I had another near-miss in the allergy department – the raspberry jam I planned to use was made with grape juice concentrate, and the backup had wheat-derived glucose (the things they put in jams are kind of horrifying, actually), but fortunately I had some really good blackberry jam made from blackberries and sugar and pectin and nothing else, and it was lovely in the brownies.  And the quinoa flour wasn’t a problem at all, hooray!  I had been quite dubious about the raspberry soy icecream (I don’t tend to like non-dairy icecreams) but it was actually really good, and went very well with the brownies.  There was a nutty background flavour from the soy, but it was pretty mild, and the raspberry flavour came through beautifully.  Thank you, Veganomicon!

Are you hungry yet? Also, I have *leftovers*!  Guess what we’re having for dessert tonight? Life is so hard in Casa Cate…

We all went back for seconds.

The agar jellies were not bad – I love the idea of them, and everyone else likes them, but I find them too sweet, and I’m just not that fond of Quandong and Lilli-Pilli flavours – a bit cloying for me.  But it was more the principle of the thing with the jellies.

I’ll be posting some of the recipes over the next few days – especially that luscious dessert, because I’m really proud of it. I have to say,  though, cooking like this does make me feel very thankful that I don’t have food allergies to work around.  While one can, undoubtedly, make really delicious food even with a lot of restrictions, I think it would become quite difficult to cook (and shop) around so many things on a daily basis.  Though at least most of the really tasty ingredients were allowed – herbs, spices, chocolate, berries, root vegetables and leafy vegetables, winter fruits.  It’s much easier to manage on a restricted range of what I think of as base ingredients (carbohydrates, proteins) if you have a lot of flavours to choose from.  You might eat rice every day, but at least it won’t taste the same every time…

It was also interesting realising which food restrictions I do and don’t cope well with – I’ve been baking without eggs and nuts for years, and without dairy fairly regularly, I can construct a vegetarian menu without thinking, and can cook vegan with a little more thought, because all of these dietary requirements appear among the people I regularly cook for.  Gluten intolerance is something I’m much less familiar with, and allergy to onions trips me up every time, even after some months.  The hardest thing yesterday, though, was avoiding grapes and grape products – raisins, wine, vinegar.  It seems that while I may not be terribly proficient with gluten-free cooking, I do know how to think in those terms, but I was constantly planning things, and then remembering that no, I couldn’t dress the salad with vinegar, no I couldn’t cook my greens with pine nuts and raisins, no, I shouldn’t have put wine into that risotto… very Italian of me, to be so reliant on the grape – I had no idea it was so central to my cooking!

In conclusion, cake.

Don’t you wish you were having dessert at our place tonight?

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6 comments for “Show off post: Dinner party!

  1. July 6, 2011 at 10:00 am

    Could you use brown rice vinegar? I know it’s not *quite* the same thing, but…

    • July 6, 2011 at 10:28 am

      That’s a good question. I’ll have to ask (not that I have any in the house, mind you). I should also ask about apple cider vinegar.

  2. filkferengi
    July 6, 2011 at 9:14 pm


  3. July 6, 2011 at 10:19 pm

    I am pretty sure that cider vinegar is gluten free. Your dessert sounds lovely – I have experimented with different flours but done so less as the celiacs in my family are content with fairly plain food and not so interested in different dishes. And after starting to use my lavender I am intrigued by your lavender salt with potatoes!!!

    • July 6, 2011 at 11:46 pm

      I’m not sure if ‘vinegar’ on my list meant just wine (grape) vinegars or all vinegars, is the problem…

      I was so happy with this dessert! And the lavender salt is just gorgeous – it’s from the spice shop I mentioned last week, and it also has fennel and other gorgeous things in it (too sleepy to go and check right now!).

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