Tag Archives: cucumber

Vegan Raita

cucumber

Old Friend: “I’m in town next weekend if you’re free.”

WFTTD: “Great, come to us and I’ll rustle up some supper.”

Old Friend: “OK thanks. By the way I’m vegan now. Bye!”

Er, WHAT…?!

Three decades ago as a student I entered into a shopping / cooking sharing arrangement with a vegan friend in my halls, and memories of my margarine and soy milk bechamel for a veggie lasagne haunt me still. I have not knowingly prepared a full on vegan repast since.

Still, the bigger the challenge, the bigger the opportunity, and all that.

And in this case opportunity took the form of a cauliflower curry – more on which later – and all the trimmings. Sharwood’s green label mango chutney [the best mango chutney money can buy IMHO] is mercifully free of any animal ingredients, and I found some poppadoms which were vegan, gluten free, GM free, in fact so free of anything it’s a wonder they existed at all. But cooling, creamy, cucumberful, yoghurty raita? Challenge Opportunity time!

Time, in fact, for tahini. Turns out this sesame seed paste is a vegan staple for producing creamy dressings and so forth when cream itself is considered beyond the pail. I’d say “who knew?”, but lots of you probably already do.

You will need

  • A cucumber
  • Half a red onion
  • The juice of half a lemon
  • A small handful of mint, and the same of dill
  • Tahini
  • Water

Finely chop the red onion and leave to sit in the lemon juice for half an hour or so. I spiralised my cucumber, because spiralising is the most zeitgeisty way of reducing a whole vegetable to smaller, more fork-friendly parts, and because I like playing with the spiralising thingy, but do feel free to just chop it into pieces of your desired size. Chop the herbs, add to the cucumber pieces, and tip in the onion and lemon juice. Mix well. Add the tahini a tablespoonful at a time, stirring to mix – I used about four tablespoons. The lemon juice will cause the tahini to thicken slightly, so add a splash of water here and there as you go until you achieve your preferred consistency. Season with salt to taste, and chill.

This worked so well that I’ll do it again, for vegans and omnivores alike. Until I meet a vegan who is sesame intolerant, when we’ll be looking at a whole new  set of opportunities.

With thanks to my good friend RJ for sharing his vegan know-how and advice.

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A Diamond Jubilee Diadem

This is my Jubilee tribute recipe which appears in the special edition of My St Margarets Magazine, out this week…

A crown of asparagus, surrounding a rich salmon mousse, topped with a 'cucumber caviar'.

My Diamond Jubilee Diadem of Salmon and Asparagus with Cucumber Caviar

Serendipitously a customer called in to ask if I could recommend a cheese for using in a salmon mousse just days after I had created this regal treat. And whilst the other principal players celebrate the best of British at this time of year – as well they ought for such a dish – the cheese which works best here is the French Delice de Bourgogne [or any of its triple cream cousins]. English asparagus is in season now so there is really no excuse for using anything else, and salmon are plentiful whether from the ocean or one’s own private loch. Though right royal purists might even opt for trout instead which was on the Queen’s coronation menu, right before the ‘Poulet Elizabeth’. Admittedly the Tonka bean is not native to the British Isles, but it does give a splendidly summery grassy note to the dish. I make no apologies for the fact that some effort is required for this recipe – it’s a celebration after all, and you’ll only have to make it once every 60 years!

This is a rich dish, again quite apt under the circumstances, so you need only small servings and very little by way of accompaniment – perhaps some melba toast points, or some Fine Cheese Co apricot and pistachio crackers. This quantity will make 6 to 8 servings depending on the size of your moulds, and any leftovers can be spread on toast as an indulgent supper, or used as a rather smart sandwich spread with some thinly sliced cucumber.

  • 240g poached salmon
  • 100g Delice de Bourgogne
  • 75g butter
  • 3 tbsps good French mayonnaise
  • 1 tbsp chopped dill
  • Blade mace
  • Tonka bean
  • Zest of half a lemon
  • Paprika – a pinch
  • 1 tbsp single cream
  • Dill – a tbsp chopped
  • Cucumber
  • Chinese rice vinegar
  • Asparagus spears – enough to line your  5cm ring moulds when halved.

Trim your asparagus spears to the desired height – the tips should just stand proud of your ring moulds – and steam until tender, then refresh in iced water, drain, cut in half lengthways, and pat dry.

Melt the butter and add a few blades of mace and some finely shaved Tonka bean [no more than a quarter of a bean], and leave to infuse. Pop the salmon, mayonnaise, cream, cheese, and paprika into a food processor and blitz to a smooth paste. Pour in the melted butter through a strainer to remove the mace and blitz again. Turn out into a bowl and mix in the chopped dill and finely grated lemon zest by hand.

Cover a flat baking sheet with cling-film and place your rings on top. Put the salmon mousse into a piping bag and pipe a half centimetre layer into the bottom of each ring mould. Take your halved asparagus spears and carefully place them cut side outwards all around the edge of each mould, pushing the bottom of each into the layer of mousse. Finally use the piping bag to fill the centre of each ring; a smaller nozzle will help to push the mousse right up to and between the asparagus. Chill well, for a couple a hours or more.

Very finely dice [c.1mm] some cucumber and pat dry. Mix with some more chopped dill and sprinkle with a little rice vinegar. When you have carefully removed the diadems from their moulds top with a teaspoon or two of this ‘cucumber caviar’.