Don’t you hate it when dinner plans are cancelled at the last minute?
My husband (let’s call him B for now) had his birthday last week and we’d planned a family night out at Pizza Meine Liebe. I was really looking forward to it because it’s been our favourite pizza place for a long time, but we hadn’t been there since we went vegan in January.
They make really good pizza, so I was a bit disappointed when I found out that they use milk in their pizza bases—but my daughter and I would be able to eat their dairy-free, gluten-free bases, so all would be fine…or would have been fine if B hadn’t found out that his compulsory after-work function went until 10 pm and not 6 pm, as he’d thought!
Comfort food to the rescue!
So to cheer the rest of us up, I set myself the task of coming up with some delicious, home-cooked comfort food. I set the radio to Radio Swiss Jazz (which always puts me in the mood to cook) and began rummaging through the crisper to find inspiration.
I made up this dinner as I went along (which usually doesn’t work for me), but this time it definitely did! It took a while to prepare, but the actual hands-on cooking time wasn’t all that long. Here’s the recipe.
This is really flexible. You could use whatever vegies, rice, nuts etc. that you want, of course.
Preheat the oven to about 200°C.
Chop pumpkin and carrot into 2cm(ish) sized pieces. (Any root vegies/solid vegies would be fine.)
Chop an onion into about 6 wedges.
Chop the end off half a clove of garlic, put it on a little square of foil, pour in some oil and close up the package.
Rub all the vegies in olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
Bake for 1 hour, turning once.
When they have about 20 minutes to go, add halved Brussels sprouts and a pile of cauliflower florets (also tossed in olive oil) and finish baking the lot.
When they are all lovely and tender and slightly browned, squeeze the garlic out of the cloves, chop the onion a bit smaller, and mix it all up roughly in a bowl, just enough to spread the flavours and get the vegies looking slightly pummelled.
While the vegies are cooking, cook half a cup of red lentils in about 1 ½ cups of vegie stock for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally to make sure it doesn’t stick. Add a bit more water if it gets a bit thick.
When the lentils are cooked, I add a cup of bottled passata and a handful of fresh basil. Stir it through and leave it with the lid on to stay warm.
While all that is going on, cook some rice. I used lovely, fresh brown Doongara rice cooked by the absorption method for about 25 minutes (it’s very quick for brown rice).
Serving it up
When it’s all done, put a big scoop of brown rice in a pasta dish, a generous ladle of sauce, pile on the vegies, drizzle more sauce on, and top with chopped nuts (I used dry roasted almonds and walnuts) and mashed avocado and fresh parsley.
Birthday cake dinner for the birthday boy
It was soooo damned good that we devoured the lot in record time. When I picked up B at 9 pm (it WAS his birthday) he’d only had drinks and finger food and was STARVING. I showed him the picture of what we’d eaten (cruel, I know), and offered to make him something else, but he made do with chocolate cake for his birthday dinner—which was appropriate. The kids had made him a vegan chocolate cake (one we’ve used for years before we became vegan), iced with rich, real chocolate icing, covered with dried fruit and nuts, and drizzled with melted chocolate. Wish I’d taken a picture of that!
Long-awaited birthday pizza
On Friday, the birthday dinner finally happened. We decided to try out a new, local pizza restaurant we’d been hearing a lot about from friends who don’t even live near us!
Il Pizzaiolo makes the most incredible pizza I’ve ever had (and that includes pizza I’ve eaten in Italy!). Seriously. AND their bases are vegan. Even better than that, the staff are really friendly and happily helped us figure out our vegan options.
Unfortunately, there were no vegan desserts, but we had no room for those anyway. This place isn’t cheap, but we’ll definitely be going back for special occasions…I just have to think of some…