What a horrible week it’s been, with the awful news about the seige in Sydney. It’s really knocked everyone around – even as far away as here in Melbourne. It’s been hard to feel merry and bright for Christmas, but we’re trying!
No big pine Christmas tree this year
I thought it was time to get into the Christmas spirit, but this year I decided we wouldn’t have a big, cut pine Christmas tree. I’m the only one here who enjoys them, and I’m also the only one who decorates them and cleans up the pine needles that fall all over the floor. I wish I had one of those families who gather to decorate the tree, but sadly, mine couldn’t care less.
Instead, having been inspired by Veganopoulous’s autumn mantlepiece earlier this year, I decided to make a mantlepiece decoration – a kind of Christmas alter, if you will.
I’m under no illusions that my Christmas mantlepiece, or my photography, are as gorgeous as Veganopoulous’s, but the mantlepiece makes me happy…and it doesn’t drop pine needles on the floor.
I picked up all new decorations this year, and my favourite is this one that says ‘Hope’. It stood out because all the others said things like ‘Love’, ‘Joy’, ‘Ho ho ho!’, but ‘Hope’ seemed a bit more like what we all need at the moment. This one seems appropriate for this sad time of year – because of the siege, and our asylum seekers, and also because of the huge numbers of turkeys and pigs and prawns that people are going to gorge on this Christmas. It reminds me that things might be better in the future.
I was thinking about this tonight when I was watching the latest episode of Our Hen House TV, and coincidentally, Jasmin and Mariann were discussing – hope!
They were talking about what gives them hope and what they hope for in the future. It’s worth a look, especially for the 14 ways the animal rights movement has made progress this year. (It had a catchier name, but I can’t remember it exactly.)
A glorious wedding
Anyway, enough of that misery and gloom. I’d like to tell you about something else that gave me hope – my friend’s beautiful, bring-a-plate, picnic in the park wedding last weekend.
It was a glorious, warm sunny day, the park was decorated by her friends, there was a flashmob gospel choir performance during the ceremony (!), and a singalong with a ukelele. I can’t think of anything else you’d need for a successful wedding! Her gorgeous new husband said that all the women in our colourful summer dresses “looked like butterflies”. Awww, what’s not to love about him?
So it was a bring-a-plate event, which was lovely, but as a vegan, I never quite know what to bring. I feel like I have to find the balance between showing people how delicious vegan food can be, and not scaring them away with unfamiliar ingredients that make them eye it suspiciously and “leave the vegan food for the vegans”.
I think it was Colleen Patrick-Goudreau who advised that, when cooking for non-vegans, think “salt, fat and sugar”. Well, whoever it was, it’s good advice.
I was having trouble figuring out what to make, so I justified buying two new cookbooks to help me through all the upcoming bring-a-plate events.
I finally narrowed it down to 2 dishes: Pissaladierre from Wrapped In Pastry, and Brownie Nut Butter Cups from Vegan Finger Foods.
Brownie Nut Butter Cups
These were soft, sweet, chocolatey brownie cups, filled with sweet, fluffy peanut butter fondant, and topped with dark chocolate shavings.
Unfortunately, I didn’t get a photo of the brownie cups because I was really busy and they went fast! My lovely daughter H made these for me because she’s the best baker in our house. She tweaked the peanut butter filling so that it was “sweeter and less healthy”. They were really popular with vegans and non-vegans (I didn’t tell them there was tofu in the brownie cups. Shhh!). People were even going back for seconds and thirds while they lasted!
The pissaladierre recipe I used was just inspired by Leigh Drew’s recipe. It was very simple to make because I took a few short cuts…which I regret.
- I took the option of using frozen pastry (this worked well)
- I used roasted capsicum instead of sundried tomatoes. They were easy to slice and I didn’t have to marinate them to get them soft. They actually worked quite well.
- Here was the mistake: I bought (rather than made) the onion confit. I just happened to see it in Leo’s, and I thought I’d try it because I was really rushed. This made the preparation very quick, but was probably not wise. I realised too late that it was a lot sweeter than the onion confit from the recipe, and as I didn’t have the anchovies to balance that, I ended up having to grind some Himalayan pink salt over the top of them.
Don’t get me wrong – these weren’t bad, they just weren’t as good as they could have been. Next time I make them (and I will) I’ll follow Leigh’s recipe properly, so the onions aren’t overly sweet. And I bet they’ll be even better.
I have at least 3 more ‘bring-a-plates’ before Christmas day, so I’d better get back to digging through those books for more salt, sugar and fat and see if I can tempt those omnis to try more of my food. I can only hope!