Vanilla Black

Vanilla Black

This piece is long overdue. As in, well over a year overdue. I ate at Vanilla Black in London during my trip to Europe at the end of the summer of 2014. It was by far one of the dining highlights of the trip. When you travel for food, that consequently means it was also one of the overall highlights of the trip. Undoubtedly the menu has changed since my visit, but that’s all the more reason to go and check out what they are currently offering. Regardless of whether or not you are a vegetarian, add Vanilla Black to your must-dine-at restaurants should you ever find yourself in London, and hungry. Tell them Mallory from Canada sent you.

Vanilla Black isn’t named like most vegetarian restaurants, nor does it look like most vegetarian restaurants, but that’s because it isn’t like most vegetarian restaurants. No eclectic décor, no quirky service and thankfully, no uninspired vegetable pasta dishes. Frankly, dining at Vanilla Black is one of the best meals you can get in London, vegetarian or otherwise.

Vanilla Black

Like many vegetarians, Chef Andrew Dargue and his wife Donna Conroy started out as meat-eaters but over time failed to see the necessity of consuming it. Instead, he now takes classic British dishes like gamon and pineapple and transforms them into vegetarian counterparts that are better than the originals could ever hope to be. The re-imagined Ribblesdale cheese pudding, a double-baked soufflé of sorts, with pineapple chutney, smoked potato croquette, poached egg and homemade “ketchup” make for a dish that is ever so reminiscent of a hearty breakfast of scrambled eggs, ketchup and hashbrowns, but with flavours that are amplified to a more sophisticated level. Not to mention, it is surprisingly filling for a vegetarian entrée.

Vanilla Black - entree

“You would never go to a restaurant and order a dish that is entirely comprised of meat so I don’t want to offer vegetarian dishes that only contain vegetables,” explains Chef Dargue. “I like to make sure that there is a protein, a starch and a vegetable on every plate.”

Well perhaps not EVERY plate, but if that means inventions like brie ice cream with blackberries and quinoa, you won’t hear any complaints from me. Not your typical starter, the brie ice cream is subtle and creamy, more of a semifreddo than an ice cream really. Paired with blackberries in various forms, a quinoa cracker and green onion gastrique, it is surprisingly savoury for something you would expect to be sweet. You wouldn’t think twice about hot, baked brie with fruit compote so why not create a chilled version?

Vanilla Black - appetizer

Sometimes Dargue’s creative dishes don’t go over as well as he might hope but that is the nature of food of all sorts – it is utterly subjective. At the same time, he has a deft hand that understands the virtues of simplicity over an abundance of ingredients, textures and techniques. “I use certain {modernist} techniques sometimes but they are not the centre of the plate,” Dargue says. Instead, he prefers that diners are surprised by interesting bites here and there over the course of meal.

Which naturally brings us to dessert. The smoked paprika fudge sounded too interesting not to try and that it was. Individually, each component on the plate wasn’t miraculous in isolation, the fudge a tad too sweet and the Builder’s tea ice cream a tad too not. However the brilliance of great cooking is the ability to combine flavours in a way that makes them taste better together than they ever could on their own. All in one bite, the perfect spoonful contained a bit of everything on the plate, all singing in harmony.

Vanilla Black - dessert

Unlike most vegetarian restaurants or tasting menus, you will leave Vanilla Black full and happy; because regardless of your dietary choices, you experienced a mélange of dishes that achieved a Taoistic balance between sweet and savoury, light and dense, soft and crunchy, hot and cold. Most importantly, at Vanilla Black they have figured out how to both feed people and nourish them, all the while serving food that meets and exceeds all expectations of vegetarian cuisine.

Vanilla Black

17-18 Took’s Ct, London EC4A 1LB, United Kingdom

+44 20 7242 2622

Holiday Cooking on a Budget

Holiday Cooking on a Budget

No time of year warrants sticking to a budget quite like the holidays, yet December is probably the most difficult month to be a penny-pincher; especially when it comes to food. First you’ve got the turkey. A good one will set you back at least $60-70. Then you’ve got to figure out what sides to pair with it. Everyone has their favourites so there really aren’t any you can eliminate. You can’t forget dessert either. Christmas chocolates? Yes please. But $15 for a box of Quality Street or Turtles, say what?

Thankfully good food doesn’t have to be expensive. Here are 3 dishes you can prepare to serve up to 6 people, for less than $30. If I did my math correctly, that’s less than $5 per person.

Your friends and family may throw a fit if you don’t have turkey for the holidays, so instead of cooking a whole bird, try opting for legs instead. They are dirt cheap – between $2.50 to $3 per leg – and braising them ensures they stay moist and tender, unlike that dry breast meat that no one likes.

For a side, try making a chickpea salad. Beans and legumes are a great way to add bulk to your meal and are a blank canvas to add a plethora of other flavours. The red and green colours of pomegranate and brussels sprouts scream “holidays” to me!

Finally, dessert is required at all holiday meals, regardless of how full you are. Grandma’s coconut snowballs are the easiest treats you will ever make in your life. You don’t even have to turn the oven on. Still they are a crowd favourite year after year.

I don’t know about you but that’s one tasty sounding budget meal right there. It will have everyone at your table saying “Merry Christmas”, your wallet included!

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BRAISED TURKEY LEGS

Serves 4-6 – costs $14.50

Ingredients

  • 4 turkey legs
  • 1 sweet onion, chopped
  • 3 celery stalks, chopped
  • 2 carrots, chopped
  • 2-3 cups chicken stock
  • 1 tbsp. dried herbs (I used a combination of rosemary, thyme and oregano)
  • salt and pepper, to taste

Instructions

  1. Season the turkey legs with salt and pepper and brown them in a large skillet over medium-high heat. You are just looking to sear them, not cook them through.
  2. Remove the browned turkey from the skillet and place it in a large, oven-proof dish.
  3. Add the vegetables and dried herbs to the same skillet you browned the turkey in. Deglaze with chicken stock and bring to a boil.
  4. Pour the vegetables and stock over the turkey legs. Cover with foil and bake at 350F for 3-3.5h, or until tender. You can then use the braising liquid to make a gravy if you like, or you can serve the turkey as is. The turkey can also be braised a day ahead of time and just warmed up when you are ready to serve.

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CHICKPEA SALAD WITH BRUSSELS SPROUTS AND POMEGRANATE

Serves 4-6 – costs $5 total

Ingredients

  • 1 14 oz. can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed thoroughly
  • 1 cup pomegranate seeds
  • 1 1/2 cups raw brussels sprouts, shredded
  • 1 tbsp. Dijon mustard
  • 1 tsp. honey
  • 2-3 tbsp. white wine vinegar
  • salt and pepper, to taste

Instructions

  1. To make the dressing, whisk together the mustard and honey until smooth. Whisk in the vinegar and season with salt and pepper to taste.
  2. Combine the chickpeas, pomegranate, and brussels sprouts in a bowl. Pour in the dressing and stir to combine.
  3. This salad is best eaten after a couple of hours because it allows the dressing to marinate the chickpeas and brussels sprouts. You can ever make ahead of time to serve the next day.

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COCONUT SNOWBALLS

Makes 20 balls – costs $7.50 total

Ingredients

  • 2 ½ cups graham cracker crumbs
  • 1 can sweetened condensed milk
  • 6-8 oz. chocolate chips (about 1/2 of a typical 350g package)
  • shredded coconut, as needed (about 1-1 1/2 cups)

Instructions

  1. Stir together all ingredients except the shredded coconut.
  2. Roll the mixture into bite-sized balls and coat each with coconut.
  3. Refrigerate if not eaten immediately.
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Huevos Rancheros

Huevos Rancheros

There’s no doubt in my mind that if I were to log my daily eating routine and share it with you, 99% of you would find it boring 99% of the time. What can I say? For someone who loves food, I also tend to opt for simplicity and efficiency of preparation when making meals. It means a lot of salads, smoothies and just raw fruits and vegetables (leaving room for chocolate of course). Not the most exciting, I know, but I’m not proclaiming it to be either.

So when I go out of my way to make something a bit more interesting for dinner, it feels like it would be a waste not to share it here. I was craving breakfast for dinner the other day, hence these huevos rancheros were born. Let’s face it, when can you go wrong with topping a dish with a runny egg? Actually that doesn’t sound very good. “Runny” should only be associated with colds and flus. But the alternative “oozy” isn’t much better. Unless you are describing an open wound. Thanks for tuning into “How not to make your food sound appealing” with Mallory Frayn. Eggs are good. We will leave it at that. Eggs and beans – even better.

Huevos Rancheros

Huevos Rancheros
 
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Serves: 3-4
Ingredients
  • 1 sweet white onion, sliced
  • 1 yellow bell pepper, sliced
  • 1 tomato, sliced
  • 1 can black beans, drained
  • 1 tsp. chilli powder
  • ½ tsp. cumin
  • ½ tsp. dried oregano
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 3-4 eggs, cooked either over-easy or sunny side up
  • shredded cheese, if desired
Instructions
  1. Slice up your onion and cook it over medium heat with a pinch of salt until it is softened and caramelized.
  2. Stir in your sliced bell pepper and tomato, adding the spices (chilli powder, cumin, oregano) and stirring so that everything is evenly distributed.
  3. Drain your beans, but don't rinse them - you want some of the starchy liquid to help make the sauce. Add in the beans to the sautéed vegetables and stir to combine.
  4. Season to taste with salt and pepper and allow to cook for at least 15 minutes to bring all the flavours together. You can make it ahead and cook it longer if you have the time.
  5. Before serving, cook your eggs however you like them, 1 per serving, seasoning them with salt and pepper as well. Then put the bean "stew" of sorts in the bottom of your serving vessel of choice, and top each portion with an egg. Enjoy!

Huevos Rancheros

Watermelon Feta Arugula Salad

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I made this watermelon feta arugula salad ages ago. Like before my Europe trip, so-long-ago-I forgot-about-it ages ago. At the time, it was pretty appropriate to be adding produce like watermelon and radishes to salad. Now it’s almost October and we have already had snow. Ingredients like pumpkin and squash are taking over. But heck, you can still find what you need to make it, and frankly, it’s the type of thing I have been eating a lot of lately.

When you get back from a vacation of eating and come home to a job that largely involves eating, you really don’t want to do any more eating at home. Actual meals tend to go out the window but when they do happen, all I want to eat is salad, salad, salad. Maybe a smoothie or two thrown in there but that’s about it. I need those sorts of things to re-energize me so I can go back to eating whatever else I have to (and love to) eat without feeling like a fat slob. It’s all about balance right? Knock that balance out of whack and your whole body just feels gross. And nobody wants to purposefully make themselves feel gross.

Ok now I am rambling, that’s my cue to go. In fact, I am probably going to go make some salad for lunch. Fancy that.

 

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Watermelon, Feta and Arugula Salad
 
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Author:
Recipe type: Entree, Salad
Serves: 4
Ingredients
  • 4 large handfuls of arugula
  • 5 black olives, chopped
  • 4 tbsp. feta cheese cubes or crumbles
  • 8 tbsp. watermelon, cubed
  • 2 large radishes, sliced thinly
  • 1 tsp. dijon mustard
  • 1 tsp. honey
  • ¼ cup balsamic vinegar
  • ¼ cup Camelina oil
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 garlic scapes, grilled and finely chopped
  • salt and pepper, to taste
Instructions
  1. First things first, get some garlic scapes on the grill for the vinaigrette. Cook them for a couple minutes on each side, until charred and tender. Finely chop and set aside for the vinaigrette.
  2. To make the rest of the vinaigrette, whisk together the mustard and honey. Whisk in the balsamic vinegar before gradually whisking in both types of oil (if you cannot find Camelina oil feel free to use straight olive oil). Finally add in the chopped grilled garlic scales and season with salt and pepper to taste.
  3. To assemble the salad, dress the arugula with your vinaigrette and portion it into 4 bowls or plates of your choice. Divide the chopped olives equally amongst the 4 servings. Add to each about 1 tbsp. feta, 2 tbsp. watermelon and 5-7 slices of thinly sliced radish. Enjoy.

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Sweet Pickled Cauliflower for #SundaySupper

Sweet Pickled Cauliflower

How quickly has this summer gone by? The fact that this week’s Sunday Supper theme is all about “Saving Summer” is proof of just how few sunny days and warm temperatures we have left. Next thing you know we are going to be dead in the middle of winter and the only thing that will keep us sane is consuming copious amounts of canned fruits and vegetables preserved from the summer harvest 😉

I’ve never been one to get into the sweet side of canning. No jams and jellies for me, but man do I love my pickles. I will pickle virtually anything. However, I do have my favourites. You know how everyone fights for all of the goodies in a jar of sweet pickles, aside from the cucumbers themselves? Let’s face it, the pearl onions and cauliflower are by far the best parts. So why not make a jar of straight up sweet pickled cauliflower? Simple flavours like garlic and bay leaves are a must, but you can also try adding a pinch of turmeric to liven up the colour. It will be your little dose of sunshine when it’s nowhere to be seen in the sky. Just don’t get any white clothing or dish towels near it – turmeric stains like nothing you have ever encountered. Also, depending on how crunchy you like your cauliflower, feel free to blanch it before hand to soften it up a bit. I could eat raw cauliflower for days so I just chopped it up and tossed it straight into the jars. The hardest part is waiting until it pickles enough to eat it. In the meantime I guess we can test out the offerings from the rest of the Sunday Supper team! From jams and jellies, to salsas and sauces, and everything in between, these recipes can help summer last all year long – at least in spirit!

Sweet Pickled Cauliflower Sweet Pickled Cauliflower

5.0 from 1 reviews
Sweet Pickled Cauliflower
 
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Serves: 2 jars
Ingredients
  • 2 cups white vinegar
  • 2 cups water
  • ¼ cup salt (Kosher or pickling)
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • pinch red chili flakes
  • ¼ tsp. tumeric powder
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 large head of cauliflower, cut into bite-size pieces
Instructions
  1. Begin by sterilizing 2 1l jars and their lids.
  2. Divide the cauliflower between the 2 sterilized jars, adding 2 garlic cloves and 1 bay leaf to each. You want the jars to be relatively full so there isn't room for additional air. If one head of cauliflower doesn't do the trick, either add part of a second head or supplement it with sliced carrots or pearl onions.
  3. To make the pickling liquid, bring the vinegar, water, salt, sugar, chili flakes and turmeric to a boil. Pour it over the cauliflower, ensuring that it is entirely submerged. This may mean the liquid reaches between ½ to 1 inch from the top.
  4. Put the lids on the jars and place them in a pot of boiling water for 10 to 15 minutes. Alternatively, if you don't want to go to the effort to be able to store the jars at room temperature, you don't have to worry about this and just stick them right in the fridge.
  5. Allow the jars to cool to room temperature. Ensure that the seals have actually seated (they should not make a clicking sound when you press the tops of the lids) before storing in a cool, dry place. Wait a few weeks for the cauliflower to pickle, then you are ready to crack open a jar to taste your efforts!

Sweet Pickled Cauliflower

Learn how to …

Sip sunny cocktails and smoothies

Scoop up special salsas and sauces

Jump into jellies, jams and preserves

Pucker up for pickles

Slurp and spoon soup and a side dish

Dive into divine desserts

Sunday Supper Movement

Join the #SundaySupper conversation on Twitter on Sunday! We tweet throughout the day and share recipes from all over the world. Our weekly chat starts at 7 p.m. ET. Follow the #SundaySupper hashtag and remember to include it in your tweets to join in the chat. To get more great Sunday Supper Recipes, visit our website or check out our Pinterest board.


Would you like to join the Sunday Supper Movement?
It’s easy. You can sign up by clicking here: Sunday Supper Movement.

Sweet Pickled Cauliflower Sweet Pickled Cauliflower Sweet Pickled Cauliflower