Thursday 15 December 2022

Advent 2022- Fast Tracking #19


Today's Challenge: Fast from... all animal products.

Today has been another vegan day, the third so far. I'm beginning to run out of ideas that are part of my existing repertoire so I decided to branch out and experiment with some vegan pasta for supper. 

I make pasta regularly but it's always egg pasta made with strong flour, fresh eggs, a pinch of salt and a spoonful of olive oil - it's easy, reliable and quick. Ordinary dried pasta in the supermarket tends not to be egg pasta but simply made from durum wheat and water. I did a bit of research and it looked quite possible to replicate this at home although here in the UK specifically durum wheat flour is not readily available. You can get round this by using fine semolina as part of the flour mix though, so that's what I did, as I happened, for some inexplicable reason, to have two bags of fine semolina in my pantry which need using up. I could, of course, simply have bought some dried durum wheat pasta but why buy it when you can make it?! 

In an adventurous spirit however, after my happy colour experiments with my pink spaghetti cooked in beetroot juice, I didn't use water to mix the dough but a couple of glasses of Puglian red wine. This was H's idea after he had been given a packet of Fortnum and Mason's red wine pasta, courtesy of a foodie-friend. The colour of the resulting tagliatelle was a soft dusky pink - nowhere near the vivid colour of my earlier experiment using beetroot juice - but it rolled out beautifully despite the absence of eggs in the dough and as it dried, the slightly granular texture of the semolina became more apparent in the finished pasta (see the second of the two pics below). I guess this is quite useful in providing a keyed surface for whatever sauce you're using to cling to.

My chosen sauce was a simple one, that I often make, of chopped field mushrooms cooked down to an intense almost jet-black sauce with some onion - I used the same mixture for filling my bao buns on Monday. I do add in a handful of soaked dried porcini mushrooms and a little bit of balsamic vinegar but by and large the flavour and colour of this all comes from ordinary field mushrooms, sold very cheaply in any supermarket for about £1 a punnet. It takes time to cook down though - several hours and you need to watch it as the liquid evaporates, to avoid it catching and burning - you want mushroom-black on your pasta, not carbon-black!

I then decided I would follow the same method I used with the beetroot juice and cook the tagliatelle partly in ordinary salted water and then in the rest of the wine. There was slightly less wine than there should have been in the bottle because a glass or two had been drunk by D and H last night but there was enough to do business with, eked out with a bit of water.

The results were rather good - both the pasta and the sauce had an understated but pleasing note of acidity to them and although the colours were more muted than my beetroot-dyed pasta with watercress pesto, it was nonetheless a very satisfactory colour as well as flavour combination. 

It would have been even better with Parmesan or pecorino cheese on top...! Just saying!

tea with unsweetened soya milk
apple juice
oatcakes with maple butter as per previous vegan days

fruit, sourdough crackers

black tea
as per breakfast - oatcakes with maple butter*

*Today has been absolutely freezing - the temperature here last night was -8℃ which, for the southern half of the UK, is most unusually cold. Several of our pipes have frozen up (although fortunately not in the kitchen) and I am afraid, after being outside this afternoon where it only warmed up to a balmy -4℃, I just could not face a vegan multigrain seeded cracker with my pot of tea. The temptation to whip up a tray of buttery flapjack, sneak an early, miniature Christmas cake or simply devour a bar of milk chocolate was a very strong one! I resisted however and returned to what I'd had for breakfast - that maple butter is amazingly delicious on oatcakes. I do hope I can get another jar of it without too much difficulty now that I've rediscovered it. (I can - Ocado stock it - hooray! It's not cheap - a smallish jar costs £6 but it's gorgeous stuff.)

salted popcorn popped in a little sunflower oil with hot cranberry and ginger cordial** 
vegan red wine tagliatelle with mushroom sauce
fruit and assorted nuts in their shells

**This is another recipe from Kate Young's Little Library Christmas adapted to include a hefty whack of fresh ginger and using some orange zest and juice instead of all lemon. It's warming and cheerful and, happily for today, it is totally vegan. As is the popcorn. And we all needed something a little extra this evening to face down the cold and the frozen pipes. I dilute the cordial with a bit of boiling water but not much - it's nicest, I think, in small syrupy quantities. 

E x

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