At last the day has come: Si has perfected the vegan cake. And carrot cake too, my very favourite!
I was out of the flat for much of the day, catching up with friends from uni, and it turns out that when I leave Si to his own devices he starts baking… I should go out more often! The sponge was made using self-raising flour, bicarbonate of soda, pecans, orange zest, sultanas, a little bit of oil, and some grated carrot – plus the secret ingredient: magic aquafaba! It was just the liquid from a tin of chickpeas, but when Si put it in the food processor with the whipping attachment and set it going, he says, whoosh it suddenly fluffed up like a meringue – a perfect substitute for eggs.
He sandwiched the two sponges together with vegan cream cheese mixed with vanilla and the juice of an orange, and spread a little more across the top – hey presto, a beautifully dense, sweet, luxurious-tasting carrot cake. The centre was soft and a little fudgey, and the outer edge was a little chewier – just how I like it – and the flavour was absolutely spot on. Honestly, it tasted just like any other carrot cake – what a perfect end to the day, and what a treat to come home to!
Dinner was equally creative: we had originally planned to make some more seitan, which we’d used to great effect in a ‘vegan roast dinner‘ last year – but we forgot to put the dough to soak last night and we decided it would be too time-consuming, so instead Si made a vegan meatloaf (hereafter ‘veeg-loaf’) by blitzing together two spiced veggie burgers, the remaining ‘No veg’ meatballs that we bought from Iceland in September, and some soya mince in the food processor with garlic, a dried chilli, and onion. This was baked in the oven till the outside was beautifully crispy.
On the side we had root vegetable boulangère – thin slices of carrot, pumpkin, potato, swede, and beetroot which were layered up in little dishes, covered in stock, and popped in the oven to bake for about an hour (until all the stock had evaporated or been absorbed) – as well as some thinly shredded cabbage (big green cannonball cabbage and cavelo nero) cooked in vinegar. The combination of flavours and textures were fab – the veeg-loaf was crispy on the outside and crumbly/meaty on the inside – of everything we’ve eaten so far this veganuary, I think this is the dish that I’d not be able to spot was vegan in a blind taste test. And the carrot cake was just… well… the icing on the cake!
As for my antics in town, I was pleasantly surprised by how easy it was being a vegan – I didn’t feel like I was inconveniencing my friends either. After a lovely catch-up and a good long mooch round an exhibition at the British Library we were decidedly peckish, so went for a wander to see what we could find to eat in the local area. The girls knew I was vegan-ing and were up for the challenge of finding somewhere we could all eat (though I had said I’d be vegetarian for the day if we couldn’t find anything) – and it was with great excitement that Philippa pointed out the Marquis Cornwallis pub, which had a board outside advertising a special Veganuary menu. Result!
The normal menu was still running too, so there was plentiful pub grub for the others to enjoy (though in fact Sarah selected an amok curry on the vegan menu – clearly I’m a good influence!) – though I remained true to my Dry January vows and ordered a Coke when the others were enjoying rather lovely-looking glasses of wine. Conscious that Si was preparing a beautiful dinner at home, I didn’t want to eat too much for lunch so I just had a small bowl of bean chilli. It came with sticky rice and was topped with a ‘vegan cheese substitute’ which was weirdly liquid – when I arrived, I assumed it was a replacement sour cream and that they’d forgotten the cheese! It wasn’t bad, but not at all cheesey – more like a savoury coconutty flavour. The chilli, though, was exactly what I needed on this freezing cold day – hearty and warming and full of flavour.
After another stroll and a trip to the British Museum to see the early medieval gallery there was just time for one last drink – and the girls suggested we pop into Planet Organic on as ‘there’s bound to be something for you here’. They were right! The cafe had an amazing range of vegan goodies, with so many milk substitutes and cakes/biscuits on offer. I bought a peanut and vegan chocolate cookie to take home for Si and me to share, and a vegan hot chocolate made with hazelnut milk to enjoy then and there. It was very tasty – slightly bitter and dark chocolatey – though a little grainy towards the end.
Before I knew it, though, it was 6pm and time to head home – full of excited anticipation for the beautiful things I knew Si had been working on. On the way out the door I snaffled a free sample of cashew cheese – such a lie, it’s not cheesey at all, unless you count Laughing Cow as a cheese (if so, the texture was spot on). But there were far tastier things awaiting me back out east 🙂
One last thought: it’s a sobering thing to realise quite how cheap our bowl-based eats are – or rather, how expensive normal London living can be! Funny to think that in having just lunch, a drink, and a hot chocolate, plus buying one vegan cookie, I spent roughly double (in one day!) what we’ve spent to feed both of us for a whole week. I don’t like to think how much I must fritter away in a normal omnivorous week…
Today I ate/drank:
- Tea with almond milk
- Bean chilli
- Bottle of Coke
- Vegan hot chocolate with hazelnut milk
- Taste of cashew ‘cheese’
- Vegan meatloaf with root vegetable boulangère and braised cabbage
- Fizzy squash
- Beautiful carrot cake