Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Soft Foods

I have a tendency to deny that anything is wrong with me until it is really, really wrong. Like in 2010, when my appendix burst on a Monday morning and I didn't actually seek medical attention until Friday morning. The result is pretty much always worse than if it was dealt with promptly - after my appendix was removed I should have been out of hospital within a day, but I had to stay for a few while I was hooked in to antibiotics.

I've done it again, with a much less intrusive body part this time. I have bad teeth - not in a crooked sense, but in a cavity sense. I maintain good dental hygiene, but I grew up without fluoridated water and probably ate too much sugar as a child. I also didn't go to the dentist for several years, because last time I went the dentist was judgmental and mean.

I finally decided to bite the bullet, find a nice dentist, and get everything fixed. But between the first assessment appointment and my first fixing appointment, I got a terrible tooth ache. Enough to keep me awake 2 nights in a row. I had to get one of my wisdom teeth removed.

I had a few days of eating completely smooth things - pretty much exclusively pumpkin soup and smoothies. But after the anaesthetic wore off, I really craved something that I could chew. I don't know why - maybe the action makes it feel more like eating, and thus more satisfying. But these are some of the soft meals we came up with.

 A chickpea & sweet potato tart, adapted from a recipe in Let them eat Vegan! This had a head of broccoli blended through it to maximise nutrition and flavour while minimising chunky bites. This meal served two dinners, since we only ate half on the first night (with potatoes). Here it is on the second go, served with some terrible looking "leftover fritters". Andy mixed up some leftover rice, leftover pumpkin soup, and leftover ful (like a dhal, but made with fava beans), and some frozen peas, and made them into patties. They were soft, rather than crunchy, and with small bites were very easy to eat.

 Bangers and mash is another easy to eat meal. The veggie sausages we used are quite soft on their own, and again cutting them into small bites made them even easier to eat. And mashed potatoes are one of my ultimate comfort foods. On top, Andy whizzed together some hummus and pesto to make a gravy-like sauce.

 For breakfast, I switched from drinkable smoothies to spoon-worthy ice creams. This one is simply a few frozen bananas, some frozen blueberries, and a scoop of tahini. Blended all together in the food processor, it was a yummy but really very healthy soft serve.

My new (nice) dentist is recommending that I have my other wisdom teeth removed in the near future, so I'll be on the lookout for more of these soft but not smooth recipes. Any suggestions?

Sunday, April 06, 2014

Townsville's Vegan Revolution part 2: Degusting

Townsville is coming ahead in leaps and bounds when it comes to veganism. Early this year I discovered the fabulous breakfast options at relish. Last week, we moved on to fine dining.

Vegans in Townsville have raved about A touch of Salt before, but Andy and I rarely go out for dinner, so I hadn't got there yet. But when they advertised a 5 course vegetarian degustation dinner, I jumped at the chance. 
From A touch of salt's Facebook page

At $95 each, it was an awful lot more than we ever spend on food, but it seemed comparable to other degustations I have seen. And for 5 courses with 5 glasses of wine, I thought it would be worthwhile. I checked (and double checked) that there would be vegan options, and then we headed in to the city for dinner.

On arrival, we were greeted with a vegan prosecco - a nice and bubbly way to start the evening. As the waiter filled our flutes a second time, I mentioned again that we were after vegan meals. She said "the whole menu is vegan!". Which made me wonder if she was a little clueless, or if the feta I saw mentioned was actually made of tofu or something else. 

As it turned out, the entire menu wasn't vegan, but there were vegan options for each course. After our first two glasses of prosecco, we had another vegan white wine, and then the first course came out. 

Cubes of tofu were marinated in tamari, shiitake and and kombu, then tempura battered. The batter was so crispy and the tofu it encased was full of flavour. The marinade was turned into a gel on the side, and served up with more shiitake mushrooms, some leaves, and cauliflower. Underneath it all were some slices of peach. I hate peaches, so after trying a bite I gave these to Andy. Blergh.

Another glass of white wine came out, maybe a reisling (I can't remember much about the varieties, because I am a wine philistine), followed by the second course.
Touch of Salt degustation - corn bread

 Seared corn bread with capsicum, herbs and lemon. The chef said he made the corn bread not with polenta, but with pureed corn. It was a bit chewier than a typical corn bread, but in a nice way. This course was the one with feta, which was just left off the vegan plates. It's a bit of a shame that they didn't put something in its place, but the dish was still good overall. The green puree was basil and mint, and was a really good accompaniment to the corn bread, as was the little dot of lemon puree.

After this course the chef came out, with his brother and father - A Touch of Salt is owned and run by the Brine family. I made the connection with the restaurant's name halfway through dinner, after a few glasses of wine made my thinking clearer I guess!

Then the waiters came out with red wine, a shiraz of some kind. Andy and I are both not huge fans of red wine, but this was mild and quite nice. And it went really very well with the third course.
Touch of Salt degustation - kumara and pumpkin

 This was a little gallette of purple sweet potato and pumpkin, topped with amaranth greens and crispy little sweet potato shreds (we thought they were red cabbage at first. This was sitting in a bed of 'white gazpacho', which was creamy and rich. The grapes were a good tart garnish to go with the sweet but savoury gallette.

The next glass of wine was another red, this one a GSM. It was really bitey and we didn't like it so much that neither of us drank ours. The meal it came with, though, was a different story.
Touch of Salt degustation - mushroom wellington

 A mushroom and smoked eggplant wellington with beetroot pave. Though Andy and I both loved the tofu tempura in course 1 with a vengeance, as a whole dish we both thought this was the standout of the meal. The mushroom was meaty, the pastry was flaky, and the butter bean puree was like a beautiful creamy gravy. The dot of orange puree went best with the beetroot pave.

The dessert wine was super sweet, and was quite a nice way to finish off the meal. The dessert it accompanied was also sweet, though almost on the verge of too sweet.
Tough of Salt degustation - dessert

 The menu announced a carrot and coconut weiss bar, but this must have contained something not vegan. A few minutes after everyone else got theirs, Andy and I were presented with a very different looking dish. A ramekin held two caramel rice beignets, little sweet fritters. These sat in a soup of carrot puree, with a puddle of coconut yogurt underneath. The puree was like baby food + a whole lot of sugar. The dessert was good, but after the first four courses I was expecting something a bit more sophisticated with a bit more going on flavour-wise.

Overall, we loved the whole meal and both thought it was well worth the money and the effort of going out in the evening, and all the way into the city (I'm poking fun at our homebody-ness here!). Each dish was full of a variety of flavours that played off each other perfectly. And none of it was like anything we cook at home, which is a win when going out to eat. Plus, we now have a place to suggest when Andy's parents visit and want to go somewhere nice for dinner.