Keep this on the down-low, but on Friday night I turned my mum's dining room into a speakeasy. There were five courses... one was just cake (a cake course is legit, right?). If you're a friend of mine, and you were in the area -which rules out a lot of you- you might have recieved a polaroid invitation, with a personal password printed on the front: foxtrot, blackjack, moonshine, cicero, fitzgerald, lipschitz, charleston. If you want to come in, you have to give the password through the letterbox. If you've forgotten your password... make one up; I've already had a couple of glasses of wine and I'll almost definitely still let you in. Bring a bottle, so long as you carry it in a brown paper bag... just in case you get stopped by the cops, you know?
You might not know what a speakeasy looks like on the inside... that's okay. If there had been more people, I'd have rolled out the grand piano and the bathtub full of punch - but for a dinner party, tablecloths, oil lamps and your finest silver will do. In the centre of the table: an old whisky barrel lid (polished with a matte varnish by my dad to make it food-safe - he did a french polishing course a while back... tables, not manicures. I was confused too) holding mismatched wine glasses and typewritten menus. Old wine and beer bottles are now jammed with lit candles. I hope you're wearing twenties clothing. My dress is nearly ninety years old, drop-waisted and tissue-paper-thin; I can't go under direct lighting without everyone seeing my underwear, but... at least I'm wearing underwear, right? These shoes. If in doubt: red lipstick.
Here's your menu. I hope you're not planning to drive home later.
beer bread w/ avocado & strawberries
or cucumber & mayo
dirty martini vodka olives
bloody mary tomato tartlet w/ vodka pie crust
poire william champagne & pear risotto
cherry bourbon and raspberry vodka ice cream
w/ hot fudge sauce, coconut cream and candied pecans
pina colada hummingbird triple-layer birthday cake
Oh yeah, and it's all vegan. I only tell people halfway through. Basically, leave the egg glaze off the beer bread, buy vegan mayo from Holland & Barretts, sub vegan margarine or vegetable shortening for butter in your pie crust, use soya cream or full-fat coconut milk in your ice cream (that cherry bourbon ice cream recipe doesn't even use egg yolks, so it's super easy to make vegan), and one flax egg for the candied nuts instead of an egg white (that's 1 Tbsp of ground flaxmeal and 3 Tbsp of water, warmed in a pan until it goes the gloopy consistency of an egg white). You remember the days when people used to think vegans ate nothing but plain tofu and lettuce? Yeah, not so much.
So wait, are you coming? Wear a red rose. Speak easy. xxChampagne & Pear Risottoserves four (I made twice as much, for a seven-person dinner party)
120g (4oz) shallots, thinly sliced1 Tbsp olive oil250g (8oz) arborio ricehalf a bottle of champagne (if you have money to waste), cava or any sparkling wine.vegetable stock2 Tbsp of nutritional yeast, or to taste (dairy option: grated parmesan)2 Tbsp soya yoghurt (dairy option: creme fraiche)
1 Tbsp vegan margarine1 Tbsp sugar2 medium pears, cored and diced (no need to peel)
Heat olive oil in a large frying pan, and add your thinly sliced shallots. Keep them over a medium-low heat, stirring regularly, until they go soft and translucent. In the meantime, heat the vegan margarine in a smaller pan, and stir in the sugar until dissolved. Over a medium-high heat, add the pears and leave to caramelise - don't move them around too much so they're able to colour nicely, but make sure they don't stick. Oh man, hot pans galore. Once they're done, take them off the heat. They'll smell awesome.
Are your shallots ready? Add the arborio rice and let the grains toast for a minute, then pour in your first cup or so of champagne (I'm calling it champagne for the sake of argument... if you use actual champagne you're a richer man than I am). Stir carefully until the liquid is absorbed, and continue to add more bit by bit. Don't dump it all in, unless you want an Italian grandmother to give you a smacked bottom. Alternate between champagne and vegetable stock, to get a combination of sweet and savoury flavours. I don't have exact measurements for this, cause you know when your risotto's ready. I took my risotto off the heat before it was fully cooked, and finished it off later, once we'd eaten our starters.
At this point: add the final liquid to your rice until it's fully absorbed and a nice, not-too-sloppy but not-undercooked consistency. Add the caramelised pears and stir to heat through. Stir in nutritional yeast, plenty of black pepper, and salt to taste. I also added a few spoonfuls of soya yoghurt once I'd taken the pan off the heat, to make it a little creamier, but this is optional. Serve hot, with a watercress salad alongside.