Its National Vegetarian week and I began on Monday by attempting to convert another non-believer to the benefits of a meat free diet.
My friend had just completed a three hour philosophy exam and so was a little broken down and unable to protest against a 100% vegan and gluten free meal at El Piano.
Nestled in the cobbled streets of York, there is a 19th century, orange shackle of a building. Misshapen windows, filled with a warm glow omit lively salsa music and beckon you in with a mixture of sweet and spicy aromas.
For anyone avoiding meat, dairy, or gluten, El Piano is heaven sent. However, you don’t have to be living with dietary restrictions to enjoy any of the delicious and lovingly prepared plates, or should that be “boats” of Spanish, Lebanese, Greek or Indian cuisine. When opting for the tapas style sharing menu, your dishes arrive in thinly woven wicker boats.
With the student friendly prices and the refreshing ability to eat just about everything on the menu, we took full advantage and ordered the majority of the sharing dishes, followed by dessert and coffee.
Our table for two resembled a wedding buffet and it wasn’t long before we’d taken over the back section of the restaurant. Where there is food and music, students will set up camp.
Depleted from studies, my friend and I delved in, spooning and spreading the mouth-watering hummus and baba ganoush on tortilla chips and mini flatbreads. We moved on to the delectable falafel balls, rolled with chickpeas, garlic and parsley, then eyed up the Thai inspired vegetable and coconut milk curry and clay red re-fried beans.
…There was more and I do remember it all, but if I carry on describing I may end up finishing this post back on Grape Lane, this time with a table for one plus laptop.
If you’re not within a suitable distance of York, check out their menu online for a little inspiration. If your diet is getting a bit repetitive or if you are cooking for someone with restrictions and want to be a little more adventurous, there are some fantastic options all of which can be quickly prepared.
Here are a couple of recipes for my own versions of some of the dishes we enjoyed.
1. Slice a large aubergine in half and roast on a baking tray for 45 minutes in a 200 degree Celsius oven.
2. In a food processor or blender, pour in a 400g can of drained chickpeas, the juice of a large lemon, 3 tbsp of tahini paste, 5 tbsp of olive oil and three cloves of garlic, peeled.
3. Chop a little fresh parsley and add this to the blender, with a dash of salt.
4. Once the aubergine is cooked until soft and has cooled a little, scoop the insides into the blender and blitz until you have a smooth paste, adding more oil if it’s too thick and lemon juice to taste.
Tahini paste is made from sesame seeds so you may need to be aware of this if serving someone with a sensitivity to seeds. The paste is now available in most supermarkets but you may have to go to a specialised health food shop.
This authentic Indian dish is thickened with coconut milk to give a creamier depth of flavour and is perfect served with jasmine rice or fluffy couscous.
1. In a large pan, soften a chopped white onion in a little oil, before adding 1tbsp curry powder, 1tbsp cumin and 2 whole cloves and stirring for another minute. Be careful not to burn the spices.
2. Reduce the heat to a simmer and add three cups of vegetable stock and a cup of soft yellow lentils.
3. Cover and cook for 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
4. Stir in ¾ cup of coconut milk and heat through, seasoning to taste.
These ethnic dishes are just a sample of the countless, inspiring flavours fitting perfectly with the glorious sunshine which has blanketed Britain all week.
All of which still go well with a good jug of fruity Pimms and lemonade. British pride still intact.