Tag Archives: Gluten-free

Vegan Taster Menu at the Agape

So Nadia persuaded Julian to cook us a vegan meal. Not just any vegan meal. Julian made it a fine dining experience, concocting a taster menu that took us on a gluten-free vegan tour of the classics. 

Julian Miles in chef's whites

Chef Julian Miles

Loved this door-opening moment with Julian in his chef’s whites. Turned out Julian worked at Demuth’s, Bath (a vegetarian and vegan cookery school whose pioneering vegetarian restaurant is now with new owners, Acorn Vegetarian Kitchen).

Julian’s partner, Ellen, is vegan (and most of us were gluten-free). This night was a playful response to their experience of restaurants which barely cater for a free-from clientele.  

Where is the gourmet vegan food? Where is gastronomy for coeliacs?

Here is a taste of Julian’s taster menu.

Amuse gueule: Arancini, BBQ houmous with garlic chutney on melba toasts and smoky tempura

Chive and mushroom consommé with tamari-smoked and paprika-roasted mushroom slivers

Those tamari-smoked and paprika-roasted mushroom – I want the recipe.

Carrot lox, cucumber sushi rolls with tamari pearls, tofu ‘fish’ with curd bean skin, triple cooked chips, fresh pea mousse and apple cider vinegar jelly

A complex crispy succulent and fresh experience with taste sensations. Real Food Lover fave.

Another pic of my fave

I have no image that does justice to the refreshing bliss of Julian’s aromatic gin herbs and lime sorbet. Another keeper.

Tofu and vegetable fajitas, nachos and guacamole with home-fermented sriracha cream

Home-fermented sriracha cream with chilli, onion, and garlic  – want this recipe too.

Little gem lettuce, coconut ‘parmesan’ biscuit, and miso dressing

A kind of mayonnaise on the lightest crisp biscuit – using coconut was brilliant (instead of the ubiquitous soya).

Vegan creme brulee, light and dreamily-delicious

Crème brûlée

I adore cream but it does not love me so this creamily-delicious yet dairy-free crème brûlée was a dream.

Thank you, Julian and Ellen, for a creative taste-tastic evening at the Agape (as we dubbed it) Living Room restaurant. 


Black Forest gateau – no flour, no butter, no sugar

I was detailed to make Black Forest gateau for our family feasting on Christmas day.

I had a plan: to substitute the flour with ground almonds.

Christmas eve 8 pm. Omigod. Scoured cupboards: no ground almonds. Damn.

(My canary-like constitution cannot take the much-hybridised wheat, hence my desire to avoid it.)

However: necessity is the mother of invention (Love a good cliché).

I found this recipe for Black Forest gateau without flour – bless you La Creme, Port Talbot, which uses cocoa instead of flour.

By some miracle, I had gone mad in Wild Oats  – with its far-out irresistible ingredients – and bought raw organic cocoa from Choc Chick and organic agave nectar that very day.

(Life is an experiment. This blog is too: I was experimenting writing it on my phone and hoopla, it published without my say-so.)

So, Christmas eve and I was experimenting. Exchanging flour for cocoa, and the sugar for agave nectar (which is low GI but make sure the agave is organic, otherwise the processing robs it of its nutrients and is bad for the soil too).

I paced around, thinking. Researched on the web.

I had to do lots of calculations – cups into grammes, grammes into ounces – which hurt my poor discalculiac head. Of course children should learn to cook at school. Maths in action. Useful maths. The kind of maths you actually need in real life.

Finally (10.30 pm), I knew I could procrastinate no more.

There are key moments in cooking. Such as commitment.

I broke the eggs. No turning back now.

Here is what I did.

Cake ingredients: 8 organic eggs + two-thirds of a cup (150 mls) of organic agave nectar  + 90g of raw organic cocoa.

(I used one less egg than in the original recipe because agave nectar requires reducing liquid by 1 fluid ounce i.e. one egg). (The recipes said: 2/3. Well, I can tell you, that is NOT 2-3 cups but TWO-THIRDS…slight difference…).

1. Crack and separate the eggs:  yolks in one bowl and whites in another. (And never the twain shall meet – until they have been whisked, separately).

2. Whisk the egg yolks until creamy and mousse-like.

3. Sift the cocoa into the creamy egg yolks. Fold in with a large tablespoon without stirring (folding helps guard the bubbles you have worked so hard to create).

4. Whisk the egg whites until they form stiff peaks.

5. Fold those egg whites into the egg yolk+cocoa mixture, carefully, a third at a time, in a under-and-over circular movement so not to batter your bubbles.

6. Heat the oven to 180 / Gas Mark 4 . Cooking with agave? Reduce temperature a bit and slightly lengthen cooking time.

7. Prepare baking tins. I used these wondrous Victoria Surprise ones from Lakeland. But two or three ordinary sponge cake tins will do. And they ARE worth lining and greasing with greaseproof paper. You will say thank you when the cakes emerge easily.

8. Spoon in the mixture into lined tins.

9. Bake for about 15 – 20 minutes. Note: cakes using agave nectar brown more easily so cover the cakes loosely with aluminium foil while baking.

10. Filling: stir together 200g organic half-cream fraiche + drained (no-sugar organic Demeter-certified) sour cherries  + grated (or grind in a nut grinder) dark organic chocolate. Tip: if all else fails, Just Make The Filling – light, fruity, delicious.

11. When cakes are cooled, spread the filling between the layers. Assemble the night before so the juices can sink into the cake and moisten.

Creme fraiche is less rich than cream but worry not, o indulgent ones: we used whipped cream for the topping.

And the cake was delicious.