A taste of what’s been on my plate


IAM NO good with change. The pass­ing of sum­mer into au­tumn makes me sad. Es­pe­cially when I have felt cheated of sun­shine after the July/ Au­gust gloom-fest. The only thing to do is a bit of com­fort eat­ing. For­tu­nately, au­tumn brings a wealth of new flavours. Ap­ples, pears, plums and figs all make me smile. Squash, wild mush­rooms and root veg such as cele­riac come into their own.

Veg­eta­bles are get­ting top billing in many restau­rants but an­other trend gain­ing trac­tion is ve­g­an­ism, which is cross­ing into the main­stream. It is not just lentils and nut roasts — there are even in­dul­gent treats aimed at those whose di­ets are free from all things an­i­mal. Two of those treats have landed on my desk in the past few weeks.

The me­morably named Freaks of Na­ture has pro­duced two chilled KLBD-hechsh­ered ve­gan cheese­cake pots. Sugar (un­re­fined) is added — from dates and co­conut nec­tar. Both pots have lay­ers of dif­fer­ent flavours made from blended cashew nuts, on an unsweet­ened, cheese­cake-like base.

The Choc and Awe cheese­cake was flavoured with ca­cao pow­der and ca­cao but­ter but was overly cho­co­latey. The Straw­berry Blonde pulled it off bet­ter, the fruity layer cut­ting nicely through the stick­i­ness of the creamy cashew cus­tard. A great snack for the kosher ve­gan — and for any­one in­tol­er­ant of eggs, dairy, soya or gluten.

The other treat I tried out was one for those who en­ter­tain free-from friends (plenty of those about th­ese days). Free and Easy cake mixes con­tain no wheat, gluten, re­fined sugar, nut, soya or dairy; they are not so far kosher ap­proved. Bak­ing to fit that bill would take hours of re­search and most likely re­sult in a headache — not to men­tion a ques­tion­able cake.

This clever mix takes away all the stress. To pre­pare it, you add oil, wa­ter, milk (of any sort) and, if ap­pro­pri­ate, an egg. Ve­g­ans add more oil or wa­ter in­stead of the egg. I tested out the choco­late ver­sion, which is also sugar-free.

The mix needed more wa­ter than the pack ad­vised, as it was a bit claggy — but it baked up fine. I knocked up a cou­ple of loaves while host­ing three chil­dren on a play­date, so it clearly did not re­quire much in­put.

Our guests were most en­ter­tained by clods of mix­ture fly­ing from my beat­ers — a prob­lem solved by adding more liq­uid. A vis­it­ing dairy- and gluten-free friend gave it the thumb­sup. The mix­tures avail­able are car­rot cake, gin­ger and choco­late and the pack in­structs you how to make them up into cup­cakes, two loaves or two 20cm sponge cakes. I will keep a packet handy for un­ex­pected ve­gan visi­tors.

An­other new snack comes from kosher food brand, Prov­i­dence Deli. I am al­ready a fan of its sun-dried toma­toes and pesto, so I was in­ter­ested to see it has just launched two new snack pots, one of hum­mus and one tahini, with a stash of crunchy crack­ers to dip into them. Add a pile of cru­dités and you have a healthy snack or light lunch. Watch out for them in Tesco.


I have been do­ing my fair share of eat­ing out this month, too. First stop was Ital­ian stal­wart, Car­luc­cio’s, which has just in­tro­duced a ve­gan/veg­e­tar­ian menu — Cucina Verde. It was launched up­stairs at the Gar­rick Street restau­rant, cen­tral Lon­don, in the pres­ence of the late An­to­nio Car­luc­cio him­self. He had been act­ing as con­sul­tant to the group and was happy to schmooze starstruck jour­nal­ists and blog­gers like me. I found him ut­terly charm­ing.

Staff were clearly on their best be­hav­iour for the royal visit. The man­ager­ess di­vulged that Car­luc­cio was a fre­quent vis­i­tor, of­ten sum­mon­ing a chef from the depths of the build­ing to give his hon­est feed­back on each dish he or­dered.

On the new menu — from which guests were in­vited to or­der from freely — are old favourites such as risotto al funghi; spinach and ri­cotta ravi­oli and penne gi­a­r­diniera — penne with cour­gette, chilli and gar­lic, served with crispy spinach balls and cheese.

Ad­di­tions to the menu in­clude orec­chi­ette al cavolfiore — ear­shaped pasta with a cau­li­flower sauce, with sautéed kale, chilli and roasted turmeric, plus spaghetti con polpette di pane (with balls of bread, semi-dried toma­toes, gar­lic, ca­pers and olives in a tomato sauce).

A roasted but­ter­nut squash comes with pesto, goat’s cheese and crunchy bread­crumbs. Each dish marked with a “VO” can be ren­dered ve­gan.

In Septem­ber, I was at Win­dows on the World — or, to be more pre­cise — win­dows on to Park Lane and a corner of Lon­don in­hab­ited by the roy­als, the rich and the very rich.

The Hil­ton ho­tel, atop which this venue sits, has long been dwarfed by the city’s other ar­chi­tec­tural gi­ants and the 1960s ed­i­fice looks a lit­tle tired and dated from the out­side. The views, how- nib­bles: Healthy por­ta­ble pot Prov­i­dence Deli snack

ever, are still spec­tac­u­lar, from wher­ever you are seated.

I took my mother to Galvin at Win­dows for her birth­day. The Galvin broth­ers, chefs Jeff and Chris, have op­er­ated their restau­rant here for 11 years and we had not vis­ited since they opened.

We were there for the spe­cial set menu, which of­fers two cour­ses for £31 and three for £37.

On a Wed­nes­day lunchtime, the din­ing room hummed with the con­ver­sa­tion of busi­ness­peo­ple. Our ta­ble — east-fac­ing — was close enough to our neigh­bours to al­low us to ogle their food choices without forc­ing us to share their con­ver­sa­tion. Ser­vice was

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