The January Detox

Post date: 06-Oct-2012 01:03:40

12th January 2013

After all that overindulgence of December... well let's say you can overindulge at ours and feel good about it. We'll detox you the easy way...

The other day one of my volunteers said (well, more like groaned), that he had to cook dinner for a vegan friend. In fact, to be precise, he said he had to cook 2 dinners - one for his vegan friend and one for everyone else, because surely they wouldn't want to eat vegan food. And what on earth would he do for dessert.

I know how he feels. When I met my first vegan friend, it seemed almost impossible that I could cook for him. Then I met another and dredged up enough ideas for a dinner party. Then I met more and more, and soon there was enough critical mass for me to become really aware of what I cooked that was vegan and what wasn't.

So I realised that actually, there are lots of delicious dishes I cook that are actually vegan. Malaysia and Thailand are a nightmare for vegetarians, because of the fish sauce and fermented shrimp paste in nearly everything, but they make amazing vegan desserts with coconut milk. In fact, East Asia doesn't really use many dairy products at all - they kept going off before the days of refrigeration. The Middle East, too - another hot place. When I grew up, all we had was disgusting UHT milk, condensed milk, and tinned cheese (!! yes! this is true! imagine!), unless you went to expensive Western supermarkets where you could actually get Kraft processed cheese "singles" and Philadelphia in the frozen section. Being vegan was a far better option!

I challenge you meat-eaters to come and eat a vegan meal. You won't miss meat, or dairy products, for a night. And you'll walk away feeling good about yourself, especially after all that overindulgence in December. I'm confident because my policeman friend, when confronted with a meat-free meal, was pretty horrified (he admitted later). But he's a total convert to my falafels! Apparently they're quite... meaty... in some way. These are some of the most popular dishes we've served, from a range of different supper clubs, so you get a truly international cross-section.

Peanut soup with rice balls - from Ghana. My Chinese mother was hugely dubious about African food but loved this. Nana our Ghanaian volunteer will make it for us

Sebernih Bezzet - Syrian spinach with onions - hugely popular dish from the Syrian supperclub. It sounds plain but people rave about it and it's the dish they remember the most

Beet and Kidney bean salad - inspired by a Georgian dish but I improved on it :-) and my Mexican friend Victor ate a whole bowl of it once.

Falafels and tahini sauce - these are home made and very, very delicious, says a policeman, from the Middle East

"Delicious" Tofu - from China - I don't know what it's called really, but this is my favourite tofu dish by a long way. I have convinced someone who'd NEVER EATEN TOFU BEFORE with this dish.

Turkmeni Chickpea and Onion stew - this one surprised us with how good it was - to be honest we weren't expecting much from Turkmenistan.

Stir Fried Potato - yes, it exists! I was amazed too when I first ate it in Shanghai. It was almost the only dish my client ate all week... we ordered seconds.

Mercimek Kofte - tasty lentil kofte from Turkey, a friend's mum always makes these for me, I like to snack on them

Dhokla - we had to include something from India ! a Gujarati savoury cake that's so good I got the recipe from another friend's mum.

Kueh Talam - pandan coconut "cake" from Malaysia, my fave so I had to learn to make it

Sticky Rice and Mango - the classic Thai dessert

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