Part of being vegan is knowing and accepting that restaurants and cafes wont always be able to accommodate you. It’s 2017 but it’s still a struggle at times. Who are these strange people who would rather surpass the burgers and chips in favour of rabbit food?! Well obviously we don’t want to eat salad all the time but when the menu is looking bleak, you can usually find some kind of salad arrangement to potentially modify when it’s slim pickings. I say this in my calm, non hungry, completely satisfied voice as I sit behind my laptop all warm and cosy. My partner however would testify that I’m not always so calm and rational when the ‘hangry’ version of myself escapes and I’m faced with a potentially disappointing lunch!
I’ve recently been served up a few lunchtime salad catastrophes which lead me to calling for the manager of the restaurant for a show down like no other and another occasion almost crying into my bowl of garlic and chopped apple (true story!)! Salad has become an emotional business for me! haha.
I think why I get so upset and disappointed and disheartened is simply because salad is the easiest thing in the world to prepare. You don’t need to have studied to be a chef to throw together a salad. So how can so many restaurants and cafes get it so wrong? I know I have high standards in life generally, so I find myself sitting back thinking ‘am I being too harsh?’ I go round in circles and come back to the same conclusion that salad is salad….no rocket science degree required.
On a recent weekend trip across Ireland, said partner and I stopped into a small yet lively looking tourist town we were passing through. I consulted the ‘Happy Cow’ on where to eat which directed us to a restaurant that had ‘vegan options’. Happy with that we went in search of this holy grail. However we went round and round in circles with various online maps pointing us to a suburban house and back alley ways!? We consulted 3 different people, each pointing us in different directions. It was pouring with rain but we were determined. By the time we finally found the place in the opposite end of town, we were soaked! We perused the menu (which didn’t look promising), we asked the lady serving what their vegan options were. She scurried away to the kitchen and on return came back to let us know that there actually weren’t any but the chef would look in the freezer to see what he could come up with. At this point we made a speedy exit and we were back on the street in the rain! Big FAIL Happy Cow. Not only does the restaurant not have a vegan option, the restaurant is pinned in the wrong place on the map.
So we trecked around the town once more till we found a cafe that had veggie soup, falafel(albiet served in a tomato sauce!?) and a quinoa salad. Options! Hurrah! Here is where I made my mistake….I ordered the quinoa salad! When I ordered it I had to repeat it to the waitress a couple of times. I now realise this is because no one ever orders the quinoa salad! It was a substantial menu with roasts, and burgers and sandwiches and lasagne and fish pies etc, I’m sure the quinoa doesn’t usually get a look in.
When my salad arrived my partner and I both looked at it with trepidation. It wasn’t what either of us expected it to be. It just looked like a lot of chopped apple and some very soggy couscous with some nondescript red vegetable matter. The red vegetable matter turned out to be red chilli’s that weren’t deseeded!! Just casually chopped into large chunks and thrown in. The apple was apple, but disguised alongside the apple was halved cloves of garlic-probably about 4 or 5 whole cloves! There wasn’t a piece of quinoa in sight. Just some overcooked couscous and some olive oil. That was the salad. It was almost inedible. My partner looked at me, almost scared I think that I was about to reign hell fire down on this quaint little cafe in the middle of Ireland’s tourist trail. However I was just defeated and disappointed and miserable by this point. Unlike a previous occasion, I didn’t call for the manager, I didn’t bring it to her attention, I just couldn’t face it and I honestly didn’t think anything I could say at this point would make a difference. If you think it’s ok to serve someone whole raw cloves or garlic, and seeded chilli’s, you need more help then I have the time to give you. My mind was boggled. Believe it or not, I’m not actually fussy(or so I keep telling everyone, myself included!). Providing it’s on the planty spectrum, I’ll eat it but this was something else!
I have plenty other crazy food stories from this trip but I’ll save them for the appropriate accompanying recipes.
Here is one of my favourite substantial salad recipes. I made this for an event I catered last year and it was a real winner! I’m not suggesting all salad requires this amount of effort, but effort none the less!
Lebanese Pumpkin and Walnut SaladPrint This
- 2 tablespoons of agave
- 2 tablespoons of olive oil
- 1 cup of walnuts
- 1 butternut squash or half a medium pumpkin
- 1 large red pepper/capsicum
- 1 large red onion
- 400g canned lentils
- 60g of rocket
- 1 teaspoon of sweet paprika
- 1 teaspoon of cumin
- 1 teaspoon of ground dried coriander
- 1 teaspoon of cardamon
- 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon of nutmeg
- 1/2 cup of dairy-free yoghurt
- 1/4 cup of olive oil
- 1/4 cup of lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon of agave
- 1 tablespoon of grated lemon rind
1.Preheat your oven to 200°C. Line two baking trays with baking paper. Prepare a large plate with baking paper also.
2. Add your spice mix to a mortar and pestle and combine.
3. In a small frying pan add your agave and let it simmer over a medium heat. Once the agave starts to bubble, add your walnuts and 1 teaspoon of the spice mix. Toss the walnuts gently to coat them in the agave and spices. Transfer to your plate with baking paper and set aside to cool.
4. Cut your squash/pumpkin into small cubed pieces. Add them to one of your baking trays. In the other, place the red onion and the red pepper/capsicum sliced into thick pieces. Drizzle with 2 tablespoons of oil and the remaining spices. Use your hands to toss the vegetables and make sure they are completely coated in the oil and spice mix. Bake for 30 minutes.
5. In a bowl combine all the ingredients for your dressing. Yoghurt, agave, oil, lemon juice and rind. The oil will initially separate once added to the yoghurt so stir thoroughly to combine.
6. In a bowl, add the lentils and rocket. When the vegetables are ready add them and top with the candied walnuts.
7. Drizzle the dressing over the top of the salad or serve on the side.
The candied walnuts are delicious and I tend to eat lots of them before they even make it into the salad. They are so moreish! I suggest throwing in some extras when you are making them. I sometimes make a batch of these spiced walnuts just to keep handy for adding to bircher muesli or porridge or topping a cake or adding to an antipasto platter. If you make them once, you will see what I mean!