When a friend puts out a crowdsourcing call for vegan appetisers and desserts, because she’s going to a ‘do’ and needs to arrive with one hand longer than the other*, you help, right? Even if you don’t know what you’re talking about (because you’re not a vegan). When said friend is a Princess, you respond with alacrity and a damn good recipe (which you may or may not have made up off the top of your head, assuming that the vegan world will provide workable equivalents for things like butter and cream).
When you then flub your typing and send said Princess a sweet pastry case recipe which includes ‘lemon sex’ instead of ‘lemon zest’…well, you die laughing and send it anyway.
Here’s the thing; I’m not now, nor have I ever been, vegan. Or vegetarian. I was raised in a fully meaty, fishy, ex-living-things-are-good-food-if-they-taste-nice, foodie household. I relished the lifestyle then, and continued to embrace it, figuring that really, if it tastes good, it’s good to eat**. I didn’t question it too deeply, tending to stay away from videos and articles about the atrocious conditions in slaughterhouses, and quotes from workers who said how terrible they felt when they saw the pain in the eyes of the poorly-anaesthetised cows as they snipped off their legs with giant cutters – they made me feel bad. Which wasn’t good.
I was busy being a well-behaved, responsible foodie; making sure that I bought my chicken free range (because, as Husby pointed out to me in the shop the other day – you can SEE the scabs on the knees of the non-free-range ones, where they’ve lived their lives unable to walk around, sitting in the caustic of their own shite), and my eggs from happy farms, which had a comforting little Red Tractor seal of approval (meanwhile knowing that Red Tractor assures only the minimum standards, and that my friend who used to be a shepherd pretty much confirmed that the RSPCA rules are a PAIN to have to conform to, and no-one who is in commercial farming can EVER keep to all of the requirements because they’re impossible to maintain and still have enough time in the day to do all the things which need doing to ensure that the farm doesn’t go under…), and well, when I was out to dinner, it was the restaurant’s responsibility to ensure conscientious sourcing of food. Or not. Whatever.
Because it doesn’t matter sometimes. Right?
My Princess friend is one of those militant types – self-confessed and proud of it. She shared a campaign she was planning to join in with, and even in the face of my suggesting that perhaps she might like to adopt tactics which appealed to the carnies’*** better nature rather than ones which pissed them off and made them want to buy more burgers out of spite, she stuck to her guns and told me (politely) where to go. She is determined. Oy!
*I* don’t think that getting people’s backs up is a good way of promoting your cause. *I* don’t think that bully or shame tactics are helpful. *She* thinks that if it gives one person pause for thought, and makes them rethink their buying choices on the day, then it’s worthwhile.
We agreed to differ and left the topic behind us, as good friends as ever. BUT I can’t deny that the conditions afforded to animals in the food industry are nowhere CLOSE to humane, for the most part. And even if I try to shop responsibly by putting my pound towards ethically sourced meats as much of the time as I can (or can be bothered), the fact remains that by participating at all, I’m supporting the industry as a whole.
So there I stood, entrenched in omnivorousness and flexible ethics, in the face of a plea for food which my Princess and her husband could arrive with and be the only ones to eat, because the rest of the partygoers were carnies, and I thought “NO!”
Because if a person enjoys cooking (she does) and if a person is a militant vegan (she is), then a person can damn well take advantage of the opportunity to give those carnies a VEGASM and bring them something delicious which will blow their minds and help them to realise that life without meat can taste GOOD.
Jen suggested a fabulous pinwheel recipe (with the instruction to make double, because they disapper so quickly): spread hummus on a wrap, add baby spinach, sauteed mushrooms, roasted red pepper and black olives, roll up and slice into pinwheels; which was quickly decided upon as a winner for the appetiser.
I suggested a fruit tart. And then said the accidental ‘lemon sex’ thing about the pastry. But I thought that seeing as I know cooking, and I know flavours, even though I’ve never made this, it should work, right? So then I thought I’d be helpful and share the recipe (which I made up as I went (along with my experience and the funny conversation)) and see if anyone was
foolish brave enough to give it a go.
And who knows – I might even try vegetarianism for a while, just to see how it goes and whether life still tastes as good, and my conscience rests any easier.
LEMON SEX FRUIT TART
For the pastry:
8oz Plain Flour
5oz Butter (or vegan equiv)
2 tblsp caster sugar
1 tsp salt
Zest of one lemon
For the custard:
1 pint almond/rice/soy/coconut milk
2 tblsp caster sugar
4 tblsp cornflour
1 tsp vanilla essence (or the scraped-out seeds of a vanilla pod, if you’re fancy-schmancy)
For the topping:
Sliced fruits – the prettier the better
1. Sift the flour and salt into a bowl and rub in the butter until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Stir in the sugar and lemon zest then sprinkle over three tablespoons of cold water and mix with a round-bladed knife until you have a lump. Knead briefly until it is a smooth pastry, then cover in clingfilm and refrigerate for 30-40 mins.
2. Grease and line your baking tin (a tart tin if you have one, and if not, a regular one – try to make sure it’s deepish, though) then remove your pastry from the fridge and roll it out until it’s approximately 1/8″ thick. Lift it on a rolling pin and place over your tin, lifting the edges to help the pastry settle into the corners. You do NOT want holes, and you do NOT want to have to re-roll the pastry, or it will go hard and horrible. Line the case with baking paper, fill with baking beans (or dried beans) and bake at 200C for 10-15 minutes, then remove the beans and bake for a further 5 minutes until the case is golden brown. Remove from the oven and allow to cool.
3. Use a couple of spoonfuls of your (whatever) milk to mix in with the cornflour and sugar to make a paste. Add the vanilla extract to the rest of your (whatever) milk and heat it until it is nearly boiling. Pour it onto the cornflour paste, slowly, stirring so no lumps form, then return the custard to the saucepan, over a low heat, stirring continuously until it thickens. Let it boil (still stirring) for at least a minute. Turn off the heat and let it cool for a few minutes (stirring intermittently) before pouring it into your pastry case and allowing it to start setting.
4. Once the custard is mostly cool, slice your fruits and dry them with kitchen towel (the moisture might split the custard otherwise) before arranging them on top of your tart in attractive patterns. Place the tart in the fridge until you’re ready to eat it. Serve it alone or with (there’s bound to be some out there) vegan ice-cream or sorbet or something. Or the regular kind if it doesn’t bother you to do so.
5. If you make it – LET ME KNOW HOW IT WENT (and show me pictures).
Here’s to VEGASMS – may yours be plentiful, multiple and full of lemon sex.
*An Irish (so far as I can tell) saying – because the shorter hand you arrive with is carrying something to share with your hosts.
**With the proviso that all junk food tastes good because of overloads of sugar and salt and fat (which our brains are designed to enjoy and want more of, because anthropologically speaking, this ensures our survival in environments where these things are in short supply) and are NOT IN ANY WAY GOOD FOR YOU. Or me. Ever.
***That’s ‘carnivores’ (which includes omnivores, assuming that no diet in the western world is entirely devoid of plant matter), as opposed to ‘fairground folk’.