Friday, 17 February 2012

A Delicious Evening for Two (Or One! Menu, Recipes, and order of service - and there's pie! and wine!)

Dinner at home. As romantic, (or not), as you like it.
I would love to have a big house. Not anything ostentatious, just something family-sized, so our belongings wouldn't be squished in. Oh, how I long for space in our home. And the ability to have rooms, where things can be centrepieces. And room for visitors! And guests! A big comfy chair! And group dinners. Truth be told, if the evening didn't wrap up when I wanted it to, I'd probably start flicking the lights on and off as a hint, or just make my goodbyes and leave the house, myself, and curl up in the car until everyone leaves. Who says I've got social skills?!

So, I'm not exactly an expert in dinner parties - but dinner for two... that I can do!

As promised yesterday, I wanted to share some damn fine recipes with you -
something that are a *pleasure* to go home to - a snap to prepare after a long day at the office, and ever-so-pleasing to eat. A menu that still leaves you feeling light, and keeps the clean-up minimal.

This week's Five for Friday: A simple evening in food, for two, organised in the order to prepare it in! ;). Five recipes and products to create a memorable dinner for two!

You'll note it doesn't look simple - actually, I've made this look epic - but it really is simple. I'm just not good at being brief. Actually, I'm incredibly incapable of it. I rave like a writing desk!

All recipes/details are included in each section.

Not tonight.. obviously. But you get the drift.

What you'll be having:
To Drink: A glass/a bottle of wine. We drank Gemtree Uncut Shiraz 2010, a wonderful, deep wine with plummy overtones, with compliments of the lovely wine expert, @peterpanwine, of Mezzanine Wine.
Contact me if you require recommendations. Avoid wine that contains isinglass, egg, dairy, or other animal products.
Your Main Dish: A rich, lip-smacking, tasty and nutritious raw marinara sauce, with light noodles, or pasta of your choice.
Your Dessert: Chocolate, peanut butter and banana pie, with optional whipped "healthy top".

How to do it...
The first thing you'll be wanting to do, since the sauce and pasta come together so easily, is to prepare the pie. If you're using "healthy top", or some other whipped topping, make sure it has been in the refrigerator/freezer for the recommended amount of time. Also place a small metal mixing bowl and your metal beaters in there too.

1. Your Dessert:

This is a new recipe from Dreena Burton, from her soon-to-be-released and much anticipated new cookbook - “Let Them Eat Vegan!”! Translated, the three stunners in our company on this occasion are chocolate, peanut butter and banana. This is a hit! What’s not to love? Depending on the chocolate chips/crust you use, this pie is free of: sugar, wheat, and oils, in addition to being vegan.  It sacrifices nothing - this pie is so creamy and rich - it is a perfect close to an evening. The filling is fast, nutritious, and is simply whizzed in the food-processor, poured into a crust, and baked for 20 minutes.
How amazing is this pie?! And look at that topping! Aaaah!

Should you get out your rolling pin, spread flour all of the kitchen and slowly cut some form of shortening/hydrogenated fat/frozen olive oil into a pie-crust that is time-consuming to make? Well… Not if you don’t want to or don’t have time.
I don’t have room in my tiny little kitchen to roll out pie crusts. My benches are as wide as a particularly-slim, uncuddly cat. So I’ve suffered with unpleasant pre-bought pastry sheets for too long when making pies, or I’ve avoided them completely… But no more!
Here is a fantastic, easy pie crust that can be put together in under 5 minutes, with ingredients everyone has in their pantry - it can even be mixed together in the pie dish! No messy shortening, kneading, rolling, flouring, cutting-in, at all. Just mix together dry ingredients, mix together wet ingredients (in a separate vessel), combine and form in the pie dish, and it’s ready to be filled and baked! And it actually tastes good! Brilliant! Fill it with your pie filling, and pop the lot in the oven for 20 minutes.

Then rinse out the food processor, and prepare your sauce:

2. Your Main Meal:

I love a rich, tomato sauce that has spent hours on the stove, bubbling away just as much as anyone who loves Italian food. Yum. For the best cooked italian food - I'm pointing you in the direction of Bryanna Clark Grogan's incredibly detailed and authentic "Nonna's Italian Kitchen".

But what about a raw marinara sauce? How a raw tomato sauce can taste so rich, so long-simmered, so umami and bursting with flavour, I’ll never know. I could eat this sauce with anything! And it’s so easy to prepare in the food processor. Of utmost importance, for the best sauce possible, are the freshest ingredients you can source: juicy, ripe, deep-red fresh tomatoes. Fresh basil (and fresh oregano, if you have it), and a great quality olive oil are the keys to this awe-inspiring, rich sauce. This could be placebo-effect snobbery, but a sprinkle of pink salt also makes the flavour pop.

Before you prepare the noodles or pasta (your choice, but I'm having konjac noodles tonight), take your pie out of the oven to begin cooling.

Set the table, and avoid the hazards of patting the cute sleepy cat on the way (you'll need your hands to remain intact and attached to your body - to hold a wine glass later)
Sleepy-cat has no interest in your evening.

Yawning, but might as well be roaring.

Prepare your noodles, as required.

When you’re having a particularly decadent evening, and you want to splurge on delicious entrees, desserts, maybe some wine, plus a pasta sauce with mains – Slimpasta can come to the rescue. They make a konjac-based, gluten-free "shirataki" noodle, designed to be used in the place of pasta or noodles. Slimpasta is low in calories and carbohydrates, but high in fibre, and it’s nothing like zucchini noodles – which don’t appeal to me at all. Now – it’s not really anything like pasta. It’s more like a nice salad noodle. But when you have a fantastic sauce, and want to save your calories for elsewhere – it’s a pretty good option. But be sure to follow the instructions on the packet – rinse very carefully, and leave in boiling water for the recommended time, to ensure the cleanest taste.

While you are doing this, swig some wine, and transfer your pie to the refrigerator or freezer for further cooling, so it'll be ready to eat before you're asleep! 
Now, before you sit down to your meal, prepare your pie's whipped creamy topping. Use your favourite recipe or product - I'll be using "healthy top". 

3: To Assemble Dessert:

Vegan whipped cream/topping. What a palaver. Those coconut milk tins never separate for me in the fridge, and I can’t scoop out enough of just the fat.

I have an aversion to using agar-agar, whipping, blending, simmering then cooling, etc just to make a whipped cream topping. I don’t find that cashew or tofu creams whip up enough – and for whipped topping, I think they often taste too much of their origins. Not just a clean taste of creamy, rich, sweet fat, which is what I want. I also find that in something so delicate, tofu and cashew creams still have too much of a noticeable flavour. But then again, I love chocolate mousse made on cashews and tofu, so maybe it's just a personal preference.
For so long I have used Soyatoo Spray Whipped Cream, which is generally fine. However, it still does taste a bit of soy (which isn't always pleasant), and I only ever seem to be able to use half a can before the gas runs out - leaving half the can full of cream which I can't access! So very frustrating, and a rather costly waste.

However, The Green Edge has recently imported (for the first time in Australia, I believe), a brand called "MimicCreme" - who make a delicious whipped creamy topping called "healthy-top". It's also soy-free, gluten-free and vegan. It’s really good! It is not a perfect replication of dairy whipped cream in taste, but it doesn’t need to be. It's delightful. It whips right up into peaks, it's fatty, creamy, rich and so very moreish.
MimicCreme also make other creams - for use straight from the carton – an unsweetened cream (for savoury uses), a sweetened cream (for sweet uses), and a sugar-free cream (a low-calorie, sugar-free sweetened cream). I can’t wait to give these other creams a try. All of these are stocked at The Green Edge (where The Academic works!), for the first time in Australia, I believe.

So whippy! So creamy! Goooooood.

So now... whip your "Healthy top" (or other) for three minutes with your pre-chilled bowl and mixers, and place it in the fridge to decorate the pie with after dinner.

Now... coat your pasta or noodles with your delicious sauce, add a sprinkling of your favourite fresh herbs, and possibly some vegan parmesan topping, and enjoy your dinner! 

When your pie is cooled, add your whipped creamy topping, sprinkle with the cocoa and peanuts (I like salted, for a nice contrast), and serve.


Spend some quality time together - no matter who you are with, without distractions. Dim the lights. Turn your phone off/take it off the hook. Turn the TV off.  Savour your food, notice the tastes. And really listen to your dining companion while you drink the wine. You'll notice the things you adore about the person you're dining with, and you'll grow closer together in this moment.

Enjoy your evening...


  1. This whole event looks amazing. You did a stand out job. Awesome!
    (and yum!)

  2. Sound like an awesome feast. Also hilarious about flicking the light switches... So funny but sometimes people don't leave- do they?

  3. Now that you've teased us with the pie, Dreena's cookbook will be on everyone's list — or at least mine. The sauce sounds divine, too. The shirataki noodles on the other hand, didn't appeal to me when I tried them. There was something about the texture ... But I want to like them for all the reasons you mentioned, so maybe I'll give them another try with a fabulous sauce. But really, just the pie might be enough.

  4. That cat is hilarious! Soo good! I will take some of that pie too! :)


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