Butternut squash, lettuce and tempeh bites followed, with a pungent, creamy sunflower dip so smooth and silky, it was hard to believe there was no dairy. Punchy beetroot gazpacho shooters, topped with spring onion and dill then arrived -full of front of the mouth flavours. Then, to refresh the palate, a tot of pear sorbet. Made using the ripest fruit, it was naturally sweet and made me giddy with esters.
After a brief pause, nutty farinata with wild garlic and mushrooms. A beautiful combination that reignited my love for farinata and soca; something I have been making regularly at home ever since. We then helped ourselves to a smorgasbord of raw and cooked vegan dishes: raw cauliflower cous cous; raw kale salad; tomato and pomegranate salad; griddled leeks and asparagus; mushroom and aubergine cassoulet and my absolute favourite -sweet potato kofte with tahini sauce and pomegranate. Filling our plates generously with robust, gutsy flavours, there was no precious moralising necessary for this superb feast.
Finally, dessert, an absolute corker that I have wanted to try ever since reading Monica’s post about developing the recipe. A raw raspberry ‘cheesecake’, it was inspired by a similar dessert made in Monica’s favourite raw restaurant in her hometown of Chicago. A thin base crust of walnuts, coconut and date; the filling a thick paste made with cashew nuts and raspberries, sweetened with agave. Topped with a date sweetened raspberry coulis and served with thick coconut cream, it was suitably indulgent. For those not averse to late night caffeine, a sweetened coffee agar-agar jelly, chopped into almond milk rounded off the evening.
We gorged heartily on Monica’s cooking; rolling home with full bellies, the nicest thing was not having that bloated, gouty feeling of overindulgence. For those looking for inspiration for a smarter way to cook and eat, I thoroughly recommend Monica’s blog. If you’re still not convinced, go try some of her food for yourself. Her next supper club will be in July – a celebration of summer with a vegetarian and vegan barbecue. If she’s not on your doorstep, you can even pitch a tent overnight, underneath the stretching boughs of an old apple tree in her back garden. I hear she makes a cracking breakfast too.
Smarter, fitter, now if only I could convince Monica to move to Bristol and become my personal chef…..