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The vegan taco tray I've been waiting for and gingerbread without the ginger

Not so long ago, it was my birthday. The number wasn't a significant one, but it still freaks me out how it keeps getting bigger and bigger nonetheless.

Still, reaching mumblemumble years old was a good excuse as any to ditch studying for a day and remind myself what I used to do with free time when I had some free time.

Mr Flicking the Vs has promised me breakfast in bed. Breakfast in bed! Yes, I didn't get out of bed and go and study for literally minutes! Mr FtVs can't cook to save his life, so there was no scrambled tofu or crazy brunch muffins or any of that jazz, but Mr FtVs knows how to top a good oatcake. I asked for oatcakes with hummus, carrots, tomato and watercress, as well as tea and coffee. (Yes, both, don't judge me - it was my birthday. I'd have asked for hot chocolate too if I thought I could have got away with it.) Aaaand I even got to chow down on those lovely oatcakes with a copy of the London Review of Books for reading material. Bonus!

After I'd done all the digesting, we took ourselves off to the Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition at the Natural History Museum. I think I've been every year for the past I don't know how long, and it's uniformly great. This year was no exception thankfully.

Then we wandered off for lunch. I fancied trying a new place for lunch, so we went to Mestizo, a Mexican place up towards Euston with a vegan menu.

"How big is the taco tray?" we asked the serving lady. "It's big," she said. We didn't opt for a starter, and we went straight to this:

A taco tray might sound like a safe and reliable option, but there were all sorts of new fun things to try out: along with nopales, there was a spot of flor de calabaza - courgette flowers, I think - and cuitaloche. I've heart about cuitaloche and its fungal delights before, but never put them in my mouth. If you don't think about the look of them, and the slightly slimy feel, then they taste kind of truffly.

Along with the cactus, cuitloche and courgette flowers, there was all the traditional taco fixings - guac, refried beans, red and green salsa, and lots and lots of jalapenos. There was a great big stack of warm corn tortillas to work our way through too, and we just about polished them off. I think we made the right decision to skip out on the starter. There were vegan tamales for dessert too, but the taco tray had done for us, so we'll just have to try it on our next visit.

At home, my notable successes have been oven based of late. For reasons I can't quite remember, I rarely cook with polenta. (I think it was because it figured in almost every vegetarian dish of the 1990s, often baked and topped with Mediterranean vegetables.) I was tempted to break that moratorium recently after a ready-made mix convinced me polenta could indeed have flavour, so I bought myself a big bag and experimented anew.

First up, a shepherd's pie type arrangement: polenta stuffed full of chilli, rosemary and garlic, layered on top of green vegges including broccoli, leeks, and chard. 

I was pretty surprised at how well it turned out. It may not have much in the way of sophistication, but it did have far more taste than I remember. I guess most things turn out well if you put enough rosemary, garlic and chilli in them. Apart from cake. That would turn out deeply wrong.

Talking of cake, when it was Valentine's Day not so long ago, I saw some rather sweet vegan cakes at Raffo and Ridgeway, and thought I should do the decent thing and take one home to Mr Flicking the Vs. Check it out - chocolate and vanilla with a raspberry and little pink hearts. 

Mr Flicking the Vs actually shared it with me, which reminded me why I liked him in the first place - who wants to go out with someone that doesn't share cake?

And to make sure there was ample cake in the house, I got cooking some gingerbread cookies. Here you go:

I saw gingerbread, but I am misleading you, dear reader, for there was no ginger in them. When I came to cook up a batch, there was no ginger in the house, I proceeded with cinnamon and allspice instead. The end result was indistinguishable from gingerbread, despite being distinctly gingerless. I wonder if the presence of all the other gingerbread flavours conned my mind into not noticing the absent of the main ingredient?

Either way, these were delicious. I used the recipe here, but added some vegan margarine and gingerbread toppers from a previous Vegan Kind box. They were great, and yes, I even shared them...

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  1. Happy belated birthday! Sounds like a great day and that taco tray sounds amazing. I think we're having a little London break this sumner so will have to check that place out.

  2. Happy birthday! It's an awe-inspiring feeling to hit mumblemumble years, truly. That breakfast looks wonderful (yes you DO deserve the hot chocolate too) but wow that taco tray! Never heard of chuitaloche, sounds...interesting?
    Ginger-less gingerbread sounds like a shame, but if you enjoyed it! I shouldn't talk, really, I had to make pumpkin bread with almost no pumpkin.

  3. Happy Birthday! I think I generally stay away from polenta for the same reasons, but I it's probably due for another chance :).

  4. Kinda gingerbread cookies sound and look delicious! Happy Belated Birthday, and a taco tray is a perfect way to celebrate!

  5. That taco tray looks amazing - and the breakfast in bed looks very relaxing - your birthday sounds great - belated happy wishes. I love polenta - have a favourite soft polenta recipe that is topped with tomato sauce and cheese. I agree that sharing cake is very important. And I once made gingerbread without ginger because my friend couldn't eat it - I was really surprised that it still tasted like gingerbread.

  6. First off, happy birthday! :-) Secondly, the food, oh, the glorious food. What a great post. Love that taco tray! And, how sweet of the Mr. to make you breakfast. Savory oatcakes is something I have to try. And your gingerless cookies look divine. Well done on all food fronts.

  7. That taco tray is absolutely GLORIOUS. I've never seen such an abundant spread of Mexican vegan offerings all in one place! Oh, and it even has rare treasures like huitlacoche and edible flowers... Be still my heart!

  8. What a lovely way to mark a birthday! I'm imagining oat cakes to be similar to bannocks but with more oats. :) The taco tray looks excellent but your description of cuitloche makes me wonder if I'm brave enough to try it. As for polenta — I love it! I usually prepare it by baking it in the oven before using it, and I think it has tons of flavor, especially if you use a course grind of polenta. Using it for shepherd's pie is a great idea.

  9. Happy belated birthday! That is one awesome looking taco tray! It puts the tacos I can get around here to shame. I'm not much of a polenta cooker myself, the shepherd's pie idea is just brilliant and quite tasty looking. :-)

  10. Happy belated Birthday! I don't really make a lot of polenta either. But I do make cornbread once in a while and corn muffins. I'll try the shepherd pie next time, it looks really good!


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