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You've brought cake, you say?

If you want to make friends and influence people, bring them cake.

I've never written a book on how to do business, but if I was, that would be the first lesson in it. The reason I mention this is at work I deal with a lot of freelancers, and they're pretty much all great - lovely people that do good work. One of them dropped by the office the other day. He knew that I was a vegan, and clever soul that he was, he brought some vegan cake with him.

He bought some cookies and a brownie. Behold:

I quizzed him about where he picked them up, and it turns out it was a place called Lab Organic in Neal Street. It wasn't a shop I knew, so I was quite excited to find a new purveyor of vegan treats in London.

I wasn't blown away by either cookies or the brownies, alas. Both were raw treats, but didn't really do it for me on the flavour front and were a bit dry to boot. I've had some cracking raw cake before so I was hoping for a little more. Still, it was really kind of the freelancer to bring some in and I can't say I wasn't appreciative!

I don't know about you, but I always get really nervous cooking for other people. I mean, not my other half, he's used to the highs and lows of dining a la Flicking the Vs, but whenever anyone says 'why don't I come over for dinner?' I kind of panic.

I'll be honest, it's the vegan thing. None of my friends are vegans, and only one's a veggie, so I always feel like I'm on show a bit, demonstrating that, whatever you've heard, vegan food is tha shizz, it's not boring, it's not all tofu, it's not not just whole foods and lentils (though I love tofu, lentils and whole foods unabashedly) and it's damn tasty. I feel like I'm some vegan avatar.

I mean, I know I'm not. All my friends are very vegan friendly and all have cooked me super good vegan food in the past. But still, do you know what I mean?

So when Mr Flicking the Vs invited his brother and his brother's girlfriend round for tea, I got all giddy and didn't know what to make.

First up, the pudding had to be good (that's pudding in the English sense, not the US sense - we use it interchangeably for dessert). I made tiny chocolate tarts for everyone and they weren't half bad. The base was this single serve cake doubled and shared out between four ramekins and baked at 180C til done. Then there was silken tofu chocolate mousse on top, and chocolate ganache on top of that.

Here's what happened:

Seriously, this may be the best thing I have ever cooked. It wasn't hard to make and it was glorious. Even better, we were stuffed from the main course, so there were a couple of tarts leftover, and we got to eat them the next day.

I didn't photograph the rest of the meal, so you'll just have to imagine it - there were tortilla chips and salsa, guac, and Sour Supreme sour cream, then pipian, spinach and black bean quesadillas, and some Mexican type spuds.

One thing I did take a picture of - Mexican carrots!

Love those little guys. They keep pretty well in the fridge (recipe's here if you want it) and they go with a lot of different meals, so make yourself a big batch and enjoy.

My secret career change project continues apace (hopefully more on that in the next month or two - keep them fingers crossed for me!) but things have been crazy busy here, which means food creativity has gone out the window a bit.

On those days where I need to eat, but messing around in the kitchen seems all a little bit too much for me, there's always popcorn. If you think popcorn should be sweet, you are very, very wrong. Popcorn is much better savoury, that's just science. In my world, there's not much that beats nooch and garam masala as a topping. Hey, I'm not saying it's classy, and I doubt anyone will want to kiss me afterwards, but right now this is my popcorn jam of choice.

Aaaaaand here's a photo I found on my camera from the aftermath of Christmas. It might look like someone's tipped a swamp on some fritters, but it was pretty awesome.

As I remember, the fritters were leftover veg from Christmas dinner (parsnips, carrots, and potatoes) with a bit of gram flour and tumeric, topped with chard and tomatoes in a sauce made of up of spare cashew cheese.

I love it when meals like this come together from stuff that you've got lying around and never planned. It didn't take too much effort to make, it helped clean out the fridge, and it made my stomach happy. What more can you ask?

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  1. I had an ugly attempt at cleaning out the fridge tonight so I am admiring your swamp photo! I think that is really lovely that your freelancer brought you cake no matter how it tasted and I sympathise about what to make carnivores (after spending a week with my carnivorous family who have no sympathy for veg diets) Mexican sounds like an excellent options. I also love lots of indian and middle eastern dishes which are easily vegetarian (not sure about vegan)

  2. It was extremely thoughtful for the freelancer to seek out a vegan treat for you. I was always touched when co-workers would make a vegan dish for a work potluck knowing there wouldn't be many choices for me. Maybe someday this will be typical behavior — I hope. As for having people come for dinner, yes, I always panic about what to make. I really want everyone to like the food, and they usually do, but I get a little obsessive about it. Some day I'm just going to put out a pot of lentil soup and a few biscuits and be done. Good lentil soup, of course. :)

  3. I love love love when people take the time to seek out vegan food bc it means THEY'RE LISTENING!! Unfortunately, vegans have better radar for what to choose and what to avoid, but that's ok. That's why WE share too!

    So interesting hearing you talk about being the only vegan you know. I am friends with predominantly vegan, but my problem is they're all great (many professional) chefs/bakers. So, talk about pressure!

    PS that chocolate tart looks amazing.

  4. Oh. My. That pudding.... The things I would do for that pudding! It looks absolutely luscious, and just perfectly over the top with chocolatey goodness.

  5. What a nice freelancer! We went to friends last Saturday night and everyone there chipped in and brought food and I couldn't believe it that it was all vegan - delicious too. It's so brilliant when non-vegans make the effort. The chocolate pudding looks superb and I'm with you on the savoury popcorn although I've been trying the new Ten Acre range for review and that manages to be both savoury and sweet at the same time which was a surprise(but a good one).

  6. Oh I know what you mean! Unless it's for other vegans I always feel anxiety when cooking for friends and family. I'm a great cook, but people are so weird about "vegan" food. Like, it's just food y'all. Calm down. Your pudding looks amazing!

  7. Oh I know what you mean! Unless it's for other vegans I always feel anxiety when cooking for friends and family. I'm a great cook, but people are so weird about "vegan" food. Like, it's just food y'all. Calm down. Your pudding looks amazing!

  8. So sweet of the freelancer to bring you vegan goodies. Bummer it wasn't better tasting but it's the thought that counts, right? Always nervous about making food for other people, it's the whole vegan label thing. Although I can't see anyone not liking that chocolate pudding. :-)

  9. What a sweet soul, I love getting vegan desserts as a gift ;) I used to be nervous cooking or baking for other people, too, but they are all open minded omnivores and they all absolutely loved my dishes!! Dang, your pudding looks pretty delish and creamy…and man, these carrots are making me miss Mexico City loads! They are pretty delicious in tacos too! ;)

  10. Garam masala popcorn, wow! That is something to try! I've always liked sweet popcorn compared to savoury ones unless it's got nutritional yeast on. Chocolate pudding looks so good! And I miss using the word pudding to say dessert here...

  11. I'll tell you, I've won more friends with cake than anything else. That fella has definitely got the right idea there- I wish more business dealings were so sweet!

  12. Joey hi!!! I like the way that freelance guy does business. And I hear you on the cooking-for-others anxiety! I tend to do stupid things like try making something I've never done before that's really freaky and bizarre. I need to get on that ramekin cake bandwagon!


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