A Vegan Dinner Party Menu & those Strawberry Chocolate Meringue Kisses
For those who follow along on our Instagram, you may have noticed we threw a plant-based foods only Dinner Party recently, for a group of friends who are omnivores.
Not surprisingly, they were in awe of just how fabulous plant-based foods can be, not to mention delicious, and it created a lot of thoughtful discussion about why people eat vegan food, and how it can be incorporated into everybody's diet - at least sometimes.
Most of the dishes were prepared ahead of time, to make the actual dinner a simple, low-stress event. And because it is winter here in Melbourne, the menu was inspired by the bounty of the season - with an overarching theme of spiced citrus flavours gently appearing in each course.
Dinner Party Menu
Nibbles served with Sparkling:
Crispy Polenta Bites with olive, lemon & caper tapenade
Cashew Soft Cheese with Tangy Cream, Chocolate Crumb & Microherbs
Cauliflower wings with spicy peanut satay sauce
Lemongrass consommé with mushroom dumplings
Little Bo Peep pie with creamy mashed potatoes
Beetroot, fennel & pumpkin citrus gratin
Salad of roquette, pear, mandarin & walnuts
Caramel Pear Tart with Spiced Pears & Citrus en Papillote
Strawberry Chocolate Meringue Kisses with coffee & tea
Egg free meringue? Really?
Let's talk a bit more about the piece de resistance at the end of the meal - a little confection of sweet bites of air kisses - which were served with coffee. They were aquafaba meringues made from chickpea water. The ability of chickpea water to hold its own weight, when whipped, is of course is taking the vegan culinary world by storm thanks to the cleverness of Goose Wohlt. We used the chickpea water to create a meringue flavoured with rosewater, baked them till they were light-as-air crisp bites, and topped them with swirls of dark chocolate and crushed freeze-dried strawberries - which made them look pretty on the table, and taste utterly, utterly sensationally delicious.
If you are looking for something show-stopping for your next dinner - or want to take a (biodegradable) cellophane bag of something pretty as a hostess gift - then give these little strawberry chocolate meringue kisses a whirl. We are pretty sure they are going to be a regular at our dinner parties from now on!
Strawberry-Dusted, Chocolate-Swirled Aquafaba Meringue Kisses
Drained liquid from a 400 gm tin of chickpeas (salt-free preferably)
145 gm pure icing sugar* (can use raw sugar but pure icing gives a finer result)
½ teaspoon rosewater or rose essence
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
few drops (vegan) pink food colouring (optional)
100 gm dark dairy-free chocolate
6 freeze dried strawberries
* All sugar produced in Australia is vegan, as bone char is not used to filter. If in another country, check the label to see if it's vegan. Pure icing sugar does not have cornflour added, and will give a finer-textured meringue, but raw sugar can be substituted.
Preheat oven to 125 degrees C.
Place chickpea liquid into the bowl of a stand mixer which is scrupulously clean and free from any grease (or the meringues will deflate). Begin whipping on high speed until the liquid becomes softly white. Gradually but steadily add the icing sugar & cream of tartar while beating. Continue beating for about 10 minutes, or until mixture has formed stiff peaks. Gently fold in the rosewater or essence, then part fold in a few drops of pink food colouring (if using) into the mix. That will create uneven swirls of pinkness in the piped meringue.
Spoon into a piping bag fitted with a star pipe.
Pipe tiny little swirls onto baking parchment paper - about 3 cm in diameter. Bake in oven for about 2 hours - or until firm. Turn off oven and allow meringues to cool overnight in oven. (This stops them cracking and collapsing.)
At this stage, you can store them for up to a week in a tightly closed jar or tin. On the day of serving, melt the chocolate in a heatproof bowl in a microwave or over a bowl of simmering water, and spoon into a piping bag (or plastic bag). Snip off a tiny corner and drizzle the chocolate over the meringue kisses. Working quickly, crush the strawberries by hand and sprinkle on top of the melted chocolate before it sets.
Kept in an air-tight container, these little kisses will last for a few days before absorbing moisture into the strawberries - but they are best made on the day of serving.
Makes about 80 meringue kisses.
And the next day, the leftovers tasted pretty fine with a freshly-brewed cup of lemongrass & ginger tea!