Here’s part two of our Italian vegan feast, a whole heaving table of vegan delights perfect for a summer celebration. The idea is that they’re quick and easy to get together and show-off the incredible produce we get when the sun comes out to play.
These are the flavours of summer and I think Italy is one of my favourite countries to eat, wander and marvel. I’ve never visited big cities I must add, but the chilled life in the Italian countryside is my kind of vibe. Simplicity and balancing flavours are just second nature to the cooks and magnificence is never far from my taste buds. Italy is a vegan travellers dream, in fact, any travellers dream. I agree with the old school maxim, ‘don’t mess with the produce, just let them shine!’ (I might have just made that up).
EATING ITALIA (JUST THE PLANTS GRAZIE MILLE!)
I’ve done a load of travelling in the past year and was lucky to tour around the south of Italy again; Puglia, Campania, Basilicata, just the names alone have my mouth watering. The south of Italy has so many vegan choices, traditionally, veggie food down there is very popular. It was a poorer part of the country where people couldn’t always afford meat and dairy, so they got creative with the plants. My kind of place! I love the parmesan they make with basically just fried breadcrumbs. Great texture and crunch. I also love the ever present mushrooms.
Every restaurant has a range of vegetable dishes, generally simply prepared, sauteed quickly or char grilled. There is of course, the classic Marinara pizza. Just tomato sauce and maybe the occasional basil leaf, but the quality of the base is regularly sensational. There is Arrabiata and its varietals, huge bowls of fresh pasta with a rich tomato sauce and knock out olive oil. Occasionally a basil leaf. The tomato foccacia is dreamy, melts in the mouth and I haven’t even mentioned the Antipasto. Jeez. Huge, elaborate displays of preserved flavour explosions. All kinds and colours of olives, sun dried tomatoes, artichokes, aubergines, peppers, you know the score but really, if you haven’t nibbled one standing in a Puglian market post espresso, you haven’t really tasted the true antipasto. The pizza/ pasta dishes mentioned normally weigh in at 5-6 euros in a nice restaurant. Not bad eh!
I think the markets in the south of Italy are my favourite places for sniffing out fresh produce and generally, just to hang out. I spend quality time admiring the creations on display. Did I mention the sorbet, no need to miss out on the evening gelato ritual, the sorbet is normally incredible. Really, incredible.
Have you ever eaten a peach in Italy!!? That’s a whole other level and blog post I feel. Even the plums are a wake up call generally to the potential of fruit and veg. The sweetness. In Britain, we’re doing out best really. Great apples and potatoes.
Italy has a reputation of being an expensive place to travel, not for me. There is also a growing vegan movement and even in small towns, I found vegan restaurants, salad bars, kebab shops. It’s become quite trendy, restaurants advertise vegan options via flashing lights or blackboards.
Basically, all lovers of food and the simpler, finer things in life cannot help but fall in love with rural Italy. Is that right? Have you been? What can I look forward to in the North? The tastebuds boggle.
Back to our humble little feast with an Italian flava.
See the first post here for the Pepper, Basil & Cashew Cream Cheese Tart, Rosemary Roast Potatoes, Tomato & Balsamic Salad and Italian Style Dressing recipes.
The Bits – For 6-8 as part of the Italian Feast
2 large aubergines (peeled)
1 large garlic clove (crushed)
4 tbs olive oil
Large pinch salt
1 handful sun dried tomatoes (chopped)
Roast your aubergine in the oven, 200oc, 25 minutes, until cooked and a little caramelised. Toss gently with the other ingredients. Leave to cool and pop in the fridge. Can be done in advance.
Roast Squash & Wholegrain Pasta Salad
8 handfuls wholegrain penne
5 tbs vegan mayo
3 handfuls squash (small cubes)
1 bulb of garlic
1 large handful sun dried tomatoes (chopped)
1 handful parsley (chopped)
1/2 lemon (juice)
Salt and pepper
Cook your pasta. Drain and leave to cool a little.
Roast the squash and garlic for 30 minutes in 200oC fan oven with a little oil and salt and pepper, take the garlic out after 20 minutes. Peel the garlic cloves and mash with a fork, stir into the mayo.
Place all ingredients in a large bowl and toss gently together. Season with salt and pepper.
This dish is nice served warm, but also good cold.
White Bean Puree
450g white beans
4 tbs olive oil
1/2 lemon juice
1/2 teas sea salt
Place all in a blender and blitz until smooth. Check seasoning.
Serve ideally with a drizzle of olive oil and a handful of whole beans on top and maybe chopped soft herbs (basil, parsley) or dried oregano.
Serve dishes with
Large bowl of mixed salad leaves
Bowl of Olives
Olive oil/ Balsamic
Vegan cheese, like cashew cream, vegan parmesan.
Fresh Foccacia/ Ciabatta/ Any nice bread really
Extra bowl of dried oregano and mild chilli flakes
A bottle of something nice
Sunshine + smiles
That’s it! Enjoy the feast. If you get to try it all out, or even just a few of the dishes, let us know in the comments below. We love to hear about your kitchen adventures.