A Dinner Party for Buddho-Darwinists (115)

At a meeting of a Buddhist group, one of the monks recalled how a friend was ill and, having little in the way of possessions, the monk wondered if he could take anything to his friend in hospital to cheer him up. He remembered he had stored away a jar of Buckfastleigh honey. He stated that as things of this world were transitory he had only stored it for special occasions. However because he felt his friends need was greater he gave it to him when visiting the hospital.
I am of the opinion that to experience any enlightenment you do have to give up things as I had largely given up things in 1977 when I was touched by such an experience. Buddho-Darwinism though has its Darwinistic aspect which may include for instance that we can be gregarious, as our ape relatives, although sometimes solitary like orang-utans. Chimps and gorillas for instance will feed together. For this reason and to try to overcome the idea that a vegetarian diet is dull, I give below the recipes for a dinner party for four people.
The starter and dessert can be made the day before and kept in the fridge until deep frying for the spring rolls and grilling for the crème brulees before serving

Spring roll wrappers (available from Thai and Chinese shops in packs of about forty)
Medium size  BBQ skewers
1 tbsp of groundnut oil
2 garlic cloves finely chopped
50g/2oz beansprouts
50g/2oz shredded white cabbage
2 or 3 fresh shitake mushrooms sliced thinly
20g or 3/4oz of celery – roughly one stalk (use the leaf and stalk), chopped into small pieces
1 tsp sugar
2 tsp soy sauce
50g/2oz of glass noodles soaked in warm water for 20 minutes
Sprigs of coriander
A small bottle of groundnut oil for deep frying.
Plum sauce

First put the glass noodles in a bowl of water and leave for twenty minutes
Next, if frozen, microwave the frozen spring roll sheets for 3 minutes on “DEFROST” setting, a pack of forty will separate quite easily if done slowly and this recipe will use five or six 8” square sheets.
Remove about fifteen the leaves from the coriander and set aside
Stir fry the garlic, bean sprouts, cabbage, mushrooms and celery in the groundnut oil for 30 seconds.
Add the sugar, soy sauce and noodles and stir fry for a minute.
Put 20% of the filling just stir fried onto a sheet near a corner and roll it up, sticking the loose corner in the middle with a little oil and rolling up the ends tightly to try to prevent oil entering during the frying and skewering the rolls through the ends, minding your fingers at the end as you push it through.
Deep fry the rolls in the moderate to hot groundnut oil until good patches of golden brown appear across the surface.
Drain with a holed serving spoon and then on kitchen paper, REMOVE THE SKEWERS.
On the serving plate sprinkle with soy sauce and stick the coriander leaves to the drops of soy.
Serve with a small bowl of plum sauce for dipping
400g/14oz of firm tofu, drained and pressed dry or used smoked tofu or any flavour of tofu burgers you fancy.
4 tbsp of Hoisin Sauce
I tbsp white wine
1 tbsp soy sauce
4-5 spring onions (optional)
3 tbsp groundnut oil
3 garlic cloves chopped finely
3 slices of ginger root chopped finely
2 fresh green chillies sliced finely without seeds
150g/5oz shitake mushrooms sliced thinly
75g/3oz of roasted salted cashews
2 tbsp toasted sesame oil

Cut the tofu into 1cm cubes
Mix together the hoisin sauce, white wine, soy sauce and pepper in a bowl
Cut the spring onions, if using, into three and then strips, keeping the white and green bits separate
Heat two tbsp of groundnut oil in a wok or frying pan and add two thirds of the garlic and ginger, stir fry for 30 seconds to one minute (dependent on temperature of oil)
Add the chillies, mushroom and, (if using), white parts of the spring onions – stir fry for two minutes then set aside on plate
Heat the rest of the oil over a high heat and stir fry the garlic and ginger remaining for 15 seconds and add the tofu with the hoisin sauce and wine mix. Cook for 3 minutes or until confident cooked.
Return the plate of mushroom mixed to the pan and toss in the mix of sauce and tofu
Stir in the cashew nuts and green spring onions and cook for another fifteen to twenty seconds – sprinkle the sesame oil and serve immediately.

• 2 vanilla pods or four drops of vanilla essence
• 300ml double cream
• 200ml whole milk
• 8 large free-range or organic egg yolks
• 75g sugar or lavender sugar
• a bunch of lavender, flowers picked (if not using lavender sugar)
• 4 tablespoons caster sugar or lavender sugar or any fine sugar

Preheat the oven to 140°C/275°F/gas 1. Score the vanilla pods lengthways and scrape out the vanilla seeds with a knife or a teaspoon. Place the seeds into a saucepan, add the pods, or use the vanilla essence drops, cream and milk and slowly bring to the boil. Remove from the heat.
Meanwhile, get yourself a large bowl that will fit over your pan and beat together the egg yolks and sugar until light and fluffy. Remove the vanilla pods from the pan if used and, little by little, add the milk and cream to the egg mixture in the bowl, whisking continuously. Add 2.5cm of hot water to your dirty pan, bring to a simmer and put the bowl on top of the pan. Cook the mixture for 5 minutes over the simmering water, stirring often, or until it thickens and coats the back of a spoon. Stir in a small handful of lavender flowers if not using lavender sugar, but the trick is to be delicate – you only need a hint of its distinctive, strong flavour.
Put the mixture into ramekins. Stand these in a high-sided roasting tray, and fill the tray with water halfway up the ramekins. Place carefully in the preheated oven and cook for around 30 to 45 minutes or until the mixture has set but a little wobbly in the centre is OK. Allow to cool at room temperature then place in the fridge until ready.
To serve, sprinkle each crème brûlée with a half a tablespoon of the chosen sugar and some more of the lavender flowers, (if not using lavender sugar) and caramelize under a very hot grill or using the chef’s torch.

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