We’re having a few friends over for dinner tomorrow night and I’m making one of my all time favourite vegetarian dishes, Buckwheat crepes with portabello mushrooms, chard and lemon-tarragon cream. It’s a little bit time consuming, but pretty much everything can be prepared a few days in advance, which means I should be able to welcome everyone rested and relaxed, and not frazzled and frizzy haired.
Quite a few years ago I worked as a waitress in a wonderful restaurant called Rebar Modern Food in Victoria on Vancouver Island, off the west coast of Canada. The food they served was (and I guess still is) mainly vegetarian with a few fish dishes thrown in for good measure, the ambience very laid-back (typical west-coast), but although it had more of a café vibe going on, the food, especially at dinner, was certainly top notch.
I don't recall ever seeing the dish I’m going to serve tomorrow on the menu, but when my dear friend Ginny sent me a copy of the Rebar cookbook a few years back, I found it there and I’ve been making it ever since, always receiving no end of compliments from the people who happen to be sitting around the table.
As far as I know the restaurant is still there so if you ever find yourself in Victoria... They used to have these vegan brownies worth crossing oceans - and continents - for.
Below are steps one and two of Saturday's meal.
Caramelised onions with balsamic vinegar
These are the best caramelised onions I have ever tasted. They can be used in soups, on pizzas, spread on sandwiches or just eaten straight from the pan. Simply delicious. I’m going to use them to fill the buckwheat crepes.
Makes approximately 350 ml
1 tbsp butter
1 tbsp olive oil
4 yellow onions, diced
1 tsp salt
½ tsp brown sugar
120 ml white wine
60 ml vegetable stock
2 tsp balsamic vinegar
freshly ground black pepper
Heat the butter and olive oil until the butter has melted and begins to foam. Add the onions and the salt and stir to coat. Cook for 20 minutes stirring regularly (you don’t want to burn it).
Sprinkle the sugar and add the wine, then reduce until the liquid has evaporated. Add stock, vinegar and pepper. Cook gently until the stock is reduced and the onions become creamy. It takes a while, but be patient, it's worth the wait.
Makes 15 7” crepes
240 ml semi skimmed milk
240 ml water
160 ml buckwheat flour
240 ml all purpose white flour
½ tsp salt
4 tbsp unsalted butter melted
Beat the eggs in a medium sized bowl. Whisk in milk and water. Mix the dry ingredients in a separate bow and then add to the liquid gradually and whisk until smooth. Let the butter cool slightly and add this to the batter.
Heat a 7” non stick pan over medium heat and brush with a little bit of melted butter. Using a ladle pour about 60 ml of batter into the pan, tipping the pan to coat it evenly, you want only a thin film of batter. When the edges have started to dry (this only takes a couple of minutes) gentle flip it over using a spatula and cook for another minute or two on the other side. Stack the crepes on a plate and repeat with the remaining batter.
The crepes can be made up to three days in advance. Store in the fridge sealed with cling film.