Time was when you invited people round to dinner and they’d politely eat whatever was on the plate.
Now you have to check what they do and don’t eat, whether they have allergies ….
It’s not that I mind, in fact it’s usually enjoyable. We are unrepentant carnivores but we love our veg too. It’s when all of your friends with complicated dietary requirements turn up at once that it can be a bit of a challenge.
I’m going to push the lactose-intolerant and the vegans to one side of the plate for the moment and concentrate on the vegetarians.
What to do?
Our default setting in such circumstances is usually a series of vegetarian curries, but confronted with an entire tableful of genuine Indian veggie eaters recently we – er – chickened out because we didn’t have the brass neck to try to better their mums’ recipes.
Delia’s roasted vegetable lasagne is a good standby. There’s the faithful cheese and onion quiche. Or courgette frittata (handy for using up the inevitable glut of courgettes and for when the hens are in full egg-laying mode).
I love this simple but quite impressive-looking pesto and tomato tart – at least, it’s usually pesto and tomatoes but I didn’t have enough toms this time around so I used some red and yellow peppers too – just as good. It’s particularly tasty made with home-made pesto but I’ve used supermarket versions too. Or maybe buy a tub from your local Italian deli.
Pesto and Tomato/Pepper Tart
All you do is take a sheet of ready-rolled puff pastry, a jar of good-quality pesto, some cherry tomatoes (any tomatoes really) and/or sliced peppers and some egg wash.
Preheat your oven to 400 F, 200 C, gas mark 6. Put the pastry on a lightly greased baking sheet.
Score an edge about a centimeter from the edge all the way round the pastry without cutting all the way through it. This will form a raised edge when the tart is baked.
Spread a thin layer of pesto inside the border and arrange halved cherry tomatoes, cut side up, or ordinary tomatoes sliced across, or your thinly sliced peppers, on the top.
Paint the rim with beaten egg (on the top, not the sides, or it won’t rise properly) and then bake the tart near the top of the oven for 15-20 minutes until the border is puffed and golden, the tomatoes are soft and juicy and the pastry underneath is cooked.
Add a green salad, maybe something peppery like rocket, and Bob’s your uncle.
Yes, but …
… we have at least one friend who is lactose intolerant, which of course rules out dairy products. And I was a bit abashed while eating at a vegetarian friend’s house the other day to discover how unimaginative I have been. She said that years ago all that vegetarians were offered was a cheese omelette or cheese salad. Then it was the roasted veg lasagne. Now it’s goat’s cheese tart. All of which I have inflicted on my friends at one time or another.
Time to get a bit more imaginative. Any inspired ideas, anyone? I’d love to try some new recipes.