I’ve been watching a lot of MasterChef Australia these days as well as My Kitchen Rules New Zealand. There seems to be a recurring theme on these shows:
panna cotta, plate presentation, purée, crackling and crumb
The shows are heavily meat-centric and I wonder and wait for an all vegetarian/vegan MasterChef series. In the meantime I perform my recipe alchemy to make meatless variations of current food trends.
Almost every show there’s a panna cotta for dessert. This very simple dish is usually just milk with sugar, flavouring and gelatin. It is heated then poured into individual serving dishes and cooled. It should be removed from the container then served on a plate. The wobble is a sign that your panna cotta is successful. I replaced the gelatin with powdered agar agar and used coconut milk instead of cow’s milk (½ teaspoon to 1 cup) and it works. See my Instagram for a wobble video.
Plate presentation is often a judging criteria. A rainbow coloured mix of fruits and vegetables helps make a visually appealing plate. And you can’t go wrong with a small pile of grains topped with tofu or tempeh slices and kissed with some fresh herbs.
Vegetables often feature in some sort of purée smeared onto the plate. Try a pumpkin, pea or celeriac purée accompanied by a hearty serving of some plant protein.
Crackling is crack for pig meat lovers. It is the fat on pork belly crisped up. The generic tastes associated with it (salt, fat, crunch) have universal appeal though. Some oven-baked kale chips or fried plantain crisps can provide a salty, fatty, crunchy topping for a salad.
A crumb can be either sweet or savoury and resembles breadcrumbs in texture. It is often used as an accent to the main dish. Macadamia nut crumb with dessert or bacon crumb (more pig, sigh) for a savoury dish. With a food processor and some imagination you can create your own crumb accent for any meatless dish. Nuts, soaked then dried, make the ideal base for any meatless meal. Ideas: macadamia nut and ginger crumb with coconut panna cotta; pumpkin seed, maple flake and sage crumb with a three sisters (corn, squash, beans) and quinoa stuffed bell pepper.