So the festive period in Britain is well and truly over - and we said a merry farewell to 2017 a while ago, but I’m still reflecting on the end of 2016, when I filmed this year’s Christmas Special of Dinner Date.
As the series' first vegan contestant - and now it's aired I can finally say winner! - I'm embracing what a brilliant thing it was to do, and how glad I am to have in some small way put the vegan message out there into popular culture.
For those of you who have never experienced this slice of TV gold, Dinner Date features one single guy or girl choosing three of five menus created by potential blind dates, and then visiting the homes of these potential partners over three nights to sample a home-cooked, three-course meal.
The best of these three then gets chosen for a second date.
As I was chosen for the Christmas Special, it gave me the chance to be extra creative with my menu, and though I generally opt for simple and ramshackle meals when cooking for myself, I always enjoy the challenge of following a new recipe.
When I'm looking for something new to cook, I don't limit myself to exclusively vegan recipes either, as loads of meals can be easily veganized with a few simple swaps.
I have to give credit to my friend David (Murray, he got mad at me last time I didn't include his surname) for helping me put together the menu, and in the end we went with the following:
- Roasted Parsnip Soup with Parsnip Crisps and 'Cheesy' Crackers
- Festive Wellington with Ginger and Cinnamon Cranberry Sauce, Sautéed Kale and Shallots, and Fondant Potatoes (using veg stock and vegan butter)
- Sticky Toffee Pudding with Crumbled Pistachio
One thing I have to mention is that if you watch the episode, at one point when I'm using golden syrup the voiceover says I used honey, which I most definitely did not.
It was a subtle reminder that though we're getting there in terms of clarifying veganism in the mainstream, there are still certain things that remain very much a mystery to most non-vegans.
Also, though we chose these dishes for their festive appropriateness, there's no reason why they can't be cooked all year round, especially seeing as our winters in the UK tend to last until about June...
Give it a go
I've already spoken to a few people who've seen the episode and been inspired to knock up some of these recipes, vegan and non-vegan alike.
More than anything, I hope that somewhere out there someone who's chilling on the sofa watching festive TV has come across the show and thought, you know what, I want to give that a go.
And even though it was huge fun for me to do anyway, that is what will make it really worthwhile.
You canwatch the episode here
Follow Lauren on Facebook, Twitter & Instagram @thebainoshow for a steady stream of vegan goodies from her adventures around the world.