Happy Gathering

Spring rolls

Spring rolls

Chinese cuisine is not always ideal for vegetarians. I’ve often ordered a vegetarian chow mein, only to discover a rogue prawn hidden beneath the noodles. But Cardiff’s Happy Gathering provided an extensive vegetarian menu.

Exceptional food

Situated in Canton, Happy Gathering was named “Cardiff’s finest Chinese restaurant,” by the Independent. From the outside, the shabby neon sign certainly didn’t distinguish this restaurant from the countless Chinese take-aways on Cowbridge Road East, but the food turned out to be exceptional.

The restaurant was bigger than it appeared from the outside and was traditionally decorated, with a dark red and black colour scheme and oriental prints and drapes. A grand piano dominated the room and live music added to the lively atmosphere.

Extensive vegetarian menu

My guests were all keen meat-eaters and were spoiled for choice with fish, duck and beef. I was expecting to have to settle for the only vegetarian option on the menu, but to my surprise, there were many vegetarian and vegan dishes available.

I opted for vegetable spring rolls as a starter. These were beautifully presented on a rectangular glass plate, with the salad artistically crafted into a flower. The spring rolls were filled with fresh vegetables and were deep fried, to give a light, crispy texture.

Traditional and authentic

The chop sticks added to the authenticity of the restaurant, but eating spring rolls in a socially acceptable manner with these awkward utensils proved a challenge. Fortunately, a few drinks made the whole thing much easier!

For the main course, I ordered fried bean curd in chilli and black bean sauce with egg fried rice. This dish gave new life to the tofu, which is so often dull and flavourless. It had been marinated in chilli and then lightly fried, making it spicy and succulent on the inside and crispy on the outside.

Ginger and chilli

The black bean and chilli sauce was delicious, with a mild spicy flavour and hints of ginger and garlic. It went well with the egg fried rice, which was cooked to perfection and served with peas to add to the colour and lift the presentation.

Although the rice was served in traditional small bowls, the portions were just right and we all left feeling satisfied. The meal was good value, with the starters priced at around £5 and the main courses priced between £10 and £15. A vegetarian set menu is available for two or more people to share, priced at £13 per person for a starter and main course.

Photo: Robyn Lee

Vegetarian chilli

Vegetarian chilli

Vegetarian chilli

Vegetarian chilli is wonderfully quick and easy to make and is packed full of healthy vegetables and pulses. I usually serve it with rice, but it’s pretty good with baked sweet potatoes too.

Preparation time: 20 mins

Cooking time: 30 mins

Serves: 4

 …

Ingredients:

  •  2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1-2 tsp chilli powder, to taste
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 green pepper, chopped
  • 1 red pepper, chopped
  • 2 carrots, chopped
  • 1 can green lentils
  • 2 cans chopped tomatoes
  • 1 heaped tbsp tomato purée
  • 300ml vegetable stock
  • 100g frozen peas
  • 175g mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 courgette, chopped
  • Salt and black pepper
  • 1 can kidney beans

Method:

  1. Heat the oil in a large saucepan
  2. Fry the onion and garlic together with the chilli and cumin until the onions are soft.
  3. Add the peppers, carrots and drained green lentils and cook for five minutes, stirring all the time.
  4. Add the tomatoes, purée, stock and peas, bring to the boil and simmer until the lentils are tender.
  5. Add the mushrooms and courgettes and simmer for five minutes more.
  6. Season to taste.
  7. Add the cooked kidney beans and simmer for five more minutes.
  8. Serve with cooked rice.

Easy!

Photo: Michael Verhoef

Red lentil, chickpea and chilli soup

Red lentil, chickpea and chilli soup

Red lentil, chickpea and chilli soup

It’s so comforting to snuggle up with a nice, warm bowl of soup and some fresh, crusty bread in the winter, as you listen to the rain pouring down outside. This is one of my favourite recipes.

Preparation time: 10 mins

Cooking time: 25 mins

Serves: 4

Ingredients:

  • 2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 large pinch of chilli flakes
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 red onion, chopped
  • 140g red split lentils
  • 850ml vegetable stock
  • 400g tinned tomatoes
  • 200g chickpeas
  • A small bunch of coriander, roughly chopped (save a few leaves to serve)
  • 4 tbsp Greek yogurt, to serve

 Method:

  1. Heat a large saucepan and dry-fry the cumin seeds and chilli flakes for about a minute.
  2. Add the oil and onion and cook for 5 mins.
  3. Stir in the lentils, stock and tomatoes, then bring to the boil.
  4. Simmer for 15 mins, until the lentils have softened.
  5. Blend in a food processor to create a rough purée.
  6. Pour back into the pan and add the chickpeas.
  7. Heat gently, season well and stir in the coriander.
  8. Finish with a spoon of yogurt and sprinkle the remaining coriander leaves on top to serve.

Now snuggle up and enjoy…

Photo: dejahthoris