The Circus Gardener's Kitchen

seasonal vegetarian recipes with a side helping of food politics

vegan strawberry crème brulee

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The late American cosmologist Carl Sagan once observed that “national boundaries are not evident when we view the Earth from space. Fanatical ethnic or religious or national chauvinisms are a little difficult to maintain when we see our planet as a fragile blue crescent fading to become an inconspicuous point of light against the bastion and citadel of the stars.”

How wise a race we might be if we all lived in a world free from the concept of national boundaries and the narrow perspective that too often accompanies such compartmentalised thinking.

The UK’s narrow vote in favour of leaving the European Union (“Brexit”) illustrates how a failure of the spirit of coexistence and cooperation can be damaging to everyone’s long-term interests.

I doubt that any of us voting in that referendum had any full sense of the repercussions of a “no” vote, but even now – before Brexit has actually happened – some consequences are starting to reveal themselves.

In voting to “get our country back”, we have sent out a negative message to workers from other parts of the European Union and elsewhere, and they have heard that message. It has been amplified by a ham-fisted government crackdown on immigration that, amongst other things, has left the National Health Service seriously short of skilled doctors and nurses.

Already, British farmers have warned that they face major problems finding workers to pick their fruit and vegetables. A survey by the National Framers Unions reveals a 12.5% shortfall in seasonal workers since the Brexit vote. The absence of willing British replacements has led to edible produce being left to rot in the fields.

The British, it seems, are happy to make Romanian and Bulgarian fruit pickers unwelcome in this country but we are not willing to take their places.

So, it’s time, all you brave Brexiteers who voted to “get our country back”, it’s time you put your money where your mouth is, it’s time to get up off your sofas and out into the fields. Welcome to the future.

This year I am hoping for a steady flow of fresh strawberries from our garden. I have planted seven different varieties, some early and some late fruiting. I’ve used some of the earlier varieties to make this dish.

Although I’ve called it a crème brulee this vegan dessert is really more of a panna cotta finished off like a brûlée. But let’s not split hairs: whatever you call it, this dish is a lovely way to enjoy this wonderful summer fruit.

Agar, sometimes called agar agar is a vegan substitute for gelatin. Derived from marine algae, it is widely available in health food stores and some supermarkets now stock it.

vegan strawberry crème brulee


1 x 440 ml can organic coconut milk
1 level tsp agar flakes
40 ml maple syrup
1 vanilla pod, split, or 1 tsp organic vanilla essence
1 tbsp coconut sugar
Coconut oil, for greasing

for the strawberry compote

180 g fresh organic strawberries, hulled and halved or quartered, depending on size
40 ml maple syrup


1. Lightly grease four ramekins using the coconut oil.

2. For the compote, place the strawberries in a saucepan with the 40 ml maple syrup. Place over a medium heat and bring to the boil. Reduce to a simmer, stir and cook for a further 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool before dividing the strawberry compote between the four ramekins.

2. Pour the coconut milk and maple syrup into a saucepan. Scrape the seeds from the vanilla pod with a sharp knife and add them to the pan, along with the agar flakes. Whisk to combine and place the pan over a medium heat. Continue to whisk or stir until the mixture reaches a simmer. Remove from the heat, give a final whisk and then gently pour over the strawberries in the ramekins.

3. Leave to cool to room temperature, then refrigerate for 2 hours to set completely.

4. Just before serving, sprinkle the top of the brulee with the coconut sugar. Use a blowtorch to harden and caramelise the coconut sugar. (If you don’t have a blowtorch, place the ramekins on a flat baking tray underneath a very hot grill for 2 minutes).Leave to cool for a minute or two before serving.

Categories: dairy free, gluten free, vegan, vegetarian

Tags: , ,

11 replies

  1. Creme brûlée without all those eggs is worth trying.

    Your posts are always informative, Steve. Hope I don’t offend by disagreeing this time. I don’t know enough about Brexit to disagree entirely but human nature being what it is I have an opinion. Two people living in a cave will have opposing opinions. I believe that it is individuals not the collective that has made us great. Now there’s chaos all over collective Europe. I don’t think there will be any more original thinkers coming through the ranks. Carl Sagan’s words are wise and they are wishful thinking. But so was Utopia. So many fiction writers hoped it would come to pass one day.we seem further away than ever. And it was Thomas More who was the first to write about Utopia. He meant it as a satire, ‘indirectly criticizing Europe’s political corruption and religious hypocrisy.’ Sound familiar?

  2. Looks yummy

  3. Yummy! Love creme brulee, the addition of strawberries is the best idea ever! 😀

  4. Steve, my heart is like a lump of lead when I read about my country of birth. I have four daughters living there. I have an aged mother there. I have many friends and other relations there. And not a single one voted for this madness. Why would they? We are tolerant and sensible … I hope the fools are ready because you can be sure that the future will be harder than the recent past. As for strawberries … I will always eat strawberries and crème brûlée and Panna Cotta and this delight that uses no animal products at all will do me just fine as I sit and try not to weep tears of furious frustration not at the fools that voted ‘out’ but at the orchestrators of the farce who then ran for the hills and refused to be man enough to admit that the vote was not even legally binding, that the people were not fully informed and and and …. breathe

    • Hi Osyth, and thanks for your impassioned comments.
      Brexit really has created a deeply divided Britain, with strident and upset remainers like myself on one side and equally vociferous and impatient leavers on the other. Between the two extremes there is a mass of people whom I believe feel increasingly remote from the whole process. As you suggest, they might well agree they were not fully informed at the time they were invited to vote.
      To me, Brexit feels like sudden bereavement. It is the death of a future I had never expected us to lose. Steve x

      • I can’t say it was a pleasure to write it but your thanks are appreciated, Steve. Even from a distance I understand, empathize with the feeling of a shocking and unexpected death. I often quote Sister Julian of Norwich (‘All shall be well and all shall be well and all manner of thing shall be well’) but this, this I find hard to reconcile with her words. Of course it shall but how long that shall take and how thorny and rocky the road, who knows. I do know some who are convinced it is the road to Utopia and in the first few months I argued and debated with them but increasingly I pulled back. Not because I live abroad but because it seemed that I was banging my noggin against a wall and that only ever achieves a grandiose headache. I remain firm that it is a huge mistake on so many different levels. If I am wrong, then I am glad but in the meantime, your words stirred me greatly and I thank YOU x

  5. Another thoughtful piece, Steve. Even with my long-term break from blogging, I feel compelled to come back and let you know how much you’re appreciated; your words are inspiring, recipes tantalizing.

    Even with our evolutionarily developed frontal cortex, our ability to predict the future—even when (a short) civilized history has shown us the probable outcome—is limited. It is difficult to put reigns on 7+ billion free thinkers, so (I believe) closing borders is a knee-jerk reaction getting back to an historically tribal existence. It’s hard to fight Mother Nature: we are instinctive animals first, civilized second, and logical a distant third.

    And .. we are a lazy lot, especially here in Texas where petroleum refining pays the bills. Easier to underpay a lot of otherwise desperate ‘others’ from across the border (to gather our food) than to do all that dirty work ourselves.

    But history repeats, and some of us are watching Brexit closely from across the ocean. We do hope it goes better than it looks at the moment. Cheers. ~ Shannon

  6. Hi Shannon. I am very touched and humbled by your kind words.
    Sometimes I feel like I am ranting pointlessly into a void, and so it’s lovely to know my rants are actually appreciated somewhere.
    I met someone at a party a while back whom it turned out was a subscriber to my blog. They told me: “I like the recipes but I don’t care so much for the politics”! Ho hum.
    I am so glad that you are back and blogging again, Shannon. Steve x

  7. Looks absolutely wonderful !

  8. Thank you so much for sharing your recipe! It looks great and I’ll need to try this 😊

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