Much nicer than murder, no?
The other day, a YouTube algorithm served me up a fascinating video documenting a trip from Northern France to Venice on board the luxury sleeper train the Orient Express. Yes, the same one Agatha Christie wrote about in 1934, on which detective Hercule Poirot must solve a murder that occurs during the night.
In this YouTube video, not only are no crimes committed, but the host also enjoys a very pleasant surprise. He and his traveling companion have booked a twin cabin ($5,000 double occupancy) but are for some reason upgraded to the Istanbul Grand Suite ($23,000 double occupancy), which features a bedroom with a double bed and a living space with a table to dine at plus an Italian marble en-suite bathroom with gold fixtures and a shower. The room’s 1930s-era interior décor includes polished inlaid woodwork, a hand-carved headboard and a button you can press to summon a butler any time of the day or night.
The train fare includes all meals, in which caviar, lobster and truffle make frequent appearances, plus bottomless champagne. Shortly after boarding the train, the host changes into a jacket and heads to the dining car for his evening repast.
By this point in the video I’d already begun daydreaming, wondering if one day I too could save up and indulge in this unforgettable once-in-a-lifetime experience (the twin cabin version, that is). But when the meals were shown I realized that on this hypothetical journey I’d undoubtedly be surviving on PB&J in my room, since the train menu is unlikely to have vegan options. Although I suspect that if Joaquin Phoenix or Woody Harrelson were to book the train, some nice vegan dishes would magically appear! As a non-celebrity, I may wait another decade or two for plant-based dining to become more universal first.
In the meantime, there’s no reason we can’t have fun reproducing these dishes at home with vegan ingredients and at far lower cost!
This breakfast dish composed of toast topped with a poached egg and caviar caught my eye as something quite opulent and aesthetically pleasing too. It may seem like something hard to veganize, what with the egg and caviar, but in today’s world just about anything is possible.
My version of the dish is so simple, it’s not so much a recipe as a set of assembly instructions, much like the kind that come with an IKEA bookshelf. Speaking of IKEA, it’ll be handy if you have one nearby.
I opted to use a vegan scrambled egg mix to make a egg-like base for the flavor, plus some very thick vegan skyr or Greek-style yogurt to reproduce the appearance of the poached egg. For the caviar, I used a very inexpensive kind made from seaweed that you can find in the food section of the nearest Swedish furniture store (look for Sjörapport Black Seaweed Pearls). It’s salty and briny, probably doesn’t taste very different from traditional caviar, is way less expensive and is definitely more pleasant for the fish!
Edible flowers add an especially high-end touch but can be difficult to find. Full disclosure: I didn’t go to the bother of looking for any but just pulled some blossoms off a tree on my street! I assumed they weren’t edible so simply took them off before sampling my creation. Alternatively, a lacy green herb such as chervil would also look nice.
Vegan poached egg on toast with caviar
Makes two toasts.
- 2 slices of firm whole-grain bread
- 1/4 cup (35 g) Orgran Vegan Easy Egg powder + 1/2 cup (120 ml) water or other scrambled-egg replacer
- Kala namak Indian “black” salt for the egg flavor
- 2 heaping tablespoons unsweetened plain vegan skyr or Greek-style thick yogurt
- 2 teaspoons IKEA Sjörapport Black Seaweed Pearls or other brand seaweed caviar
- Edible flowers or leafy herbs, for garnish
Transfer to a small serving dish and assemble: place the circle of egg on top of the circle of toast, then carefully top with a generous rounded tablespoon of the thick yogurt. Top this in turn with a bit of the caviar (use a plastic or wooden spoon as metal is said to alter the flavor) and then add your garnish.
Ah, the taste of luxury! I can almost see those mountains rolling past me now . . .
If you try this, let me know how it turned out, and what you think of the seaweed caviar!
Also don’t miss the 2017 film adaptation of Murder on the Orient Express, directed by Kenneth Branagh and starring himself as Poirot, plus Penélope Cruz, Michelle Pfeiffer, Johnny Depp, Willem Dafoe, Olivia Colman and the incomparable Judi Dench.
For more train travel fun, don’t miss the post about my sleeper-car Amtrak trip from Milwaukee to New York City. It was much less extravagant, but nobody was murdered on that trip either and I had a great time.