Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Lettuce cups with seitan and mushrooms

Disclaimer: there's nothing French about this recipe. I've never even seen lettuce cups on the menu at an Asian restaurant in France.

I don't care. This is something that came out of my tiny Parisian kitchen* recently.

To serve two people as a starter, or one greedy person as a main, you will need:

2 heads baby romaine/cos lettuce,
1 'steak' of seitan cut into small chunks (I used 1/4 recipe of Terry's seitan from VEW),
1 cup mushrooms, sliced,
0.5 Tbsp flavourless oil (e.g. canola, vegetable),
2 tsp grated ginger,
1 large clove garlic, crushed,
1 Tbsp soya sauce,
1 Tbsp hoisin or yellow bean sauce,
1 tsp sesame oil,
hot sauce to taste (I used 1.5 tsp sriracha)
sesame seeds to garnish (optional)

And here's what you do:

1. Separate out your little leaves of lettuce and wash them. You'll find that the outer leaves are about the right size, while the inner ones are too titchy. Save these to shred into a salad the next day/the next time you're feeling virtuous.

2. Set the oil on to heat over medium-high in a frying pan or wok. When the oil is hot, tip in your mushrooms and seitan.

3. In a small bowl, mix together all the ingredients from ginger to hot sauce in the list above.

4. Keep stir-frying the seitan and mushrooms until they start to brown. Then tip the contents of your small bowl over the top. Careful: it will sizzle. Stir to coat and heat through for a couple of minutes.

5. Arrange your lettuce cups as prettily or haphazardly as you like. Then fill with the piping hot seitan-mushroom mixture. Sprinkle with sesame seeds for added prettiness.

6. These little cups taste great on their own, but a sweet chili dipping sauce is always a good addition.

*It actually is tiny. Unlike Rachel Khoo's, which is fucking huge in comparison. I still like her, even though she doesn't know how good she's got it.

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

A vegan walks into a French supermarket...

and it's not as bad as said vegan might expect.

A recent message from a reader reminded me of one of the questions I have before visiting any new city: can I shop and cook for myself easily there?

In Paris, vegan food shopping is surprisingly easy. In addition to all the wonderful street markets, independent grocers, 'ethnic' food shops, and organic shops (posts to come!), even a basic supermarket can meet many of your oh-so-tricky vegan shopping needs.

The two largest supermarket chains you're likely to come across are Monoprix (expensive) and Franprix (cheaper). In even the smallest branches, you can get hold of vegan-friendly essentials such as:

soya milk
vegan margarine: St Hubert Bio brand

soya yoghurts (often only the plain variety in small supermarkets)
veggie burgers

A very useful fact is that anything made by Sojasun is sure to be vegan. I wrote to them a while ago to ask about the sources for the calcium, vitamin D etc. in their products, and everything is vegan, so knock yourself out.

The 'ready-meal' type things available in larger supermarkets are overpriced, but the veggie burgers and yoghurts are rather nice and not too dear.

Many larger supermarkets also stock cool stuff that you may not want to eat every day, but is useful if you're staying in a holiday rental without a stocked pantry and spice-rack. Microwaveable vegan ravioli, for example:

Monoprix also does a good line in hummus, although you always need to read the label in France. This is because many of the brands add 'fromage blanc', a sort of sloppy cream cheese-type stuff. That's how much the French hate vegans. Hummus that looks like this is fine. Thank God for parve:

Oh, and if you're in a French supermarket, you will definitely need to buy some Speculoos spread. It's life changing.