Monday, 30 September 2013

Cassoulet (vegan mofo 2013 XXII)

A French friend of mine was complaining about the weird food he'd been given when on a language exchange in England. "What type of thing?", I asked. "They eat cassoulet for breakfast", he replied. Presumably he was talking about those tinned Heinz baked beans with sausages. Not quite cassoulet, but hey.

Cassoulet is quite possibly France's best one-pot meal. They love it so much that there's even a Fellowship of the Cassoulet: a guild of folk who take cassoulet so seriously that they dress in funny clothes and parade around shouting about how much they love the stuff. Ahh, France.

The traditional version(s) of this dish include(s) lots and lots of different meats: sausages, pork belly, confit duck, chicken carcasses and more. This vegan version has three different meaty-type things, as well as lots of vegetables and mushrooms (plus a couple of secret ingredients) to add depth of flavour.

Vegan cassoulet recipe

250g dry white beans, soaked overnight (at least 12 hours)
3 smoked vegan sausages
3 other vegan sausages of your choosing
2 generous handfuls large TVP chunks
2 carrots, diced
1 leek, washed and sliced into 1cm rounds
4-6 fredh mushrooms
8 slices/pieces dried cèpe/porcini mushrooms
500g passata/sieved tomatoes
3 cloves garlic (peeled and left whole)
5 Tbsp olive oil
3 bay leaves
1 tsp thyme
1 tsp marjoram
1 pinch powdered sage
1/2 tsp Marmite
1 Tbsp Bisto powder
1.5 litres water
Salt & pepper

  1. Heat the oil in a big fat pot. When hot, tip in the sausages whole. If you have nice big fat American sausages, a) halve them lengthways and b) send me some. Now tip in the prepared carrots, leek, and fresh mushrooms. Cook on high until slightly browned.
  2. Once everything in the pan is golden, remove the sausages. Now pour in the water and scrape to remove any tasty bits stuck to the bottom. Drain the beans from their soaking water, rinse, and add to the pot. Drop in the TVP chunks, garlic, dried mushrooms, and herbs and bring to a boil.
  3. Allow to boil for 5 minutes, then lower the heat to a very gentle simmer and cover the pot. Cook for an hour and a half to two hours, stirring gently every 20 minutes or so. When the beans are tender, stir in the Bisto and Marmite.
  4. If the cassoulet still looks too saucy, cook on high without the lid to reduce, until the sauce is rich and thick but not dry. Return the sausages to the pot to heat through.
  5. Serves six, with good crusty bread for dipping. Verdict from Omni: "top drawer! Helen, this is a triumph".

Vegan mofo 2013: over and out! It's been fun!

Saturday, 28 September 2013

Salade niçoise rien à foutre - I don't give an eff salade niçoise (vegan mofo 2013 XXI)

Those Southerners get pretty proprietorial about their recipes, and salade niçoise is no exception. The internet is peppered with angry-sounding Niçois declaring what you may and may not include in a salade niçoise.

Well to them, I say rien à foutre. I'll include the things I like in this salad, and leave out the things I don't. What are you going to do about it? Come up to Paris and have words with me? Yeah, I thought not. Southern softies.

Here are a few of my favourite things thrown together in a tasty vinaigrette and given the thoroughly incorrect name 'salade niçoise':

2 very good tomatoes
6 small potatoes (rattes work well)
4 small artichoke hearts
2 generous handfuls green beans
8 olives
1 scant Tbsp capers

3 Tbsp very good olive oil
1 Tbsp red or white wine vinegar
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1 small clove garlic, grated or crushed
Salt and pepper

  1. First, get your potatoes on to boil in salted water until tender. I like to leave the skins on for the health and texture benefits. To save time and water, you can add the green beans to the same pot 3-5 minutes before the potatoes are done. When they're tender, drain and allow to cool. 
  2. Meanwhile, assemble the rest of the salad: cut the tomatoes into wedges and do the same with the artichoke hearts if they're whole. Stick them in a large salad bowl. Add the olives and capers. When the boiled vegetables are cool, throw them in too, cutting the potatoes into bite-sized chunks if they're large.
  3. Now make the vinaigrette by forking all the ingredients together in a mug, or shaking them up in a clean jam jar. Pour over the salad ingredients and toss to combine. Check seasoning. Serves two to three. Omni says: "A bit garlicky, but delicious".

The good thing about not using lettuce leaves here is that you can make the salad ahead of time. Nothing will wilt, and the ingredients will soak up the delicious vinaigrette and get to know each other. Great for picnics. You can always take along a few lettuce leaves to serve it on if you don't agree with lettuce-free salad - I don't give an eff.

Thursday, 26 September 2013

Tapenade (Vegan mofo 2013 XX)

It's my 20th mofo post! Hooray, hoorah, huzzay, huzzah! That means I don't *have* to write any more posts this month. But I have a feeling I will anyway, because I want to make you thoroughly sick of me.

Anyway, today I made tapenade. Helpfully, Felicity Cloake at the Guardian recently explored how to make the perfect tapenade, so I used her recipe as a guide.

I'm lucky enough to live on a street lined with great food shops in addition to the daily market. One of my favourite shops is Sabah/Sabbah, which sells a wonderful selection of North African and Middle Eastern delights: everything from pomegranate molasses to lavash. They also have a fantastic help-yourself olive bar, which is where I got the plump little beauties above.

Tapenade recipe

200g good-quality olives (with the stones still in)
3 Tbsp capers
1 large clove garlic, crushed or grated
2 big pinches dried thyme, rubbed between your thumb and index finger
Juice of half a lemon
4 Tbsp best olive oil

  1. First, stone your olives. This isn't as grim as it sounds: just cut each olive lengthwise along the stone, and then prise the two halves apart. Tip your capers, crushed garlic, and rubbed thyme in with the olives.
  2. Blitz the mixture to a coarse purée. Chunky bits are fine. To save on washing up, I did this in a jug with an immersion blender, but a food processor works too.
  3. Add the lemon juice and stir. You may not need the whole half lemon, depending on how juicy your lemon is.
  4. Add the olive oil and stir very well to combine. Taste to see if you want to add any more lemon juice.

This makes a small bowl of luscious tapenade. It's quite a loose mixture, which I prefer to the crumbly/solid tapenades which taste like insanely salty soil. The loose texture also makes it great for dribbling over salads to add punch. The tapenade's flavours will only improve if you leave it in the fridge overnight so they can get to know each other and compare salty stories.

Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Sauce vierge (Vegan mofo 2013 XIX)

Wikipedia tells me that this simple and delicious sauce was popularised by Michel Guérard. Thank you, wikipedia. Sauce vierge ('virgin sauce') is fresh, light, and perfect for the Indian Summer which has finally arrived in Paris.

You don't need much to make a sauce vierge:

Juice of half a lemon
4 Tbsp good olive oil
1 tomato
10 basil leaves
Salt & pepper

  1. Dice your tomato finely and discard the seeds. Chiffonade your basil.
  2. In a bowl, cover the tomato and basil with the lemon juice and olive oil. Season, stir, and leave to macerate for an hour or so.
People like to serve this easy, tasty sauce with seafood. I happen to like sea creatures, so I served it over a courgette carpaccio. It'd make a great pasta salad dressing too.

Popular additions to the sauce include crushed coriander seeds, shallots, and even capers. I chose to keep it as simple and virtuous as something called 'virgin sauce' should be.

Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Soupe à l'oignon - French onion soup (Vegan mofo 2013 XVIII)

Everyone has their own personal hangover cures. A barman friend in Normandy swears by a glass of dry white wine sipped as slowly as humanly possible. I'm partial to a bloody mary. An ex-boyfriend of mine insists on "beans on toast and a wank". Many a Frenchman relies on onion soup to help him out the morning after the night before. I guess it's kind of like chicken soup for the French soul.

4 big onions
3 Tbsp vegan margarine
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp sugar
1 Tbsp flour
1/4 cup white wine
1 tsp thyme, crumbled between your fingers
6 cups rich vegetable stock (make your own if you have time)

  1. Slice the onions into thin half moons. Heat the oil and margarine in a big, heavy-bottomed pot. When the marge had melted, tip in the onions and cook over low heat for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  2. When the onions are very soft, turn the heat up to high and cook for another few minutes, stirring often, until some of the onions are lightly browned.
  3. Sprinkle on the flour and sugar. Stir.
  4. Pour in the white wine and allow to cook for two minutes, stirring.
  5. Pour in the stock and sprinkle on the thyme. Simmer on medium heat for at least half an hour.

Sunday, 22 September 2013

Galettes Bretonnes - Savoury Breton Pancakes (Vegan mofo 2013 XVII)

It's easy enough to buy these savoury Breton buckwheat pancakes, but since my vegan mofo theme is veganising French foods I thought I try making them from scratch. Plus, the ones you buy in the shops are perfectly round. Why eat perfectly round galettes when you could eat ones shaped like this:

Or like this?

Ok, my galettes are shaped like islands drawn by a four-year-old child, but they taste really good.

Galettes bretonnes - Breton buckwheat pancakes recipe

2 cups buckwheat flour
3 cups water
Generous pinch salt
A few tsps sunflower oil for frying

  1. In a mixing bowl, combine the flour and salt. Make a well in the centre, volcano-style, and add the water. Whisk to combine. You should end up with the consistency of crêpe/English pancake batter.
  2. Leave the batter to rest for a couple of hours. Whish again just before cooking.
  3. Heat up your finest frying pan over high heat with a drop of oil. Then pour in a ladle of batter, and swirl round to fill out the pan as well as you can. If you can't, never mind: you'll get island-shaped pancakes like mine.
  4. Cook for about two minutes, until firm and golden. Then flip and cook for a further minute.
  5. Fill with whatever you feel like. Tofu scramble is a good choice, and so is Tartimi. This amount of batter makes about a dozen Mr Messy-shaped pancakes.

Friday, 20 September 2013

Tarte tatin (Vegan mofo 2013 XVI)

I'm not a confident dessert maker. I'm scared of how easy it is to mess one tiny thing up and have it completely ruin your finished dessert. You should have seen the fear in my eyes while I was making this vegan tarte tatin.

I used this recipe as a basis for my tarte tatin, with a few fear-induced tweaks. Guess what, it turned out fine! Had I been less afraid, I would have let the initial caramel become darker, but I chickened out so it's a bit peely-wally. Still delicious!

Vegan tarte tatin recipe

8 medium-sized apples
Juice of half a lemon
150g sugar
150g vegan margarine
1 small pinch salt
1 roll ready-made shortcrust pastry (I cannot describe the fear I feel at the thought of making my own pastry!)

  1. First, prepare your apples: put the lemon juice in a mixing bowl and top up with a pint or so of water. Then peel all your apples, dropping each one into the lemony water once you've peeled it. Once they're all peeled, take one out, quarter it, and remove the core. Then drop each cored quarter back into the lemony water.
  2. Now the caramel: put the sugar, margarine, and pinch of salt in a heavy-bottomed pan on high heat. Shake the pan around (don't stir) until the margarine is all melted and bubbling up with the molten sugar. This is when I chickened out, but if you're feeling brave, let the caramel get good and golden: that's what I'll do next time.
  3. Now remove your apple quarters from their lemony bath and add to the caramel. Cover and cook on medium-high for 10 minutes, shaking the pan a few times.
  4. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 200°C. Now tip the apples and caramel into a round oven-proof dish. Let cool for 10 minutes. If you're lucky enough to have a pan that goes both on the hob and in the oven, there's no need to transfer to a new dish. I happen to have large pans and a small oven in my small kitchen.
  5. Once the apples and caramel have cooled, lay the pastry over the top of them and tuck the edges round the apples. Prick the pastry a few times with a fork. Transfer to the oven and cook for around 15 minutes, until the pastry is golden brown and the caramel is bubbling around the sides. Remove from the oven and let cool for 5 minutes.
  6. Here comes the scariest bit: getting the whole shebang onto a plate. Upturn a plate and lay it over the pastry. Invert the whole lot. Be careful - the caramel will probably try to come out and scald your wrist. Try to avoid that.
  7. Serve warm with (r)ice cream.

Thursday, 19 September 2013

Salade d'endives aux pommes - Chicory salad with apple (Vegan mofo 2013 XV)

Chicory AKA Belgian endive AKA witloof is a pale and interesting grow-in-the-dark salad ingredient. It's often eaten cooked here in France, usually braised with ham wrapped around it. That's kind of gross, so here's a nicer way of eating it: in crisp salad form with apples for sweetness, walnuts for extra crunch, and a creamy dressing.

Salade d'endives aux pommes - Chicory salad with apple recipe

1 head chicory
1 small red apple
1 handful walnut pieces (way cheaper than intact walnut halves)
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp vegan mayonnaise
1 tsp cider vinegar
1 tsp grainy mustard
Grind of pepper, pinch of salt

  1. Slice the chicory width-wise into slim rings. Dice the apple.
  2. Combine all the dressing ingredients and fork together. Pour over the salad and toss well.
  3. Plate up, and sprinkle the walnuts over the top.
This amount is about right for one large dinner salad, or two starter portions.

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Pommes sautées - Sautéed potatoes (Vegan mofo 2013 XIV)

These potatoes are the bomb.

Pommes sautées - Sautéed potatoes recipe (serves 2)

4 large potatoes
2 Tbsp sunflower oil
2 cloves garlic, crushed
Plenty of salt and pepper

  1. Peel your potatoes and cut them into small chunks. Boil for 6-8 minutes, until they're tender enough to be pierced with a fork, but not too fally aparty.
  2. Heat the oil on high. When it's nice and hot, tip in your strained potatoes. Let them cook for three minutes. Season generously. Poke around. Keep cooking until they're nice and golden. Then add the garlic and cook, stirring constantly for one more minute.
  3. Transfer to absorbant paper, then transfer to your mouth.

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

The vegan/vegetarian student's guide to Paris (Vegan mofo 2013 XIII)

Paris might not strike you as the best place to be a vegan or vegetarian student. It's kind of expensive and kind of meat-heavy. Don't despair though: there are plenty of ways to avoid paying a fortune for a green salad, or surviving on greasy crêpes and paninis. Here are a few favourites this rentrée.

Eating out: cheap and lots

Broke but don't want to cook? Here are some places to fill your belly without spending a fortune. They're a bit more interesting than a standard cheese and lettuce sandwich from the boulangerie.

Maoz Falafel: Fill up your delicious falafel sandwich with the self-service salad bar: all of it's vegan, including the creamy and yummy tahini sauce that comes out of a pump. Oh yes. 8 Rue Xavier Privas, 75005 and 36 Rue Saint-André des Arts, 75006.

Tien Hiang: This fantastic pan-Asian restaurant has a great three-course meal deal for €11. Or just go for a one-pot wonder rice or noodle dish for around €8. The bo-bun is vegan and fabulous. Full review here. 14 Rue Bichat, 75010.

Pizzeria Le Coq: Quite possibly the biggest, cheapest pizzas in Paris. For €6 you get a gigantic pizza with whatever toppings tickle your fancy. 55 Rue Traversière, 75012.

Le Relais Gascon: This place does a roaring trade, and with good reason. They do a great line in HUGE salads. I mean HUGE. The salade végétarienne will set you back €10.50 and you won't need to eat anything else for 48 hours. It also happens to include drop-dead delicious sautéed potatoes. 6 Rue des Abbesses, 75018.

Chettinadu: Amazingly delicious dosas bigger than the Hulk's torso for only €7. There is nothing more to say. 15 Rue Cail, 75010.

Eating out: pushing the boat out

Maybe your parents are visiting and treating you to a meal out. Maybe you've got a 1st on your essay. Maybe you've acquired a sugar daddy/mummy and are being wined and dined. Whatever the occasion, here are some places where vegetarians and vegans can eat out in style.

Gentle Gourmet Café: This 100% vegan place is super swanky. It's a chic little resto that serves up beautifully cooked and presented dishes, as well as a dead good portobello burger. Take your own wine as they don't sell any. Full review here. 24, Boulevard de la Bastille, 75012.

Jodhpur Palace: Fed up of the rubbish Frenchified 'Indian' food available all over Paris? This is the place for you. It dishes up the perfectly spiced curries that we know and love (and miss so very, very dearly). 42, Allée Vivaldi, 75012.

Le Potager du Marais: A very cute all-vegetarian restaurant that serves up meat-free versions of the French classics everyone expects you to be eating all the time in Paris. Full review here. 22 Rue Rambuteau, 75003.

Godjo: Not super expensive, but definitely super fun. This is the place to come for Ethiopian delights, served in the traditional style on a giant injera (tangy flatbread), with everyone digging into the same shared stews and vegetable dishes. 8, Rue de l'Ecole Polytechnique, 75005.

Eating in: where to get your crazy veggie supplies

Sometimes, just sometimes, vegetarians and vegans need to buy crazy things like tofu. If this need ever hits you, try one of the following places.

Bio Génération/Les Nouveaux Robinson: Shops all over Paris. There's a list of them here.

Naturalia: Shops all over Paris. There's a map of them here.

Un Monde Vegan: Stop press: Paris now has an all-vegan supermarket selling way, WAY more than tofu. 64 Rue Notre-Dame de Nazareth, 75003.

Chinatown (x2): Paris has two areas with large Chinese populations: Belleville and the part of the 13th arrondissement around the Avenues de Choisy and d'Ivry. Tang Frères at 48 Avenue d'Ivry is an Asian wonderland, with more tofu than you can shake a stick at.

Monoprix v. Franprix: For day-to-day shopping, don't go to Monoprix. It's crazily overpriced. Try Franprix instead.

See, it's not so bad being broke and vegetarian in Paris.

Monday, 16 September 2013

Lentilles du Puy braisées et échalotes au four - Braised Puy lentils and roasted shallots (Vegan mofo 2013 XII)

I've had a couple of days away from my French mofo theme, and have been very much enjoying eating Chinese, Thai, and Italian food. Now that I've got some spice back in my system, I'm ready to think about French food again.

This meal was inspired by a lentils with roasted shallots recipe in Leiths Vegetable Bible. I stole the idea but winged the recipe, and this is what I came up with. It makes enough to serve six.

Lentilles du Puy braisées et échalotes au four - Braised Puy lentils and roasted shallots recipe

1.5 cups lentils
2 carrots
2 sticks celery
0.5 cup red wine
4 cups vegetable stock
1 tsp thyme
0.5 tsp rosemary
3 bay leaves
1 scant tsp Marmite
12 small shallots
4 Tbsp olive oil, divided in half

  1. Slice the carrots and celery into thin half moons. Warm 2 Tbsp oil in a sturdy saucepan and sauté the vegetables for 6 minutes or so over medium-high, until some colour appears.
  2. Pour in the wine and turn the heat up to high. Boil for a couple of minutes to remove the alcohol.
  3. Now add the thyme, rosemary, bay leaves, stock, and (washed) lentils. Once it boils, reduce the heat to medium-low. Simmer, covered, for 30-40 minutes, giving the pot an occasional stir.
  4. While the lentils cook, pre-heat the oven to 200°C. Peel your shallots, leaving them whole. Toss in the remaining 2 Tbsp olive oil, and roast for 25 minutes, or until golden on the outside and soft all the way through.
  5. Once the lentils are tender but still intact, stir in the Marmite.

Mash and hazelnut beans (again - they're so good!) go well with this, as you can see. Hearty and warming and delicious. The lentils have a real savoury bite, while the shallots have a sweet, concentrated flavour.

Friday, 13 September 2013

Saucisses Purée - Bangers and mash (Vegan mofo 2013 XI)

Here's a classic French pairing that has a thoroughly British equivalent. If I call it by its French name, it counts for my French mofo theme, right? It's now thoroughly rainy and grey in Paris, so time for some comfort food.

Google 'saucisses purée' and you'll find many unattractive images and 'recipes' for what is one of the most simple and tasty teas out there. Sadly, the French don't seem to pour lashings of Bisto over their bangers and mash, so I resisted the temptation too. A wee dab of mustard is way more French.

I made my sausages myself, based on Isa's recipe. To Frenchify the sausages, I left out the fennel and red pepper flakes, and instead upped the thyme and added some marjoram. Once cooked, I fried them up in a tiny bit of oil.

I also only had one saucisse with my purée, because these guys are big! I won't insult your cooking skills by giving you a recipe for mashed potato. Just be sure to add plenty of margarine and seasoning: potatoes get thirsty.

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

Radis, beurre, sel - Radishes, butter, salt (Vegan mofo 2013 X)

The French aren't known for their snacking prowess, but sometimes they do get it right. Take the idea of eating peppery radishes dipped in butter and then salt.

I don't eat butter because I love cows, calves, and the planet. A good quality organic margarine works almost as well. Ok, not quite as well, but almost as well. Think of the calves. And make up for any loss of flavour with really good salt. You can afford to splash out because the huge bunch of radishes only set you back €1 at the market.

Fleur de sel is a fancy coarse sea salt which is harvested by hand, and produced mainly along France's west coast (Brittany and below).

There's something special about the peppery crispness of radishes, smooth mouth-feel of butter/margarine, and salty bite of... salt. Even my mean cat approves.

Radis, beurre, sel, chat.

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Tarte à la tomate - Tomato tart (Vegan mofo 2013 IX)

Since I decided to stop feeling guilty about buying pastry rather than making it, I've made a lot of tarts. Savoury tarts are a great way of making people think you've spent longer in the kitchen than you actually have. Just buy some pastry, blind bake it, top it, bake it, and you're done.

Most recently, for a picnic, I made a tomato tart with Tartimi Boursin-style not cheese spread and slices of garlic. After eloquently describing it as looking 'like the world's driest pizza', Omni had thirds.

It's so easy, it really doesn't deserve a recipe. Just blind bake some puff pastry at 200°C for 8 minutes or so. Then spread the Tartimi over the top of it. Then layer on some tomato slices. Then Add some thinly sliced garlic. Then drizzle with olive oil. Then bake at 180°C for 20 minutes or until golden and handsome. Then have a picnic.

Yeah, I take real (Spode) china plates to picnics sometimes. Metal cutlery too. I'm classy like that.

Monday, 9 September 2013

Haricots verts à la noisette - Green beans with hazelnut (Vegan mofo 2013 VIII)

Omni has just got back from a beautiful holiday in Corsica, bearing gifts. The star of the show is this Corsican hazelnut oil to which words cannot do justice.

It tastes pretty much like liquid Nutella, without the cloying sweetness and animal by-products. It makes amazing vinaigrette, but today I'm going to show you another delicious thing to do with it: green beans with hazelnut.

Green beans are the archetypal French side dish. They're usually served alongside potatoes of some sort and a great big hunk of meat. This is nicer.

Haricots verts à la noisette - Green beans with hazelnut recipe

Per person, you will need:
1 large handful green beans, fresh or frozen
1 small handful hazelnuts
2 tsp hazelnut oil
Salt and pepper

  1. Toast the hazelnuts in a small pan. When warm and fragrant, bash them about a bit with a pestle and mortar (or strong plastic bag and tin of tomatoes or whatever you have to hand).
  2. Simmer your green beans in just enough water or stock to cover until they are just tender (only a few minutes).
  3. Drain the beans and transfer to a serving bowl. Season, pour in the hazelnut oil, and sprinkle on the toasted hazelnuts. Toss to combine.

I served these easy, delicious beans with gratin dauphinois and a shallot-tofu-mustard fricassée malarkey. They'd work well with pretty much any plate of potatoes and protein, in true French style.

Sunday, 8 September 2013

Gratin dauphinois (vegan mofo 2013 VII)

A gratin dauphinois is a thing of great deliciousness. The good news for vegans everywhere is that it's free from cheese. As all good pedants will know, adding cheese transforms the gratin dauphinois into a gratin savoyard. Snorfle snorfle.

To make this side dish of great deliciousness:

1 kg waxy potatoes
250 ml plant milk of your choosing
250 ml plant cream of your choosing (I used soya)
1 bay leaf
1/8 tsp nutmeg
1 clove garlic
Couple of knobs margarine
Plenty of salt and pepper

  1. Peel your potatoes and slice them super thin: about 2mm. If you have a mandoline, use it. If you have mad knife skills, use them.
  2. In a small saucepan, combine the milk and cream. Add the bay leaf and nutmeg and simmer gently for 10 minutes.
  3. Peel the garlic clove and rub it all over the inside of an oven-proof dish. Then grease the dish with some margarine.
  4. Layer the potato slices in the dish, adding salt, pepper, and a couple of dabs of margarine between each layer.
  5. Pour on the milk and cream mix, having removed the bay leaf.
  6. Cover with foil and bake at 160°C for 50 minutes. Remove the foil and cook for a further 10 minutes until the top is bien gratiné: golden, crisp, and bubbling.

Friday, 6 September 2013

Socca (Vegan mofo 2013 VI)

Socca is a chickpea flour pancake eaten with relish in the south east of France. I'd never tried it before I made it. Turns out it's pretty tasty.

I used the recipe in the Moosewood cookbook, which uses 50% chickpea flour, 50% normal wheat flour, salt, and water. Easy peasy. The batter was super thick, so I upped the water content. I also used my tiny frying pan, because rolling the batter round to fill the big pan proved impossible.

So they look kind of like skinny blinis. We ate our baby socca topped with ratatouille and a simple white bean and parsley doodah.

Socca. It's like football but not.

Thursday, 5 September 2013

Tomates à la crème - Tomatoes with cream (Vegan mofo 2013 V)

Elizabeth David has to be my favourite food writer. Even when talking about thoroughly un-vegan foods, she manages to get me excited about eating.

In An Omelette and a Glass of Wine, David tells charming tales of her travels exploring the food of rural France. As you can imagine, there's not a huge amount of vegan food involved. However, this recipe for tomates à la crème seemed an easily veganisable choice. The recipe comes from Edouard de Pomiane, who sounds like he may well be the father of molecular gastronomy.

I'm not a huge fan of tomatoes, unless they're cooked to within an inch of their life. But, as David puts it, this dish "makes tomatoes taste so startlingly unlike any other dish of cooked tomatoes...". It is far, far more delicious than it sounds or looks.


To make a surprisingly delicious lunch for two, here's what you need to know:

Tomates à la crème - Tomatoes with cream

4 medium tomatoes
250ml soya/oat/whatever cream
Knob of margarine
Salt and pepper

  1. Slice the tomatoes in half. Warm the knob of margarine in a frying pan. When melted, place the tomatoes cut-side down in the pan on medium-high. Season and cook for five minutes.
  2. Flip the tomatoes over, and cook for a further ten minutes. Season again.
  3. Flip over onto the cut side again, to let the juices escape, then flip back so the cut sides are facing upwards.
  4. Pour in the cream, and scrape the pan to gather all the juices. Once the cream bubbles, slide the whole lot onto a plate. Serve with plenty of bread.

These tomatoes taste way better than they look, promise.

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Tarte aux prunes vertes - Green plum tart (Vegan mofo 2013 IV)

French is full of false friends: actuel means current, tampon means stamp, cave means cellar, and prune means plum. The super keen among you may be interested to learn that the French for prune is actually pruneau. You're welcome.

The plums at the market are great at the moment: all plump and juicy and begging to be bought. What better way to use them up than in a tart? I made this with green plums because I like my tarts tart, but any colour is fine.

I guess my tart looks kind of burned, but since you see these blackened bits on fruit tarts in all the best Paris bakeries, I'm fine with that. More important than the appearance are the bite from the pastry, and the gooey layers of frangipane and custardy yum, plus the fruity tang of the plums themselves.

Tarte aux prunes - Plum tart recipe

500g plums of any colour
1 roll pastry (shortcrust, puff, whatever is fine)
100g powdered almonds
80g icing sugar
3 Tbsp custard powder
3 Tbsp caster sugar
1/2 tsp almond extract
1 pint + 1 splash soya milk

  1. First, blind bake your pastry: lay it out in your pie dish, prick, put a disc of baking paper on the bottom, fill with dried beans, and bake at 200°C for 10 minutes. Then remove the beads and baking paper, and bake for a further 3 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside.
  2. Meanwhile, make your frangipane: in a small bowl combine the powdered almonds and icing sugar. Moisten with a splash of soya milk and mix to a spreadable paste.
  3. Now prepare your plums. Stone them by cutting them in half along their bum cracks, twisting the two halves to separate, and removing the stone.
  4. Make your custard: in a small pan, place the custard powder, caster sugar, almond extract, and 3 Tbsp soya milk. Whisk to form a paste. Then add the rest of the pint of soya milk and heat over medium heat, whisking or stirring constantly. It should be thicker than your average custard.
  5. Assemble your tart: spread a layer of frangipane over the pastry crust. Then top this with a layer of custard. Try to make it reasonably flat. Top with your plum halves.
  6. Bake for 20-25 minutes at 200°C.
Allow your plum tart to cool for at least ten minutes before eating.