Vegans Barging in France 4

Vegans Barging in France 4

To read from the beginning – click here.

Make your own muesli by mixing together whatever you can find from – nuts and seeds to grains such as rolled oats or rice flakes. Lightly pan toast them if you like a roasted flavour. Dried fruit such as figs, cranberries, apricots or raisins add extra punch and sweetness as do spices such as cloves, nutmeg or cardamom. We keep a batch of it going in a jar. Place a portion in a bowl, pour over a plant milk and pile on fresh fruit.

Making muesli

Making muesli

You can also make overnight oats by soaking oats in a plant milk – overnight. In the morning we add grated or finely chopped fruit such as apple or pear, nuts such as flaked almonds plus a sprinkle of spice such as cinnamon or ginger. That’s a healthy breakfast if ever there was one.

Puy Lentils are so versatile. You often find them in mesh bags in the produce aisle. They cook in no time and I use them as a base to make all sorts of things. For quick rissoles or burgers, season cooked Puy Lentils with ground stock cubes or soy sauce, a generous portion of tomato paste and seasonings such as smoked paprika, black pepper and chili. Then mix in finely milled flax seeds. (Approximately 1 Cup lentils to 3 Tablespoons flaxseeds.) I use our coffee grinder to mill seeds and grains. Allow to stand for at least 20 minutes. Adding finely milled oats will help firm them up if they need more dry ingredients. Shape and fry in oil until brown on both sides. Serve with a fresh green salad.

Mushroom steak, pumpkin and savoury tempeh

Mushroom steak, pumpkin and savoury tempeh

For a yummy faux gras, instead of cruel foie gras, sauté finely chopped mushrooms, onions and garlic in oil with soy sauce and a bit of sugar until golden. Add seasonings such as thyme, salt and black pepper, a splash of cognac (brandy or sherry), some pan toasted and crushed nuts or seeds – mash into cooked Puy Lentils. You can use a stick blender for a creamy texture, but I like it a bit chunky. Delicious on French Bread.

I also make Savoury Lentils. It’s the vegan alternative to mince. Finely slice a good few onions and sauté in oil until transparent. Add Puy Lentils and enough water to cook the lentils. Also add soy sauce or miso or stock cubes for flavour. Allow to cook until soft. Keep simmering if there is too much liquid. Or thicken with a sprinkle of GMO-free corn starch. These go well with flat-breads or pancakes (crêpes) as a savoury dish.

Savoury Lentils

Savoury Lentils

Lyonnaise Lentil Salad is fabulous cold dish. Make a vinaigrette with vinegar, oil, salt and pepper and any other seasonings you fancy. Finely chop some onions, finely dice or grate a carrot or two and you can also finely dice or grate a potato or two. Sauté your onions first, then add potatoes, then carrots, in a little oil until cooked. Add drained cooked lentils while still warm to the vinaigrette so they soak up the flavours as they cool. Add the sauteed veg soon after and mix well. Serve cold in lettuce leaves.

Spinach flatbread, hummus, vegan cold meat and fresh veggies

Spinach flatbread, hummus, vegan cold meat and fresh veggies

Flat-breads are stupid easy to make. Mix whole-wheat flour with water to make a dough. Add more or less water or flour to get a dough. The more you knead your dough, the softer your flat-breads will be. Allow to rest for 20 minutes. Roll out your dough on a floured surface until thin. No rolling pin? Use a wine bottle to roll. Dry fry your flat breads in a semi-hot pan until cooked on both sides. They might fill with air. Just push them flat with a spatula or spoon. Keep them warm in a kitchen cloth until you’re ready to serve them.

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Vegans Barging in France 3

Vegans Barging in France 3

To read from the beginning – click here.

Nut cheezes on the other hand are dead simple to make. You want a benign flavoured nut. Cashews are perfect for a fresh soft Chèvre or Goat Cheeze. Skinless almonds make a lovely Ricotta style cheeze and Macadamias are good for a firmer, mature cheeze. Most other nuts have too much of an individual nut taste to use as a base for a cheeze. There are two things you want to get right. You need your nuts as soft as possible to blend them to a creamy mix. And you want as little liquid as possible, so they can hold a shape. I find if I pour boiling water over my nuts, allow that to cool, and let them soak overnight in the fridge, I get them as soft as is possible. When I’m ready, I pour away all the water and blend adding as little water as I can get away with to get the soaked nuts to a creamy mixture.

Food market

Food market

To make a French Chèvre use blended cashew nuts, add lemon juice and salt to taste. Shape into little logs in wax paper and set in the refrigerator. Roll in chopped fresh herbs or cracked black pepper before serving.
To make a Sweet Almond Ricotta use blended peeled almonds, add vanilla, a dash of salt and a sweetener to taste. Serve in a small round bowl and use for desserts.
To make a Mature Cheeze use blended macadamia nuts blend and add 2 – 3 probiotic capsules. Wrap in a cloth and allow to drain in a sieve on top of a bowl at room temperature for 24 – 48 hours. It will cultivate. The colour will darken and the flavour will change. Remove from cloth and mash with a fork. You can add acids such as vinegar or lemon juice and salt at this stage. Do not add them before as they will kill the bacteria. I only add miso, nutritional yeast and a bit of salt to my mature cheeze. Shape into rounds and then flatten slightly. This goes well with French bread and fresh grapes or figs.

Green salad with pea and rice rissoles

Green salad with pea and rice rissoles

Every village, town or city will have a food market. Some are small, while others take up a whole section of the city. Market Day may only be one day a week, or a bigger place may have Market Day – every day. You can ask at the Tourism Office or check with locals. Fresh produce is the main attraction, but they sell quite a bit of animal foods. And sometimes – sadly – even live animals! Complimentary products like baskets, herbs, plants and even clothes also feature. Much as we love the markets, they are not always good value. Supermarkets have as good produce, at better prices. But the hype, energy, tastings and vendors vying for your custom are a treat. You sometimes meet the farmers face to face and they throw in a bit extra for free. And you find items you would never see at the supermarkets. Mixed colour carrots, white asparagus and black radishes for example. We never miss a Market Day, even if all we buy is one or two items.

Vegan milk, yogurt and ice cream

Vegan milk, yogurt and ice cream

Most supermarkets have an organic (bio) section in the produce area where they put organic fruit and veg together. We still like to check out the normal produce, and local food in season is always cheapest. Favourite French fruits are melons, peaches, nectarines, apples, grapes, pears and apricots. Typical French veggies include courgettes, aubergines, garlic, onions, tomatoes, mushrooms, peppers, lettuces and potatoes. Most names are similar to the English name i.e. apricots – abricots; tomato – tomate. And then some are nothing like their English counterparts i.e. apple – pomme; mushroom – champignon. You’re usually expected to weigh and label your produce before you pay at the till. If the item is listed as vrac, it means it’s loose. If it says pièce it means the whole item or the price per pack.

We’ve also noticed a regional produce section in many supermarkets. They have an aisle or section where they showcase only local foods. Usually long-life items like wines, olives, honey, mustards as well as things like mugs, kitchen towels and other items with either the local crest or some image reminiscent of that particular region. We’ve found excellent wines at bargain prices in the regional produce area.

Strawberry protein smoothie

Strawberry protein smoothie

My husband and I have a plant protein smoothie every single morning of our lives. You should find plant protein powders and Superfoods at local health shops. Google Happycow.net to find health shops in your area or ask at the Tourism Information Office. We always travel with our own protein powders sealed in Ziploc bags. Only need a powder to mess in your luggage once to learn that lesson. Soak oats overnight with vanilla extract to taste. In the morning, place in a tall jug and add a plant milk. Then add a fruit such as pear, banana, berries or melon. Next add a spoon of any nut butter, avocado or coconut oil. Add in protein powders and Superfood powders. Finish off with flavours or spices. Blend with a stick blender until smooth and serve. If that doesn’t set you up for the day, nothing will.

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Vegans Barging in France 2

Vegans Barging in France 2

To read from the beginning – click here.

Since we’ve travelled in the rural areas of France, mostly in Burgundy, our experience is not many people speak English. It goes without saying food packaging is in French. We’ve had to learn how to identify food names in French. Supermarkets like Carrefour have food labels in French and Dutch for the Belgian market. If the labels have Dutch we can figure out what the ingredients are, as we speak a bit of Afrikaans. Food in health shops is often better labelled including English and German. A mini English/French dictionary is handy. Or if you have data – use the Google Translate app.

French veggie recipe magazines

French veggie recipe magazines

When it comes to paying, I have absolutely no idea how much money they’re asking for. They speak so fast, and it takes me so long to translate what they are saying back into English, that it’s easier to read the value that has been rung up on the till. Our favourite supermarkets are Monoprix and Carrefour. There are a few different supermarkets – E.LeClerc, Auchan, Atac, 8 a Huit, etc, but those two are the best ones to find vegan friendly foods.

There are some amazing health food shops in France. Happycow.net will list them. We top up when we find a health shop, and buy items such as flax seeds, agave nectar, gluten flour, chickpea flour, fake vegan sausages, fake vegan meats, nut cheezes, miso, etc. They are more expensive. It’s how it is. I buy unroasted and unsalted nuts at health shops to make vegan cheezes.

Our haul from a health food shop

Our haul from a health food shop

I’m going to put a couple of my favourite recipes in here. I don’t like following recipes and only one or two of the recipes here need measuring. It’s about getting the texture right. Too dry? Add more wet ingredients or water. Too wet? Add more dry ingredients. You also want to get the taste right. Include spices or seasonings you love, leave out flavours that don’t appeal to you. Taste your food and add seasonings a little at a time. Adding more until you’re happy. You can always add more but can’t take out. For extra sweetness I usually use stevia liquid or powder. I try to use as little processed food as possible. And do my best to limit what’s known as the three white devils in our food – white salt, white sugar and white flour.

I also try to use as little fat as I can get away with. That said, sometimes you need fat for flavour. Opt for the healthiest versions possible. When frying, I use a tiny amount of oil and add water so I’m more sweating food rather than drowning it in fat and burning it. A few years back my other half and I did a couple of raw food courses and that completely changed how we prepare food. Before, I would cook the life out of my food. Now I will either place veggies like beans or cauliflower in a bowl and cover with boiling water for a few minutes rather than boiling it continuously. When making a soup, I’ll bring it to the boil and take my pot off the flame immediately leaving the soup to cook in retained heat. I pre-soak lentils and grains to reduce cooking time. And remove saponins, which makes them more digestible.

Fresh food market

Fresh food market

Ah cheese! That one hurdle many vegans struggle with. They say you eventually get over cheese, but I never believed it. However, over the years people who have stayed on the boat with us have left a bit of cheese behind. I used to eat it, but no more. Now, I throw it away. My taste buds really have changed. Making your own vegan cheeze is not that difficult. Even with a stick blender. None of them have the creamy mouth feel and meltability of animal cheese so give up on that expectation from the outset.

Green pea soup, pasta and creme brulee

Green pea soup, pasta and creme brulee

Block cheezes usually use blended nuts or a plant milk – and an oil – usually neutral-taste oil or deodorised coconut oil. Then you need one or more setting agents such as agar agar, tapioca flour, kappa carrageenan or corn flour. Plus, flavourings to get a cheese like flavour. Flavourings to think of are one or more of the following – nutritional yeast, salt, lemon juice, cider vinegar, mustard, liquid smoke, garlic and onion powders, white wine or miso. I’m not going to give recipes for block cheezes. You can find Facebook groups dedicated to vegan cheeze making and heaps of recipes and videos on-line. I will share what I have learned. The trick is to simmer them on a medium heat – not high heat – in a sauce pan. Cook them long enough that the setting agents are activated – around 5 – 8 minutes. Agar agar can be compromised by acids like lemon juice and vinegar. If you’re using them – add them last. These cheezes set fast, so have a steralised mould ready. I use a heat-proof plastic container.

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Barging in Burgundy Part 25 – Final

Barging in Burgundy Part 25 – Final

To read from the beginning use this link – Barging in Burgundy

Day Fifty-Two – 18th August 2017
Lyon to London
We thought we had seen most of Lyon and weren’t trying to do too much. It seemed a good idea to go back to the marina and make sure we hadn’t missed out. Lyon have really missed a trick not making more of their marina. It’s modern and clean but unfortunately can only accomodate 20 boats. A few of those spaces are occulpied by local hire boats. Then we thought we would walk to to the confluence of the Rhone and the Saone. It’s actually an amazing walk with boards giving information. Along the way are quirky buildings, all manor of boats including boat offices. At the meeting point of the two rivers the view of Lyon goes on forever. Lyon and Marseille rival each other for the second largest city in France at somewhere between 2 and 3 million inhabitants.

Breakfast at our Airbnb in Lyon

Breakfast at our Airbnb in Lyon

The other vegan spot we hoped to visit – Against the Grain – was closed. So back to YAAFA it was. Not that we were unhappy. I love the fun, modern, repurposed furnishings and interior. Each time we visited there was at least one person who spoke perfect English. And they always checked if we were happy.

The big trek was about to commence. We collected our bags and made our way to Lyon Part Dieu. I was coerced into buying a cheap suitcase by someone who shall remain nameless. Two paces in and the one wheel was flattened, bent backwards and dragging underneath. This nameless person offered to schlep my cheap suitcase and I’m mean, I let him.

Next was the Rhone Express bus to Lyon Aeroport. It’s a fair distance from Lyon city centre. And busy being upgraded. The tram dropped us quite a distance from where we needed to be. By the time we arrived at the right place I was shattered, hot and not very happy. Then our BA flight was delayed due to the weather. Great opportunity to finish the book I picked up en route about Madame Pompadour. Found that book most interesting. Much insight into the French Revolution.

Meeting place of the two rivers

Meeting place of the two rivers

We finally boarded our flight. The minute I entered the shute I was struck by how loud the people were. We arrived at the London apartment and to be honest crashed. Everything needed to be switched back on and started again. That would all wait for the next day.

Day Fifty-Three – 19th August 2017
London
It was difficult adjusting to the hustle and bustle of a big city like London. It seemed so noisy. So in your face. Meandering at a snails pace through villages is hardly stressful. I was startled by the sirens and people shouting on their mobile phones or how loud they were talking while sitting right next to each other. Certain nationalities are renownded for being loud. What I can say is the French, certainly where we were, are discreet and polite. At no point whether on the street or on public transport or even interacting with them, did I ever think someone was loud or brash.

My husband and I had a long and difficult conversation about our beloved boat Shangri La. We love her. We love being on her. But there are some issues owning a boat so far from where we live. An obvious one is our proximity to her. We live in South Africa and can’t just pop across. We take 6 to 12 weeks out of our year to enjoy time on her, but truthfully, that isn’t enough to justify the investment. As a South African, I’m limited by visa restrictions in terms of how many days I can spend in France. Shangri La – plain and simply isn’t getting enough attention.

Our best place to eat YAAFA

Our best place to eat YAAFA

My other half unfortunately broke his back two decades back and although he’s in good health – he has to be very careful. Certain moves can set him into spasm causing extreme pain. The maintenance and cleaning of Shangri La was not doing him any good at all. In fact he was constantly hurting his back twisting and turning trying to mop and brush the boat. Or contort his body getting to the engine.

He had also retired in the last few months and we were trying to get a new business off the ground back in South Africa. My other half has family committments in the UK as well. All this time away from home wasn’t helping us one bit. We decided to squeeze the most out of two last summers on the boat, but to put her on the market in the meantime. It was a horrible decision to make. I felt pangs of deep sadness, but also relief. Who knows, if our business did really well, we could go back to hiring boats again? Could I enjoy a hire boat like I enjoy our special boat? Or go somewhere different for a change. Like India or China maybe?
Time will tell.

Barging in Burgundy Part 24

Barging in Burgundy Part 24

To read from the beginning use this link – Barging in Burgundy

Day Fifty – 16th August 2017
Lyon
Turns out the canny French took advantage of the public holiday and took an extra, extra long weekend. Most restaurants and small shops were closed. They place a notice in the window informing people they’re away on holiday. Not all of them do it though. We specifically hunted down a vegan supermarket and a few eateries, only to find them all closed. Our Airbnb host gave us suggestions for sight-seeing. But not before he plied us with a French breakfast. Croissants, coffee, French bread and confit. How they keep slim on a diet like that baffles me. There’s the old city. Which is actually the very, very old city. Ruins going back to Roman occupation. And numerous beautiful places of worship including the basillica, which I have to say is more beautiful than any I have ever seen.

I love Lyon. It’s much brighter, cleaner and friendlier than Paris. It’s also the gastronomic capital of France. Last time we visited Lyon, I clocked just over 30 000 steps. This day I got to 27 403. It’s not hard to do. So much to see. Back at our Airbnb accommodation we rested our legs, then settled at a spot next to the Rhone for a drink. I’ve said this before, going to say it again. The French know how to behave. They are free to drink in public places. Along the banks of the river, hundreds of folk settled on the steps or on the grass with wine, beer or whatever their drink of choice. Not one incident. No loudness. No bad behaviour. Nothing untoward. How do they get it right?

Lyon

Lyon

We went to an eatery called YAAFA – You Are A Falafel Addict. They make the most amazing salads or wraps. After that amount of walking – fair to say – we had a good nights sleep.

Day Fifty-One – 17th August 2017
Lyon
Our Airbnb host served us breakfast on his balcony overlooking the Rhone. We had a local delicacy called a Praluline – a brioche with pink praline. Very nice. But probably not the healthiest. I was glad to try it as I could not bring myself to buy one. We also had freshly squeezed orange juice – a bit of goodness to offset this decadence. One of the things I liked about our host is he gave us so much local info and stories. Which foods are from the region. I loved the story of how the Festival of Light which originated on 8th December has developed over the years. It’s now a global festival encompassing light. Laser, candles, fireworks, you name it.

Amphitheatre

Amphitheatre

We managed to miss the food market previous days, so this was our chance. It was smaller than usual as many of the vendors were away on holiday. Note to self – avoid France during the holiday season. Shoulder seasons are best. And cooler. I wanted a hat as mine was left behind on the boat. Won’t lie, I love to window shop. Real shop sometimes too. *bashful face* It was a great excuse to drag my other half though the shops. Am so lucky he is patient with me.

We tried to go to Cafe Vert again but alas it was definitely closed for a while. So we had lunch at a veggie place our host reccommended called Solene. Wish we had gone there sooner. Glad we got to experience their food. After 8 hours on the our feet the day before and 4 hours this day, we thought a post lunch snooze or relax was not exactly an indulgence. It’s hot in the middle of France. Like 30’C plus, plus hot. An airconditioned room was most inviting.

Inside the Basilica

Inside the Basilica

Our last night we had a picnic (pique-nique) on the banks of the Rhone, like veryone else seems to do in Lyon. They have loads of ex-barges which have been turned into bars and restaurants on the side of the Rhone. And seating on the quay. It’s lovely. Have I said how much I like Lyon? It’s a special place. It lacks the busyiness of Paris and the industrial feel of Marseille. The Rhone is the route from the north to the south. North France to south France. But also northern Europe to the Mediterranean countries. I could sit and watch boats passing by forever. We had a last pot of wine at one of the barges next to the river. Lyon is the only place that calls a carafe or pichet of wine – a pot. Not that we can pronounce it. Have to point it out on the menu. Apparently there are 3568 restaurants in Lyon. And a population of 2.5 million. More Michelin star restaurants per head than anywhere else in France. I can well believe it.

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Barging in Burgundy Part 23

Barging in Burgundy Part 23

To read from the beginning use this link – Barging in Burgundy

Roanne
I may moan about boating at times. Hands up. That’s me. But gearing up to leave our boat is always sad. And a bit traumatic. What weather will she endure? Are there vandals in the area? Did we do a good enough job with the covers? What if she has a mini leak and sinks? Will she be OK when we get back?

We’re so far away. It’s not like we can pop over and check on her. We leave her with a heavy heart. Sigh!

Luckily my other half had budgeted extra time in Roanne for us to get on top of things. We had used up most perishable food. Washed and cleaned. There were a last few things to do and see before we left. Which we did on this day.

Shangri La covered up

Shangri La covered up

Our last evening was spent minus the usual coverings on the back deck, listening to families, and various groups, not necesarily speaking French, playing petanq. This game crosses cultural and generational divides. People were queuing up to play. Shouting out for good luck and bashing their balls together before throwing. I can watch this forever.

Meanwhile on the boat, we were so sad. Having a boat is about entering a relationship. With an entity. You derive great pleasure from it. But you also bear a huge responsibilty for it.

Each of us chatted to various other boaties during the course of the day. Roanne is an affordable place to stop. Many people were moored for some time. Some were doing work on their boats. Others not leaving for long periods. It’s a crazy life. We’re all water nomads. Trying to escape the mundane, but bearing up to the responsibilities of owning a boat.

People playing petanq

People playing petanq

Our last supper was a Black Forest Tofu with my favourite French grated carrot salad (love that stuff) and a green leaf salad with a French dressing. Lots of wine. Divine.

Day Forty-Nine – 15th August 2017
Roanne to Lyon
As luck would have it, or not have it, depending on which way you look at it, this was yet another public holiday. Luckily the marina was open, so finalising our winter stay in Roanne could be done. The boat was clean and wintered. Something my husband has preferred to let an engineer do, but did himself for the first time this year.

The final chore was draining the hot water cylinder and water supply. Which we left until last. It turned out to be an almighty mission. All the engineers who did this job drained the water with another hose and used a pump to extract the water. The hose my husband was trying to loosen would not come free. With his dodgy back he was wriggling this hose by every means, trying desperately to get it to shift. Eventually he had to cut it to get it loose.

Leaving Roanne

Leaving Roanne

Then the water would not drain. We had to use a small bucket with a rope, and lower it along with the hose into the bowels of the boat, draining the water bit by bit. Which took forever. By the time the water had drained, it was time to go. The pair of us were drenched in sweat. We nearly forgot to turn off the stop cocks to the toilet. A South African girl living on her boat in Roanne kindly agreed to give us a lift to the station. I ended up leaving my jacket and hat on the boat.

As we arrived there was a train pulling in. We hopped on board with our luggage. No spare seats, so we stood for the the 70 minute journey. I wasn’t upset about standing but I would have liked to see the secenery. Sigh! Lyon Part Dieu Sation was a heaving mass of humans. We grabbed a bite to eat and dragged our luggage to the river banks to check into our Airbnb accomodation. Fabulous spot. High speed wifi, views, airconditioning and a super helpful host. We freshened up and took a mini siesta. Then went walkabout in the drizzle. We found a Lebanese restaurant and had an amazzing meal. Back at our accomodation our host, us, and a Polish couch-surfer shared a bottle of rose wine.

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