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The French love potatoes. In the north, they make a potato mash or purée which is easy to prepare. Boil potatoes in water. In another small pot add soy milk, garlic, a bay leaf and thyme. You can add lemon zest, black pepper or chili to vary the flavour. Simmer until flavours have infused. Once potatoes are cooked, drain most of the water but retain some. Pour warm milk over potatoes and mash for a rustic effect or purée with a stick blender to get a creamy mash. Add left-over boiled water if your mash is too thick. French potatoes behave differently to other potatoes. They can become thick and gloopy and need more liquid. Increase the protein yield of your mash by adding a can of warmed white beans to your mash.
Puy lentil rissoles
In Lyon they make a French classic – Lyonnaise Potatoes. Boil potatoes, drain and cool. Sauté onions in oil. Slice potatoes into rounds and mix in. Add salt and pepper to taste. Cover with chopped parsley.
Top your salads with pan toasted or raw nuts for a bit of crunch and good fats. Maybe some beans or lentils for protein. Sometimes I add diced French Pickles (cornichons). Pickles are another ridiculously easy food to make yourself. Dice or slice veggies such as onions, cucumbers, carrots, cauliflower. They need to be vegetables with crunch so not tomatoes or avocados. Pack them into a sterilised jar. I sterilise my jars (not the lids) by filling the jars with water and bringing it to the boil in a microwave, then using a cloth to avoid burning your hands, pour the boiling water from the jars over the lids. Allow jars and lids to drain and cool.
Place enough vinegar to fill your jars into a pot, add seasonings such as salt, peppercorns, maybe a bit of sugar or stevia and bay leaves or mustard seeds. Bring to the boil and then pour over your pickles. Allow to cool and close lids. Store pickles in the fridge and never touch them with your fingers as that can cause them to spoil. Use a fork to get them out.
French pickles and pate
Herbes de Provence is a versatile local seasoning and another inexpensive gift for food lovers back home. I sauté onions and garlic in oil with Herbes de Provence, salt and pepper. Then I add whatever veggies I happen to find – aubergine, courgette, green pepper for example. Chop them up and add to the sautéed mix, plus a tin of tomatoes or tomato paste. This makes a quick Ratatouille which goes well with crusty bread. Or whole-wheat pasta. When I can’t be bothered to cook, I keep a few tins of Ratatouille in the cupboard. To increase the protein in this meal, add a can of beans or lentils.
Vegan omelette with red cabbage salad
If you can find soft tofu, a great protein rich main course to make is a thick vegetable Omelette. You’re wanting to mix together a block of tofu, 2 – 3 Tablespoons of soy milk, 1 teaspoon Dijon Mustard, plus salt and pepper to taste. Blend with your stick blender. In another bowl mix 2 Tablespoons corn flour, 2 Tablespoons chickpea flour (farine pois chiches) and about 1/4 teaspoon turmeric powder. Mix the wet and dry ingredients together until you get a thick batter. Add more of one or the other if need be. Lastly blend in 2 Tablespoons finely milled flaxseeds. Set aside for 20 minutes. Sauté onions and garlic in olive oil. Add seasonings, salt, pepper plus whatever veggies you have at hand, red peppers, spinach, squashes for example. The more vegetables – the better. When the veggies are cooked, stir the omelette batter into the pan, turn down the heat and allow to cook for at least 20 minutes. It will look dry when cooked. Place a plate over your pan and flip over to remove the omelette. Turn it over and return to pan to brown the other side. Around 20 minutes more. Cut into slices and serve with a fresh green salad. You can also use this mix to make a quiche. Line a pie dish with ready-made pastry. Fill with the omelette mix and bake at 180’C for about 40 minutes or until cooked.
Another quick satisfying meal is a veggie soup. You can skip the whole browning of onions bit and simply pop whatever veggies you have at hand into a pot with a stock cube or two. Or a Bouquet Garni. Adding a couple of potatoes helps thicken a soup and creates a faux creamy texture without having to use cream. I always add an onion or two for flavour. Bring to the boil and then simmer until veggies are soft. Don’t overcook them. Blitz with your stick blender. Top with a dollop of soy yoghurt and serve with a lemon wedge and French Bread.
Two soups that you can make in advance and serve cold are Vichyssoise and Petit Pois Soup. Make the Vichyssoise from leeks and the Petit Pois Soup from little green peas. Use day or two old French bread as croutons for your soups. Lightly rub the sides of your bread with an olive oil and garlic mix. You can fry the bread to make it crispier.
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Falafels are quick to make and can be fried in a pan or baked. The formula is more or less the same. Start with a cooked legume – blanched green peas, cooked red lentils or a drained can of chickpeas. Add seasonings to taste to the legumes. Salt, pepper, lemon juice and mint go well with peas. Smoked paprika, soy sauce and agave nectar for are nice with red lentils. Harissa or Zaa’tar and salt are best for a traditional chickpea falafel. Mash with a fork or blend with a stick blender. You can include grated veg such as carrots or courgettes – make sure to squeeze and drain them well. Next you want to add chickpea flour to get your mixture to firm up, so you can shape them. Traditional recipes call for a touch of bicarbonate of soda as well. I’m not keen on the flavour residue from that ingredient. Mix well and allow to stand for at least 20 minutes. Roll into balls or use two spoons to make quenelles and fry or bake them until cooked. Perfect with flatbreads and soy yogurt.
Flat curried courgette falafels with vegan ham and green salad
We love wandering around the supermarkets checking out what they have. Peanuts (cacahuètes) are a great protein snack to have with our sundowners. They usually lurk on the bottom shelf near the crisps and come shrink wrapped. We also hunt down cereal coffees which are near the regular coffees and not in the health section. They make a lovely warm drink minus the caffeine. I prefer it with a plant milk. Sometimes, if you’re lucky, you find vegan ice cream in the frozen section.
Cereal coffee and of course wine
I’ve found Mediterranean dried fruit such as figs (figues) and dates (dattes), but also un-sweetened dried bananas. They come compressed in strips and look like anchovies in a tin. I often make protein balls. Perfect for an on-the-run breakfast or midday snack. Soak dried fruit in water until soft. Drain water and add a little melted coconut oil plus vanilla. I try not to add too much oil, but more does help firm them up when they go in the fridge. Mix with a stick blender. In another bowl place equal amounts finely milled flax or chia seeds, ground oats (do that in a coffee grinder), ground almonds (easy to find in the shops) and protein powder. Then add spices and seasonings to taste. Think grated dark chocolate, orange zest or star anise powder. Add more water if too dry or more ground oats if too wet. Shape the mixture into balls. You can roll them in cacao powder, desiccated coconut or sesame seeds to make them look attractive. Store in the fridge.
The French often eat no more than green leaves as a salad with a home-made French dressing. Their lettuce needs to be washed well as there’s always sand lurking in the leaves. They sell it whole, not leaves in a bag. Dry the washed leaves in kitchen paper towel. Dressing will not coat nicely if leaves are still wet. A typical French dressing will be made fresh using oil, vinegar, Dijon Mustard, salt and pepper. Ratio oil to acid is 3 to 1 if you’re French. I do it the other way around to cut our fat intake. Sometimes they add finely chopped garlic or shallots as well as minced fresh herbs. Mix together in an old jar and shake well. Your dressing will keep for a week or two in the fridge. The range and quality of French oils and vinegars is staggering. It helps that they have good ingredients when they make their food. I always have Atlantic Sea Salt on hand, which is slightly grey in colour. Makes a great inexpensive gift for food lovers back home. Dijon Mustard is also a great light-weight gift to take back with you. Of course, you can layer your salads with other vegetables to vary them. We try to eat a large fresh salad every day.
Home-made French salad dressing
I often boil potatoes, but instead of using mayonnaise, I use a French dressing with soy yoghurt to get a creamy texture. Vegan mayonnaise is super easy to make if you can’t live without it. There are four things to get right. 1) Make sure all your ingredients are chilled before you start. 2) Look for the highest percentage soy in your soy milk. Some of them are so low it’s no more than flavoured water. You need a reasonable amount of soy to get this to blend. 3) Add your oil very, very, very slowly. 4) Add your acids last. They can cause your veganaise to split if you add them too soon.
Put all your ingredients in the fridge the day before to ensure they are cold. Pour about 1/2 Cup soy milk into a tall, narrow jug. Add 1 Tablespoon Dijon Mustard, salt, pepper and a teeny bit of sugar or stevia to taste. Blend well. You can use olive oil, but I prefer a neutral taste oil. Slowly add your oil in a steady stream while blitzing your soy milk mixture continuously with a stick blender. Actually, a stick blender is the best way to make vegan mayonnaise. You’re going to add as much as 2 Cups of oil. I wait until it goes gloopy then stop. But, the more oil you add, the creamier your vegan mayonnaise will be. Finally add about 2 Tablespoons lemon juice or cider vinegar and blitz that through. And that’s it. Vegan mayo done. Store in the fridge. Will last about two weeks.
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What could be more French than pancakes (crêpes)? To make them take 1 cup of whole-wheat flour, plus 2 rounded teaspoons of finely milled flaxseeds and mix together. Add soy milk until you get a thick pouring batter. Allow to stand for at least 20 minutes. It will probably thicken so you may have to add water to get it back to a thick pouring consistency. Pour into a pan and cook until the mixture looks dry. Turn or flip and cook the other side. Serve with cinnamon sugar and a lemon wedge.
Wholewheat crepes with sauteed leeks, kale and vegan cheese plus Frenach carrot salad
You can also fill your crêpes with fresh or stewed fruit, nuts, broken dark chocolate or some agave nectar. Try making Crêpes Suzette by squeezing the juice of an orange into a pan and adding some sugar. Simmer until a syrup is formed. Add a splash of Cognac and pour over your crêpes. Serve with soy yogurt. If you can find buckwheat flour, use that instead of wheat flour for more authentic French crêpes.
In the south of France, they eat a pancake or flatbread called Socca. It’s ridiculously easy to make. Mix chickpea flour (farine pois chiches) with water to make a pouring batter. The longer this can stand the better. Pour into a pan and cook until the mixture looks dry. Turn or flip and cook the other side. You can make them nice and thick and serve slices covered with caramelised onions or chunky tomatoes tossed in a freshly made salad dressing.
Stewed foraged prunes with soy creme anglais and crushed biscuits
There’s usually another section in the supermarkets where they keep healthy and organic foods. We find long-life soy milk or soy drink (boisson soja) as they call it, other plant milks, long-life tofu, oat flakes (flocons d’avoine), flours (farines), veggie pâtes, etc there. Bjorg is a major brand to look out for. Their tofu is a strange texture, almost spongy, but it soaks up flavours really well and is square shaped like a steak or cutlet. I marinade them for about 20 minutes with a sweet/soy marinade, a BBQ marinade or use a sheet of nori, salt and lemon juice for an ocean flavour. Flash fry them to crispen the outsides and serve with a fresh salad.
In the chilled dairy area, you should find soy yogurts or soy desserts as they call it in France. I buy them plain (nature) making them more versatile. They can be used as a layer in a parfait or in a raita or tzatziki type salad. Most French supermarkets have a few ready-made salads that are vegan. Couscous Salad, Lyonnaise Lentil Salad and my absolute favourite, a Grated Carrot Salad (carottes râpées). You can buy a big tub of it under the supermarket Own-Brand label for about €1. Can’t get enough of it.
Lyonnaise Lentil salad in lettuce leaves
The bakery (patisserie) will have cakes and pastries, most of which are sadly – not vegan. But French breads are usually vegan. We opt for a whole-wheat loaf (pain complet) or a rye bread (pain seigle) which we eat with home-made hummus. I’ve never seen commercially made hummus in France. We buy chick peas (pois chiches) in a tin, add a nut butter, garlic, salt, pepper and lemon juice to taste. Most recipes add oil, but I skip it. Mash it all up and voila, instant hummus! No masher? Use your hands or a fork and smush it up for a chunky hummus or use your stick blender for a creamy hummus. Peanut butter makes a great substitute for tahini in hummus. Also goes well in smoothies. It’s a staple in our life. You can also serve your hummus with fresh vegetable crudités – carrot sticks, cucumber batons, green beans or mange tout go well.
I use other beans to make different pâtes. Try a tin of drained white beans (haricots blanc) as a base, plus salt, pepper and lemon juice. Most recipes for pâtes include a glug of olive oil. And it does improve the flavour. However, if it tastes fine without oil, I skip it. Then add either olives, soaked sundried tomatoes, caramelised onions or fresh herbs such as basil to make tasty pâtes.
Petit pois and chick pea pate of whole wheat bread
You can also use ordinary green peas to make a divine pâte. Find a small bag of frozen peas and cover them with boiling water for about a minute and then drain well. Mash with garlic, lemon juice, salt and pepper. I quite like a bit of mint with a green pea pâte. Include olive oil if you want an authentic pâte. Pile onto crusty French bread and top with a slice of tomato.
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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.
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
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.
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
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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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.
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
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
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
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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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
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
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
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
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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