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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.
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.
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.
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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