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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.
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 with covered with caramelised onions or chunky tomatoes tossed in a freshly made salad dressing.
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.
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.
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.
More next week . . . . .