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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.
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.
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.
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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