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I always keep tins or jars of artichokes, pickles, sundried tomato and olives and various beans on hand to use in spreads or on top of salads. As well as a bag of brown rice and whole-wheat pasta. For a quick fresh pistou to go with soups, place the following into a tall jug and blend with a stick blender – spinach or any leafy greens, some basil or any fresh green herbs, garlic, salt and a splash of olive oil. For a more pesto like flavour add either raw or pan toasted nuts or seeds. Taste and add more of whatever you feel is missing. I add nutritional yeast for a parmesan like flavour. Great stirred through warm pasta.

Brown rice risotto

Brown rice risotto

One other thing we really enjoy is a Brown Rice Risotto. Especially if I can lay my hands on asparagus. I always start the same method – sauté onions and garlic – then add veg such as green peas, mushrooms, asparagus, courgette and gently cook. Next mix a veggie stock cube or two with 1 Cup of water and soy cream (soy cuisine) and pour a little over the vegetables. Add the brown rice and a glug of white wine. Keep adding the rest of the liquid and more water if needed until the rice has swelled up and cooked.

We love, love love pan fried greens in olive oil and garlic. Whatever we find on Market Day goes in. Think green cabbage (choux vert), kale (choux kale) and spinach (epinard). Chop your greens and drizzle with fresh lemon juice, salt, cracked black pepper and nutmeg if you have it. The leaves will reduce a bit. Cook in a pan with a little olive oil until wilted. You may have to add your greens a little at a time but they reduce in volume fast. Heaven on a plate and leafy greens are so good for you.

Sauteed greens, ratatouille and grated carrot salad

Sauteed greens, ratatouille and grated carrot salad

To finish a meal you can serve a vegan cheezes platter. Artfully arrange vegan cheezes, preserves, fresh fruit such as figs, grapes or apple slices with cracker biscuits and French Bread.

Freshly brewed coffee and a few squares of chocolate make a great finale after a heavy meal. Vegans can eat dark (noir) chocolate. Côte d’Or is French and they usually list the ingredients people want to avoid in bold at the back of the pack. Look for the word LAIT to avoid milk chocolate and BEURRE to avoid butter in caramel varieties.

Stewed apricots, soy yogurt and crushed biscuit parfait

Stewed apricots, soy yogurt and crushed biscuit parfait

A really simple, attractive French style dessert is a parfait. You control how virtuous or decadent you want it to be. You’re going to create layers in pretty glasses. You want – something creamy, something tart and something crunchy. For something creamy, use either soy yogurt, a vegan custard, chocolate ganache (blend avocado, cacao and agave nectar with a stick blender); whipped coconut cream (the secret getting coconut cream to whip, is to keep a tin of coconut cream in the coldest part of your fridge, and whip when it’s cold) or a raw cream (blend soaked cashews with vanilla and a sweetener).

Champagne and peanuts on the back deck

Champagne and peanuts on the back deck

Then you want something tart. I usually use chopped fresh fruit or a fruit puree. To make a puree add chopped fruit and very little liquid to a pot on low heat and allow it to soften. Then blitz with a stick blender until smooth. You can also add a sweetener and spices to taste. If you’ve added too much liquid, allow it to keep simmering to reduce. If it still won’t thicken, add a bit of GMO free corn-flour. I sometimes soak dried fruit like mango, banana or pineapple. Then blend.

For crunch consider chopped nuts, crushed biscuits, grated dark chocolate, nut brittle or a pan toasted oat crumble (mix coconut oil, sugar and oats in a pan and allow to carmelise – pour onto a board to cool and break into pieces). To assemble use a teaspoon add one layer creamy alternating with one layer fruit until you’ve used up your mixes. Then top with your crunch.

Some ideas for parfaits are:-
* vanilla custard, pear and dark chocolate
* chocolate ganache, red berries and toasted crushed almonds
* coconut cream, rhubarb and crumbed vegan ginger biscuits
* soy yogurt, mango and crunchy bits of peanut brittle.

Final post next week . . . . .

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