Another French classic is Crème Brûlée. You can swerve eggs and cream to make a really nice vegan version. You need 200g to 400g of silken tofu, 1/2 to 1 whole can coconut cream, 1 – 2 Tablespoons GMO-free corn-flour, a pinch of turmeric (the depth of colour deepens as it heats so be shy with it), plus sweetener and vanilla to taste. Put all this in a pot. Add a plant milk to get it to a thick batter. Blend well with a stick blender. Get your pot up to medium heat and cook, stirring well, until it thickens. I stir with one of those heat-proof spatulas. Quickly pour into ramekins and allow to cool. When cool, move into fridge until ready to eat. Serve cold. Just before presenting, top with a generous layer of sugar and grill. Or use one of those French blow torch gadgets that do the job. If you can’t grill, like us on the boat, then two hours before, sprinkle with a caramely golden sugar like demarera sugar or coconut blossom sugar and allow to melt in the fridge.
Vegan creme brulee
You can turn this into a chocolate dessert by adding, cacao powder – might have to add extra liquid – and use chocolate shavings on top instead of sugar. Or – you can add a distinctive spice – such as ground cardamom or star anise (this is when your coffee grinder proves it’s worth), then garnish your dessert with sliced fruit like nectarines or melons – doused in agave nectar – and arranged in a circular decoration on top of the ramekins.
Stone fruit abound in France. I’ve encountered assorted peaches, nectarines and plums back in South Africa. But fresh prunes and mirabelles are new to me. They’re a great choice for parfaits and vegan cheeze platters – see earlier post for recipes – as they don’t oxidise (turn brown). Stone fruit also make pretty tarts. Who knew?
Raw stone fruit tart
Raw tarts are all the same – only different. Your base is going to be a ratio of approximately 2/3 mix of – neutral flavoured nuts, seeds or dessicated coconut (think ground almonds, desicated coconut, hazelnuts, seame seeds or chai seeds) to a 1/3 pre-soaked dates and coconut oil mix. Crush your 2/3 nuts, seeds and coconut mix either on a chopping board, a pestle and mortar or if you’re lucky enough to have one handy – a food processor. Finely ground is good, but chunky-ish is also OK. Now you want to add the 1/3 pre-soaked dates and coconut oil which will have been blended together. These last ingredients bind the base and help it set. If you can’t find dates, soaked dried figs or bananas are also good. Press into a tart base or mini tart bases and allow to set in the fridge.
Poached pears in red wine with soy creme anglaise
For a creamy fruit filling you’re wanting 1/3 soaked cashew nuts, 1/3 coconut oil and 1/3 fruit such as pineapple, mango or fresh berries. Plus sweeteners and maybe spices or vanilla for taste. If you add a touch of lemon juice it give more of a cheese cake flavour. Blend well and check the flavours before pouring into your base and allowing to set in the fridge. Garnish with fresh fruit.
I made a raw stone fruit tart using ground almonds, desicated coconut, dates and coconut oil for the base. Since we don’t have tart tins on the boat I pressed the base into a ring mould. For the filling I chopped stone fruit, tossed it in lemon juice and then drained it well. Next I added a small amount (too much and it’s gritty) of finely milled flaxseeds and placed the fruit over my bases. I used a knife to loosen the base from the mould and served it straight from the fridge.
I’m not able to say exactly which beers are safe. Most places in France have a large variety of Belgian beers. And we think that’s a good thing. Just like the French get wine. The Belgians, without doubt, make the best beer in the world. I know from drinking wine back home in South Africa that most red wines are vegan. As a rule I choose reds bit I also happen to prefer red wine. Even on a sweltering hot day. We love trying different wines and there are so many to choose from. We usually buy a few supermarket Own-Brand wines which are well priced. But we also look out for organic wines. You can find a nice organic wine for as little as €5 to €6. When eating out we ask for Vin Ordinaire which is usually a regional wine and have yet to be disappointed.
Beer and wine
The techniques mentioned here are simple. We aim to eat 50% raw food. Our experience, and that of those we’ve been on raw food courses with, is 100% raw includes far too many nuts which are heavy on the liver – and fattening. Legumes and soy products are excellent low calorie protein sources. I don’t believe you should avoid them, although they do need to be cooked well. If you’re cooking legumes from scratch – ignore the Old Wives Tale – DON’T add acids while cooking. No vinegar, lemon juuce or tomato puree. It inhibits the cooking of legumes causing them to be less digestible. Add those after cooking. And throw away the soaking water. The indigestibles go with that water making them much easier on the gut.
Hopefully you will be able to take what I have learned to make your own yummy food. At the very least, I hope I’ve helped you see how easy it is to make a vast range of vegan meals.
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
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
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.