Archive for the ‘Recipes’ Category


Sunday, November 7th, 2010

Guacamole comp

Every year when I pull up the tomato plants in the greenhouse, I keep a few green tomatoes to make a big batch of this guacamole.

Tart and tangy, it freezes easily and makes a welcome addition to a selection of nibbles to serve with drinks on a cold night. Although nothing stops you eating some straight away, of course…

The traditional accompaniment to guacamole is plain or spicy tortilla chips but we prefer the extra-crunchy Kettle Chips which, I’m pleased to report, are now available in France.

For 4 small plastic tubs (200ml)

4 ripe avocados
1 shallot (about 25g)
2 green tomatoes (about 150g)
3 tbs cider vinegar
1 tsp salt
Groundnut oil (or other mild vegetable oil)

Peel the shallot and chop it roughly with the tomatoes before whizzing them together in a food processor. Peel the avocados, remove the stones and scoop out the flesh. Process again – how long will depend on whether you prefer your guacamole smooth or chunky. Add the vinegar and salt and mix again briefly.

Divide the mixture between four small plastic tubs (I used some that had contained glacé cherries) and pour a thin layer of oil over each portion. This stops the guacamole from discolouring. Put the lids on securely and freeze.

When you defrost a portion you can either mix the oil into the guacamole before serving or pour it off and keep it for cooking or making salad dressing.

Recipe adapted from Mexican Vegetarian Cooking by Edith Metcalfe de Plata (Thorsons, 1983).

Happy World Vegan Day!

Monday, November 1st, 2010

The freezer and larder shelves are full, and apples, pumpkins and walnuts have been brought in for the winter. Still, it’s hard to believe on such a mild, sunny day that the darkest third of the year has begun, at least for those of us in the northern hemisphere.

Wherever you are, it’s a day of celebration because 1 November every year is World Vegan Day – a chance to share the delights of vegan food and tell others about the advantages of a vegan lifestyle.

Today is also the first anniversary of this blog, which was launched to coincide with this important date in the vegan calendar.

The celebrations continue throughout World Vegan Month, and in France the end of November sees the return of Paris Vegan Day.


The 2009 event was a great success, attracting about 400 visitors. Such was the interest that this year’s Paris Vegan Day has moved to more spacious premises with a view to welcoming the 2,000+ people expected to attend. If you’re in or can get to Paris, it’s all happening at La Bellevilloise, 19-21 rue Boyer, 75020 Paris, from 11am to 11.30pm on Sunday 28 November.

Now let me see… if the statistics continued to expand at the same rate, the number of visitors would reach 250,000 in 2013 and top the million mark in 2014! Veganism in France would no longer be viewed as weird, but as a growing trend, as it already is in several other countries. It may not work quite like that, but I can dream, can’t I?

Paris Vegan Day features product stalls, talks, workshops, cookery demonstrations, fashion parades, a photo contest, activities for children… You’ll find all the events listed here, along with other information about this unique day.

It would be great to see you there!

Roger’s Russian salad

Monday, October 11th, 2010

Roger had made two bowls of Russian salad: a vegan version for me and a more conventional one for his other guests. My salad was much admired – the chunks of beetroot gleaming like jewels in their vinaigrette coating while the colours of the other salad were muted by mayonnaise.

We all agreed that what made the flavour of this salad so striking was the contrast between the very tart apples from Roger’s garden and the other ingredients. As there’s no shortage of apples in our garden either right now, I soon came up with a salad along similar lines.

Salade russe 2

If you have to buy apples, I think Granny Smiths or Egremont Russets would work well in this recipe.

Shortly afterwards, I happened to read that what we in Europe call Russian Salad was invented by a French chef working in Mocow in the 19th century, and is still known in Russia and the United States as "Olivier Salad".

Serves 2

400g (about 1lb) waxy potatoes
A large, tart apple (mine weighed 200g – 8oz)
A large cooked beetroot
Half a cucumber
1 or 2 shallots
1 tbs cider vinegar
1 tsp Dijon mustard
3 tbs olive oil
Salt and freshly milled black pepper

Boil or steam the potatoes in their skins. Peel them once they are cool enough to handle, then cut into largish dice. (I like to add the dressing to potato salads while the potatoes are still warm, as they absorb the flavours better that way, but it’s not vital.)

Peel and dice the apple, cucumber and shallots. Mix with the potatoes, then add the diced beetroot.

Shake the vinegar and mustard together in a small glass jar. Add the oil and shake again. Add salt and pepper to taste, then pour the dressing over the vegetables and mix together gently.

One season pizza

Monday, September 27th, 2010

It took me a while to get used to pizza without cheese but now I find I prefer it, especially with a tangy tomato sauce, some really good olives and lots of veg. The other day I thought I’d go one step further and make a pizza without tomatoes.

I also decided to keep my environmental footprint to a minimum by using only vegetables from the garden: one of the first pumpkins, the last ears of sweetcorn, some courgettes, two small onions and a few sprigs of sage.

Pizza veg2

As I don’t grow my own wheat, I bought some local flour which had covered 80 kilometres to get to the nearest organic shop before I brought it another 30 kilometres home. The olive oil had travelled a bit further, but it was still produced here in France.

This recipe makes two pizzas, for two to four people, depending on how hungry they are. You could prepare the second while the first is cooking, then keep the first one hot so as to serve them together. But it’s more fun to eat the first pizza and make the second one afterwards. The dough will come to no harm, and those pining for more conventional toppings can add other ingredients to their half, third or quarter.

You could also rub a little oil on the second piece of dough, put it in a plastic bag (leaving room for the dough to rise a bit more) and put it in the fridge for 24 hours.

Pizza 1 saison
250g (8oz) unbleached flour
½ tsp salt
1 tsp instant yeast
1 tsp olive oil

Toppings: vegetables from your garden, market, local organic shop or weekly veg box.

Mix the flour, salt and yeast together in a bowl. Add 150ml (5 fl oz) of warm water and mix to a slightly sticky dough. Cover the bowl with a teacloth and leave to rest for 10 minutes.

Pour the oil onto the work surface. Remove the dough (which will already be more elastic) from the bowl and knead for about a minute to incorporate the oil. Cover with the upturned bowl and leave to rest for 20 minutes.

Knead once more for just a few seconds, then cover again with the bowl and leave for an hour.

Meanwhile, prepare the vegetables.
(I baked the pumpkin and onion pieces with a little oil for about 20 minutes at 200°C, simmered the sweetcorn for five minutes and sliced the courgettes fairly finely).

Preheat the oven to 230°C (Gas 8). Put in a pizza stone to heat up, if you have one.

Divide the dough into two pieces. Leave one under the upturned bowl and roll out the other, using plenty of flour, to a circle 30-35cm (12-14in) across (I use a rolling pin but if you’re feeling adventurous you could try throwing it in the air like an Italian piazziolo).

Remove the pizza stone from the oven or line a baking tray with parchment paper (there’s no law that says pizza has to be round). Carefully transfer the pizza base to the stone or tray. If it stretches too much, simply pull it back into shape or don’t bother – the taste won’t be affected. Arrange the vegetables on top as quickly as possible and bake the pizza until the edges start to turn golden (in my oven this takes about 12 minutes).

Enjoy sprinkled with some flakes of Maldon salt and a drizzle of olive oil.


Thursday, September 23rd, 2010

One of the highlights of the summer just ended was the Val de Jazz festival, held in a group of towns along the Loire valley between Gien and Sancerre.

This year’s performers included a brilliant and hilarious group of guitarists, Les Doigts de l’Homme, and the sublime, superlative, supercharged Johnny Clegg. The icing on this musical cake was a tempting array of sweet and savoury pastries that replaced the usual sausage and chips.

I instantly fell in love with the kokas, tiny turnovers stuffed with tomato, red pepper and garlic, and decided to have a go at making my own.

After several failures (mainly because my vegan version of the hot-water pastry suggested in the recipes I found was too crumbly), I had the idea of using my samosa pastry instead. Not only did this work a treat, it also taught me that this pastry can be baked rather than fried – which will significantly cut the fat content of my next batch of samosas.

If you can find it, chapati flour (known as ata or atta) makes a pastry that is particularly easy to handle. Otherwise wheatmeal flour (or a mix of plain and wholemeal) also works well.

Kokas 1

For 16 kokas

200g (7oz) chapati or wheatmeal flour
4 tbs sunflower oil
Pinch of salt

2 red peppers
400g (1lb) firm-fleshed tomatoes
4 large garlic cloves
1 tbs olive oil
½ tsp ground fennel
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp cider vinegar
2 tsp soya or other plant milk
Pinch of turmeric
½ tsp nigella seeds (kalonji – optional)

Start by cooking the peppers whole under a grill or in a very hot oven, turning them now and again, until the skins start to blacken and come away from the flesh. They will take about 20 minutes. Remove them from the heat, cover with a clean teacloth and leave to cool. This can be done well in advance.

Mix the flour and salt in a bowl. Add the sunflower oil and rub it in roughly. Add 4 tbs of cold water, or just enough to form a ball.

Knead the pastry for about 5 minutes, until smooth and elastic, then wrap it in clean film and leave to rest on the work surface for at least an hour.

Remove the skins, stems and seeds from the peppers. Peel the garlic and tomatoes. Crush the garlic with a knife and roughly chop the peppers and tomatoes.

Heat the olive oil in a – preferably non-stick – frying pan. Add the fennel, let it sizzle for a second or two, then put in the vegetables. Fry until the mixture is fairly dry and just starting to stick to the pan. Season to taste.

Leave the mixture to cool, then stir in the cider vinegar.

Preheat the oven to 200°C (Gas 6).

Divide the pastry into 16 pieces. Roll out each piece into a round about 10cm (4in) across. Put a good teaspoonful of the vegetable mixture in the middle of each round, dampen the edges and fold the pastry over to make a turnover. Seal and crimp the edges.

Put the soya milk and turmeric in a small glass jar and shake well. Brush the kokas with this liquid and sprinkle with nigella seeds (you could also use cumin seeds, paprika or another spice).

Arrange the kokas on a tray covered with baking parchment and bake for about 20 minutes.

Avocado gaspacho

Friday, September 10th, 2010

Gaspacho d'avocats

I was feeling pretty pleased to have come up with a recipe that anybody could eat – this soup is dairy-free, nut-free and gluten-free as well as suitable for raw foodists – until someone pointed out that I couldn’t serve it to people who are allergic to nightshade family vegetables like tomatoes, aubergines and peppers.

Well, all you have to do is leave out the pepper and that’s the problem sorted. Unless you happen not to like avocados…

The original recipe, from Elisabeth Luard, used dairy milk. Obviously it could be replaced by plant milk but I prefer this version made with water which lets the fresh flavours of the vegetables shine through.

If you have a glut of tomatoes at the moment you could put some of them in as well, although they do rather spoil the soup’s beautiful colour. However, if you’re still lucky enough to be eating outside in the evenings it’s unlikely anyone will notice.

Serves 4

1 cucumber
1 small green pepper
2 or 3 spring onions
2 cloves of garlic
3 ripe avocados
1 tsp salt
Juice of a lime

Roughly chop the cucumber, pepper, spring onion and garlic, and put them in a blender with just enough water to whizz to a paste. Rub the paste through a sieve, pressing hard to extract as much juice as possible.

Jus vert

Pour the resulting green liquid back into the blender (the pulp left in the sieve can be used for another dish). Peel the avocados, take out the stones and remove all the flesh, scraping the inside of the skins well because that’s where the richest green colour tends to lurk.

Put the avocado flesh in the blender with the salt, lime juice and 500ml (1 pint) of water. Blend again, adding a bit more water if needed to make the soup thick but pourable, and empty into a large jug. Chill for at least an hour before serving.

Aubergines with chickpeas and preserved lemon

Friday, September 3rd, 2010

When I first learned to prepare aubergines, cooking gurus used to advise inflicting all kinds of torture on this innocent vegetable.

First, we were supposed to leave them covered in salt "to get rid of the bitter juices". All this ever achieved was over-salty and pitifully flabby aubergines. In any event, I’ve never heard anyone complain about aubergines tasting bitter – and even if they do harbour a hint of bitterness, isn’t that one of the five flavours needed in any self-respecting recipe?

Next, we were told to fry our victims in unseemly amounts of oil, leaving them brimming with calories and hard to digest.

I don’t know if these brutal practices persist nowadays… luckily I haven’t seen them mentioned on any food blogs recently.

It’s true that if you fry aubergines in the traditional way, they will keep on soaking up oil as if it were going out of fashion. They can be baked whole, which works well if the recipe requires them to be peeled and mashed, but then they never acquire that appealing russet tinge.

For most aubergine dishes, I prefer to slice and bake them for half an hour or so with just a little oil. They emerge from the oven a lovely hazelnut colour.

Citrons confits
Recently I had the good fortune to find some preserved lemons – an ingredient I’d often read about but never used – and the idea of pairing them with aubergines soon sprang to mind.
Some chickpeas added substance while a selection of whole spices underscored the flavours – with a stick of cinnamon linking the Indian and Middle Eastern influences.

Serves 4

100g (4oz) chickpeas
2 largish aubergines (about 700g or 1½lb)
2 tbs olive oil
2 large garlic cloves
A stick of cinnamon
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp fennel seeds
½ fenugreek seeds
700g (1½lb) firm-fleshed tomatoes
Freshly ground black pepper
Half a preserved lemon

Start the day before by leaving the chickpeas to soak overnight, then cook them for about an hour and a half in fresh water. Reserve the cooking liquid. You could speed things up by using 250g (8oz) of tinned chickpeas, but be sure to rinse them well.

Heat the oven to 200°C (Gas 6). Cut the aubergines into slices 2-3cm (an inch) thick and brush them with one tablespoon of the oil. Place them on a non-stick baking tray and cook in the oven for 25-30 minutes, turning the slices over halfway through.

Aubergines cuites au four

Meanwhile, finely chop the garlic, and skin and chop the tomatoes. Heat the other spoonful of oil in a large sauté pan. Throw in the whole spices and let them pop for a few moments, until you can smell the aromas. Add the garlic and stir and fry briefly. Add the tomatoes, grind in some black pepper and leave to cook gently for about 20 minutes. (Don’t add salt: there’s enough in the lemon).

Cut the aubergine slices into four and dice the lemon. Add both to the sauce, along with the chickpeas and some of the chickpea cooking liquid or water if it’s starting to stick. Cook on a low heat for another half an hour or so, stirring from time to time.


Remove the cinnamon and serve with rice, quinoa or couscous. As with so many similar dishes, this one is even better reheated the next day.

I used the other half of the lemon to flavour pasta with courgettes and garlic. I also put some in salads. I’d be fascinated to hear about other ways with preserved lemons so if you have a favourite way of using them, do pass it on!

* sweet, salty, tart, bitter and umami (the latter is the rich, savoury taste found in mushrooms and soya sauce).


Wednesday, August 25th, 2010

As soon as I saw the photos of lavashak on My Persian Kitchen, I was itching to try this Iranian delicacy. Made only with fresh fruit, it seemed the perfect partner for nuts and crackers to take along on long hikes or bike rides.

When a friend gave me several kilos of little wild plums that had fallen from a tree in her garden, my curiosity about lavashak could wait no longer.

Known in English by the uninspiring name of fruit roll, the slightly offputting fruit leather and the even less appealing fruit jerky, lavashak is the quintessential childhood memory of a sweet treat for many Iranians.

It can be made with any stone fruit, such as plums, cherries, apricots and peaches. Sugar and spices may be added, but I wanted to try the plain version first. The result was just as delicious as I’d imagined: intensely fruity and mouthwateringly tart.

Lavashak p

The lemon juice can be left out, but I have the impression it helps the paste set better, as it does with jam.

For a tray of lavashak

1 kg of stone fruit
1 tbs lemon juice

Wash the fruit and remove the stones (I used a cherry stoner for my tiny plums). Put the fruit in a large, preferably non-stick, saucepan with the lemon juice and cook over a very low heat until you have a thick paste. Puree the paste in a processor or put it through a food mill.

Line a baking tray with silicone paper and oil it lightly. Spread the fruit paste evenly over the paper. Put into an oven set as low as possible and leave it for an hour, watching it carefully to make sure the edges don’t start to burn.

Leave to cool and cover with a clean teacloth before putting it out in the sun for two days.

If it’s really hot where you are, leave out the oven stage and just put the lavashak in the sun for four days.

When it’s ready, the lavashak should be glossy and only very slightly sticky to the touch. Cut it into strips, roll them up and keep in a plastic box in the refrigerator.

Warm potato salad with cucumber

Thursday, August 19th, 2010

Salade pdt conc comp

This lazy lunch was put together with whatever ingredients fell to hand: garden vegetables helped along by a few items from the larder.

I served the salad with crispbread. Another time I might add some oven-dried tomatoes or stoned black olives.

500 g (1 lb) new potatoes
1 tbs sunflower seeds
2 tbs tahini
1-2 tbs lemon juice
1 tbs soya yogurt
1 tbs maple syrup
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 small cucumber (or half an ordinary cucumber)

Boil or steam the potatoes in their skins. Meanwhile, dry-fry the sunflower seeds in a cast-iron pan until golden.

Strain the potatoes and cover the pan with a teacloth to absorb excess moisture while they cool a little.

Put the tahini in a small bowl and gradually add the lemon juice, stirring continuously. The mixture will thicken at first. When it starts to thin out, stir in the yogurt and maple syrup, and season to taste.

Cu the potatoes into chunks. Peel the cucumber and cut into chunks of a similar size. Put both vegetables in a salad bowl and mix in the dressing.

Sprinkle the salad with the toasted sunflower seeds and decorate with a few sprigs of basil (the variety in the photo, called Purple Delight, has a particularly intense flavour).

Italian lemon cake

Tuesday, August 10th, 2010


This cake has a firm, unusual texture, somewhat reminiscent of a scone. Fragrant with lemon and not too sweet, it can be dunked in coffee for a wonderfully self-indulgent breakfast. You could also serve it after a meal with a sweetish wine like a muscat or just enjoy a slice with a cup of tea.

This is my version of the recipe for ciambella given by Marcella Hazan in her Second Classic Italian Cookbook. I veganised it by replacing the eggs in the original recipe by a ripe pear. Instead of butter, I used a mixture of cashew paste and groundnut oil.

What makes this cake rise so satisfactorily is the cream of tartar, an ingredient that used to be common in the UK but which I tried without success to track down last time I was in London. However, a quick google suggests it should be available from the big supermarkets.

500 g (1lb 2oz) plain or wheatmeal flour
2½ tsp cream of tartar
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
120 g (4oz) cane sugar
A pinch of salt
3 tbs cashew (or almond) paste
4 tbs groundnut oil
The grated zest of a lemon (preferably organic)
A very ripe pear (or 150 g of unsweetened stewed pear or apple)
1 tsp soya milk (or other plant milk)
1 tsp agave syrup

Preheat the oven to 190°C (Gas 5). Line a baking tray with silicone paper.

Combine the flour, cream of tartar, bicarbonate of soda, sugar and salt in a large bowl.

In a small saucepan, melt the cashew or almond paste with the oil over a very low heat. Pour into the flour mixture and stir well. Add the lemon zest, the peeled and cored pear, and enough water to give the consistency of pastry. Knead lightly.

Roll the dough between your hands to form a "sausage" about 30 cm long. Place it on the baking tray and pinch the two ends together to form a circle.

In a small bowl, whisk the plant milk and agave syrup together with a fork and brush the cake with this mixture.

Ciambella avant cuisson

Bake the cake for about 30 minutes, or until well risen and golden brown. Slide it gently onto a cooling rack and leave until completely cold before slicing. It tastes even better the next day.