croque monsieur tartlets

i didn’t take pictures in time to capture the full dozen little croque monsieur-inspired tartlets i made for dinner today, but here. look at the two that are left.


i was with my kids in sainsburys today and saw that they now stock quorn’s vegan ham slices. so naturally, i bought all five packets that were left, so they’d stock more in response to increased demand.

eldest wanted ham sandwiches for dinner. i said no, as i’d already planned a sort of cajun dirty rice thing, but then thought of croque monsieurs and said yes. then we passed a roll of puff pastry in the fridge…

so i decided to do a big croque monsieur-style tart. but when we got home, the puff pastry roll didn’t quiiite fit my largest baking tray. then i noticed my sad, neglected muffin tin…

anyways, read on!

croque monsieur tartlets
1 roll puff pastry, cut into 12 squares
dijon mustard
6 slices vegan ham, diced
1 to 2 tomatoes, diced
grated vegan cheese
1/2 an onion, chopped
around 1 cup bechamel sauce

okay so first off: caramelise the onions in the margarine when you’re making your bechamel sauce. you really need some caramelised onions in this dish.

either line a muffin tin with 12 cupcake cases, or grease with margarine or something. shove the puff pastry dough squares into each hole, then bake at 180C while you chop all the things. check the pastry every 5 minutes and if the middle is puffing up poke them with a fork.

when the middle’s looking a bit less soggy but not fully cooked, take the tray out of the oven, smear the bottom of each tartlet with a little dijon mustard, and fill with about 1 Tbsp each of diced ham, tomatoes, and cheese. put back in the oven and bake until the pastry’s golden.

finally, take out of the oven and spoon a thick layer of bechamel sauce over the top of each tartlet. put under a medium-hot grill until bubbly. great for picnics!

fad food: variations

i was ready to let curry noodles die. honest.

then i bought mango pickle.

now due to running out of nooch and laziness the recipe has morphed into sliced mango pickles, lemon juice, and lots and lots of margarine. it’s goddamned delicious.

except, now i’ve run out of noodles. sigh.

fad food: it’s curry noodle weather (again)

my fad foods come in seasons. not traditional ones bounded by time, but personal ones. so lasagne is out (don’t worry, i’ll probably force my family to eat it for the whole winter), and mac’n’cheez is in.

but what am i literally eating for every meal right now? yup. once again, i’m hoovering up industrial quantities of curry noodles.

i think it’s something to do with the cold, blustery weather that comes between seasons, but for the past week or so i’ve had to force myself to eat anything else. i cook the noodles plain, then dump them on top of margarine blended with salt, curry powder, lemon juice, and nooch. then i top with copious pickle slices and mayonnaise (okay, salad cream – it’s 50p less at tesco for twice as much squeezy goodness).

i expect i’ll get sick of it soon. after all, the season’s changing.

making decent hummus is a pain in the arse

i’m like three quarters of a tin into peeling chickpeas and am deeply regretting attempting to save money by not buying premade hummus. and i have another tin to go. send proper hummus -_-

also, hai. i have been on a life journey that precluded food blogging. thankfully (?), i am unemployed and broke again and turning to my one surefire stress relieving hobby of cooking. you’re welcome, anytime, truly. …send money and/or a decent job.

the sketch app presents: fad food round-up

howdy to all and sundry who actually read this blog! it’s been awhile so i thought i’d let you in on my latest fad foods. however, i’ve been too lazy (and hungry) to take pictures (and/or the pictures i’ve taken have been crap), so i decided to draw my fad foods using the sketch app for android. 

(do you like my name-dropping btw? thought i’d shoehorn a plug in there just in case somebody somewhere wants to give me money to write a cookbook or something.)

anyways my sketching has had mixed results as can be seen below:

i’ve made about 5 or 6 lasagnes in the past 2 weeks, but the best picture i’ve been able/willing to take has been this:

i mean, it’s not a horrible picture, but it doesn’t adequately capture the spirit of the dish i’ve been perfecting for the past couple weeks. hence the beautiful sketch. (shut up.)

i’ve been making moussaka for donkey’s, because lasagne always seemed too fiddly. then, i actually read the instructions on a packet of lasagne sheets and discovered that you don’t actually need to cook them first. (shut. up.)

so long story short, lasagne for daaays. layered with bechamel sauce, an insanely easy tomato sauce which i guess i’ll include for posterity, sometimes some sliced courgettes, and topped with, budget permitting, vegan cheese (or breadcrumbs if not – sometimes i add ground-up nuts too).

i’ll give you the really basic tomato sauce base i found in the guardian one day (SHUT UP), as well as my adaptations.

tomato sauce for lasagne
1 tin peeled plum tomatoes
1 or 2 onions, sliced into thin rings
3 Tbsp margarine
1/2 tsp salt

100g soya mince (either frozen or dried)
2 tsp soya sauce
1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tsp vegetable bouillon (if using unflavoured dried mince)

melt the margarine in a saucepan, adding the salt and sliced onions and cooking over low heat until soft. add the soya mince if using (along with the soaking water if using dried), making sure to cook a couple minutes if frozen, along with the soya sauce, balsamic vinegar, and vegetable bouillon. dump in the tin of tomatoes, breaking apart the whole plum tomatoes with your stirring spoon. allow to come to a simmer over low heat, then just leave it to meld together for awhile so you can get on with other stuff (like slicing courgettes or making bechamel sauce!).

NEXT FAD FOOD: japanese-style breakfast. nearly every day, for about 3 years. it comes and goes sometimes but this has persisted beyond a fad into a habit.

it all started in the airport one day, desperately searching for a hearty vegan breakfast before a morning flight. i passed by a wagamama’s and thought to myself, ‘i wonder what japanese people eat for breakfast.’

as it turns out, japanese people have magic for breakfast. that day i had miso soup, sushi rice, and pickles. i’ve since substituted hiyayakko for miso soup – mine consists of cold medium-firm or silken tofu topped with chopped spring onions, nori flakes, sesame seeds, and soya sauce. on the side i have sushi rice, sliced into blocks from a container in the fridge (or fresh and hot from the rice cooker), and homemade japanese pickles. 

here’s an old picture…just makes me want to have second breakfast tbh…

‘japanese pickles??’ i hear you ask. (not really but i need a segue.) yes, friends. pickled cucumber, radish, and ginger, all made at home. ‘but hoooooowww’

well friends, the pickling brine recipe is a piece of piss to make. allow me to enlighten you.

japanese pickling brine
1 cup rice vinegar
1 cup water
1 cup sugar
1 tsp salt

okay i confess, i nicked this recipe from somewhere but don’t remember where. anyways all you do is boil all the above together until the sugar dissolves, then pour it over the sliced veg you want to pickle (or in the case of ginger boil it for a few minutes on the hob). then just leave the jars of pickles to cool and pop in the fridge, where they will keep for ages ^_^

culinary cock-up: ‘i don’t have time for this shit’ quick oat milk

lately i’ve been cooking with homemade oat milk instead of soya, because while 59p/litre is great, it still can’t beat 7p/litre.

seriously. i love, love, love cheap shwag.

however, i have discovered two drawbacks to homemade oat milk:

1) you have to soak the oats overnight, which is bad if you just want to make a cheap cheesy sauce on a whim.

2) the ~1.5L you do make has to be used within about 3 days, otherwise it goes all rancid in the fridge. like, come on oat people, you’re not helping me sell this to my family here.

SO today i decided, fuck this, i am making instant oat milk. by essentially pouring boiling water over instant porridge oats, blending, then straining out the porridge.

reader, it worked! i poured 2 cups of boiled water over 1/2 cup of oats, blended, and strained.

okay, it was a bit thicker than normal oat milk, and had the taste and texture of thin gruel.

but it watered down into a passable oat milk, that took 5 minutes to make. it worked, the end.

cheat’s bolognese

you know how some days you go to make pasta with a simple tomato sauce, and as you’re frying an onion you discover that you’ve run out of tinned tomatoes? yeah. 

fortunately my frantic search turned up tomato paste and frozen soya mince (i knew that impulse purchase from tesco would pay off!), so i decided i’d do a bolognese sauce. mindful of the ‘perfect bolognese’ article i read in the guardian a few weeks ago (yes i know how bougie that sounds), i added a bit more margarine and commandeered some soya milk to mimic the dairy in a ‘true’ bolognese.

and it was awesome! plus i used yeast extract instead of nooch, so it’s easy to make with on-hand non-specialist ingredients. so without further ado, the recipe:

cheat’s bolognese
serves 4 adults
ingredients (just fyi, these are all approximate)
250g pasta
50g margarine
1 medium onion, sliced into thin rings
100g frozen soya mince
1/2 to 1 tsp yeast extract, such as marmite
2 Tbsp tomato paste
~1 Tbsp soya sauce
1 tsp red wine vinegar
1/2 cup unsweetened plant milk (i used soya)
salt and pepper to taste

put on the hob a large covered pan of salted water, with a slick of vegetable oil on top. while you’re waiting for it to boil, melt the margarine in a separate pan and fry the onion over low heat until softened.

once it’s all golden and yummy-smelling, add the mince and turn the heat up a little. fry for a couple of minutes until thawed, then turn heat back down. add the yeast, tomato paste, soya sauce, and vinegar, and mix well.

stir in the soya milk and bring to a simmer. by now hopefully your pasta water has boiled, so you can add the pasta to the pan. simmer the sauce for a few minutes, then take off heat while your pasta cooks.

before you drain your pasta, reserve about 1/3 cup of the cooking water. add this to the bolognese and bring back to a simmer. drain the pasta and return it to the large pan, stirring in the bolognese sauce. add salt and pepper, and serve while hot!

roast chicken-style tofu

so uh, this is probably the pinnacle of my recipe-blogging career. seriously. i can’t imagine how it gets better from here.

a couple weeks ago i veganised a recipe from the guardian for lemon-roasted new potatoes, and the intrusive thought popped up that it would be the perfect side for roast chicken. this made me sad for two reasons: firstly, that such an iconic taste of my childhood was built on the death of an animal; and secondly, that i wouldn’t be able to properly recreate this taste in a cruelty-free way.

i immediately set out to prove myself wrong on the second count.

i’ve had three goes at this recipe, which requires one specialty ingredient that you can pick up from your local east asian grocer: oiled beancurd sheets. different from thicker tofu skin, and not to be confused with dry beancurd sheets which can’t be folded without crumbling to shit, oiled sheets are pliable and mimic both the crispness and the sloppiness of roasted skin really well. the sheets i bought were so large that i had to snip them into four pieces for the recipe, so one pack of around 8 large sheets is good value too.

this isn’t really an ‘everyday’ recipe, because while it’s relatively straightforward to make, it takes longer than an average weeknight supper and needs some prep earlier in the day or the night before. namely, the tofu needs to be pressed and marinated – which will only make you hungry as you put together the marinade:

one day i, too, will be able to take gorgeous pictures of my food. but just look at that marinade. ffs LOOK AT IT. 

anyways after you marinate the tofu for as long as you can, you then have to roll it up into its ‘skin’, which is also a bit fiddly. i’d highly recommend this roast for special occasions or company, though, because it’s goddamned delicious.

so without further ado:

roast chicken-style tofu
2 400g packets firm tofu (can also stretch the marinade to 3 if you have lots of company)
2 large oiled beancurd sheets (3 if making extra)
juice, zest, and pulp from 2 lemons
2 Tbsp fresh rosemary needles, or 2 tsp dried
2 Tbsp poultry seasoning of choice
1 1/2 tsp salt, or to taste (i used 2 tsp, which was slightly too salty – also reduce if poultry seasoning is particularly salty)
black pepper to taste
3/4 cup olive oil

a few hours before you’re due to cook this, or the night before, drain each block of tofu and slice into 4 pieces lengthwise – they should be long rectangles about 1.5cm thick. save the containers! take two large plates, put a dishtowel over the bottom plate, and arrange your 8 tofu pieces evenly over the plate. double the dishtowel over on top of the tofu, stack the second plate on top, and balance several heavy objects on that plate (i used a rice cooker and iron skillet).

while the tofu is pressing, make your marinade. wanna make it really easy on yourself? throw the lemon, rosemary, seasoning, salt, pepper, and olive oil into a food processor and blend until smooth. if food processors are too fancy for you, just chop the lemon zest and rosemary needles as finely as you can, and mix the marinade together with a fork.

after at least 20 minutes, carefully take the heavy things off your top tofu plate, and chuck the dishtowel in the laundry. put 4 pieces of the pressed tofu back into each of the containers, and evenly divide the marinade between them – you should have about 300ml marinade. don’t forget to evenly divide up the chunky bits! pop it into the fridge and leave for a few hours. 

a couple hours before you’re due to serve, take the tofu out of the fridge. put all the pieces onto a plate, and combine the marinade into one container (just makes it loads easier). take a large baking dish and oil it with about 1Tbsp olive oil. take your two large beancurd sheets, and cut them each into 4 pieces with kitchen scissors. each piece should be able to wrap around the tofu fillets.

place a beancurd sheet onto a cutting board and brush with the marinade. put one tofu fillet inside, then fold the sheet around it and roll up like a burrito. brush the bottom seam and sides with marinade, place your parcel seam-side down into the baking dish, and brush the top with marinade. repeat with the remaining tofu and sheets. if at any point you think you might run out of marinade (i’m looking right atcha, stretching-to-12-parcels people), just add more olive oil and mix back in.

heat your oven to 220C/gas 6. cover your baking dish with foil (or a lid if you have one o’ them fancy casserole dishes), and place in the oven. take it out after half an hour, brush the tops of your parcels in the gorgeous bubbling liquid from the baking dish, put the foil back on, and put back in for 20 minutes. remove from the oven again, brush the tops, then put it uncovered back into the oven for 10-15 minutes.

remove from oven, brush one more time because why not, and serve with all the yums ^_^

(note: you can also make this a one-pan dish by roasting in a casserole dish over vegetables. aw yiss!!)

trick your kids: deep-fried latke balls

okay so that’s a horrible picture for lots of reasons, the first one being that i had to cut the balls in half to cool down quicker. but that’s the point, really – my toddler is actually eating them.

my youngest is a shit where it comes to food. he now pretty much refuses to sit in a chair and be fed, so i’ve been scratching my head on what the hell to feed him.

i made homemade mini fucking pasties for fuck’s sake, and he refuses to eat them. now our freezer has loads of them in, and there they shall stay for like two years.

but! i got a brainwave. who doesn’t like deep-fried anything? (okay correction: what *kid* doesn’t like deep-fried anything?)

and i remembered that a couple years ago i made finicky eldest loads of vegan latkes, which he ate without complaint (the litres of ketchup may have had something to do with it).

so i decided to make deep-fried latke balls out of the root veg in our box. and the toddler actually ate them!!

the recipe below is very, very customisable – just use whatever veg you have to hand. stick whatever uncooked balls your monster won’t eat into the freezer for another day ^_^

deep-fried latke balls
1 medium potato, peeled and grated
1 medium carrot, washed and grated
1 parsnip, peeled and grated
1 celery stalk, destringed and grated
1 small-medium onion, peeled and grated
1/4 cup plain flour

mix all ingredients together in a mixing bowl. work the flour in with your fingers – the grated veg should have generated enough water for the flour to make a binding, sticky dough. if the mixture is too wet add more flour; if too dry add more water. form the mixture into tight little balls, slightly smaller than a ping-pong ball. you should have close to 20 balls.

either heat your oil in a deep-fat fryer, heat in a deep pan, or if shallow-frying, heat 1/4 to 1/2 cup oil in a skillet. make sure the oil is extremely hot – it should pop and sizzle when you throw a drop of water in. drop the balls into the oil and fry until golden brown – if shallow-frying, you will need to turn while cooking.

if serving to a hungry toddler, cut in half to facilitate quick cooling.