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.

marvel. MAAARVEEEL.

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
ingredients
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

method
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!

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

method
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!

i made a fancy thing!! polenta provençal 

sorry for the shitty, multiple-filtered picture. i was going to take a picture immediately upon plating, but i just *had* to have a bite. then, halfway into eating it, i remembered to take a picture. 

so what goes into polenta provençal, i can hear you ask. WELL.

this is a great meal because it looks très fancy but you can prepare all the different components in advance and combine them all together for a super-quick showstopper of a meal.

first thing’s first! go make a whole bunch of the ppk’s chickpea cutlets. you can freeze them before the frying stage too so they’re ready to whip out and cook at a moment’s notice. one of these will sit on top of your polenta, swimming in provençal sauce. 

so i’ll go ahead and write up my polenta and sauce recipes below, for your delectation. 

cheesy polenta
ingredients
1/2 cup cornmeal
3 cups vegetable stock (can use a combination of stock and plant milk for a creamier flavour)
2Tbsp margarine
1tsp garlic granules
freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
1 head’s worth of boiled cauliflower florets, coarsely mashed (optional)
grated vegan cheese to taste (optional)

method
look, i make polenta very simply. some people recommend whisking in the cornmeal after bringing the stock to boil – fuck that. put your cornmeal and cauliflower (if using) into a large pan, and pour the liquid over slowly while stirring. if you stir with a fork it helps prevent and break up lumps.

THEN bring your pan to a boil over high heat. add the garlic granules and pepper. you’re going to want to stir this fairly frequently. 

after you’ve brought it to boil, turn the heat down to a simmer (else it’ll start spitting at you). keep stirring frequently. you’ll notice it thickening up nicely. when it’s at pudding consistency, take it off heat and add the margarine, nooch, and cheese. stir well and ladle it out immediately – it will solidify more as it cools!

if you’re making this in advance and it goes very solid in the fridge, you have a couple options. you can either bake or fry it which is delicious, or if you want it more liquid you can whisk in boiled water in a pan and bring it back to boil.

provençal sauce
ingredients
1 onion, chopped
1 medium carrot, diced into small cubes
2 sticks celery, de-stringed and chopped finely
2Tbsp capers with brine
1 large or 2 medium tomatoes, diced (omit if on a low-potassium diet)
oil or margarine for frying

method
heat the oil or margarine in a skillet over low heat. add the onion, carrot, and celery, stirring to coat in oil. this is a pretty low-maintenance pan right now – just make sure the mirepoix is spread out evenly and leave it for awhile to soften, stirring occasionally. 

you can wait until the onions are translucent and the carrots soft, or you can even leave for longer until the mixture is golden-brown and caramelised. in any case when cooked to your liking add the capers, brine, and tomato if using, and allow to simmer for a bit longer to let the flavours meld. can be used straightaway or refridgerated/frozen.

the white sauce grimoire

image

see this?  it’s called a roux, and it is your new best friend.

just by combining flour and margarine over the hob, you now have a magic thickener that enables you to turn a 59p carton of soya milk – or any other non-dairy milk, hell, even water – into a delicious white sauce that even your omni friends will love.

(apologies if you already know what a roux is, my tone is perhaps more condescending than strictly necessary.)

i’m going to give you my recipe for a basic, bare-bones white sauce, and then tell you how i fancy it up.  all measurements are for around 100g of pasta, or enough for two people.

image

oooooh lookie i did a mise-en-place! lol

basic white sauce
ingredients
2 to 3 Tbsp margarine
1 Tbsp + 1 tsp flour (can be gluten-free flour if you must)
1/2 to 3/4 tsp salt
1 to 1 1/2 cups unsweetened soya milk, or other non-dairy milk
1/3 cup nutritional yeast (if you don’t have any to hand, substitute with 1/2 to 1 tsp marmite.  but add more salt to get rid of that bitter aftertaste!)

method
1. melt the margarine over a low-medium heat.  add the salt and flour, and stir until combined into a paste – about one minute.

2. immediately add a splash of the milk and stir until the mixture is smooth.  add the yeast and stir.

3. gradually add the rest of the milk while stirring, until the sauce is smooth and well-mixed.

4. allow to thicken over the heat.  don’t worry if it boils – this is non-dairy milk!  add more milk for a thinner sauce.

5. take off heat.  sauce will thicken upon standing.

image

pictured: fancy chipotle mac

variations
bechamel – add 1/4 tsp nutmeg, 1/2 tsp garlic granules, and possibly a bay leaf while on the heat

pepper sauce – bechamel + 1 to 2 tsp freshly ground black pepper

mac’n’cheez – add 1/2 tsp garlic granules and 1 tsp cider vinegar

cheddar mac – mac’n’cheez + 1 Tbsp tomato passata (or 1 tsp paste)

chipotle mac – mac’n’cheez + 1 tsp chipotle paste (or 1 Tbsp chipotle sauce such as cholula), and 1 to 2 Tbsp chopped fresh coriander and a quarter of a lime added when the sauce is off the heat.  i also added avocado and vegan chorizo sausage to mine.

fondue – add 1 tsp garlic granules and 1/4 cup hard cider or beer

hollandaise – add 1/2 to 1 tsp mustard powder, 1/2 tsp garlic granules, and either half a lemon’s zest or a quarter of a lemon’s juice

lemon cream – add 1/2 tsp garlic granules and the zest of a whole lemon. smoked paprika is nice with this one too.

that’s what i got today.  stay tuned for why you really need to keep nutritional yeast around at all times!