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!

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
ingredients
1 tin peeled plum tomatoes
1 or 2 onions, sliced into thin rings
3 Tbsp margarine
1/2 tsp salt

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

method
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
ingredients
1 cup rice vinegar
1 cup water
1 cup sugar
1 tsp salt

method
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 ^_^

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!