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 ^_^

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.