I love doing fried potato recipes. This is like patatas bravas but a little different. Instead of being fried potatoes with a separate dipping sauce, this puts everything together during the cooking process. It’s a one-pan recipe that’s quicker and easier than a “traditional” patatas bravas recipe. Oh, and it’s vegan and delicious served with Spanish chicken (or tofu)!
As you will see from the photos, it’s not very photogenic. But I strongly believe that some of the most delicious food doesn’t photograph very well, and that there are a great many beautiful looking dishes on Instagram that would be absolutely disgusting to actually eat. It’s also not very spicy (but full of flavour) making it a perfect recipe for younger children, people with dentures and fussy eaters, too! Just put it through the blender before feeding to little ones who don’t have all their teeth, yet.
150g potatoes, peeled and diced
6 cherry tomatoes
A handful of fresh thyme
2 tsp paprika
1/2 onion diced
1 pinch garlic
1 tbsp olive oil
Peel and dice the potatoes and put in a pan to boil with a pinch of paprika. When the potatoes are done, drain and put aside. Wipe out the pan with some kitchen roll and use again
Chop the cherry tomatoes into quarters
Tear the thyme to release the flavour
Put the olive oil into a pan and add the onions. Fry until they turn transparent
Add the rest of the paprika, the tomatoes and the thyme
When the tomato skins are beginning to separate from the centers, add the boiled potatoes and stir well. Cook on a medium/low heat until the tomatoes are disintegrating.
I saw another recipe for patatas bravas and it was literally terrible. It involved so much salt (over a tablespoon for 2 portions of food) I think it would have made anyone very sick, and it also called for cups of olive oil! It claimed it was an authentic recipe but I think the “Chef” got it from a before-scene on Ramsay’s kitchen nightmares.
After reading that recipe, I knew I had to invent my own potato recipe and share it with you because there aren’t enough good patatas bravas recipes (and other interesting potato recipes) around.
This is a super-cheesy, super-saucy variant on the traditional potato gratin which can be served as a filling accompaniment to a variety of dishes. This follows on from yesterday’s cheesy vegetable bake recipe, as I made this a day later (once we finally had some potatoes).
What’s the difference between potato boulangere and potato gratin? A boulangere is a dish where thin slices of potato are put in an ovenproof dish, drowned in a sauce of cream and chicken stock, and baked until the potatoes at the top are crispy. A gratin, traditionally-speaking, is a boulangere with cheese on top. As you can see, the traditional version needs some big changes to make it dairy-free and vegan!
Every Sunday, and at Easter and Christmas, my aunt used to do a stunning roast dinner, and one of my favourite things on the dining table was a big bowl of potato boulangère with the delicious crispy slices of potatoes on the top and soft, saucy potato slices underneath. I loved it. When I had to cut out dairy many years ago after developing CMPA, I thought I’d never get to eat it again.
Sometime in 2012, my aunt gave me a dairy-free potato boulangere recipe and I was very happy to be able to enjoy one of my favourite dishes once again.
Since then, we’ve had four house moves across three countries (and two continents) and I have lost my potato gratin recipe. In the absence of a structured recipe, I devised this dairy-free cheesy potato bake a few days ago as a vegan side dish to go with the Lidl vegan Christmas roast they were selling very cheaply in January. It would also work well with Linda McCartney vegetarian quarter pounders, although you would need to add the quarter pounders to the oven about halfway through cooking this potato bake.
You can totally cheat on the sauce and use one of plenty of options, such as Asda’s bechamel sauce (white sauce), or Sacla’s Vegan Ch**se sauce, both of which are sold in jars, or Tesco’s instant dairy free cheese sauce mix sachets (do NOT buy the ASDA cheese sauce sachets; they are NOT dairy free, only gluten free).
Peel the potatoes. Chop into thin slices. Fill a medium-sized glass dish with them.
Make up the white sauce (or cheat and open a jar of it) and cover the potatoes with it.
Cook on 150 degrees for 30-35 minutes then cover with grated cheese. Turn up the temperature of the oven to 180 and put the dish back in the oven and cook for the last 10 minutes, until the cheese has melted a bit and is starting to go crispy.
If you mess this up (as I did this one time) and put the cheese on too soon, just put the food in the oven and keep the oven at 150 for 20 more minutes.
To check if it’s ready, try sticking a fork into one of the slices of potato. If it feels hard, it’s not ready so put it back in the oven. If it’s soft, it’s ready to serve!
White sauce is the foundation of most milk-based sauces, including cheese sauce, peppercorn sauce, bechamel sauce, parsley sauce and soups such as clam chowder (the white one).
I know this because, when I was 11 and learning Home Economics (now called the much edgier “food technology”) at school, I spent most of my time copying pages and pages out of textbooks while my classmates were busy cooking.
At my school, the teacher would buy the ingredients for us and we just had to bring in the money (usually about 80p-£1), or we could bring in the ingredients if we preferred. My mum refused to give me the money for the ingredients OR to buy the actual ingredients, which often left me not able to participate in home economics. The teacher, thinking I was just lazy, made me copy out of textbooks as a “punishment”.
I think I learned more from this than my classmates did. In my experience of attending 13 schools and 3 colleges, home economics teachers are singularly oblivious to the social issues that prevent children from learning. They all seem to be jolly-middle-class women who think everyone has “tagliatelle” at home.
I had been cooking for the whole family since the age of 9, but because I had never eaten a fairy cake, let alone made one, I was seen as “bad at cooking”, a label I internalized and carried with me into adulthood until I finally realized, at 27, I wasn’t bad at cooking, I just didn’t know how to cook the standard middle-class British dishes of the 1970s (which people still seem to judge us on today).
That’s fine, because people like that home economics teacher who think there’s one true way to cook “properly” are usually the first people to get upset about catering for dairy free guests, on the basis that they only know how to follow a bunch of recipes they learned at school or from Delia Smith (sorry, Delia, but you have some unimaginative readers).
So I took great pleasure in subverting white sauce for the vegan agenda and I hope you enjoy the fabulous results of using this sauce as a base for all your dairy-free milky sauce dishes that Western cuisine seems so obsessed with.
This dairy-free white sauce is very customizable, because it’s the base for so many other sauces. Leave it as-is for béchamel sauce (for lasagne/lasagna), or add things to make cheese, parsley, peppercorn sauces etc. It only requires three ingredients to make the basic sauce.
25g Dairy-free butter
250ml Soy milk (other milks such as almond also work)
This will make enough sauce to cover two servings of cauliflower cheese. As you can see, the measurements are a ratio: For every gram of butter you need one gram of flour, and 10ml of dairy-free milk (add a bit more milk for a thinner sauce). This makes a very easy-to-scale recipe and I often measure my ingredients by eye, adding one part flour to one part butter, then I add the milk slowly from a big carton until I hit the right consistency.
Put the vegan butter in a saucepan and put it onto a medium heat. Melt the butter.
As the butter turns into a puddle but before it starts to bubble, add the flour gradually, stirring constantly. You are currently making something called a roux, which is the base of most thickened dishes.
Keep stirring (it might start to feel quite dry) until the roux turns crumbly and very slightly golden yellow (don’t let it burn). The quality of the roux will determine the quality of the finished sauce. If the roux turns brown, throw it away and start again.
Gradually add the non-dairy milk, a dash at a time (about a tablespoon’s worth, or a shot, if that’s easier to eyeball), stirring continuously. Only add more when the milk starts to thicken. I usually take the pan off the heat for this part because it’s easy to burn the milk. If you add the milk too quickly, you will get a LOT of lumps (some lumps are inevitable). Squash the lumps out with your fork.
Keep stirring the mixture until it’s a nice, thick, saucy consistency.
Now you’re done! It’s time to either serve it, if you’re making this as a béchamel sauce, or to add the other ingredients such as dairy-free cheese, if you’re making cheese sauce, or peppercorns, if you’re making pepper sauce.
Has your sauce gone lumpy? Fix it!
The main way this sauce can go wrong is if you end up with lots of lumps in a fairly watery sauce. There are two ways you can fix this:
Either use a fine-meshed sieve (if you have one; the sort with holes small enough to drain rice without any grains falling through) or a hand blender.
Lump Removal Method 1: With the sieve, get the bowl ready, put the sieve over it (bowl must be wider than sieve, unless you tilt the sieve so all the sauce falls from one place, or you will have cheese sauce everywhere), pour the cheese sauce into the sieve, and wait for the sauce to drain out, then throw away the lumps that are left.
Lump Removal Method 2: With a hand blender, leave the sauce in the pan and just blend out the lumps. It usually thickens a LOT when you do this (because the lumps are the flour and butter that is also the thickener that gives the sauce its consistency). If it’s too thick, stir in more milk, a little at a time, until it reaches the right consistency.
I love stuffed peppers! They’re such an easy way to get more vegetables into your diet and this recipe is super-healthy. This was an experiment in changing things up, because I usually make stuffed peppers with rice, but today I wanted something different, so I filled my peppers with a taco-style filling of soy mince (TVP), sweetcorn and salsa, and topped with my vegan no-blend guacamole but you could also add grated vegan cheese if that’s your thing (or if you have any… I don’t, because my local Sainsbury’s has mysteriously stopped selling all vegan cheese since the lockdown began). This recipe is also perfect for when you are craving tacos but don’t have any taco shells.
A big dollop of salsa (you can substitute this for some chopped tomatoes and a teaspoon or two of Piri Piri sauce or a teaspoon of any other hot sauce if you don’t have salsa)
A teaspoon of Vegemite (or another yeast extract)
Cut the bell peppers in half and remove the seeds.
Reconstitute the TVP with boiling water and add the Vegemite, garlic and cilantro. Mix thoroughly to avoid any Vegemite lumps and leave the mixture to sit for 10 minutes to absorb the hot water fully.
Drain off the excess water from the TVP and mix with the sweetcorn.
Put the TVP and sweetcorn mixture into the halves of the bell peppers, taking care not to knock them over. If you have peppers that won’t lie very well in the oven, balance them carefully against each other for support.
Bake for 15-20 minutes in a fan oven at 180 degrees/gas mark 6.
Serve with chilled guacamole and salsa.
What’s your favourite thing to put in stuffed peppers? Let me know in the comments!