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.
Two days ago, I bought some cut-price crab that was near its use-by date. I’ve never had crab before so I wasn’t sure what to do with it or what it tasted like. I opened the packet and immediately the strong seafood smell hit my nose. It reminded me of salmon, a little. Or very strong lobster.
I looked online for crab recipes but I didn’t have any of the ingredients for the ones I found. Also, a lot of them required white wine and I’m non-alcoholic at the moment due to being pregnant so I needed an alcohol-free no-wine crab recipe.
I decided to cook it with spaghetti, but you could use linguine if you wanted to be more traditional. Or any pasta you have in your house. If you prefer a sweeter pepper, red pepper or orange pepper would also work (bell peppers, not capiscums).
Even once it’s cooked, the strong crab flavor is very apparent, and this recipe is perfect for seafood lovers looking to mix it up when it comes to their crab.
This was quite a hearty dish that I think would be very warming on a cool autumn day when the temperature starts to drop and the evenings are drawing in.
So here’s my spaghetti with crab and yellow pepper recipe. Serves two very big bowls!
120g crab meat
1 tbsp olive oil
3 tbsp diluted tomato puree (diluted 1:1 with water) Substitute with undiluted passata or plain tomato pasta sauce if that’s what you have.
1 tsp garlic
Pinch chilli flakes
1-2 tbsp lemon juice
A chopped yellow bell pepper
A sprinkle of basil
Cook the spaghetti as you usually would. Should take 10-14 minutes depending on the cooker and pan. Fresh spaghetti takes more like 3 minutes.
Remove the centre stalk and seeds of the yellow bell pepper (I do this by drawing a circle around the top with a knife then pulling on the green stalk). Chop bell pepper into roughly 1/2 inch squares (or leave bigger if you prefer).
Put the olive oil into a pan and start heating it.
Add the bell pepper and saute for 2-3 minutes then turn heat down to a simmer.
Add the lemon juice and stir in.
Add garlic, chilli flakes and basil. Mix well in pan.
Add the crab meat. This shouldn’t be cooked for too long or it will become stringy.
Add the tomato puree, mix thoroughly.
Drain the spaghetti then mix it into the pan with the sauce. Serve.
To make this meal extra-special, you could make a garlic baguette to accompany it. For best results, don’t reheat the crab (it’s quite delicate), so scale down your recipe for the number of people you’re feeding. If you don’t have a big appetite, you could probably get 3 servings out of this (or 4 if you wanted 2 adult portions and 2 child-sized ones).
Veganize this meal by substituting silken tofu for crab and adding a handful of shredded seaweed and a tiny splash of soya sauce to keep the sea taste.
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.
Light fluffy eggs cooked into a delicious omelette. That was my plan when I started this recipe. And I was so happy with how it turned out, given that I had to make it up under unusual circumstances. I never thought I’d be researching how to cook eggs without a stove!
Since we live in a country which doesn’t have piped gas, we have to use bottled gas to make our cooker work. Last week, we ran out of gas. I turned on one of the hobs to cook my dinner and… nothing. Arrgh. Time to make do.
Since I already had eggs cracked in a jug, and a hungry toddler whose dinner time was very soon, I had only a few minutes to try and find out whether you can bake eggs to cook an omelette (my oven is electric). It turns out you can. And it’s VERY delicious! All the recipes I saw either needed ingredients I didn’t have or they needed milk, which I can’t eat, so I made this recipe up instead. This vegetarian baked omelette recipe is dairy free and requires simple ingredients that are easy to substitute.
To bake this recipe you will need a glass oven-safe dish, such as a Pyrex one. Normal glass will shatter in your oven, but around the world there are lots of different brands that are oven-safe. Just look for the stamp on the bottom of your dish; if it says “oven safe” then you’re good to go.
One thing I especially like about this baked omelette recipe is it turned out very light and cheesy. Since I’m dairy-free (not by choice), I find it’s difficult to find high-protein recipes involving lots of cheese. In case you are wondering, a standard block of dairy-free cheese contains only 1.5 grams of protein per 100g, compared to about 35g of protein per 100g for the average block of Cheddar. So when recipes substitute cheese for dairy free cheese, you are potentially missing out on a lot of your daily protein requirement.
Eggs, thankfully, are a reasonable source of protein (13g per 100g, or about 9g per egg), and so are vegetarian sausages (the Linda McCartney ones I used are 18.6g per 100g or 15.5g per 2 sausages), so one serving of this baked omelette will definitely give you a nice amount of your daily protein while still feeling quite cheesy.
Baked omelette recipe:
Sausage x2 (I choose vegetarian sausages from Linda McCartney but any sausage will do)
Bell Pepper x1 (any colour)
Grated cheese (or dairy free cheese)
A medium oven-safe glass dish (mine is a 1.2 litre Pyrex one)
Break eggs into a jug and mix with a fork to break the yolks. Pour this into the glass dish, leaving about 1 tbsp of egg in the jug.
Cut the sausage into thin slices and chop the pepper (discard the stalk and seeds). Add these to the glass dish.
Pour the last bit of egg over everything so it’s all covered (don’t worry if you skip this step).
Oven bake for about 30-35 mins.
Take out of the oven, add the grated cheese, and return to the oven for 10 minutes so the cheese melts and starts to turn golden brown (dairy cheese) or until the cheese melts and starts to harden (dairy free cheese).
Serves 4. Add some veg (such as steamed broccoli or carrots) on the side to make a complete main meal.
While living in rural China, one serious problem I had was that it was impossible to buy dairy-free or vegan substitutes to dairy products. There’s a good reason for this. Chinese food uses ingredients differently, and is not a dairy-based cuisine. Dairy products are now widely available in China, and dairy additives have sneaked their way into a lot of modern Chinese snack foods, but there are no vegan alternatives to these, because as far as Chinese cooking is concerned, dairy is the alternative.
A lot of the time, the Chinese approach to dairy meant I could usually eat worry-free in most of China. And it was great to try so many new foods.
Of course, being British and Irish, I like to start my day with a lovely yoghurt (if you’re American you spell it “yogurt” lol) drenched in fruit (my faves are fresh County Wexford strawberries, the best strawberries in the world, or when they’re out of season, fluffy Spanish blueberries from the supermarket). While I’m fairly open-minded, there are some days when I just crave home food from my own country. Especially when I became pregnant and suffered from hyperemesis gravidarum (extreme pregnancy sickness… I’m basically allergic to the first 3-4 months of pregnancy).
Yoghurt is also integral to some homemade curry recipes like tikka masala.
Of course, the main problem is every recipe claims to require yoghurt cultures. It is impossible to get vegan yoghurt cultures in rural China (you could get this in the cities or on Taobao but I wouldn’t know enough Mandarin to check the origin or ingredients). In the past, people didn’t need yoghurt cultures to make yoghurt, it’s a modern complication. Could you imagine the Ancient Greeks trying to buy or sell “yoghurt cultures” in the market? They instead used natural alternatives, and you can, too.
With that in mind, I found out how to make yoghurt from local ingredients. Two things which are abundant in China are tofu and chillies (hot peppers). Don’t worry, you won’t make spicy yoghurt with this recipe (weird).
Here’s what you will need (keep scrolling for substitutions/adjustments e.g. soy free):
A block of tofu (about 200g or 1 cup, but don’t get hung up on the size, it largely doesn’t matter).
1 cup of soymilk. In China, you can buy a soy milk maker (on Taobao or in a store) to make your own if you can’t get a carton (Vitasoy in the blue carton from any shop, or Silk from Epermarket are also fine, dependent on your need for organic/no additives etc).
The juice of 2 medium fresh lemons (or 1 very large one).
Half a cup (about 100ml) of boiling water.
A blender or smoothie maker.
12 chili peppers with stems attached.
Put everything in the blender except the chili peppers. Blend until you get a silky smooth texture then pour it into a flat dish like a pasta bowl or the lid of a casserole dish (not a plate).
Take the chillies and remove the stems. Place the stems into the mixture so the part that joined the chili is now slightly beneath the surface of the yoghurt. These will work in place of yoghurt cultures.
Leave the mixture to culture in a warm spot for about 8 hours (a room without air con or an oven on about 30-40 degrees celsius/90-100 Farenheit is great). If it gets too hot or cold, it won’t culture properly, so take care. If you have a yoghurt maker, that will work, too.
Remove the chillies and store your yoghurt in the fridge in a sealed container for food safety.
This makes a very plain yoghurt that works for overnight oats, tikka masala recipes or you can add honey and chopped fruit to sweeten it.
If you only have silken tofu, don’t add soya milk, instead use 2 packs of tofu.
Soy allergy? You can use coconut cream (the canned stuff for curries; don’t add the water from the bottom of the tin) and cornflour/cornstarch as a thickener if needed.
If you have no lemon, try lime or apple cider vinegar. You need the acidity level to be right otherwise the good bacteria in the chillies can’t thrive to turn the tofu into yoghurt. In my experience, lack of lemon juice is the only reason this recipe has ever failed for me.
Forgot Valentine’s day? Looking for a quick way to say “I love you”? Or do you just love eating fun-shaped toast? Whatever your reason, here’s a quick and easy Valentine’s breakfast that you can do in two minutes! Feed it to your husband, your wife, your kids, or even just make it for yourself. Nothing says “I love you” like a heart-shaped Valentine’s breakfast that’s so easy, a six-year-old could make it (adult supervision required)!
You will need:
Two slices of bread.
A pair of scissors.
Your favourite spread.
Here’s how to make your 2-minute Valentine’s breakfast:
Take the scissors and cut the bread into heart shapes, by cutting along two of the crusts then shaping the other end of the bread (leave as much bread as possible) into a heart shape.
Put your heart-shaped bread into the toaster, leaving the pointy end up to make it easy to get them back out.
Wait for your bread to pop.
Boing! It’s popped! Put your favourite spread on the toast.
Arrange on a plate.
Take to your beloved (or your child, or to your favourite sitting spot).
Once you’ve got the knack for shaping the bread, you could go crazy and do this toast with scrambled eggs, baked beans (sorry, Weetabix, you’re not needed today) or even something fancy like eggs benedict or eggs royale (check out my easy vegan hollandaise sauce recipe if you’re planning one of these).
Did you enjoy this super-easy and quick Valentine’s breakfast? Let me know in the comments, on Twitter, or on our Facebook page!
Whether you love or hate China, one thing we can generally agree on around the world is China sees food differently to the west. One place that’s very apparent is in the way they design snacks. Sometimes, they look just like something from the west but when you bite into it, there’s no resemblance. Other times, the snacks are completely unique to China.
Here are my 5 favourites:
Fuma Pie! Oh, my goodness, the west is missing out. The only way to describe it is like a wagon wheel but better. First, it’s smaller in diameter, and second, it’s thicker and has more cakey and gooey stuff in it. Where to buy? Any shop in China that sells any kind of food will sell Fuma Pie or at least a knock-off version.
2. The donuts at real bakeries like Bread Talk
Don’t buy supermarket or convenience store donuts. They may as well be potatoes shaped like donuts. They don’t resemble donuts. But there are small bakeries in every town, and Bread Talk is like the Chinese version of Gregg’s (only no pasties or sausage rolls); a national chain where you can get all sorts of delicious baked goodies.
3. Matcha crisps (potato chips)
You can get all sorts of things in matcha flavour in China. One of my favourites is a packet of matcha tea flavour crisps.
4. Meiji Hello Panda
These are sort of biscuity things with Nutella sort of stuff in the middle. Crunchy and creamy. Top. They also come in a range of flavours. Such as strawberry and milk flavour. I think they’re a Japanese import but they’re for sale all over and they’re not expensive (like 11 RMB is around £1.40).
5. Chinese bombay mix.
So China aren’t fans of anything curry flavoured. But they do love imitating everything and anything. It must be really hard for them to live so close to India for these two reasons. In our local corner shop I found these packets of bombay mix. There were three little packs in the giant panda packet, and I had no idea what flavour to expect. They were cheese flavour. Cheese flavour bombay mix.
They were actually kinda tasty. But not at all what I had expected.
I’m having serious cafe withdrawals at the moment. I miss going out to cafes and ordering food that I can’t make at home. So today I decided to do what I used to do in China when I felt like this. I decided to bring the cafe to me.
I was craving eggs royale, which is the salmon version of eggs benedict. It requires a bread bun, cut in half, on which a poached egg and a piece of salmon are arranged, and they’re drizzled with Hollandaise sauce.
Hollandaise sauce is notoriously hard to make, and I don’t know how to poach an egg without a poacher, and I have to avoid dairy, but I decided not to let any of that stop me from achieving my dream.
First, I found out that Emma Bridgewater mugs are REALLY well made. You can put one in a pan on direct full heat on a stovetop and it poaches an egg. It does take a few minutes but it gets the job done. That was my second attempt at poaching an egg (my first attempt was a complete disaster and resulted in an egg-splosion because I tried to do a “proper” poached egg where you basically whisk boiling water into a vortex then drop an egg into it. I do NOT have the skills for that, apparently).
Then there was the problem of the Hollandaise sauce. Here’s the recipe I adapted:
1 packet of silken tofu (300g or about 9 oz)
1/8 cup of lemon juice
1/8 cup nutritional yeast
1/8 cup dairy free butter
1/2 tsp turmeric (for colour)
1/2 tsp oregano (flavour)
a good pinch of garlic (flavour)
a good pinch of pepper (flavour)
Blend the tofu until it’s a smooth liquid. Then put it in a pan with the other ingredients and heat on a medium heat until the butter is melted and the sauce starts to turn a bright yellow. Serve over eggs benedict or eggs royale.
This recipe is so much easier than making the complicated emulsion for proper hollandaise sauce. If you want something with a more traditional flavour, ditch the oregano.
The main point to note with this recipe is absolutely don’t use the firm spongy kind of tofu. It won’t blend into a liquid, it will turn into a scrambly mess. The sauce itself is vegan but I obviously poured it over things which were non-vegan.
Lastly, the taste test. I thought it was really nice when it was cooked for long enough, but when I tasted it during cooking, it kept tasting excessively lemony, so definitely simmer it for at least 5 minutes to draw out the other flavours in this sauce.
When my Dearest and I buy a chicken to eat, we tend to cook it on one day and eat half between us, then we eat the other half on the second day after re-heating the chicken for 45 minutes in a hot oven.
So this time it turned into another cooking disaster. I can’t actually take credit for this one… I mean, I did the right thing and ensconced the remaining half-chicken in cling film (saran wrap?) to make sure it didn’t go bad while it was in the fridge overnight.
However, I wasn’t the person who then put the chicken in the oven.
I was the one who came to take it out and discovered it was coated in melted plastic.
I’d like to be classy and say we threw it away on the spot, but I really wanted to eat something and I’d just spent 45 minutes waiting for a chicken to cook that someone else had put in the oven. So I didn’t throw the chicken away.
Using mad surgical skillz, I very carefully dissected the chicken in such a way that the chicken coated in cling film or any chicken that might have absorbed plastic was all removed.
There was maybe 1/2 a cup of chicken left at the end of it all. I poured some soup over it and ate it.
It tasted funny.
I am not really sure what the lesson is here. Don’t let other people cook? Seems a bit of an overreaction. What do you think? I have learned nothing from this episode.