The Musette: vegan tortilla de patatas

I love potato tortillas though I’m really not supposed to eat them as they contain eggs, lots of them. So I’ve been looking into vegan alternatives and found this recipe in Richard Buckley’s excellent book Plants Taste Better. It’s one of my more recent acquisitions and I’ve been itching for some free time to try a number of his recipes.

Ahead of a family wedding, where both of us are a bit concerned about fitting into our designated wedding outfits, my beloved is partly embracing my vegan lifestyle and, in addition, has given up desserts and alcohol. From past experience, I know this is all he needs to do to drop those last stubborn kilos. So this tortilla looked ideal fare for a light lunch.

This recipe also gave me an opportunity to try out my new double tortilla pan picked up while on our most recent vacation. Is it as good as the real thing? Honestly? No, it’s nowhere near as unctuous however it is seriously tasty.

Ingredients (serves 4 hungry cyclists)

  • 100g (31/2oz) gram (chickpea) flour, sifted
  • 150ml (2/3cup) filtered water
  • 800g (1lb 12oz) waxy potatoes
  • 500-750ml (2-3 cups) olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, finely sliced
  • 5g (1tsp) sea salt
  • 1 tsp hot smoked pimenton (optional)

Method

1. Put the sieved gram flour into a sterile bowl and whisk in the filtered water to form a smooth batter. Cover with a clean cloth and leave the bowl somewhere warm (22°C/71°F) for 24-48 hours. The longer the fermentation period, the better the flavour.

2. Cut the unpeeled potatoes into rings or 1cm (1/2″) dice and place in a saucepan. Cover completely with olive oil and heat gently until it starts to boil. Stir gently, from time to time, to prevent the potatoes from sticking. Once the oil is bubbling, add the finely sliced onion and simmer gently until the potato is cooked, about 15 minutes. Once cooked, strain the contents of the saucepan through a sieve over a bowl to catch the oil.

3. While it’s still warm, add the potato and onion mixture to the batter with the salt and pimenton.

4. Put a couple of tablespoons of the previously heated oil into a 23cm (9″) frying pan (skillet) and heat gently. When hot, tip in the batter. Flatten it down with a wooden spoon, making sure there are no gaps. Fry gently until the bottom is firm and golden brown.

5. Ensure the tortilla is loose in the pan, then firmly hold a plate over the top, invert the tortilla onto the plate and then slide it back into the pan to cook the underside.

6. Once cooked, turn out onto a board and allow to cool to room temperature before cutting into slices and serving with crusty bread and a sharp tomato relish (see below).

Sheree’s Handy Hints

1.To cut down on the calorific content, I boiled my potatoes in their skins, peeled and then diced them before adding while warm to the batter along with some spring (salad) onions.

2. Instead of inverting the tortilla onto a plate I (successfully) used my double frying pan.

3. I made my sharp tomato relish with 4 large peeled and diced tomatoes to which I added a finely diced shallot, a tablespoon of olive oil, 1 tsp cider vinegar, a tsp sea salt and some coasely ground pepper. Mash slightly with a fork and allow the flavours to mingle before serving with the tortilla. This relish is all about the quality of the tomatoes.

The Musette: honey baked feta cheese

This is the third and last of Marcus Waring’s recipes which I’m trying from his New Classics cookery book this month. Of course, it won’t be the last recipe of his that I try. I have all of his cookery books and they’re big favourites of mine.

This is a very versatile vegetarian dish. You could serve this as a starter, lunch-time main course or before dessert – we are in France – for a different take on the cheese course. However you decide to serve it, this simple dish of creamy, tangy feta grilled until melting and slightly crisp is transformed thanks to heady, fragrant lavender and fresh thyme. The homemade rye crisps served alongside are great for dipping and scooping into the melted cheese, and are incredibly simple to make – all you need is half a loaf of rye bread and a garlic clove!

Ingredients (serves 2 as a main course, or 4 as a cheese course or starter)

  • 200g (7oz) feta cheese
  • 1/2 loaf rye bread
  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 fat garlic clove, halved
  • 2 tbsp runny lavender honey
  • 4 sprigs fresh thyme, take off leaves
  • 2 lavender sprigs, or 1/2 tsp dried lavender
  • sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Method

1. Preheat the oven to 200°C/180°C fan/(400°F)/gas mark 6.

2. Cover the feta with kitchen paper and leave at room temperature for at least an hour to absorb all the excess moisture.

3. Cut the bread into very thin slices. Place them in a single layer on 2 baking trays. Brush with the olive oil and rub each slice with a halved garlic clove.

4. Bake the bread in the oven for 5 – 7 minutes until lightly golden and crisp.

5. Remove the bread, keeping it warm, and turn the oven to its grill setting.

6. Remove the kitchen paper from the cheese and place the feta in an ovenproof dish just large enough for it to fit snugly. Drizzle the honey on top, then add the thyme and lavender. Season well with salt and pepper and grill for 5–10 minutes until golden and bubbling.

7. Remove the cheese from the grill. Serve the feta immediately with the bread crisps.

Sheree’s Handy Hints

1. The feta is the star of the show. Buy it from a cheese shop rather than packaged from a supermarket. I’ve tried both and it does make a difference.

2. Marcus’s recipe calls for rye bread and I understand why; it’s got a closed tight texture. I’ve tried it with spelt and sour dough, both were fine though it does help if the bread’s not fresh. Or you could use store-bought rye crackers.

3. Marcus’s recipe uses 4 tbsp of honey which we found to be too much and I’ve reduced it to 2 tbsp.

4. Don’t overdo the lavender or the cheese will taste soapy – not ideal!

5. You do need to use fresh thyme, dried won’t cut it here.