I dabbled in vegan cooking for the very first time last weekend! My boyfriend Maxime was recently diagnosed with a series of food intolerances that make traditional cooking less than simple. Being the wonderful girlfriend I am, I took upon myself to prove to him that life without wheat, cow, sheep and goat’s milk, beer, agar agar, egg whites, figs, corn, nuts and wheat yeast did not have to be tasteless. Today’s recipe convinced him of the fact: as they say, the proof is in the pudding!
When Maxime got his blood test back from the doctor, the list of forbidden foods seemed a foot long. And frankly, neither of us knew what to do. It was tempting to just say that he “couldn’t eat anything” and wallow in self-pity. I do a lot of cooking and although I can go several days without eating meat, I definitely do have cheese, yoghurt or eggs every day, and so did Maxime. This basically meant that if I wanted him to be able to eat what I made for dinner, I’d have to radically change my way of cooking. No more parmesan sprinkled on top of pasta, boiled eggs for dinner or even milk and cereal for breakfast. For him at least!
But I had hope: wheat-free and lactose-free cooking is becoming more and more mainstream and I knew I would find lots of alternatives for what we usually ate. So I turned to the Internet for help. I had often half-ignored the vegan recipes on my favourite food blogs, thinking that they didn’t really have anything to do with me. But times had changed and it was time to adapt. So I read articles about rice milk vs spelt milk, how to replace butter and all-purpose flour in cakes and how to make a “flax egg”.
I gleaned a lot of information from various websites and I was dying to put it all to good use. So last weekend I went shopping and bought spelt flour, frozen sweet potatoes, soy yoghurts, vegetable margarine and coconut oil. I made sweet potato brownies that were a huge success, these oven-baked falafels (with canned chickpeas and spelt flour) and finally, this tarte fine. The base is a riff off Clotilde Dusoulier’s recipe for a particularly satisfying free form tarte fine that Maxime and I enjoyed on more than one occasion. While goat’s cheese is now out of the question (I will gorge on it in private, out of compassion), I thought that the basic idea would work in vegan and wheat-free form. I asked Clotilde for her opinion in the comments and she agreed: 3 parts spelt flour, 2 parts soy yoghurt and 1 part vegetable margarine should make a decent vegan tart base.
I bought a rolling pin especially, mixed all of the ingredients together and finally sprinkled sesame seeds on the pastry with a flourish. And it was perfect! Crunchy but not hard, tasty and sturdy enough to hold up the ingredients that would follow. I blended a few sweet potato pieces left over from the brownie recipe with some truffle oil and herbs and spread the mixture over the top in lieu of tomato sauce before scattering whatever (non vegan) ingredients the fridge had on offer over the top. It passed the taste test with flying colours, and I am now thinking of making several batches of the dough so I can freeze them for a quick lunch somewhere down the line.
Sweet potato tarte fine
Serves 2 to 4
- 180g spelt flour
- 120g soy yoghurt
- 60g quality vegetable margarine, cold and diced
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoons of sesame seeds
- 120g cooked sweet potato (I roasted mine, but boiled or microwaved would be fine)
- Truffle, sesame or nut oil, to taste
- Herbes de Provence (thyme, rosemary, etc)
- 100g cherry tomatoes
- 60g cured ham
- Greaseproof paper
- Food processor (optional)
- Rolling pin
- Preheat the oven to 200 degrees.
- Blend the salt, flour, yoghurt and margarine with your hands or a food processor until you have a ball of smooth dough.
- Place the dough on a big flat oven tray covered with a layer of greaseproof paper. Cover the ball with a second piece of paper and roll the mixture with a rolling pin until it is flat. The shape doesn’t matter!
- Once the dough is sufficiently flat, remove the paper and sprinkle the sesame seeds over the top, before covering with the paper again and rolling over the seeds briefly so they stick to the dough. This is Clotilde’s technique and it is fab!
- Remove and discard the top layer of greaseproof paper, prick the dough all over with a fork then bake for 15min in the middle of the oven, making sure it doesn’t burn. Set aside.
- Mash the sweet potato with a fork in a bowl with some herbes de Provence and oil, for flavour. When the tart base is lukewarm, spread the sweet potato mixture over the top as you would tomato sauce.
- Add chopped cherry tomatoes and cured ham or whatever else you have in your fridge: olives, capers, cubes of pineapple, basil leaves… Add a last drizzle of oil over the top and some freshly cracked pepper.
- Serve with a crunchy salad. Bon appétit!