I remember in the earliest days of my plant-based conversion having almost daily little stabs of nostalgic grief as I remembered yet another dish I used to love that I would never again be able to enjoy. As my knowledge of amazing little vegan hacks grew, these feelings were replaced with joy as I discovered and created yet another recipe that I thought was consigned to history. I worked as a professional chef for a fair few year – and I hope not a shabby one. I worked around and with many world-class, decorated, and feted chefs. And I still wonder how many knew that you could make amazing meringues from chickpea water and sugar? I certainly didn’t. I mean who on earth worked that one out?! It’s nothing short of alchemy and I had to do it before I truly believed it. I swear the pavlova (with a coconut-based cream) that I made for our Christmas dinner last year was the best I’ve ever had.
Who would have thought a combination of blitzed-up dates and almond butter could replicate a mind-bogglingly delicious caramel for Millionaire’s shortbread? When I need eggs for a recipe now, my thoughts no longer default to scrapping the dish, but rather – shall I replace them with flax seed, chia seed, chickpea flour, coconut milk – or a combination, depending on the dish?
And so I come to this week’s recipe: Spanish tortilla. A dish traditionally bound by eggs – and a lot of them! So, while you are more than welcome to get to work whisking up the requisite proportions of chickpea flour and water, you can actually – these days – just pour a ready-made and delicious alternative straight out of a bottle. My wife is adamant she prefers this egg-free version to my old one. What I love about plant-based cooking – apart from the health and environmental benefits – is how it allows you to share and embrace the inspirational and entrepreneurial spirits of the people who have created the ingredients – based on their shared passion to avoid animal products. A vegan version of a traditionally non-vegan dish must never be an inferior tasting version of the original. It must stand on its own (fortunately never on two feet) in every way. I’m certain I’m a better cook now than I was before as a direct result of this challenge. Give it a go and please, let me know what you think.
600g potatoes (Maris Piper or similar)
1/2 tsp garlic granules
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for greasing
1 medium onion finely sliced.
4 tbsp chickpea flour
1/2 tsp Kala Namak (optional)
1 tsp flakey sea salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper.
- Preheat the oven to 200 C.
- Peel and slice the potatoes to the thickness of a fifty pence piece.
- Mix the sliced potatoes with 2 tbsp of the olive oil, the onion powder and garlic granules until evenly coated.
- Spread the potatoes out in a thin even layer over a large baking tray and cook in the oven for 20 – 25 minutes – or until just tender.
- In the meantime, heat the remaining 1 tbsp olive oil in a heavy based frying pan over a medium heat. add the sliced onions and cook for 15 – 20 minutes, stirring regularly until they are and very slightly caramelised.
- Whisk the chickpea flour, Kala Namak if using and the water until smooth – or use a liquid egg substitute product such as ‘Just Egg’.
- Mix the potatoes, onions, chickpea or egg substitute mix and seasoning until thoroughly and evenly combined.
- Line an ovenproof dish (approximately 17cm x 17cm x 6cm deep) completely with baking parchment and grease with a little olive oil. Pour the mixture into the dish and spread until even.
- Place in the oven and bake for 25 minutes.
- Remove from the oven and when cool enough to handle, turn out carefully by upturning onto a plate, and then turn back again onto a chopping board so the golden brown side is uppermost.
- Allow to cool before storing covered in the refrigerator. Serve at room temperature.