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4 French vegetarian recipes to try at home

In her book on meat-free eating, Estérelle Payany provides a rich guide to the joys of preparing dishes using everything from pulses and grains to eggs and rice, and offers super recipes to try at home.

Estérelle Payany (above) is a food journalist who studied at the prestigious Conservatoire national des arts et métiers and has gone on to write or co-author over 30 culinary books. Among her most successful publications is the widely acclaimed Encyclopedia of Vegetarian Cuisine, which was rewarded at the Gourmand World Cookbook Awards.

In this all-encompassing volume, she takes a tree-and-branch approach to eating meat-free, first presenting a guide to the correct preparation of everything from vegetables, rice, wheat and other grains to pulses, soybeans, mushrooms and seaweed, as well as eggs and dairy, nuts, seeds and fruits.

Accompanied by step-by-step photographic guides, Payany takes all the mystery and fear out of making the most of nature’s bounty. Each recipe section begins with an introduction from a star French chef, who share the secrets of one of their favourite creations. Among the well-known culinary names exalting the potential and pleasure of meat-free meals are television cookery programme favourite, Thierry Marx, and Mauro Colagreco, whose restaurant Mirazur in Menton was elected the best restaurant in the world by the World’s 50 Best Restaurants in June 2019.

The book serves as wonderful inspiration to those keen to create tantalising dishes above and beyond boiled haricots verts or gloopy lentil stew. In his foreword, three Michelin-star chef Régis Marcon sums up the lure of healthy, tasty vegetarian eating: “Cook with the seasons, and embark on a voyage of discovery into this world of plants where there is still much to explore. You will soon realize that it is easy to cook delicious and healthy dishes using just vegetables, mushrooms, pulses, grains, dairy products, nuts, and fruit.”

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Nut and Vegetable Millet Torte 

Ingredients, serves 4 as a main dish 

For the topping:

  • 1 unwaxed orange
  • 2 shallots
  • 10 oz. (300 g) butternut squash
  • 1 lb. (500 g) Brussels sprouts
  • 1 clove garlic, unpeeled
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, plus extra for the dish or pan
  • 2 sprigs thyme
  • ½ cup (2 oz./50 g) pecans
  • Fine salt and freshly ground pepper

For the millet torte:

  • Scant ½ cup (3 oz./80 g) millet flakes
  • 1 ¼ cups (300 ml) milk
  • 3 tablespoons walnut oil
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 small pinch grated nutmeg
  • Fine salt and freshly ground pepper


For the topping:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C/Gas Mark 4). Lightly oil the dish or pan.
  2. Finely grate the zest of the orange, taking care not to include the bitter white pith, and squeeze the juice. Peel and dice the shallots. With a vegetable peeler, peel the butternut and cut it into small cubes. Remove the outer leaves of the Brussels sprouts and cut them into two or four pieces, depending on their size.
  3. Spread the Brussels sprouts, butternut squash, shallots, and garlic clove on a baking sheet. In a small bowl, combine the olive oil, orange zest, and orange juice, and drizzle the mixture over the vegetables. Season with salt and pepper and crumble the thyme leaves over. Turn the vegetables over using your hands to ensure that they are evenly coated.
  4. Bake for 30 minutes, stirring two or three times, until the vegetables are tender and nicely colored. With a sharp knife, open the garlic clove, scoop out the flesh, and mix it into the other ingredients.

For the torte:

  1. In a heavy-bottom saucepan, bring the milk to a boil with the oil, salt, and freshly ground pepper. Pour in the millet flakes, stir to combine, and cover with the lid. Remove from the heat and allow the millet flakes to swell for 10 minutes.
  2. Separate the eggs. Beat the egg yolks and nutmeg into the swollen millet flakes. In a clean, dry mixing bowl, whisk the egg whites with a pinch of salt until they hold soft peaks. Carefully fold them into the millet mixture, taking care not to deflate it—it should remain light. Pour the batter into the prepared dish and bake for 20 minutes, until nicely golden on top. It will rise but flop slightly when removed from the oven. Do not turn out of the dish. 

To serve:

In a dry skillet over medium heat, lightly toast the pecans. Transfer to a bowl and reheat the vegetables in the same skillet. Spoon the topping with the pecans over the millet torte and serve in the baking dish

Quinoa Soup

Ingredients, serves 4

  • A knob of butter
  • 150g quinoa (white, black, red, or mixed)
  • 4 medium potatoes
  • 1 onion
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2 ripe tomatoes, or 100ml passata
  • 4 handfuls leafy vegetables (Swish chard, spinach, kohlrabi leaves, or cabbage leaves)
  • 2 tablespoons peanut or sunflower oil
  • 600ml boiling water
  • Fresh herbs, according to taste and season (coriander, oregano, etc)
  • Ground chili pepper, according to taste (optional)
  • Fine salt and freshly ground pepper


  1. Rinse and drain the quinoa. Peel the potatoes, onion, and garlic. Remove the green shoot from the garlic cloves and chop them finely. Finely chop the onion. Roughly chop the tomatoes. Rinse, dry, and roughly chop the leafy vegetables.
  2. In a large pot over high heat, heat the oil. Soften the onion and garlic for 2 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium and add the pieces of tomato and leafy vegetables. Reduce the heat to low and soften for 3 minutes. Add the quinoa and potatoes.
  3. Pour in the boiling water and add ½ teaspoon of salt and freshly ground pepper to taste. Cover with the lid and cook for 20 to 25 minutes over medium heat, until the quinoa is done. Stir in the herbs and chili pepper, if using, and serve in bowls.

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Citrus Beet and Sprouted Buckwheat Salad  

Ingredients, serves 4

  • 400g assorted coloured beets (Chioggia, yellow, white, etc.)
  • 2 pink grapefruit
  • 200g sprouted buckwheat

For the vinaigrette:

  • 1 salt-preserved lemon
  • 1 orange
  • 4 tablespoons chopped dill
  • 60ml olive oil
  • Fine salt and freshly ground pepper


  1. Peel the beets. Using the mandolin, slice them as finely as possible, transferring the slices to a bowl of cold water as you work. Peel the grapefruit, taking care to remove all the white pith. Cut out the segments from between the membranes. Carefully dry the beet slices. In a salad bowl, combine them with the sprouted buckwheat and grapefruit segments.
  2. Cut the preserved lemon in two lengthwise. Scoop out the flesh and the seeds. Finely chop the peel.
  3. Cut the orange in half. Squeeze one half. Scoop out the flesh of the other half and stir carefully into the salad.
  4. In a small mixing bowl, combine the orange juice, diced lemon peel, chopped dill, olive oil, a pinch of salt, and freshly ground pepper. Carefully toss the salad with the vinaigrette. Leave at room temperature for 30 minutes before serving.

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Chia Pudding with a Green Smoothie

Ingredients, serves 2

For the pudding:

  • 12 strawberries
  • 1 kiwi fruit
  • 4–6 tablespoons chia seeds, depending on the texture desired
  • 450ml non-dairy milk of your choice (soy, almond, rice, or coconut)
  • 1 tablespoon dried fruit of your choice (raisins, goji berries, cranberries, etc)

For the green smoothie:

  • 1 ripe pear
  • ½ banana
  • 330ml almond milk
  • 1 handful lettuce leaves of your choice (romaine, lamb’s lettuce, etc.)
  • 1 handful shredded cabbage of your choice (kale, green cabbage, Chinese
  • cabbage, etc)
  • 1 handful fresh spinach leaves
  • 4 ice cubes
  • 1 small piece fresh ginger, peeled


  1. Hull the strawberries and slice them. Peel the kiwi fruit and cut it into rounds. Pour the chia seeds into a jar and cover with the milk. Close tightly with the lid and shake well to mix thoroughly.
  2. Leave to rest for 20 minutes if you prefer a crunchy texture, or up to 12 hours in the refrigerator if you prefer the texture to be as creamy as tapioca. Just before serving, divide the pudding between two bowls and top with the strawberry and kiwi slices and dried fruit.
  3. For the smoothie: peel the pear and banana half and cut them into chunks. Pour the almond milk into the blender and add the lettuce, cabbage, and spinach leaves. Blend until perfectly smooth. Add the ice cubes, pear, banana, and ginger and blend until foamy.
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