4 French-Inspired Vegan Recipes, From Mushroom Bourgogne to Chickpea Salad Niçoise
These recipes combine the health benefits of a plant-based diet with crave-worthy French classics. Photo: Hannah Sunderani
“Tell me what you eat, and I’ll tell you who you are” —French proverb
For many of us, classic French cuisine entails a perfectly roasted chicken or a mouth-watering bowl of beef bourguignon or cassoulet. Canadian foodie Hannah Sunderani, however, puts veggies on the front burner in her debut cookbook, The Two Spoons Cookbook.
It was in 2006 that Sunderani left downtown Toronto to pursue the joie de vivre in France, she writes in her book. She brought with her a passion for plant-based cooking where fromage, foie gras and charcuterie are everyday staples, alongside farmers markets brimming with fresh fruits and vegetables
Drawing inspiration from her four years living abroad, the book features more than 100 French-inspired vegan recipes. “I really wanted to [pay] tribute to my time in France,” she told Zoomer. “And I think this book depicts so well what it was like eating there, with both traditional French recipes, trendy plant-based creations and influences from nearby cultures.”
In addition to recipes, the book contains menu ideas for special brunches, an afternoon tea party, memorable dinners and unforgettable vegan charcuterie boards, she says.
If you’d like to sample some of her dishes, we serve up a few recipes from the book — but first some culinary tips from Sunderani.
Can you share your favourite flavour boosters — and any other secret weapons?
My favourite flavour booster is nutritional yeast! If you haven’t heard of this ingredient before, prepare for it to rock your vegan world. Nutritional yeast is often used in vegan cooking to bring a cheesy umami flavour to dishes.
As for my secret weapon? A high-speed blender is a kitchen gadget that I recommend splurging on. My Vitamix is my kitchen baby and I adore this little sous-chef.
What is your go-to dish for cooking/entertaining without the stress?
It depends on the season, but I really love to make my Balsamic Mushroom Risotto because it’s easy enough for a weeknight, but also decadent enough for entertaining. The recipe is a fan-favourite on my blog and is featured in my cookbook. I created it to tribute what was served on my wedding day in Dordogne, France. It brings me a lot of joy that this has become such a popular recipe; and that people have enjoyed bringing it into their homes and building fond memories, just as it has done for me.
What items/ingredients do you keep stocked in your pantry/fridge?
Old-fashioned rolled oats and raw cashews! From oatmeal to oat milk, there’s lots you can do with old-fashioned rolled oats. As for cashews, this is an important nut for vegans! Not only do they make a great healthy snack to pop and go, but they are an essential for vegan cooks to achieve creamy or cheesy dishes. I also use them to make sweet desserts like my lemon tart filling (recipe below).
What is your go-to comfort food dish?
If a recipe has mushrooms then you can be sure that I will find it comforting! Recipes like my Mushroom Bourguignon (recipe below), Mushroom and Spinach Quiche (recipe below) and Baked Potatoes With Mushrooms and Gravy are certainly on my list of vegan comforts. They are warm, hearty and full of umami flavour. Mushrooms also have a meaty texture, which make them a great alternative to meat for vegan dishes. With the right spices and flavouring, you can achieve some mighty comforting dishes with mushrooms!
This Q&A has been edited and condensed
Mushroom Bourguignon With Buttery Mashed Potatoes
Vegan | Gluten-free | Nut-free | Refined Sugar-free
In my dream scenario, it is a cold Friday evening and I have just come in from a brisk walk. Meanwhile, my husband, Mitch, is cooking up a big batch of this mushroom bourguignon in the kitchen, accompanied by a bottle of fine red wine. The air is rich with the savoury scent of aromatic veggies. This recipe certainly makes a dreamy date-night dinner, especially during the colder months. Mushrooms, carrot and shallots are simmered in a bold broth sauce with bay leaves and thyme and served over creamy mashed potatoes. It is a soulful and indulgent meal to toast a hard week’s work and the relaxing weekend ahead.
Serves 6 to 8
6 tablespoons vegan butter, divided
1 pound (450 g) cremini mushrooms, roughly chopped
2 large carrots, peeled and roughly chopped
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 tablespoons gluten-free all-purpose flour
1 cup dry full-bodied red wine
2 cups vegetable broth
1½ tablespoons gluten-free tamari
1 tablespoon pure maple syrup
6 sprigs fresh thyme, tied together with twine, more for garnish
2 bay leaves
3 pounds (1.35 kg) white potatoes, cut into chunks
½ cup vegan butter
½ cup unsweetened almond milk
¼ to ½ cup plain coconut yogurt
¾ teaspoon fine sea salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1. Make the Bourguignon: In a small bowl, cover the shallots with boiling water and let soak for 3 minutes. Drain and rinse. (This makes them easier to peel.) Peel the skin off the shallots and discard. Cut small shallots in half lengthwise and bigger shallots into quarters.
2. Heat 2 tablespoons of the vegan butter in a large pot over medium heat. Add half of the mushrooms, increase the heat to medium-high, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms are lightly browned, about 6 minutes. Transfer the mushrooms to a medium bowl.
3. Repeat with another 2 tablespoons of the vegan butter and the remaining mushrooms. Transfer the mushrooms to the bowl with the first batch of mushrooms.
4. In the same pot over medium heat, melt the remaining 2 tablespoons vegan butter. Add the shallots, carrots, garlic, and salt. Cook, stirring often, until the vegetables start to soften, about 10 minutes. Add the tomato paste and flour and stir to incorporate. Pour in the red wine, vegetable broth, tamari, and maple syrup. Then add the mushrooms. Stir to combine.
5. Toss in the thyme and bay leaves and bring the stew to a simmer over medium-high heat. Cook until the sauce has thickened and reduced and the veggies are cooked through, 20 to 30 minutes. Taste, and add more salt or a splash more tamari, if needed. Remove the thyme and bay leaves and discard. Cover with a lid and keep warm over low heat until ready to eat.
6. Make the Mashed Potatoes: Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over medium-high heat. Add the potatoes and cook until fork-tender, 12 to 15 minutes. Drain the potatoes and return to the pot. Using a potato masher or immersion blender, blend until fairly smooth.
7. In a small saucepan, heat the vegan butter and almond milk over medium heat, whisking to combine. (Alternatively, you can use the microwave for warming.) Fold the buttery milk into the potatoes. Add ¼ cup of the coconut yogurt, salt, and pepper and fold again to combine. Add up to ¼ cup more coconut yogurt if the mashed potatoes taste too dry. Serve the buttery mashed potatoes topped with the mushroom bourguignon. Garnish with thyme, if desired.
Store the bourguignon and mashed potatoes separately in airtight containers in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. The bourguignon can be stored in the freezer for up to 3 months. If frozen, thaw before reheating.
Mushroom and Spinach Quiche
Vegan | Nut-free | Refined Sugar-free | No Added Sugar
This savoury tart is made with a flaky pastry and flavourful mushroom and spinach filling, and will please even non-vegans with its cheesy taste and eggy consistency. I love to serve this for brunch or a gourmet breakfast with friends.
I first tried vegan quiche at a little plant-based restaurant called La Clairière within walking distance of our apartment. It was a welcome dish, especially for my husband, Mitch, who used to love the quiches and frittatas that I made before going vegan. This recipe is inspired by the quiches from that go-to restaurant, the mushroom and spinach combo being my favourite.
Serves 8, Requires: 1 hour chill time
1½ cups (195 g) all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
½ cup (4 ounces/115 g) + 1 tablespoon vegan butter, cold (see Tip)
¼ cup cold water
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon coconut oil
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 yellow onion, finely chopped
8 ounces (225 g) cremini mushrooms, thinly sliced
4 cups (5 ounces/140 g) tightly packed baby spinach
1 block (12 ounces/340 g) silken tofu
¼ cup unsweetened almond milk
¼ cup nutritional yeast
1 tablespoon arrowroot powder
¼ teaspoon ground turmeric
¼ teaspoon onion powder
¼ teaspoon garlic powder
¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
¼ teaspoon fine black salt (or more sea salt)
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1. Prepare the Pastry Crust: In a food processor, combine the flour and salt. Cut the vegan butter into small chunks and add to the bowl. Pulse a few times to lightly mix the ingredients. Add the water and apple cider vinegar and pulse a few more times to form a crumbly dough. (You can also combine all the ingredients in a large bowl, except the water, and massage with your hands to form a crumbly dough. Add the water and massage to form a shaggy dough.) Do not over-knead the dough (see Tip).
2. Transfer the dough to a work surface and bring together to form a ball. Cover with reusable wrap and chill in the refrigerator for 1 hour.
3. Preheat the oven to 425 F (220 C).
4. Lightly sprinkle the work surface with flour. Using a rolling pin, roll out the dough into a 12-inch circle. If needed, lightly sprinkle the dough with flour to stop the rolling pin from sticking.
5. Roll the dough around the rolling pin. Gently lift the dough and unroll over an 11-inch tart pan with removable bottom. Press into the bottom and up the sides of the pan. For a clean edge, trim excess dough with a knife. Patch any cracks with excess dough. Poke a few holes in the base with a fork. (This will stop the base from lifting as it cooks. There’s no need to use pie weights with this crust.) Transfer the tart pan to a baking sheet and blind-bake for 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool. Reduce the oven temperature to 350 F (180 C).
6. Make the Filling: Heat the coconut oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and onion and cook, stirring frequently, until the onion is softened, about 10 minutes. Add the mushrooms and cook until the juices they release have evaporated and the mushrooms have softened and browned, about 10 minutes. Add the spinach, cover with a lid, and let the spinach wilt, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from the heat.
7. In a food processor or high-speed blender, combine the silken tofu, almond milk, nutritional yeast, arrowroot powder, turmeric, onion powder, garlic powder, sea salt, black salt, and pepper. Pulse until smooth.
8. Pour the tofu mixture into the skillet and mix together with the cooked vegetables to combine. Pour the filling into the pre-baked crust in a smooth and even layer. Bake until the filling is golden and firm, about 40 minutes. Let cool slightly before slicing.
Store the quiche, covered with reusable wrap or in an airtight container, in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
1. The pastry dough can be prepared by hand or in a food processor. I like to use the food processor to ensure the ingredients are evenly distributed. Do not over-knead the dough. Pulse or massage the ingredients together until just combined, and then form together with your hands.
2. Different vegan butters have different water contents. If your pastry dough is too crumbly as you roll, it’s too dry. Bring the dough back together, rinse your hands with water, and lightly flick over the dough to add a few water droplets. Work the water in gently and roll again. If the dough gets too warm, cover it with reusable wrap and transfer to the refrigerator to let it chill. Once chilled, it should roll more easily.
3. I recommend using a softer vegan butter for this recipe, such as Earth Balance, for a more flexible pastry dough. See Pantry Staples (page 17) for more information about this vegan butter and other recommendations for successful vegan baking.
Chickpea Salad Niçoise
Vegan | Gluten-free | Grain-free | Nut-free | Soy-free | No Added Sugar | Refined Sugar-free
This niçoise is fully loaded with hearty potatoes, seasoned chickpeas, colourful vegetables and crispy lettuce. It is summery, crunchy and full of flavours you would typically find in a salad niçoise from the South of France — one of my favourite places in France to visit. The freshness of this salad takes me back to the morning markets in the Old Town of Nice, where I used to buy the ingredients to prepare this vibrant salad. We loved to pack it in containers and picnic on the stony beach. Enjoy this salad as a delicious healthy lunch, dinner, or side salad.
Lemon Dijon Dressing
⅓ cup olive oil
¼ cup lemon juice
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons finely diced shallots
1 clove garlic, finely diced
1½ teaspoons agave
½ teaspoon white miso
½ teaspoon fine sea salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
¼ teaspoon dried oregano
1 can (14 ounces/400 mL) chickpeas, drained and rinsed (see Tip)
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon dried oregano
Pinch of fine sea salt
7 ounces (200 g) green beans, trimmed
7 ounces (200 g) baby potatoes, colour of choice, cut into bite-size pieces
2 cups chopped romaine lettuce
1 cup grape tomatoes, halved
1 cup thinly sliced English cucumber
¼ cup pitted mixed Greek olives
½ small red onion, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
¼ cup drained capers
Pinch of fine sea salt
Pinch of freshly ground black pepper
1. Make the Lemon Dijon Dressing: In a small bowl, combine the olive oil, lemon juice, mustard, shallots, garlic, agave, miso, salt, pepper, and oregano. Whisk to combine. Set aside to allow the flavours to meld together.
2. Prepare the Chickpeas: In a medium bowl, combine the chickpeas, lemon juice, mustard, oregano, and salt. Stir to combine. Set aside.
3. Make the Salad: Fill a medium bowl with ice water. Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat. When the water is boiling, reduce the heat to medium-high, add the green beans, and cook until the beans are vivid green and just tender, 3 to 4 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, scoop out the green beans and submerge them in the ice water. Add the potatoes to the boiling water and cook until fork-tender, 10 to 12 minutes. Drain the potatoes and rinse under cool running water. Drain the green beans. Pat dry the potatoes and green beans.
4. Spread the romaine lettuce on a large serving platter. Evenly arrange the green beans, potatoes, tomatoes, cucumber, olives, and red onion over the romaine. Sprinkle with the seasoned chickpeas, chives, capers, and a pinch each of salt and pepper. Serve the Lemon Dijon Dressing on the side for drizzling. (Alternatively, you can toss all the ingredients together in a large salad bowl and toss with the dressing to taste just before serving.)
Vegan | Gluten-free | Soy-free | Refined Sugar-free
This luscious lemon tart is a show-stopping dessert that is perfect to serve for celebrations. Made with a silky lemon curd filling that is bright, citrusy, creamy, and sweet, this tart melts in your mouth, yet is firm enough to hold its shape when sliced. The crust pairs perfectly with its oat, almond, and walnut base. It is lightly baked until golden for a nutty flavour and crispy texture.
Lemon tart was served at our wedding in the Dordogne Region of France. Even though all the food was a smashing success, it’s the lemon tart that my mum always raves about. I created this recipe in tribute to that tart, so that I can serve it to my mum for years to come.
Serves 12, Requires: soak time + cool time + chill time
1 cup raw cashews
1 cup (133 g) gluten-free old-fashioned rolled oats
½ cup (60 g) raw walnuts
½ cup (50 g) almond flour
¼ cup (50 g) coconut oil, melted
2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
1 can (14 ounces/400 mL) full-fat coconut milk
Zest of 1 lemon
½ cup lemon juice
¼ cup pure maple syrup
⅛ to ¼ teaspoon ground turmeric, for colouring
Pinch of fine sea salt
1 teaspoon agar agar
1 lemon, thinly sliced
¼ cup fresh raspberries
1 tablespoon unsweetened coconut flakes
1. Place the cashews in a small bowl and cover with boiling water. Soak for 1 hour, then drain. (Alternatively, soak the cashews in room-temperature water to cover for at least 6 hours or overnight, then drain.)
2. Make the Pastry Crust: Preheat the oven to 350 F (180 C).
3. In a food processor, pulse the oats until they reach a flour-like consistency. Transfer the oat flour to a small bowl.
4. Add the walnuts to the food processor and pulse into a fine meal. Add the oat flour, almond flour, coconut oil, maple syrup, and salt. Pulse until well combined, 15 to 30 seconds.
5. Transfer the dough to a 9-inch round tart pan with removable bottom and press it evenly into the bottom and up the sides. Using a fork, poke 10 to 12 holes in the base of the dough. (This will stop the base from lifting as it cooks. There’s no need to use pie weights with this crust.) Place on a baking sheet and blind-bake until golden brown, about 10 minutes. Let the crust cool on a wire rack for at least 20 minutes.
6. Meanwhile, Make the Lemon Filling: In a high-speed blender, combine the drained cashews, coconut milk, lemon zest, lemon juice, maple syrup, ⅛ teaspoon of the turmeric, and salt. Blend on medium- high speed until smooth and combined. Add up to ⅛ teaspoon more turmeric for colouring, if desired. (Note that the colour will deepen when the filling is heated.) Add the agar agar and blend on low speed until combined, 15 to 20 seconds.
7. Pour the filling into a medium saucepan. Over medium heat, stir often with a spatula until the mixture has thickened to a pourable custard consistency (just before it reaches boiling) and there is a bit of resistance, 7 to 10 minutes. Working quickly, pour the filling into the blind-baked tart shell. It will begin to thicken immediately. If the filling is uneven, gently jostle the tart back and fork on the counter to smooth the top. Pop any air bubbles with a toothpick.
8. Let the tart cool completely in the pan on a wire rack at room temperature. Then cover with plastic wrap (it’s okay if it touches the filling) and chill in the refrigerator for at least 3 hours, preferably overnight. To serve, gently remove the sides of the pan. If desired, garnish the tart with thinly sliced lemon rounds, fresh raspberries, and a sprinkle of coconut flakes.
Store the tart in the pan with the top covered with plastic wrap, or in a round airtight container, in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.
1. I find that for covering the tart, plastic wrap works better than reusable wrap. Plastic wrap is easier to peel away from the filling without sticking.
2. If your filling cracks when it sets, it could be that you transferred the tart to the refrigerator before the filling had completely cooled to room temperature. Alternatively, it’s possible that the filling was overheated and got a bit too thick. The ideal consistency is a pourable custard. However, cracks are totally okay. It tastes just the same with or without cracks!
3. See Pantry Staples (page 17) for information about agar agar powder and where to buy.
The crust can be assembled 1 day in advance. Press the dough into the tart pan, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for up to 24 hours. Bring to room temperature and bake as directed.
Excerpted from The Two Spoons Cookbook by Hannah Sunderani © 2022 Hannah Sunderani. Photography by Hannah Sunderani. Published by Penguin, an imprint of Penguin Canada, a division of Penguin Random House Canada Limited. Reproduced by arrangement with the Publisher. All rights reserved.
A version of this story was published on June 16, 2022.