May 30, 2014

PARSNIP LENTIL DHAL (PERFECT FOR THE POOR STUDENT)


Since moving to the Gold Coast (QLD, Australia) to finish my Dietetic studies (and thus returning to the full-time student life... and super-dooper strict budgeting), I have haven't had the chance to get too creative with my cooking. But low (or no) funds doesn't have to = low/no flavour! In my frugality, I have managed to find a bunch of tasty vegan meals that I would continue to make and enjoy when my funds (hopefully) return when I go back to work.

One of my frugal favourites is this indian parsnip lentil curry - which is not only super tasty but also contains no added fat. If you are as passionate about parsnips as me then you will love this dhal!

How?

1 cup of red lentils
1/2 medium brown onion, diced
1 large parsnip, diced or cut into 5cm batons
1 large carrot, diced or cut into 5 cm batons
2 cups of baby spinach
500mL of vegetable stock
1 tablespoon of garam masala
1 teaspoon of tumeric
1 teaspoon of chilli powder (you may want to use less if you have a super spicy powder/not a fan of super spicy dhal)
Salt and pepper, to taste

Heat a sauté over a medium heat. Add 1-2 teaspoons of the vegetable stock and sauté the onion until translucent. Add the garam masala, tumeric and chilli powder and cook for 1 minute until fragrant. Add the parsnip, carrot, lentils and vegetable stock and bring to a boil. Cover and reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook for 15 minutes, or until the parsnip and carrots are tender and the lentils have softened. Remove from the heat, stir through the baby spinach, season with salt and pepper, and serve with brown rice. Cheap, hearty and delicious!

Serves 4

May 29, 2014

SUPER VIBRANT SWISS CHARD SALAD


I know there probably aren't many of us out there... but I am a serious salad fan! They're fresh, flavoursome and full of essential vitamins and minerals - what could be better?! The answer is very few things in my book. 

I am always trying to find a new combination that ticks all the boxes. This one, topped with the insanely delicious Romesco dressing from Isa Chandra Moskowitz's Appetite for Reduction, was a combination of finely shredded swiss chard (but you could use kale), diced tomato, diced red onion, diced lebanese cucumber, and some crushed walnuts. 

This salad is a nutritional winner - the dark greens provide calcium, vitamin K and iron (keep in mind that iron and calcium will compete for absorption); the tomato provides vitamin C (which increases iron absorption) and lycopene - which has been linked with a lower risk of some cancers; and the walnuts are a great source of omega-3 (as well as being just-plain-delicious!). 

May 28, 2014

BLACK SESAME SOBA NOODLE SALAD


i am a big fan of asian-style salads - especially those piled high with soba noodles, heaps of crunchy vegetables and salty-sweet dressings... my mouth is watering just thinking about it! this was my attempt at a quick soba noodle salad for lunch - craving satisfied!

how? 

1 bunch of dried soba noodles (if you don't buy your soba noodles in wrapped bunches then just grab about a 2cm width bunch of your loose noodles), cooked and rinsed
1 medium carrot, julienned 
1 firm pear, julienned 
1 cup of bean sprouts
1 cup of loosely packed shredded cos lettuce
3 spring onions, sliced on the bias 
3 teaspoons of black sesame seeds
1 tablespoon of rice wine vinegar
2 teaspoons of light soy sauce
1 teaspoon of grated fresh ginger
1 tablespoon of sweet chilli sauce

to make the dressing, combine the rice wine vinegar, soy sauce, fresh ginger, and sweet chilli sauce in a small bowl. whisk together and set aside. 

toss the cooked soba, carrot, pear, bean sprouts, lettuce, spring onion and black sesame seeds together and drizzle over the dressing. 

serves 2

May 27, 2014

VALENCIA-INSPIRED VEGAN PAELLA


In honour of my time spent in Spain - and the many conversations (we seriously spoke about this on a weekly basis!) I had with my housemates on the quality of paella from Mercadona (our local supermercado - 'supermarket') -  I felt it only fitting to try my hand at a vegan version of this Valencian dish. 

How?

1 cup of brown rice
1/2 cup of frozen corn kernels, thawed 
1/2 cup of frozen peas, thawed
1/2 cup of frozen baby green beans, thawed
1 red onion, halved and sliced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 tablespoons + 2 teaspoons of olive oil
1/4 cup of white wine (vegan-suitable), or vermouth
600 mL of vegetable stock
1 roasted red capsicum, sliced
1 medium tomato, sectioned
400g block of extra firm tofu, pressed and cubed
1/2 teaspoon of dried rosemary
1/2 teaspoon of dried thyme
1 teaspoon smoked paprika (pimento)
1/2 teaspoon of chilli flakes
Pinch of saffron
Lemon wedges, to serve
Salt and pepper, to taste

Heat the olive oil in a paella pan (if you have one) or a large sauté pan. Add the garlic, onion, saffron and chilli flakes and sauté over medium heat for 3-4 minutes. Add the rosemary, thyme, paprika and cook for a further 1 minute until fragrant. Add the rice and stir to coat all the rice in the oil. Deglaze the pan with the white wine, or vermouth. Add the vegetable stock, increase the heat to bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer and cover. Allow the rice to cook for 20 minutes. 

Add the peas, corn, beans, red capsicum, tomato, and salt and pepper. Allow to cook until heated through (10 minutes). Meanwhile, heat the remaining 2 teaspoons of olive oil in small frying pan. Add the tofu and brown on all sides. Top the paella with the tofu, season with salt and pepper if required and top with lemon wedges before serving - ¡buen apetito!

Serves 4 as a main

'CHEESY' VEGAN SWISS CHARD FILLO PIE


Ok - this one is a little bit indulgent... but its so creamy and delicious that it's totally worth the extra calories! The flakey fillo and creamy, cheesy swiss chard filling make for the perfect piece of (savoury) pie - yum!

How? 

9-10 sheets of frozen (vegan-suitable) fillo pastry (I used Borg's frozen fillo pastry sheets)
1 tub of Tofutti's better than cream cheese
1 bunch (5-6 leaves) of swiss chard (silverbeet), shredded
1 medium brown onion, diced
2 tablespoons of nutritional yeast flakes
1/4 teaspoon of nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon of salt
cracked pepper, to taste
Olive oil

Remove the fillo from the freezer and allow to thaw (note: make sure you keep it covered with a damp tea-towel or similar to prevent it drying out). 

Preheat your oven to 200℃

Sauté the onion until translucent. Add the swiss chard and sauté until wilted. Remove the chard and onion mix from the pan and set aside in a large mixing bowl to cool slightly (approx. 5 mins).

Add the tofutti cream cheese, nutmeg, nutritional yeast flakes, salt, and pepper to your chard and onion mix. Stir to combine thoroughly. Check for seasoning, adjusting if required, and set aside. 

Grease a 20 cm flan or pie dish with olive oil. Line the dish with the 2 of the fillo sheets (side-by-side) with the edges hanging over the pie dish (note: these will be folded back into the centre of the dish to 'close' the pie). Brush the top of the sheets with olive oil and layer 2 more fillo sheets in the opposite direction across the pie dish to make a cross shape. Brush the top of these sheets with olive oil and layer 2 more fillo sheets across the top on a diagonal. Brush the top of these sheets with olive oil and layer with a further 2 sheets of fillo in the opposite direct to make a final star shape (i.e. filling all edges of the pie dish). 

Now spoon in your filling and bring the edges of the fillo back over the top of your filling to 'close' the pie. Use the remaining filo sheets to top your pie - making sure to brush between each sheet with olive oil. Give your pie a final brush with olive oil to make sure all the fillo sheets are holding together and to produce a gorgeously golden pie! 

Serves 6 (perfect with a green, leafy side-salad) 

May 3, 2014

CREAMY GREEK-STYLE COCONUT VEGAN YOGHURT

in a hurry for a tasty, creamy snack?! this vegan coconut greek-style yoghurt delivers a natural yoghurt tartness and is the perfect with some fresh (or defrosted frozen) fruits. top it off with a little rice malt syrup and enjoy! 

how? 

1 can (270mL) of coconut cream (you could use soy or coconut milk instead for a thinner consistency)
1 tbsp. of cornflour (if you use a wheat free brand then this yoghurt will be gluten free too!)
3 tbsp. of fresh lemon juice
1 tsp. of lemon zest

combine the coconut cream and lemon juice and allow to curdle. add the cornflour and whisk together, ensuring there are no lumps. place into the microwave and heat for 1 minute. remove from the microwave and stir, again ensuring there are no lumps. return to the microwave and heat for another minute. remove and stir thoroughly again. return to the microwave for a final minute. by this time your yoghurt should have thickened up (keep in mind that it will thicken more as it cools). remove, add the lemon zest and allow to cool slightly before putting in the fridge to thicken further and cool completely. enjoy on top of fresh seasonal fruits with some rice malt (or maple) syrup if you like your yoghurt a little sweeter. 

serves 4

January 5, 2014

FRAGRANT VEGAN LAKSA


laksa is one of my favourite quick dishes for when i am stuck for dinner ideas, or craving something creamy and spicy. for some time i have been searching for the perfect paste... this time i think i have found the winner! 

how? 

the paste:

2 teaspoons of dried chilli flakes
1 teaspoon of ground coriander
½ teaspoon of sweet paprika
½ teaspoon of ground cumin
½ teaspoon of ground turmeric
1 brown onion
2 lemongrass stalks (white part only)
1 teaspoon of ground ginger
5 cashew nuts
2 cloves of garlic
1 tablespoon of peanut oil (or vegetable oil)
½ vegetable bouillon cube 
1 cm width strip of dried nori (the sheets used for making sushi) 

add coriander, paprika, cumin and turmeric to a small frying pan – toast over medium heat (cook for 1 to 2 minutes or until fragrant). allow to cool

add chilli, onion, lemongrass, ginger, nori, stock cube and spice mix into a processor and process until finely chopped . add the oil and process again until a smooth paste is formed


the rest:

½ medium red capsicum, cut into strips
1 medium carrot, halved lengthways and cut on the bias
1-2 sticks of celery, cut on the bias
1 cup of frozen whole green beans, defrosted
1 stick of soba noodles 
270ml can of coconut cream
½ - 1 cup of vegetable stock
¼ cup of peanuts, roughly chopped and toasted

stirfry the carrot, capsicum and celery in a wok with a little vegetable oil (or dash of water if you are limiting your fat intake). add the green beans, vegetable stock, laksa paste, soba noodles and coconut cream. heat gently until the noodles are cooked. 

serve topped with toasted peanuts – enjoy!

serves 2

December 28, 2013

HOMEMADE SEITAN FAUX TURKEY SUCCESS


despite living in australia, where the weather is likely to be well above 30°c (86°f) on christmas day, my family religiously opt for a hot dinner – in homage to the mother country i guess! having a family that, apart from my mum, do not follow an even remotely vegan diet also adds a little extra ‘heat’ to the day. i am sure anyone that who has been vegan for long enough to have encountered a holiday will know what i mean. especially if you have an uncle like mine, who considers provocation an entertaining pastime!

this year was challenging for many reasons, but surprisingly food was not one of them. my mum and i prepared each component of our hot christmas plate and bought it along to enjoy with the rest of the family. we had the standard steamed greens along with crunchy roast potatoes (that we par boiled and ‘ruffed-up’ before roasting in the oven), homemade sage and onion stuffing, tasty corn pudding and a few slices of homemade seitan ‘turkey’.

having previously bought a commercially made version of faux ‘turkey’, i was stoked to have successfully reproduced my own at home! for anyone seeking another trimming for his or her plate, i definitely recommend giving it a go! the cooking time may seem long, but your seitan ‘turkey’ can be cooking away in the oven whilst you get busy with other christmas preparations.

how?

start by making a seasoning blend containing:
1 tsp of dried sage
¾ tsp of dried thyme
½ tsp of dried majoram
½ tsp of dried rosemary
¼ tsp of ground nutmeg
¼ tsp of black pepper corns

add all ingredients to a dry mill and grind together

next add the following ingredients to a blender and blend until smooth:
150g of silken firm tofu
1 cup of water
1 tsp of salt
½ tsp of black pepper
2 cubes of chicken-style (vegan) bouillon (i use massel brand)
½ tsp of your seasoning blend
½ tsp of garlic powder
½ tsp of onion powder
½ tsp dried thyme

in a large mixing bowl combine the following dry ingredients:
1 ½ cup of glutinous wheat flour
1/3 cup of soy flour (i ground my own dried soy beans to produce a flour)
1 tablespoon of rolled oats
1 tablespoon of polenta

pour the wet mix over the dry mix and knead together for 2-3 minutes. set aside for 1-2 hours.

preheat your oven to 190°C (375°F).

take a 60 cm x 30 cm piece of muslin cloth and fold in half (to form a square). wet and ring out the cloth and layout on your bench. roll your seitan ‘turkey’ into a short log shape and place into the middle of your muslin cloth. roll up the seitan loaf like you are wrapping a sweet (twisting the sides to tighten the cloth). place the wrapped loaf in a soufflé dish or other small baking dish. if you are using a soufflé dish it may be a good idea to place this into a larger roaster to avoid any drips or spills in the oven.

now prepare a seasoned broth containing:
2-2.5 cups of hot water
1 tsp of black pepper
½ tsp of garlic powder

½ tsp of onion powder
½ tsp of your seasoning blend
½  tsp of dried thyme
2 cubes of chicken-style (vegan) bouillon

pour the seasoned broth over the seitan loaf, cover the soufflé dish with an oven safe plate (to hold the loaf down and reduce evaporation of your broth) and place the roasting dish into the oven. reduce the heat immediately to 120°C (250°F) and leave to cook for 3 hours.

remove from the oven and transfer your loaf to a cooking rack. once cool, remove the muslin. you can now slice your seitan ‘turkey’ and reheat for serving (or enjoy it cold). i rubbed my seitan ‘turkey’ loaf with a little oil and left over seasoning blend before roasting it in a moderate oven for 20 minutes to make a crispy skin.

serves 4-6

VEGAN CERTOSINO (SPICED ITALIAN FRUIT CAKE)



this vegan spiced fruit cake is a christmas staple in my house. vegan or not, even fruit-cake-lover or not, this certosino will blow you away with its blend of fennel seeds, cinnamon, bitter chocolate and aromatic marsala!

how? 

75g of raisins (or sultanas)
30 ml of marsala (i used a fruity white (vegan-friendly) port)
350g of plain flour
2 tsp of bicarbonate soda
150g of rice malt syrup
150g of raw caster sugar
40g of nuttelex (or other vegan butter alternative)
3 tablespoons of water
1 tablespoon of fennel seeds
1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon
375g of apples (2-2.5 medium red apples), roughly grated
200g of blanched almonds, roughly chopped
50g of pine nuts
75g of dark bitter (dairy-free) chocolate (i used whittakers), roughly chopped
75g of walnuts, roughly chopped

soak the raisins in the marsala for 20-30 minutes (you could also leave them overnight if you have the time). preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F).

add the rice malt syrup, sugar, nuttelex and water to a small saucepan and heat until the sugar dissolves. add the fennel seeds and cinnamon. combine the flour and bicarbonate soda in a large mixing bowl. pour the spiced sugar mix over the flour and stir to combine. 

add the remaining ingredients, including the raisins with their soaking liquid, and stir to combine. spoon the mix into a lined 25cm springform cake tin and place into the oven to bake for 45 minutes to an hour (or until a screwer comes out clean - keeping in mind that the chocolate will melt and may skew this assessment). keep an eye on your cake if it needs the full 1 hour, covering it at the 45 minute mark to avoid the top from getting too browned. 

once cooked, remove the cake from the oven and set aside to cool. 



to finish your certosino:

4 tablespoons of apricot jam, or orange marmalade
1/2 - 1 cup of blanched almonds (pecan halves would also work nicely)
1/2 cup of glacé cherries (or other glacé fruits of your choice), halved

once cool, heat a little apricot jam or orange marmalade in a small saucepan and, using a pastry brush, paint the glaze over the top of your cake. use this sticky surface to 'glue' on some glacé fruit and blanched almond 'decorations'. brush the remaining glaze over your decorated cake. 

serve a thin slice of your gorgeous certosino with a small glass of rich fruity liqueur, espresso or even a cup of tea - merry christmas everyone! 

November 5, 2013

TOFU, KALE + BROCCOLI BOWL


after a “blah” day at work i felt that some comfort food was in order! ok, sure!… so salads aren’t in most people’s comfort food category but this one is hearty, flavourful and - with a 90’s classic french-onion-dip style dressing – ticks all the boxes for me.

plus – despite having only six main components – this salad bowl packs in over 50g of protein, a solid dose of key minerals calcium and zinc, and a bounty of phytochemicals – winner!


how?

1 cup of cooked brown rice
1 cup of cooked lentils
1 cup of broccoli florets
2 cups of kale, roughly shredded
2 tablespoons of raw pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
1 block of tofu, cubed

for the dressing…

¼ cup of vegan sour cream (I used toffuti)
1 teaspoon of dijon mustard
½ teaspoon of onion powder

pan fry the tofu until golden brown and set aside. sauté off the kale and broccoli until tender (but retaining a little bite and their vibrant colour). toss it all together and drizzle over the creamy french onion style dressing – enjoy!

serves 2

November 4, 2013

MIDDLE-EAST INSPIRED SALAD BOWL


i was a little disorganised and lacking motivation tonight... so a creamy cashew based dressing was off the cards. instead i tried a vegan mayo + baharat spice mix blend dressing with my middle eastern (or more so mediterranean) salad bowl medley and was pleasantly surprised. 
how? 

1/2 cup of red capsicum, diced
2 ripe tomatoes, diced
6 medium cos lettuce leaves, roughly shredded
2 cups of brown rice, cooked
1 cup of lentils, cooked
6-8 olive, sliced (i used kalamata as this was all i had on hand... but green would work great!)
2 tablespoons of raw pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
1/4 cup of vegan mayonnaise (i used praise 99% fat free mayonnaise)
1 tablespoon of baharat (i will post the recipe for this shortly for those keen to blend their own)
sprinkling of nigella seeds (optional) 

blend the mayo and spice mix together. toss everything together. dig in!

serves 2

November 3, 2013

PROBIOTIC + PROTEIN POWER BOWL


with over 50g of protein [per serve], 885mg of calcium [per serve] and a probiotic punch - this power bowl is not only super healthy but super tasty and super satisfying! 

how? 

1 cup of cooked brown rice
1 cup of cooked puy (a.k.a french) lentils (i whacked mine in the pressure cooker with a few bay leaves for 10 minutes) 
400g block of extra firm tofu, cubed and pan fried (i drizzled mine with a little black cherry vincotto for a bit more bite)
2-3 cups of roughly shredded cos lettuce
** amended - 1/2 cup of cucumber, diced

for the dressing... 

2 tablespoons of miso paste (i used white)
2 tablespoons of tahini (i used hulled)
1 small clove of garlic
1/4 to 1/3 cup of water

blend all dressing ingredients together in a wet mill (or with a bamix) until thoroughly combined. toss everything together with a generous drizzling of the dressing and enjoy! 

serves 2

BEET + LENTIL SALAD W/ GARLICKY CASHEW DRESSING


after a few unpredictably wet and cooler days... october has finally started to heat up! in keeping with the warmer weather (and my default ♥ of salads) i piled up some nutty brown rice, thyme-infused green/brown lentils, refreshing cucumber slices, crisp cos lettuce leaves, julienned raw beets and a generous dolloping of punchy, creamy, garlicky dressing - yum! 

how? 

2 cups of cooked brown rice
2 cups of cooked green/brown lentils (i whacked mine in the pressure cooker with a few sprigs of fresh thyme - kindly donated from a friends front garden - for 8 mins) 
2 cups of cucumber slices (i like mine cut on the bias with a bit of the seeds removed - which i snack on whilst prepping the rest of my salad)
8-12 baby cos lettuce leaves, roughly torn or cut on a bias
1 fresh medium beetroot, thinly julienned on a V-slicer/mandolin 

for the dressing...
2 cloves of garlic
1/4 cup of spring onions, roughly chopped
1/2 cup of cashews, soaked and drained
1/2 cup of vegetable stock
1/4 cup of lemon juice
2 tablespoons of nutritional yeast flakes

place all your dressing ingredients into a small food processor (i used a bamix and wet mill) and blend until smooth. you can use it straight away or store in the fridge for later (the dressing in my photo was from the day before and has thickened up from being in the fridge). 

pile up the layers, or toss to combine - top with a generous dolloping of dressing and dig in! 

serves 2 for a filling main or 4 for those less hungry/entrée-size meal

November 1, 2013

"ISA DOES IT"'S CURRIED PEANUT SAUCE BOWL


this tofu and kale (i used silverbeet [a.k.a swiss chard]) combo is such a winner. i am a big fan of satay - so i was sold from the get-go! if you haven't already grabbed your copy of isa's book then definitely hit up your fav book store and get this one on your shelf a-sap!

if you are anything like me, you may have trouble not 'taste-testing' the sauce so much that you almost run short when it comes time for smothering your crispy tofu and wilted greens - but, if willpower prevails you will be rewarded with a tangy, creamy, dish to-die-for! 

October 27, 2013

RAW DECADENT DOUBLE CHOCOLATE CHERRY CHEESECAKE


october marks the end of birthdays for the year in my family. so i felt it fitting to go out with a bang! with no nasty refined carbohydrates and a decent whack of heart-healthy nuts, antioxidant rich raw cacao and some all-round vitamin-and-mineral-good-guys, this rich and decadent double choc cherry 'cheesecake' was super easy to make and fits the bill for a healthy dessert (if there is such a thing). 

how?

for the base…
1 ¾ cups of raw almonds
½ cup of raw buckwheat
1/8 teaspoon of sea salt
¼ teaspoon of cherry oil
1 tablespoon of raw cacao powder
¾ cup of raisins


for the filling…
3 cups of cashews, soaked for 1 hour, drained
1/3 cup of raw dark agave syrup
6 prunes, pitted
½ cup of fresh lemon juice
¼ cup of water
½ teaspoon of cherry oil
1 cup of coconut oil
¾ cup of raw cacao powder


add the almonds, buckwheat and salt to a food processor. blitz until coarsely ground. add the cacao powder, raisins and cherry oil. blend until the mixture comes together. (you may need to add 1 teaspoon of water if the mix is a little dry). press into a 9-inch springform pan lined with baking paper. place in the freezer whilst you make the filling.

add the soaked cashews, prunes, lemon juice, agave and water and blend until smooth – scarping down the side of the processor bowl as required. add the coconut oil, raw cacao and cherry extract and process until creamy. pour the filling onto the base and freeze until set.

remove the cheesecake from the freezer at least 1 hour before serving. for a little extra glam, top with mashed berries and a drizzle of agave – yum!


makes one 9-inch/23cm cheesecake (enough to serve 16-20)