Without wishing to be too disparaging about other vegan chilli’s, I often find that I’m disappointed when following certain recipes for this dish. I find that flavour is regularly lacking, or is very one-dimensional and I can often just taste tomato, or cumin, and not a lot else! I think that the key to a good chilli is a balance of flavours: there should be spice, there should be richness, and there should be some sweetness (in my opinion). A dash of cocoa powder really adds depth to the dish (and doesn’t make it taste like chocolate), and a good quality vegetable stock is essential. I also like my vegetables chopped up really small (giving a texture more similar to mince) which is where a food processor really helps, but that’s just my preference. In this manner, the finely chopped celery, carrot and onion get fried off first, providing a strong flavour base, but also providing some of the bulk of the stew. Carrots and onions are available all year round in the UK, and celery just during the 4 or 5 coldest months (winter). Lentils and beans provide textural variety and a cheap, nutritious filler. My choice of beans are a mix of pinto and black beans, but use your favourites. If you prefer sugar/sweetener-free dishes, then you may leave out the agave- it’s still tasty without- but I think that it aids in balancing out the flavours, especially if the tinned tomatoes you use are slightly more acidic than usual. I find that this recipe can be quite variable and sometimes requires a slightly longer cooking time for the flavours to ‘come together’. Follow the instructions, but taste before serving: if the flavours are not ‘harmonising’ with one another, cook for a little longer. If possible, make in advance, as leaving it to sit for a while after cooking does nothing but improve the dish!
Extras: my favourite bit! I like to eat chilli with brown rice, some kind of crunchy vegetable and this cashew ‘sour cream’. Pictured, I have dressed some red cabbage with a simple balsamic vinaigrette containing extra virgin olive oil, balsamic vinegar, crushed garlic, salt and pepper. Other great sides include: avocado, tomatoes, extra chillis, spring onions, fresh coriander, lime wedges, lettuce, tortilla wraps, corn bread, potato wedges. Of course, guacamole and salsa are great accompaniments to this kind of food and if you want to jazz up your rice, try this coriander and lime rice salad.
Final point! This recipe is cheap as chips, goes a long way and freezes wonderfully! What more reason do you need?
- 250g brown lentils
- 125g onion (1 medium)
- 125 celery (1 large stalk)
- 250g carrot (2 medium)
- 3 tbsp vegetable oil
- 1.5 tbsp ground cumin
- 1.5 tbsp dried oregano
- 1 tbsp salt
- 1.5 tsp garlic powder
- 1.5 tsp extra hot chilli powder
- 3/4 tsp ground black pepper
- 100g tomato paste
- 625ml vegetable stock (I use Bouillon powder)
- 1 x 400g tinned tomatoes
- 1 tbsp cocoa powder
- 1.5 cans (360g drained weight) beans
- 250g frozen sweetcorn
- 50g agave or maple syrup
- In a medium saucepan, cook the lentils according to packet instructions. They should take around 20 minutes when cooked in boiling water. You want them cooked well rather than 'al dente'; mushiness is fine here as they will melt in to the chilli and blend with the other ingredients, so no worries about overcooking.
- Meanwhile, whiz up the onion, celery and carrot in a food processor until all the vegetables are finely chopped.
- In a large saucepan, fry the vegetable mixture in the oil for about 10 minutes on medium heat, until softened slightly.
- Then add the cumin, oregano, salt, garlic powder, chilli powder and black pepper and fry for a minute more.
- Now add the tomato paste, stock, chopped tomatoes and cocoa and bring to a boil. Turn down the heat to low and simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Now add the cooked and drained lentils, beans, sweetcorn and agave and cook for 5-10 more more minutes.
- If you have time, allow to sit for a bit to let the flavours develop even more but if not, enjoy right away!
I don’t particularly endeavor to keep my recipes low-fat or oil-free (as there’s really no need), but I do prefer to get my fat from healthy sources: nuts, seeds, avocado etc. Give me a jar of tahini and i’ll go in with a spoon, give a me a raw salad and I’ll apply olive oil liberally, but cooked vegetable oil really doesn’t contribute any amount of nutritious benefit for our bodies so is best minimised where possible. Chinese stir-fries (or at least the British imitations that are served here) are often characterised by their greasiness (and disconcerting gloopy-ness), so it seemed like a good opportunity for a few healthy tweaks. I often get the impression that most takeaway meals have started off with a pint or two of vegetable oil in the pan, or at least an amount that no-one would dream of using in their own home so I’ve done the opposite with this dish. This recipe doesn’t fry anything in oil, but rather the sauce ingredients get mixed in a bowl and then thickened in a wok, cooking the broccoli at the same time. I’ve also mastered a technique of crispy tofu without deep-frying so that’s exciting.
The sauce is hopefully reminiscent of Chinese hoisin sauce, except that it doesn’t come of a jar or contain e-numbers. If you don’t have plum vinegar, use rice vinegar and if you don’t have Chinese chives, use spring onions or coriander. There isn’t a substitute for miso here, they sell it in the supermarkets so add it your list! Once you stock up on these condiments- soy, vinegar, miso- you are prepared for future speedy rice and noodle dinners as they offer a really big flavour punch with minimal effort. In other words, I think it’s well worth the investment if your store-cupboard is lacking in these things. Serve with rice or noodles (I’ve chosen noodles) or on its own, whatever you want.
- 300g firm tofu
- 2 tbsp plain flour
- 2 tbsp semolina
- 1/8 tsp salt
- 75g rice noodles
- 2 tsp corn flour
- 120ml hot water
- 2 large garlic cloves, crushed
- 2 tsp chilli flakes
- 1 tbsp miso paste
- 1.5 tbsp soy sauce
- 1 tbsp agave
- 1 tbsp plum vinegar
- 1/4 tsp Chinese 5-spice powder
- 150g broccoli, cut in to small pieces
- 20g Chinese chives (optional), finely chopped
- Cut the tofu in to 1 cm squares
- Mix the flour, semolina and salt in a large mixing bowl and toss the tofu in it, so that all sides of the cubes are covered. The wetness of the tofu will help the coating stick.
- Place the tofu on a foil sheet and place under the grill. Grill the tofu cubes on a high-heat for about 15 minutes so that the inside firms up a bit and the outside crisps up. Keep checking as it's cooking as all oven grills work differently; turn down the heat if it's too hot and turn up if it's not crisping up.
- Cook the noodles according to packet instructions. I used thin rice noodles which just have to be soaked (rather than boiled) in boiling hot water for about 10 minutes, and then drained.
- Mix the corn flour in a couple of tbsp of the hot water separately and then mix all of the sauce ingredients (garlic through to 5-spice), including the corn flour and all of the water and whisk to combine.
- Place the sauce in a wok with the broccoli pieces and bring to a boil. When bubbling, place a lid over the pan and turn the heat to low-medium. Cook, simmering, for about 5 minutes, until the broccoli is just tender.
- Add in the cooked tofu and mix. Serve over the rice noodles, and sprinkle with the Chinese chives.
Everyone needs a reliable and foolproof curry recipe in their repertoire right? I’m excited to have perfected mine, and be able to share it with you. This is a fail-safe recipe which can welcome whatever vegetables you have in the fridge, meaning it is a great way to use up leftover produce. I love Indian food, and when I go out for this type of cuisine, I tend to order from the ‘sides’ menu, meaning I get a smaller taster of a few dishes (although let’s face it, the portions are never very small!) When left to recreate these dishes at home, however, it makes for a lot of culinary work! I used to pore over Madhur Jaffrey’s recipe books and attempt to recreate an authentic spread: dhal; sag aloo; gobi aloo and all the sides: poppadoms, chutneys, relishes, basmati rice and flatbreads. This was great, but would involve a start in the kitchen at around 4pm as I painstakingly followed every recipe down to it’s finest detail. I learnt that certain spices have to be added in particular orders, and that different cooking techniques applied to the onions would make for very different end results; some dishes called for a light fry until soft and ‘translucent’, whilst others demanded the onions to be ‘browned’. The result was always rewarding, but it definitely never instilled any confidence in my Indian cookery abilities, and I was reluctant to experiment on my own with these flavours. I didn’t understand the art of it, nor the intricacies of spice combinations and cooking techniques, and preferred to let someone else guide me (preferably an actual Indian chef). However, this four-hour, multiple-curry cooking spree was not sustainable, and hardly an ‘everyday option’. I finally stopped striving for authenticity, and accepted that I needed a recipe like this one: lentils, vegetables and loads of spices all thrown in to one big pot, and served with plain brown rice. Madhur Jaffrey might not be very proud, but it works for me.
Now, let us talk about veg. I always have frozen spinach and peas in my freezer (they’re much cheaper) and they’re great for throwing in last minute as they take only a few minutes to defrost. However, if it’s Spring, feel free to use fresh. As for the potatoes and carrots, there isn’t a month in the year where these two aren’t available to buy locally (in the UK), so it makes it both a seasonal and cheap meal. I have chopped up the carrots and potatoes in to fairly small pieces; this is to make it a ‘fork meal’ (one you can eat with just a fork; because there isn’t anything to chop up, the knife is banished in to redundancy). Although I think this combination is brilliant, and have accounted for the cooking time differences in the recipe timings and ingredient sizes, I will suggest a few substitutes if you don’t have these. Of course, cooking time will depend on the size you cut the vegetables, but here is an approximate guide:
Long cooking time (substitute for the carrots and potatoes): Turnip, swede, parsnip, celeriac, squash, beetroot
Medium cooking time: Sweet potato, cauliflower, aubergine, brocolli, green beans, cabbage, kale
Short cooking time (substitute for peas and spinach): Courgette, marrow, chard, sweetcorn
Credit where credit is due, I have to thank Rich for the assistance in developing this recipe. Whilst I tweaked the final quantities to my preference, the inspiration came from him. When we first moved in together, Rich had limited ideas surrounding what vegan food to cook for us and his go-to plan was always a curry. After many attempts, he discovered that an addition of red lentils gives a thick and hearty texture to any sauce (avoiding the feared thin, watery gravy) and that a hunk of creamed coconut thrown in the end adds richness and luxury. He also came up with this spice combination, and I hardly changed it, apart from to alter the amounts. Thanks man!
Finally, this freezes brilliantly, so cook in bulk and you’re set for a few more meals.
- 1 tbsp rapeseed oil
- 100g (1 medium) onion, chopped
- 7.5g (2 small cloves) garlic, chopped
- 1.5 tbsp ground cumin
- 1.5 tbsp medium curry powder
- 1 tbsp coriander powder
- 3/4 tbsp salt
- 1/2 tbsp turmeric powder
- 1/2 tbsp chilli flakes
- 1/2 tbsp panch phoran seeds
- 1/4 tbsp ground black pepper
- 1.5 tbsp tomato puree
- 1 litre hot water
- 300g potato, cut in to 1-2 cm square chunks
- 250g carrots, cut in to 1 cm square chunks
- 200g red lentils
- 300g frozen peas
- 200g frozen spinach
- 150g block of creamed coconut, cut in to smaller chunks or grated
- In a big saucepan, heat the rapeseed oil over medium heat. Add the onions and garlic and fry for 5-10 minutes, until soft.
- Add the cumin, curry powder, coriander, salt, turmeric, chilli flakes, panch phoran and pepper and fry for a further minute.
- Add the tomato puree, water, potatoes, carrots and lentils and bring to a boil.
- Once boiling, cover with a lid (slightly ajar to let a little steam out) and turn down the heat, so it is simmering. Cook for about 15 minutes, until the lentils and have broken down and the vegetables are just tender.
- Add the peas, spinach, and creamed coconut and cook for a 5 more minutes, until the vegetables have defrosted and the coconut has melted in.
- The curry thickens up as it sits. If you are leaving to eat later, you may need to loosen up with a little water as you reheat.
- Optional garnishes: chopped coriander, chilli flakes or slices, toasted peanuts or cashews, roasted chickpeas
- This is a mild curry; if you wish for more heat, increase the amount of chilli flakes within it.
There’s been a few vegan ‘parmesan’ recipes floating around for while and given my previous experience with cheese replicas, I was sceptical. However, after trying the Minimalist Baker’s version here, I was converted! Although, it is difficult to get hold of, the nutritional yeast is really essential here; while the cashews add bulk and texture, the nutritional yeast adds a lot of the flavour. As you can see from the quantities, a little goes a long way! My only alteration of the recipe that I followed was that I reduced the salt content from 3/4 tsp to 1/2.
In terms of the rest of the dish, it’s definitely one for ‘simple, quick and easy’ collection, although it’s definitely elegant enough for a dinner party. Put the pasta on at the start, and by the time it’s cooked, the vegetables AND the parmesan will be ready! The idea is that you can taste all of the elements: lemon, chilli, garlic, in generous quantities. And it’s definitely one to make right away; UK courgettes are just coming to an end of their season, and this dish is the perfect Autumn farewell dish. A tough of summery lightness with the citrus, lightly fried courgettes and olive oil, but an element of winter comfort with the hearty spelt pasta, sun-dried tomatoes and cashew ‘cheese’. If you fancy cooking this meal outside of courgette season, other green substitutes would work fine! Any leafy green, like chard, spinach or kale, would be lovely, or if you don’t have any fresh produce, frozen peas are always a winner. I use spelt pasta, but good old wheat pasta would work just fine!
- 250g dried spelt spaghetti
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- 20g garlic (4 large cloves), finely chopped
- 1 tbsp dried chilli flakes
- 1/2 tsp salt
- Few twists of freshly ground black pepper
- 1 tbsp lemon zest (about the zest of 1 lemon)
- 100g sun-dried tomatoes (about 80g dried, and re-hydrated in hot water for 20 minutes), roughly chopped
- 1 large courgette (about 300g), in thin slices or semi-circles (like pictured)
- Rocket (for garnish- optional)
- 100g cashews
- 3 tbsp nutritional yeast
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp garlic powder
- Cook pasta according to packet instructions. I cook mine in a medium saucepan in salted, boiling water for about 10 minutes, until 'al dente'. Before I drain I add a dash of oil to the water and mix around, to prevent the spaghetti strands from sticking to each other after they're drained. When cooking rice and pasta, I always simmer with the lid on, but slightly ajar: this allows a small amount of the steam to be released, but is more energy efficient than cooking without the lid, as more heat is retained.
- Meanwhile, in a large wok or frying pan, heat the oil on medium heat. Add the garlic, chilli, salt, pepper, lemon zest and sun-dried tomatoes and fry for 30 seconds.
- Then, add the courgette slices and fry, stirring frequently, for 5-10 minutes, until tender, but still slightly crisp.
- Finally, add the drained pasta to the frying pan and mix everything together.
- Add all the ingredients to a small food processor and blitz until a fine consistency is achieved. It will look a little like cous cous. This will last for ages in the fridge (you won't use it all with this dish), and is a versatile condiment to have on hand for a flavour boost.
- At the table, sprinkle liberally on top of the pasta!
- If you want, garnish with rocket as well.
I’ve added a new section to my recipe page. It is a category called ‘Simple, Quick and Easy’, and it’s where you can easily find all my recipes which are, well, simple, quick and easy! My mother pointed out to me this week that my recipes often involve many different steps and a huge long list of ingredients which is quite daunting and unappealing to many people. While I’m happiest when I’m letting hours slip away from me in the kitchen and the more ingredients, the more excited I get, it’s good to be reminded that this is fairly unusual! The majority of visitors to my site are probably just looking to find healthy, tasty vegan recipes which don’t take all night to prepare and don’t involve buying an extensive list of obscure products. So with that in mind, not only am I making it easier to identify which of my existing dishes are less complicated than the others, I am also focusing my efforts on developing a set of breakfast, lunch and dinner ideas which are more straightforward to prepare, but don’t compromise on taste. The criteria I have used for measuring whether they make the cut will be the amount of different cooking techniques used, how long the whole recipe takes to prepare and how many ingredients are used. Ideally, they will be one-pot meals, with 10 ingredients or less and that take less than 30 minutes to prepare.
This Chinese 5-spice stir-fry is a perfect one to start off the series. With rice, beans and vegetables all in the same pan, it needs nothing else other than a pair of chopsticks (or fork). It is also a great way to use up leftover rice, but it’s also fine to cook some from scratch if you don’t have any. I love the texture of the black beans here- and it also makes the recipe very store-cupboard-friendly- but if you prefer, chunks of tofu would work really well here too. If you wanted extra protein, you could serve this dish alongside some grilled tofu or cashew nuts and if you’re after extra veg, some more steamed greens by the side. I often say this but it’s extra true for this dish: it’s even better cold! Perfect to take in to work for lunch or nibble on from the fridge if you get hungry again before bed. If you were looking for even more reasons to cook this dish, it’s very cheap! In terms of the fresh elements, we received a large summer cabbage in our vegetable box which is why I chose it but if you’re making this at a different point of the year, use whatever greens are seasonal. It is very spicy (in the fragrant perfume-y sense rather than the hot), so if you aren’t a Chinese 5-spice lover (why are you making this dish?), you can reduce the 5-spice to 1/2 tsp. As you can see from the picture, a slice of lime is nice for a bit of sourness but it’s certainly not essential and it’s a matter of personal preference.
- 1 tbsp coconut oil (or vegetable oil)
- 1 small onion (100g), sliced
- 150g cabbage, sliced
- 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 20g fresh ginger, finely chopped
- 1/4 tsp salt
- Few twists freshly ground black pepper
- 3/4 tsp Chinese 5-spice powder
- 1/2 tsp chilli flakes
- 2 tbsp soy sauce (I recommend Kikkoman)
- 2 tbsp mirin
- 1 drained can of black beans (230g)
- 250g cooked brown rice*
- In a Wok, or large frying pan, heat the coconut oil over medium heat.
- Add the onion and cabbage and fry for 5 minutes, moving the vegetables around the pan with a wooden spoon to keep them from sticking.
- Add the garlic and ginger and fry for another 5 minutes, again moving everything around the pan so all the elements are evenly cooked.
- Now, add the salt, pepper, Chinese 5-spice and chilli flakes and fry for 1 more minute.
- Then, add the soy sauce, mirin, black beans and brown rice and cook for a couple more minutes, until everything is warmed through and everything is well mixed.
- *If you don't have leftover rice, you can cook some from scratch! For 250g cooked rice, you will need about 125g dried rice, and I would boil this in salted water for about 30-40 minutes, until cooked 'al dente'.
VEGAN BARBECUE MINI SERIES- PART I OF III
Barbecues have become synonymous with meat. Sausages, burgers, chicken.. it seems like an excuse to eat as much meat as humanly possible, often accompanied by little more than white bread rolls and a variety of sugary sauces. Obviously, a hostile environment for anyone who doesn’t want to eat meat or holds any concern over their general health and nutrition. However, barbecues to me are about sunshine, good company and alcohol, and there is no reason that plant-based lifestyles need be excluded from this fun. In this three-part recipe series, I am attempting to offer inspiration as to how to cater for vegan friends who are coming over, or even just what to take as a vegan to a barbecue. If you’re anything like me, plain vegetable kebabs or shop-bought sausages leave a lot to be desired, and you shouldn’t have to compromise on good, hearty food for fear of being labelled ‘difficult’.
As a sensible starting point, I’m tackling the veggie burger. The first recipe of this series focuses on what to take as a vegan to a barbecue with carnivorous friends. If your host is willing to do some vegan sides for everyone to enjoy, then everyone else can eat some beef burgers (or whatever) and you can whack a few of these bad boys on for yourself and you’re all good to go. Just in time for the last few barbecuing weeks of English summer, I think I’ve finally nailed the veggie burger. I’m often asked (mainly by Dad, a burger-making enthusiast): how do you bind burgers without eggs? I think there are various ways to do this, and one trick I’ve learnt is that leftover rice whizzed up in the food processor forms a sticky paste which holds everything together. One thing to consider with this, however, is that plain rice waters down the flavour of the burger somewhat, and you have to ensure that the rest of the burger is packed full of other tasty ingredients. As well as this, I often find it’s more about the cooking method than the ingredients which affects how well they achieve a burger-y consistency. For example, one of the biggest problems I’ve found with burgers, patties and falafel is that they require a certain amount of cooking so that they stick together, but they also are vulnerable to drying out, especially in the oven. Through trial and error, I’ve come up with two remedies to this: my burger mix is always fairly wet, and I always bake them in a very hot oven so that the outside crisps up and the middle stays moist.
I got the inspiration for these burgers from a blog called ‘Veggies on the Counter’, which uses the brown rice method. The recipe can be found here, but mine is quite different, with a larger range of ingredients, yet a simplified method of preparation. I have also added some courgette (discards from a spiralizing session in preparation for courgette noodles) and included the beetroot stalks so as not to waste them.
In terms of the reception of these burgers, Rich’s response was that they were the ‘meatiest’ non-meat burgers he’d every had. I think that’s a compliment (or a slightly backhanded one?), and possibly shows how they’re a good bet if you’re trying to impress/convert a meat-eating audience. I think they allow the beetroot to shine through and although there are some other big flavours- tamari, spring onions, garlic, chilli- it isn’t packed so full of spices that it detracts from the sweet, earthy leading role here.
Also, how pretty are they?!
- 100g pumpkin seeds
- 250g beetroot (bulbs)
- 100g beetroot stalks/leaves
- 180g courgette
- 300g leftover cooked rice (150g uncooked rice*)
- 100g tahini
- 100g gluten-free flour (or plain flour or rice flour..)
- 75g spring onions
- 2 garlic cloves
- 30g parsley
- 2 tbsp tamari (or soy sauce)
- 1 tbsp agave (or any liquid sweetener)
- 3/4 tsp chilli flakes
- 1/2 tbsp salt
- 1/2 tbsp ground black pepper
- Place the pumpkin seeds on a baking tray and put in a 160 degrees C oven for about 10 minutes, until nicely toasted.
- Prepare the beetroot by giving them a good scrub, and chopping off the top and bottom knobbly bits. Cut in to chunks (no need to peel) and throw in a food processor.
- Add all the remaining ingredients (including the pumpkin seeds), and process the mixture until everything is minced up and combined.
- Now form in to small-ish patties and place on a greased baking sheet.
- Cook at 200 degrees C for 30 minutes. The best thing about these burgers is that they're great reheated, so your best bet is to cook them in the oven after you make them, and then reheat them when required on the barbecue.
- *Leftover rice works best as it is drier than freshly boiled. If you don't have leftover rice, use uncooked and boil according to packet instructions. When it is cooked and drained, lay it out on a baking tray and place in a 160 degrees C oven for 10-15 minutes, until some of the moisture has been cooked off.
When I first made these, I was aiming for Spanish-style chorizo sausages, packed with smoked paprika and chilli. In actual fact, the taste was more reminiscent of a frankfurter and in a way, I found this processed taste, homogeneous texture and ‘fake’ look strangely rather pleasing. Whatever you want to call them, the method for these involve whizzing up the ingredients, forming them in to sausage shapes and steaming them in hot water in a silver foil parcel. This method allows the sausages to remain moist, but doesn’t achieve a crispy exterior like frying or baking might.
They are very versatile, perhaps by virtue of me not being sure exactly how to serve them. We have eaten them with caponata and salad; in a rice casserole and as pictured: with mash, greens and a spicy tomato sauce. Of course, I have no doubt that they would be right at home inside a hot dog bun with a squirt of ketchup or mustard too. Once you’ve got the basic technique mastered, you can experiment with different beans, herbs and spices. For example, switching the smoked paprika for fennel, sage and thyme would create a more traditional ‘English’ tasting sausage which could be served alongside a good onion gravy.
- 460g cannellini beans (or 2 cans, drained)
- 130g wholemeal flour
- 100g sun-dried tomatoes
- 60g cashew nuts
- 10 dried apricots
- 20g parsley
- 2 garlic cloves
- 2 tbsp lemon juice
- 2 tsp smoked paprika
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp chilli flakes
- 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
- First, bring a large pan of boiling water to a boil on the stove.
- Using a food processor, combine all of the ingredients and mix thoroughly.
- Next, prepare the silver foil. Rip off 10 pieces, each measuring about 20 x 30 cm.
- The mixture will be quite wet here, but it will still be possible to roll them up. Take a handful (about 1/10) of the mixture and roll in to a rough sausage shape. Place this at one end of the foil, along one of the shorter sides. Wrap the foil over the sausage and roll all the way down to the other end, and twist the sides like a sweet wrapper. The recipe should make about 10 sausages.
- Place in the pot of boiling water for about 30 minutes to steam. Remove and unwrap, when they are cool enough to handle!
I just love noodle dishes.
So quick, so versatile, reasonably healthy (depending on your noodle:vegetable ratio). I probably have more stir-fry recipes than any other type of meal, and I make it as often as I can (I think Rich is officially bored of eating it). I love the reliance on punchy flavours like chilli, garlic, soy and ginger, and the subsequent laziness and time-saving benefits that this affords. This recipe maximises these flavours too, with some of these elements being whizzed up separately, rather than fried off at the beginning. This means that when the sauce gets added to the noodles and vegetables at the end, the flavour doesn’t really ‘cook off’ or mellow, and you can still taste the orange, coriander and garlic (oh so much garlic) in the final product. As always, use whatever vegetables are in season (see notes for my favourite combinations). If you do use fennel like I did, however, make sure to fry it off properly so it loses it’s strong aniseed flavour and doesn’t overwhelm the rest of the dish.
RECIPE AMENDMENT 4.11.15- I realised that when I originally posted the recipe I posted the amount of cooked noodles rather than raw, meaning that the product was more noodle-heavy and less flavoursome than intended. Apologies, and I have edited and updated the quantities now.
- 360g vegetables (fennel, courgette, pepper, cabbage etc.), roughly chopped
- 50g spring onions, roughly chopped
- 125g medium-sized noodles, like thick rice, soba or udon
- 2 tbsp coconut oil
- 50g toasted nuts (peanuts, cashews), roughly chopped (optional)
- 20g fresh coriander
- 2 garlic cloves
- 1/2 red jalapeno chilli (including seeds)
- 1/2 tbsp orange zest (from half an orange)
- 3 tbsp orange juice (from half an orange)
- 2 tbsp soy sauce
- 1 tbsp maple syrup
- 1.5 tsp toasted sesame oil
- 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
- In a medium-sized wok or frying pan, heat the coconut oil on a medium heat. Fry off the vegetables and spring onions for about 10 minutes, moving around the pan frequently so that they don't stick.
- In a separate saucepan, cook the noodles according to packet instructions. I boil them in slightly salted water until tender, and then drain.
- Whiz up all the ingredients for the sauce in a small food processor. If you don't have one of these, chop everything very finely and whisk together in a bowl. When the noodles and vegetables are ready, combine in the wok with the sauce.
- Throw in the nuts (if using).
- As you can see from the picture, I garnished with sesame seeds, orange slices, fresh coriander and chilli flakes.
- If you wanted to cut out some of the fat from this recipe, you could steam the vegetables in water (although I think the coconut oil gives them a lovely flavour) or replace the nuts with another protein, like tofu. You could also just use raw vegetables, like courgette, carrots, spinach etc. and forgo the need to cook them at all.
- This also works nicely as a cold salad, although the noodles tend to stick to one another a bit. I find that adding a bit of water, or oil, will sort this problem right out.
- If you didn't want to have noodles, I reckon the sauce and vegetables would work nicely with some rice or quinoa too, but I haven't tried it, so don't hold me to that..
- In the picture, I used 180g fennel, 145 courgette and 35g asparagus. Another combination that I have tried is 180g fennel, 90g red pepper and 90g red cabbage.
On the surface this may look like any other tomato pasta with peas, but to taste, it is far from it. The base is made from whizzing up olives, herbs, garlic, sun-dried tomatoes and lemon zest (hence the tapenade) and this is simmered together with red wine. How bad could that be? The result is a rich and distinctive flavour which is reminiscent of summer holidays by the sea, but comforting enough to eat in your pyjamas at home. If you’re thinking of substituting something else in for the tempeh, I would really encourage you not to. As well as being just an incredible food to eat, when encased in a sauce like this it sucks up so much of the flavour and makes it juicy and delicious to eat. It’s available from Oriental stores or health food stores, and although it’s not particularly cheap, the rest of the ingredients are inexpensive, store-cupboard ones so you might allow yourself to splash out? This recipe is also great eaten cold as leftovers, so there’s your packed lunch sorted too!
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
- 30g parsley
- 100g (drained) green olives
- 1 tsp lemon zest (or zest of half a large lemon)
- 50g sun-dried tomatoes (I use about 35g dried and re-hydrate them with hot water)
- 3/4 tsp salt
- 1/3 tsp chilli powder
- Lots of freshly ground black pepper
- 1 tbsp tomato puree
- 200ml red wine
- 200ml water
- 120g frozen tempeh*, chopped in to small-ish chunks.
- 2 tbsp nutritional yeast
- 1 tbsp agave nectar
- 150g wholemeal pasta
- 150g frozen peas
- In a saucepan, fry the onion in the oil until soft (about 5-10 minutes).
- Meanwhile, grind the garlic, parsley, olives, lemon zest and sun-dried tomatoes in a small food processor until you have a fine paste. This mixture is a bit like a tapenade (without the oil) and is going to work as an insane flavour base for the sauce.
- Add this mixture to the pan along with the salt, chilli powder and pepper, and fry off for a minute.
- Then, add the tomato puree, red wine and water and bring to a boil. Turn the heat down and simmer for about 15 minutes.
- At this point, put the pasta in a pan of hot water with a pinch of salt. Cook until al dente, adding the peas in for last 5 minutes. Drain it.
- When the sauce has cooked for 15 minutes, add the tempeh, nutritional yeast and agave and cook for a minute more. Taste for seasoning.
- Add the drained pasta and peas right in to the pan and mix together.
- *I defrost my tempeh by soaking it in hot water until thawed (about 10 minutes) and then cutting in to chunks. Because the tempeh takes on some of the water, the weight changes. Here, the 120g of frozen tempeh becomes about 160g ready-to-eat tempeh, once it has plumped up in the water.
- Variation: Try mixing up the herbs in this recipe; basil and oregano would work wonderfully.
This is a real 15-minute meal. Get the spaghetti on at the beginning, and by the time it is cooked, the rest of the dish will be ready to go too. Don’t be fooled by the simple look and feel of this recipe however; it is still packed full of flavour. The reason for this is the inclusion of my favourite spice blend: ‘panch phoron’, a five-spice blend mainly used in Bangladesh, Eastern India and Southern Nepal. It is available in specialist stores and most supermarkets, but you can always make your own. It consists of equal parts fenugreek seed, nigella seed, cumin seed, black mustard seed and fennel seed and it adds such a wonderfully deep and fragrant flavour to any dish.
To make my fusion of East Asian cooking style and South Asian spices ever more atypical, I have also used very non-Asian spaghetti in this dish. Despite this being an accident (I ran out of noodles), I (and my diners) actually quite enjoyed the substantial texture of the pasta, and I therefore kept it in the recipe. You may also notice a distinct lack of high-protein ingredients in this dish, which is unusual for my cooking. However, I thought this dish was just perfect as it was, and I didn’t want to interfere any further with tofu or cashew nuts. Obviously, you can throw some in if you wish.
Finally, use whatever vegetables you have available; just be sure that if you add them together, they have similar cooking times. Springtime is offering up some real delights in the UK, and seasonal vegetables that could work well here include asparagus, pak choi, spring greens and grean beans.
- 150g wholewheat spaghetti
- 1 tbsp coconut oil
- 4 cloves of garlic (20g), crushed
- 40g ginger, grated
- 1.5 tsp panch phoron
- 1 tsp cumin seeds
- 1/2 tsp chilli flakes
- 1/2 tsp salt
- A few twists of freshly ground black pepper
- 300g greens (I used half courgette and half cauliflower leaves)
- 120ml water
- 2 tbsp soy sauce (I use Kikkoman; it's the best)
- Cook the pasta according to packet instructions. I boil in slightly salted water until 'al dente' and then drain.
- Meanwhile, heat the coconut oil in a large wok on medium heat. Once hot, add the garlic, ginger, panch phoron, cumin seeds, chilli flakes, salt and black pepper. Fry for a minute or two, moving the mixture around the wok until the seeds start to pop.
- Now, add the chopped greens and the water and cover the wok with a saucepan lid. Steam the mixture for 5 minutes, until the greens are slightly tender, but still crisp.
- Now, add the soy sauce and the drained noodles to the pan and mix everything together.