Pasta Galberto.

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Probably everyone can itemize a couple of dishes each corresponding to a certain phase in life. To me, the food that is reminiscent of long-gone student life, for instance, would be one particular pasta dish served at the bistro across the faculty building. This eatery still exists, and several overhauls of its menu later, so does this dish, which goes by the name of Pasta Galberto.

I, however, no longer eat out at this place (there’s a time and place for everything). Or actually I did a couple of months ago, when some friends and I on a hot summer evening out of nostalgia took a trip down memory lane to this place. I did not order Pasta Galberto, though, as it’s not vegan. Instead, I went for the “Greek salad, without the feta but with extra olives and dolmades, please”. I did not have to order Pasta Galberto for nostalgia’s sake either, since I’ve been recreating the vegan version of this dish at home for many, many years. It’s simple, it’s quick, it’s extremely tasty, and the entire household always goes for seconds. Win-win on all levels, in other words. And in fact, I actually prefer my own version to the over-oily archetypal one.

Pasta Galberto.

4 portions.

Ingredients

  • 350g spaghetti
  • a handful pine kernels
  • 2 cups chopped tomatoes (use fresh ones, whichever type you like – here I used yellow, orange and red cherry tomatoes)
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 4 cups string beans (I always use the frozen kind)
  • 1 – 1,5 cups green pesto (organic stores usually carry jars of vegan green pesto, but if you’ve got fresh basil and (pine) nuts at hand , you can easily make your own)
  • salt and crushed black pepper

Instructions

Bring water to a boil and cook the pasta. You can add the string beans to the boiling water, or you can choose to add them to the skillet in the following step: the choice is yours!

In a skillet, toast the pine kernels. When golden, transfer to a plate. Now sauté the finely chopped tomatoes, adding the garlic and string beans, unless you’re boiling the latter together with the spaghetti. Bring to taste with salt and pepper.

When the pasta and green beans are both al dente, drain the pasta, return to the cooking pot, and coat the pasta with the green pesto. Next, add the skillet’s ingredients to the pasta pesto. Serve and garnish with the toasted pine nuts.

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Potato-leek soup with pesto.

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Potato-leek soup, that’s one of those classics. But add some extra guests into the mix, alongside the usual suspects, and this dish is taken to a classier level! I prefer the chunkier version of this soup, but I can testify to the fact that it tastes equally good after having been smoothened out by an immersion blender (because that’s how my daughter wanted it).

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Potato-leek soup with pesto.

Ingredients

  • 1 onion
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 3 potatoes (medium-sized)
  • 1 leek (white and light green part)
  • 7,5 dl – 1l vegetable stock
  • salt, black pepper, thyme
  • 1/2 – 3/4 cup cannellini beans
  • 3 tbsp vegan green pesto

Instructions

Sauté the finely chopped onion until translucent, add  the pressed garlic cloves and leek rings. Fry for a couple of minutes before pouring in the vegetable stock and seasoning. Let simmer, and add the beans and green pesto before serving. The soup can be eaten both as is, with the chunks, or smooth.

 

Bounty balls.

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Four-ingredient goodness. That’s what these bounty balls are. You only need dates, cashew nuts, desiccated coconut and a smooth chocolate layer to satisfy the cravings of your sweet tooth. They are a way healthier alternative than the original bounty bars, but taste as coconutty and chocolatey as the latter. I’ve handed out the oh-so-simple recipe below several times on request over the past few years, so that definitely speaks in its favour. So what are you waiting for? Grab that food processor and measuring cup, and grind those cashews!

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Bounty balls

ca. 15 bounty balls

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup deseeded dates (make sure they’re not too dry! if  they are, pre-soak them)
  • 1 cup cashew nuts
  • 1 1/4 cup desiccated coconut
  • pinch of vanilla
  • 3/4 – 1 cup vegan dark chocolate (I use Callebaut’s vegan callets, as the other mainstream Belgian brands Jacques and Côte d’Or contain milk)

Instructions

Mix the dates, desiccated coconut and cashew nuts in a food processor until the mixture is sticky enough to roll into walnut-sized balls by the spoonful. Melt the chocolate in whichever way you like (au bain marie, or like me, just in the microwave – make sure to melt them SLOWLY on a low temperature). Dip the balls in the chocolate, place on a silpat mat, and let cool in the fridge. You can garnish them with some more coconut, with sesame seeds, or hemp seeds (pictured), or whatever you like. Eat! And IF you have some left, they’ll keep in the fridge for a long time.

 

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Sweet & sour vegan meatballs with vegetable fried rice.

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Don’t let the not so perfect photo above mislead you – the dish pictured is extremely tasty! And what’s more, it’s easy to prepare, and can please spouses and offspring alike. Today I felt like preparing the vegan meatballs I had in the fridge (of course one can make ‘cheatballs’ from scratch too, but as a vegan one usually cooks already so often, that sometimes ready-made food is very welcome). I know my husband likes them with a sweet and sour sauce, and I thought maybe vegetable fried rice would be a good match. And it was.

Vegan meatballs with sweet and sour gravy

4 portions

Ingredients

  • ca. 350g vegan meatballs (home made or storebought)
  • 2 onions, finely chopped or sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 250 ml passata (sieved tomato sauce)
  • 200 ml water
  • 125 ml balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tsp vegan Worcester sauce
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 100 – 125 ml muscovado sugar
  • 1/4 to 1/2 tsp chili paste
  • salt

Instructions

Fry the vegan meatballs and then transfer to a plate.

Fry the onions in some olive oil until translucent, then add the garlic. Then add all remaining ingredients for the sauce and bring to a boil. Lower the heat, add the vegan meatballs and let simmer for about 15 minutes.

Vegetable fried rice

Ingredients

  • 1 1/4 cup or 210 ml brown rice, and double the amount of water
  • 2 scallions
  • 3 – 4 carrots, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup or 250 ml peas
  • toasted sesame oil
  • soy sauce to taste
  • (optional: a batch of scrambled tofu – I’ll post a recipe for this soon!)

Instructions

Boil the rice and set aside until somewhat cooled and ready to use, or use leftover rice. (I hadn’t planned this dish in advance, so I did the first). Heat some toasted sesame oil in a frying pan, add the sliced carrots,  and after a couple of minutes, add the rice. Fry until heated through, and fully coated with some of the oil. Lastly add the peas and some splashes of soy sauce to taste. If you’ve got the time to make scrambled tofu ass well, you could of course add this too!

Turkish red lentil soup & spinach-walnut puff pastry pockets

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Once upon a time there was this wonderful lunch place in Stockholm, on Valhallavägen, called Soppatorsk. The plain but delicious Turkish food they served – especially soups, salads and sandwiches –  was heavenly. They had both a rotating and a fixed menu, and among the fixed lunch items were my two favourites, which I usually ordered simultaneously: mercimek çorbası (lentil soup) and ıspanaklı börek (spinach filo pie). The latter did not have the traditional spinach-feta stuffing, but was a veganised version with spinach and tofu, and it was truly, utterly, mouthwateringly good. Yes, the combination of a pulse and vegetable based middle-eastern cuisine and a vegan-friendly Swedish setting was ideal!

For no obvious reason one day the place was closed down – much to my despair, for other than a Korean place nearby there were no good vegan lunch options in the vicinity of my workplace. So from that time onwards I started cooking my own version of red lentil soup – which came surprisingly close to the original. I made one attempt to replicate the börek, or spanakopita, as its Greek counterpart is called, but it wasn’t success. The winning recipe must be out there, so I’m sure that one day, I will be able to come up with a filo pie that can more or less stand in for that long-lost ideal. But in the meantime I did come up with something else, that actually pairs equally well with the soup: a puff pastry pocket with a walnut and spinach filling. And it’s not only me who is a fan, the rest of the household as well.

So if you usually don’t have much time to cook lunch on a Saturday packed with household chores, driving kids to and from leisure activities, and shopping, then this is your ideal lunch!

 

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Recipes for 4 servings.

Red lentil soup

Ingredients

  • 2 onions, finely chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 4-5 carrots, sliced
  • 3/4 cup red lentils, rinsed (I prefer the ones which are not split, as they retain more bite)
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • 4,5 cup – 5 cups vegetable stock
  • 1 tbsp cumin
  • 3/4 – 1 tbsp paprika
  • dash of cayenne pepper
  •  1 tsp salt
  • flatleaf parsley for garnish

Instructions

Fry the onions until translucent, add the garlic cloves, then the carrots. Stir for a minute or two, then pour in the stock and the red lentils. Bring to a boil, and add the tomato paste and spices. Let simmer until the lentils and carrots are soft. Garnish with parsley.

Spinach-walnut puff pastry pockets

Ingredients

  • 2 chopped onions
  • 1 cup walnuts
  • 50 g gouda style cheese (I use Violife original or Wilmersburger classic), grated
  • 100g spinach (I used frozen spinach this time, but sometimes I chop up fresh spinach leaves)
  • nutmeg, salt, pepper
  • 1 large puff pastry sheet; the vegan kind, of course (in Belgium, one can only find vegan puff pastry which is organic)

Instructions

Finely chop the onion and walnuts in a food processor and then fry in some olive oil until the onion is nicely browned. Add the spinach, the grated cheese and spices, and let the mixture fry for a couple of more minutes, until the cheese has melted. Bring to taste with extra salt and pepper, if necessary. Then roll out the puff pastry sheet, cut it into evenly diveded pieces, spoon some of the mixture onto each piece, and fold into pockets. Bake in a pre-heated oven (200 degrees C) for ca. 15 minutes.

Enjoy!
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Greek-style dinner.

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I’m not a huge fan of cucumbers. It’s not that I dislike this vegetable, either (strictly speaking, it’s actually a berry), but, there’s little more to it than, well, water, right? So I rarely buy them, except for some summery salads, for simple Indian- or Thai-style sides, and especially for tzatziki! I love tzatziki. And I love dipping food in yoghurty sauces, whether we’re speaking of Indian or Greek cuisine. If I’m honest, I hardly know anything about the latter, but of course I know gyros, dolmades, olives, spinach and lemony potatoes, which is everything you need for a fancy a Greek-style dinner!

This may sound like much food – it is! – but it’s far from being hard work to get this on your table. At least if you allow yourself cheat with ready-made vegan gyros (the supermarket across our street carries this, hurray), and tinned dolmades. Of course, you can opt for home-made ones. It’s doable. But filling all those grape leaves one by one sure is pretty labour-intensive, for one thing, and when using all the leaves from the jar, you’ll also end up with an enormous batch which can feed the entire neighbourhood (that could actually be fun, depending on your neighbours). I only made them once. And I obviously forgot to go easy on the salt, for it ruined the entire batch (there went my attempt to impress my mother-in-law-to-be for the first time with my cooking skills – right through the drain; although she was actually so nice as to eat them and pretend the salty taste wasn’t thát bad – it wás). That may have been my last attempt ever (I’m pretty happy with the tinned ones).

I usually don’t measure ingredients when making this, so I’ll just give indications below:

Gyros

Ingredients

  • pre-packaged gyros OR seitan
  • gyros herbs (I use this brand, but you can also use a DIY-blend)
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 1 bell pepper (or more, if you start from scratch with seitan), cut into strips

Instructions

Fry the onion slices in some olive oil until translucent, add the bell pepper strips – together with some gyros herbs – until they soften, and finally add the gyros. If using seitan, use more herbs.

Dolmades

Open the container and enjoy!

Olives

Same as the above!

Tzatziki

Ingredients

  • 1/3 – 1/2 cucumber
  • unsweetened plain soy yoghurt
  • lemon juice
  • olive oil
  • garlic
  • salt and pepper

Instructions

Grate the cucumber. You can drain the liquid oozing from the cucumber, but I never do. Add yoghurt until the grated cucumber is fully covered. Bring to taste with some olive oil, lemon juice (careful here! a little at a time, and taste in between), garlic, salt and pepper.

Creamy spinach

I admit, this may not be Greek, but spinach is omnipresent in Greek cuisine, so I just added this :-).

Ingredients

  • 1/2 onion
  • chopped spinach
  • plant-based cream
  • salt, pepper, nutmeg and mint (fresh or dried)
  • a splash of lemon juice

Instructions

Fry the onion until translucent, then add the spinach. When the spinach has wilted, bring to taste with the remaining ingredients.

Lemony potatoes (or my own version of them)

Ingredients

  • Some potatoes, suitable for frying. Cut in strips or sliced.
  • Lemon juice (a couple of tablespoons, to taste)
  • salt, oregano

Instructions

Fry the potatoes with some olive oil in a skillet until they’re nicely browned and crispy on the outside (I don’t precook them, just fry them raw – it goes faster if you initially use a lid, which you remove once the potato slices are softening). Add the lemon juice, oregano and salt.

 

 

 

Peanut and sweet potato stew.

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When you’re in for a colourful, warming ánd easy dish, this peanut stew is totally yours to try. You don’t need loads of ingredients, nor ample preparation time, yet the result is fingerlicking good.

It regularly happens that I know what type of dish to make, but don’t immediately know how to get started. In such a case I browse a handful of online recipes (which might turn out to be very divergent), and then set out on concocting a creation of my own based on a couple of common denominators and/or ingredients I absolutely want to include. This peanut stew is an example of such experimentation – and I dare say you should try it too!

Peanut and sweet potato stew

(4 portions)

Ingredients

  • 1-2 onions
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 1 large sweet potato (or 2 smaller ones), cubed
  • 1 tsp grated ginger
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp ground cardamom
  • pinch of chili
  • 1,5 cup dry TVP chunks (they will expand once they have been soaked and drained) – or any other protein of your choice (I wouldn’t recommend tofu here, though).
  • 1 can crushed tomatoes (this is the quick options; if you prefer fresh tomatoes, just go ahead!)
  • 1,5 – 2 cups vegetable broth
  • 3 – 4 tbsp peanut butter (try to get hold of 100% peanut butter – avoid the cheaper und unhealthier supermarket versions containing palm oil)
  • 2 cups baby spinach
  • a handful toasted peanuts

Instructions

  • Bring water to a boil and add the TVP chunks. Let them sit for 15 minutes, then drain them, pressing out the liquid (so that they can absorb the liquid of the sauce afterwards).
  • In a crockpot or other pan, fry the onions and garlic, together with the spices
  • Add the sweet potato cubes, and after a couple of minutes, also the TVP chunks, the crushed tomatoes and the stock. Stir in the peanut butter.
  • Let the stew simmer until the sweet potato cubes are soft
  • Add the spinach
  • Garnish with some freshly toasted peanuts and serve alongside rice.

Tempeh piccata.

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Since a week or so, morning air is damp, frosty and foggy, and leaves are also abundantly turning colour. Autumn is officially here now, so no need to think up excuses for preparing simple, sturdy meals anymore.

One of my favourites is tempeh piccata. I did not have the faintest idea what piccata sauce was until I first came across the seitan piccata dish in Isa Chandra Moskowitz’s 2007 bestseller Veganomicon. This tangy, white wine-based dish with capers and lemon juice just had it all! I thought. Until I hit upon Chef Chloé‘s tempeh piccata. Then I knew that bringing both recipes together would be joining the best of both worlds: white wine and smothered tempeh. Other than Moskowitz, Coscarelli does not serve the sauce alongside the seitan – or tempeh. No, the tempeh is simmered IN the sauce, which is thickened (with arrowroot or corn starch) and smoothened (with vegan butter). But she leaves out the caper brine and thyme, and on top of that also the white wine, which I think is a huge, no, gigantic mistake! If there’s an opportunity to smuggle wine into sauce, grab it :-).  So now I always make this hybrid piccata, which is a winner.

I usually serve this tempeh dish (which you can easily make with seitan too) with mashed potatoes and string beans. I prefer pimping mainstream potato mash, though. Why using solely potatoes, if you can add celeriac, parsnip and/or cauliflower? And even cannellini beans (yes, beans) for extra creaminess?

Tempeh piccata

Ingredients

  • 250g smoked tempeh (or seitan), cut in bite-sized slices (I never use regular tempeh; smoked seitan is so much richer in flavour
  • 1,5 onion (or an equivalent amount of shallots)
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 1/3 cup dry white wine
  • 1 cup vegetable broth (you can add more, according to your own liking)
  • sea salt, crushed black pepper, pinch of thyme
  • 1 tbsp cornstarch or arrowroot dissolved in  tbsp water
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 2-3 tbsp capers (including the brine)
  • optional: some kalamata olives and parsle.

Instructions

  • Heat some olive oil in a skillet and fry the tempeh/seitan pieces until golden. Remove from the skillet and put on a plate.
  • In the same skillet, now sauté the onions and garlic until translucent, and slightly browned.
  • Slowly add the wine and the broth, season with salt, pepper and thyme, and bring the sauce to a boil. Then reduce the heat and let it simmer.
  • When the sauce is somewhat reduced, add the dissolved cornstarch, and let the sauce thicken.
  • Add the lemon juice and capers (and olives, if using), and stir in the margarine. Let simmer for some more minutes and stir in the parsley.
Potato mash

Ingredients

  • 3-4 cups white root vegetables (I used potato and celeriac) and cauliflower
  • 1/2 cup cannellini beans
  • olive oil
  • black pepper, salt and nutmeg

Instruction

  • Bring vegetable stock to a boil and add the diced vegetables (and cauliflower florets, if using)
  • When the vegetables are fork-tender, drain them, but make sure to keep the liquid.
  • Mix in the cannellini beans and a drizzle of olive oil, season with black pepper, salt and nutmeg, and mash!
  • Add some of the drained stock if necessary.
String beans

Ingredients 

  • 1/2 onion
  • ca. 4 cups string beans (or as much as you usually have)
  • vegetable stock
  • a pinch of savory

Instructions

  • Fry the onion until translucent
  • Add the string beans and some vegetable stock (just enough to cover the bottom of the pan – the beans should not be floating in water)
  • Cook (with a lid) until fork-tender.

Easy peasy pasta with zucchini.

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There’s many parents of young children could disagree on – bedtime, screen time, … -, but when it comes down to dinner time, I guess most will support the idea that if there’s one safe bet, it’s probably pasta. Now the possibilities here are endless, but there are some pasta dishes which over time have become crowd pleasers in our home. Such as pasta with zucchini and peas. Although in the case of this particular pasta dish,  referring to “crowd ” is allowing myself a few liberties with the truth. My daughter has coined this her favourite dish, whereas my son each time exlaims in horror that he hates zucchini. But as in all democracies, the minority sometimes has to rest its case and clear its plate (which the minority actually without hardly any exception does, even when zucchini is involved). So once in a while, pasta with zucchini it is.

Pasta with zucchini and peas.

(4 portions)

Ingredients

  • 350g pasta of your choice (but of course you know best how much pasta your family eats)
  • optional: 1 package smoked tofu or 1 package chicken-style pieces (I use the one from the vegetarian butcher, as pictured below) – about 200g
  • 1 – 1,5 zucchini (depends on its size)
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • 2 portioned ‘nuggets’ of finely chopped frozen kale or spinach (or the fresh equivalent, about 1 cup finely chopped)
  • 250 ml plant-based cream (my all time favourite is Planti’s (formerly known as Carlshamn’s) oat cream – but that’s unfortunately not available in Belgium. so here I stick to alpro (grudgingly so, especially since the company recently was taken over by Danone). Oatly’s oat creamer I find too thin for the purpose; unless some cornstarch is mixed in.)
  • black pepper, salt and herbes de Provence to taste
  • optional: some grated vegan Parmesan

Instructions

  • Bring water to the boil and boil the pasta
  • Meanhwile, fry the tofu or chicken-style pieces (the latter with a teaspoon of liquid smoke). When done, remove from the frying pan and set aside.
  • Fry the quartered and then sliced zucchini in olive oil, with salt and ample black pepper and herbs
  • When the zucchini is nicely browned, add first the spinach, and then the peas
  • Pour the cream over the vegetable and let simmer.
  • Add the tofu/chicken-style pieces again to the sauce, drain the pasta and add these as well.

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Chickpea-cauliflower soup with croutons.

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Using aquafaba in cinnamon buns is one thing, what to do with the can of chickpeas that was opened to get hold of that brine is another. There’s plenty of options, but since the children were home for lunch today, I opted for the easiest and quickest solution: SOUP!

I love soup. Chunky soup, creamy soup, rustic, exotic, .. you name it. And the kids love it too (especially when green – which was not the case today). I used to have a newspaper clipping somewhere with a recipe for chickpea soup with a hint of lemon and cumin. After moving house 4 times within barely 5 years, that clipping is surely lost forever. Too bad. But it was a fairly simple recipe based on just onion, garlic, chickpeas, cumin and lemon, as far as I remember. So today I recreated a soup containing exactly these ingredients, adding potato and cauliflower as well. The result was amazingly good! Tangy and creamy, just as I had hoped for it to be. I think it exceeded the original. And the kids? They gladly emptied their bowl.

Cauliflower-chickpea soup. (4 – 5  portions)

Ingredients

  • 1 onion
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 drained can chickpeas
  • 2 small to medium-sized potatoes, cut in cubes
  • 1 cup cauliflower florets
  • 4 cups vegetable stock
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1 – 1,5 tbsp lemon juice (add the lemon juice gradually, until the soup has reached the tanginess you prefer – be careful not to do overdo it)
  • salt and black pepper to taste
  • parsley

Instructions

  • Fry the onions until translucent
  • Add the garlic cloves, chickpeas, potato cubes, cauliflower and vegetable stock
  • Bring to a boil and let simmer until the potato and cauliflower is soft
  • Add the spices and blend the soup
  • Add the lemon juice
  • Finish with some parsley  – and of course some crunchy CROUTONS!

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