Samphire paella.

dav

I never had any paella before turning vegan or even vegetarian. Growing up in eighties and early nineties Belgium, one’s food on average did not get much more exotic than, let’s say, a pineapple topped pizza with a charred black olive in the middle. (An olive which I always immediately discarded and made me esteem its kind quite lowly for quite some time to come. That’s what I thought olives generically were supposed to look and taste like.) It was a time when broccoli had not become mainstream; neither had things like hummus or sun-dried tomatoes, all of which are part of our staple nowadays.

But even if paella had been a commonplace dish back then, I am sure I would have kindly declined every invitation to have some. Paella usually contains seafood (though each Spanish region most certainly has its own variation and key ingredients). And I happen to dislike (nearly) all things stemming from the sea’s salty waves. So even before turning vegetarian (and later vegan), seafood and fish were a no-go for me.

In the light of the above, it might seem utterly ironic that one of the first dishes I mastered as a vegetarian, was paella. Over the course of years the initially basic dish has become one which does not fail to convince vegans and non-vegans alike. Instead of seafood, my version contains cashews (for the bite), tangy, brine-cured, firmly textured Kalamata olives, and samphire. Although samphire is a sea vegetable, I actually do like it. Its salty taste is not overpowering, yet adds just that little extra which finishes the dish.

So this is how it goes.

Samphire paella

  • Servings: 4
  • Time: 30 minutes
  • Difficulty: easy to medium
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Ingredients

  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, pressed
  • 1/2 – 1 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 – 1 tsp curcuma
  • 1 – 2 tsp sweet paprika (feel free to use a dash of smoked paprika)
  • a few pinches of saffron
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 cups short-grain rice (such as calasparra rice; though feel free to use what type you have at hand. I’m not ashamed to admit that I often use arborio or carnaroli rice instead).
  • 4-6 cups vegetable stock, or more if necessary. Substitute 1/2 cup of the broth with sherry, if desired
  • 2-3 tomatoes, diced
  • 1 red bell pepper, finely diced
  • 1 green bell pepper, finely diced
  • 3/4 – 1 cup grilled artichoke hearts
  • 1/2 – 3/4 cup cashews
  • 1/2 – 3/4 cup frozen peas
  • 1/2 kalamata olives
  •  1 cup samphire (blanched during 30 seconds)
  • a splash of lemon juice
  • some finely chopped flat-leaf parsley

Directions

  • Sauté the onion and garlic in olive oil; add the spices after 2 minutes and stir.
  • After 1-2 more minutes, add the rice, and stir, so that the rice is evenly coated by the spices.
  • Pour in the liquid (don’t add everything at once; you can add more later if necessary) and stir shortly
  • Add in the vegetables (except for the samphire, peas and olives) and mix them unter the rice.
  • Lower the heat and let simmer until all liquid has been absorbed. Add more if necessary. In principle you needn’t stir the paëlla in the meantime.
  • Add the remaining ingredients and stir to distribute them evenly.
  • Serve!

Cannelloni with tofu ricotta and spinach.

dav

Monday dinners have become synonymous to swift solutions in our household. Since the after-school time period on that particular weekday is filled with the occasional quick library visit with the children and, after that, their weekly swimming class (this combo is only possible because the library is next door to the sports facilities), I always make sure that I have something at hand that can either be quickly prepared on the spot, like this Pasta Galberto, or something – and that is most often the case – a pre-made dish that can be popped into the oven as soon as we arrive home. A shepherd’s pie, for instance, or the good old favourite lasagne, or, on occasion, these cannelloni with a tofu ricotta and spinach-basil filling, which have become a family favourite too, and which are totally easy to make, even more so if you have a simple food processor.

I made several versions of this dish, each time making subtle variations, until I finally arrived at this one, which I am now fully satisfied with. You don’t need any specialty ingredients (firm tofu, basil, spinach, cashews for this creamy cheese (which you can make in advance), some nutritional yeast, tomatoes,..) – except if you would add a vegan cheese topping, which is totally optional, but which I mostly do, mostly for optical reasons. You could sprinkle the marinara sauce on top with homemade nut parmesan, for instance, or use storebought vegan cheese. Many vegans are not fond of the regular vegan cheeses that supermarkets or health food stores carry, whether it might be because they often are highly processed food items, or because they might not meet their pre-vegan tastebud standards. Be it as it may, there are actually some good vegan cheeses out there, even if it might take you some time to figure out which are appealing to you. And moreover, not all are highly processed either. For the cannelloni dish in these photo series, I used MozzaRisella, a rice-based vegan mozzarella, which does not contain any odd ingredients and which actually melts really nicely as you can see.

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This is what the cannelloni looked like before baking (and still during daylight):

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Cannelloni with tofu ricotta and spinach

  • Servings: 4
  • Time: 40 min
  • Difficulty: medium
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Ingredients

Tofu ricotta with spinach and basil
  • 400 g firm tofu, straight from the package (only drained, not pressed)
  • 100g spinach (for me that means the equivalent of 4 frozen – and thawed – 25 spinach ‘nuggets’)
  • 15 g or a very dense handful fresh basil
  • 3 TBSP nutritional yeast
  • 3 TBSP cashew cheese (or another soft cheese of your choice, like vegan cream cheese or vegan mozzarella)
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 tsp salt
  • crushed black pepper
  • 1 TBSP olive oil
Marinara sauce
  • 1 onion
  • 1 can crushed tomatoes
  • 2 TBSP tomato paste
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 tsp crushed red chili flakes
  • 1 tsp Italian seasoning
  • 1 tsp sweet paprika
  • 2 tsp agave syrup
  • some salt and black pepper

Optional: grated vegan cheese for garnish.

And of course you’ll need cannelloni.

Directions

For the tofu ricotta

Add the tofu to the food processor and give it just a few whizzes, just enough for the tofu to get crumbly (or just crumble it with your hands in a bowl). Remove from the food processor, add to a bowl, and set aside.

Add all the other ingredients to the food processor and mix until finely chopped (but not until it is a thickish paste). Add to the bowl and gently fold it under the tofu.

Take a piping bag or a ziploc bag with a cut-off corner (the same diameter of the cannelloni), fill it with the tofu-spinach mixture, and you’re set to go to fill the cannelloni.

For the marinara sauce

Sauté the onion until translucent in some olive oil, then add the garlic, and all remaining ingredients. Simmer for a couple of minutes and then pour over the cannelloni. Garnish with vegan cheese if you like. Bake for 15-20 minutes at 200 degrees C.

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dav

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Tofu satay & peanut sauce.

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Everything that comes on skewers is something children really, really like. It makes dinner more fun. Add some peanut sauce, tofu and rice, and the kids – at least mine – are even more happy. So it’s no wonder that these tofu satays were gone in a flash! My daughter even wispered into my ear I should make this for dinner every single day. I won’t comply with that command, but it’s definitely something we could have more often, as it’s actually not that time-consuming (despite the long list of ingredients).

Tofu satay & peanut sauce

  • Servings: 4
  • Time: 40 mins
  • Difficulty: medium
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Tofu satay

Ingredients

  • 400g tofu (I used smoked tofu, which is firmer than regular firm tofu; the latter works fine too, but should be drained and pressed before marinating.)
  • 2,5 cm ginger, grated
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1/2 stalk lemongrass
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 2 TB shoyu (dark soy sauce)
  • 1 TB tamari (or regular shoyu, if you don’t have tamari at hand)
  • 3 TB brown sugar
  • 2 tsp cumin
  • 2 tsp chili paste (sambal oelek)
  • 2 tsp coriander
  • 2 tsp turmeric
  • pinch of salt
  • some cracked black pepper
  • 1 TB coconut oil
  • 2 TB toasted sesame oil

Directions

  • Cut the tofu into longish saté-sized sticks that will fit onto a skewer.
  • Mix all the ingredients for the marinade in a container and add the tofu sticks. Make sure to use a container that has a lid, so that you can shake it to obtain an optimal distribution of the marinade. Let sit for ideally minimum an hour. The longer you can marinate the tofu, the better (especially when using regular firm tofu, which also needs to be drained and pressed before use.)
  • When the tofu is done marinating, slide the sticks onto skewers and grill in a grill pan. You might opt to either pour the leftover marinade over the satés or to add it to the peanut sauce. Both options are great.
  • Serve over rice, with a generous amount of peanut sauce, and with greens on the side (I think broccoli, steamed with some oil, and sprinkled with red pepper flakes and sesame, makes a perfect side here).

Peanut sauce

Ingredients

  • 1,5 cup coconut milk (you might want to add more if you want to thin out the sauce)
  • 5 TB peanut butter (use peanut butter containing 100% peanuts – no palm oil)
  • 2 tsp sesame oil
  • 2 TB brown sugar
  • 2 TB soy sauce
  • 1/2 TB lime juice
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper

Directions

  • Bring the coconut milk to a boil, and add the peanut butter. It will take some time for the peanut butter to completely dissolve, so don’t despair and just be patient for the lumps of peanut butter to blend into the sauce. Add the remaining ingredients and simmer for a couple of minutes.
  • You might want to add the leftover tofu marinade to the sauce for an extra rich and flavourful peanut sauce.


dav

Spaghetti al ragù.

dav

You may or may not have noticed, but in the recipes I have posted thus far one ingredient generally highly overrepresented in vegan and vegetarian cooking is missing: mushrooms. The reason I haven’t included any mushroom-based recipes is quite uncomplicated. I do not like them. The fun in funghi is totally absent to me, however incomprehensible this might sound to the majority out there. There’s something both about their taste and texture which does not appeal to me.

I do eat them on occasion, though, for two main reasons. The first reason being that they are so common in vegan cuisine. So more often than not it happens that at parties – where I am usually the only vegan to be detected within miles – a special plant-based meal has been prepared solely for me, so at times like those I just get over it. The second reason: my husband loves funghi. So every now and then I buy some for him. The way to a man’s heart is through his stomach, right? Or so at least the proverb goes.

A couple of weeks ago I again purchased a box of mushrooms, and decided to use them in a simple, red wine-infused pasta sauce. And to my absolute surprise, the sauce was simply delicious, an absolute winner sauce even with the mushrooms (yep, I made two batches…: one with, and one without).

You can definitely eat this spaghetti al ragù as is,  but I decided to serve the pasta topped with Gardein meatless meatballs (which are not usually available in Belgium, but luckily I happen to live nearby a Loving Hut restaurant which carries them). That decision was a vey lucky shot. It was the first time we had these vegan meatballs – which are hands down the best ones I ever had (and better even than any meatballs I can remember from my pre-vegetarian/vegan days), but their flavour beautifully complemented the ragù. If you can get hold of them, do give this combo a try. I promise you won’t regret it.

Spaghetti al ragù

  • Servings: 4
  • Time: 20 mins
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ragù

Ingredients

  • 1 onion
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 cup mushrooms
  • 2 celery stalks
  • 2 carrots
  • 1/2 zucchini
  • 250 ml (= 1 cup) red wine
  • 700 g passata (one large bottle of approximately 1 l or 4 cups)
  • 375 ml (= 1,5 cup) water
  • 1,5 tsp Italian seasoning / herbs
  • approximately 1 cup vegan mince of your choice or finely chopped walnuts (I used TVP here, and started out with 3/4 cup dry TVP – recipe below)
  • pasta of your choice
  • optional: (Gardein) meatless meatballs

Directions

  • Sauté the onions, garlic and the mushrooms in olive oil until nicely browned. Add the chopped vegetables and sauté for some more minutes. Pour in the wine and simmer a couple of minutes before adding the water and the seasoning. Turn down the heat and simmer until ready. In the meantime, sauté the mince. When the vegetables are fork-tender, add in the mince.
  • Serve over pasta.
  • Optional: add vegan meatballs.

TVP-based mince

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup TVP mince
  • 1 TB soy sauce
  • 1 TB vegan Worcester sauce
  • 1 TB liquid smoke
  • 1/2 TB ground cumin
  • 1/2 TB nutmeg
  • 1/2 TB garlic granules
  • 1 TB sweet paprika
  • salt and pepper

Directions

  • Bring water to a boil. Pour the boiling water over the dehydrated TVP-mince. Let sit for at least 5 minutes, then press out as much of the liquid as possible (I usually pour the mince into a strainer and press it with the back of a bowl).
  • Heat olive oil in a pan and sauté the mince, together with all the other ingredients listed.

dav

Belgian hotchpotch – or ‘hutsepot’.

dav

Winter has arrived. With temperatures dropping below zero, warming rustic crockpot meals are up on this household’s menu. The Belgian classic hutsepot (or in French: hochepot) is definitely one of them. This dish traditionally features a hotchpotch (which is what hutsepot indeed means) of root vegetables, Brussels sprouts, and meat, served with plenty of mustard. Now for this vegan version we of course leave all cows, pigs and sheep in peace and opt for nicer alternatives, being vegan sausages, tempeh, seitan or smoked tofu. Easy, filling and satisfying, even more so than the ‘original’.

Belgian hotchpotch or ‘hutsepot’.

4 servings

Ingredients

This is a recipe which does not require exact measuring. So use the below as a point of reference and/or inspiration, and adapt vegetables and quantities to your liking.

  • 1 onion
  • 5-6 small potatoes
  • 3-4 carrots
  • 1 parsnip
  • a handful of Jerusalem artichoke
  • 1/2 cup diced celeriac
  • other options: turnip, kohlrabi, white cabbage, leek
  • 2 handfuls of Brussels sprouts (halve or quarter them)
  • vegetable broth (Enough to cover the bottom of the pot in a decent way and to boil the vegetables until fork-tender. The vegetables should NOT be covered by the broth, or the dish will turn into a mash.)
  • 2 tbsp strong mustard (or more)
  • 1 tbsp herbes de Provence (or more), 3 bay leaves, optional: thyme sprigs, junipers, fresh sage
  • 200-300g vegan sausage or smoked tofu. Seitan or tempeh would work too, but I usually go for one of the first two options. In the pictures over here I used Hobelz’ Currywurst, but the Bockwurst or Käsekrainer from Vantastic Foods are my absolute favourites in this dish.

Instructions

  • Chop all the vegetables in bite-sized chunks
  • Sauté the onion in some oil until translucent
  • Add the hardest vegetables, sauté them, and one by one add the other types of vegetables (from the hardest to the softest)
  • After 5 minutes, add the broth (don’t overdo it – 2-3 cm will do), the herbs and the mustard. You can add garlic too, if you like.
  • Cook until the vegetables are fork tender. They can be on the soft side but not mushy. Then add the smoked tofu or vegan sausages (you needn’t fry those in advance).
  • Remove the bay leaves, thyme sprigs, etc., and serve with plenty of mustard (well, at least for the adults – children will not be that happy with an extra spoonful of strong mustard).

And as you can see below, my kids DO eat Brussels sprouts! In this dish their bitter flavour isn’t that prominent, which makes them more palatable to the younger ones at the dinner table. (As a 1 to 2-year-old, my son actually ate the Brussels sprouts in his hutsepot first).

 

dav

 

Vegan kung pao.

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I often feel very blessed to live where I live. That does not only go for my current whereabouts, where I’ve been living, off and on, for a total of 12 years, and where I, in all likelihood, will spend the rest of my life as well, but also for the places I called my home, be it temporarily, in earlier times. The splendid medieval town where I grew up, bombed to pieces a century ago, but stubbornly rebuilt. The magnificent capital of a bygone imperial era which carries the architectural grandeur of a glorious past as oversized clothes which suddenly no longer fit a shrunken frame. The medieval university town with meandering streets lined by 5-storey high Fachwerk-buildings that expand level after level and house many bookstores and anecdotes of eminent poets and philosophers. The nordic capital where the nearly lilliput size of its stock exchange, parliament and national theatre remind of a humbler past – especially compared to what its historically more powerful neighbours can boast of – but which slowly but steadily adapts to its rapid growth and current status as the world’s best place to live in by expanding its skyline with exciting architecture (which simultaneously turns the city into the world’s best place for young architects to find employment). THE other nordic capital, Scandinavia’s undisputable cultural hub and tourist magnet, booming as well, yet preserving its essential greenness and persisting on family-friendliness and an overall high quality of living in all areas of life.

All of these places I was happy to call my home at one point in my life, and all for a multitude of various reasons. And of course I love to revisit them – both in my memories and during short trips.

One of the many reasons I am happy to live where I am living – again – right now (although of course I could name plenty of issues which I find disagreeable here too, but that’s life: the ideal world is an eternal utopia – ha, utopia!) is a pretty down-to-earth and practical one: places where I can eat and buy vegan items have been continously popping up over the last few years, and this makes day-to-day life as a vegan WAY easier than it used to be. There are, for instance, TWO Loving Hut restaurants nearby, both run by a hands-on, extremely entrepreneurial and sympathetic vegan young woman, and one of these restaurants has KUNG PAO on its fixed menu.

I have started to LOVE this dish, which I previously never had heard of. I haven’t been able to convince the restaurant owner to share the magic recipe with me yet (to be honest, I haven’t directly asked her for this one yet), but I think I have come pretty close in recreating the dish at home.

Essential ingredients are broccoli florets, bell peppers and cashews, but in order to please my children’s palates too, I have added some peas and string beans (an overabundance of broccoli and bell peppers would have been too off-putting for them, although my eldest this time actually told me over his plate that he LIKED the red bell pepper pieces).

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Vegan kung pao.

Serves 4.

Ingredients

For the sauce:

  • 2 tbsp rice wine vinegar
  • 3 tbsp soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp vegan “oyster” and mushroom sauce (lucky for me, they sell this at one of the local Loving Hut restaurants) – if you don’t find this, replace by an extra tablespoon of soy sauce and a tablespoon of tomato ketchup.
  • 2 tbsp brown sugar
  • 2 tsp toasted sesame oil
  • 1-2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 tsp grated ginger
  • 2-3 garlic cloves
  • 1 tbsp cornstarch
  • 5 tbsp water
  • salt and pepper

For the rest of the dish:

  • 2 x ca. 200 grams of tofu or some vegan strips (I used the beef-style strips from the Vegetarian Butcher. Their chicken-style chunks would of course work well too here). When using tofu, I can definitely recommend this recipe from the Buddhist Chef.
  • 1 shallot
  • 1 – 1,5 bell pepper, diced (red and yellow look nice in this dish)
  • 1,5 cup broccoli florets (or cauliflower might work well here too)
  • 1 – 2 carrots, sliced or diced
  • some peas and/or green beans: optional (as explained above, I added these to please my children :-))
  • 2-3 scallions
  • a handful of raw or toasted cashews

Serve over rice

Instructions

  • For the sauce: Dissolve the arrowroot in a bowl with some water and mix in all other ingredients for the sauce as well. Keep at hand for the step below.
  • For the actual dish: Fry the beef-style strips or tofu in a skillet and set aside. Heat some oil in a skillet and add the shallot, carrots and the diced peppers. Cook for 3 minutes. Add the broccoli florets and and cook whilst stirring occasionally for another 5 minutes until the veggies are almost fork-tender. Add the cashews and the sauce and cook for 1 minute over high heat or until thickened. Add the vegan strips or tofu back to the skillet. Add the spring onions and serve over rice while still warm.Sprinkle some sesame seeds over the dish for garnish.

Shepherd’s pie with Puy lentils.

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Shepherd’s pies come in all kinds of vegan variations, but I am particularly fond of this version with Puy lentils, which I originally came across in a Rose Elliot cookbook. Over time I have stopped reading and following the recipe, but started eyeballing ingredients instead, giving this dish, which is hearty, tasty, filling and a child-pleaser, a slight twist of my own.

Shepherd’s pie with Puy lentils

Ingredients

For the lentil-tomato layer:

  •  1 cup Puy lentils (green lentils with a blackish shade; they retain a good bite after cooking, which is quite essential for this dish).
  • 2-3 bay leaves
  • 1 tsp herbes de Provence
  • 4 cups vegetable stock
  • 2 onions
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1,5 – 2 cups passata (or 1 can cubed tomatoes, or the equivalent in fresh tomatoes, of course)

For the mash:

  • vegetable stock (I prefer not to use too much, so that I don’t need to throw out too much liquid – including vitamins – afterwards).
  • 1,5 cup potatoes
  • 3/4 cup parsnip
  • 3/4 cup celeriac
  • some hint of a smokey flavour: either smokey vegan cheese, smoked tofu, liquid smoke, or smoked salt. Here I used one package of SmokeyRisella, and used it partly in the mash (about 1/3), partly grated on top of the dish (2/3). Previously I have used grated smoked tofu (I especially love the Taifun brand), or added some smoked salt or half a teaspoon of liquid smoke.
  • 2 tbsp tomato puree
  • 2 tbsp red pesto
  • 1 tbsp agave syrup
  • 1 tbsp herbes de Provence
  • salt and pepper

 

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Instructions

For the lentil-tomato layer:

  • Bring the vegetable stock to a boil, together with the bay leaves and the herbs, and add the lentils. Be careful not to overcook the lentils, so regularly check their texture. When the lentils are fork tender, drain them and set aside.
  • Whilst the lentils are cooking, gently fry the onions in some oil until translucent and slightly browned, then add the garlic.
  • Add in the lentils, when these are done, together with the remaining ingredients. Let simmer for 5 more minutes.
  • Ladle into a casserole dish.

For the mash:

  • Bring the stock to a boil and add the cubed vegetables.
  • Cook until fork tender, drain (keeping the stock), then mash, using some of the cooking liquid, if necessary. Make sure not to use too much liquid, so that the mash doesn’t turn out to soft. When using smokey vegan cheese, like I did here, keep in mind that this also softens the mash. Adding extra oil, vegan cream, or some of the retained vegetable stock is then normally not necessary in this scenario.
  • Spoon onto the lentil-tomato layer
  • Finish the top layer with some grated smoked vegan cheese, or brush with some olive oil.
  • Bake the shepherd’s pie in a preheated oven, under the grill. 15 minutes at 18-200 degrees C will be suffcient to give the dish a nicely browned top layer.

 

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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.

dav

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.