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Gluten-free vegan zucchini noodle japchae

A few years ago I came across sweet potato noodles in an Asian grocer and I bought them because they were surprisingly gluten-free. The noodles sat on a shelf in my cupboard for a good six months before I finally settled on what I would do with them: make japchae, also known as Korean glass noodles.

My brief foray into Korean food started with japchae and ended with kimchi. And when I say japchae and kimchi, I mean that I really didn’t give much else a go (in my defense, Korean food isn’t well suited to both a gluten-free and vegan diet).

Finding sweet potato noodles can sometimes be like finding a needle in a haystack. Without them I could have gone for regular rice noodles, or even pasta but I decided to push myself towards something even healthier and landed on zucchini noodles.

Full disclosure, zucchini noodles really don’t do it for me. I’ll eat them from time to time, in the spirit of being healthy, and when I crave something light. Nothing is ever going to tear me away from my beloved carbs.

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Gluten-free vegan zucchini noodle japchae
Serves 2

1 tsp sesame oil
1/2 brown onion, sliced
2 spring onions, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 carrot, julienned
1/2 cup shiitake mushrooms, thinly sliced
2 tbsp gluten-free soy sauce
2 tsp rice wine vinegar
1 tsp coconut sugar
1 cup spinach leaves
3 zucchinis, spiralised
1 tbsp white sesame seeds, to serve
Small handful of chives, to serve

Heat sesame oil over a medium heat and add onion, spring onion, garlic, carrot and mushrooms. Cook for five minutes.

Add soy sauce, rice wine vinegar and coconut sugar to the pan, followed by the spinach. Cook for one minute before adding the zucchini noodles, then cook a further two-three minutes until zucchini is heated through.

Divide into two bowls and sprinkle sesame seeds and chopped chives.

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Gluten-free vegan savoury breakfast muffins | Zucchini and tomato muffins

A couple of weeks ago I tried imitation Tim Tams that were gluten-free and vegan. Sadly, they were a disappointment. The real thing was always my weakness growing up. I wouldn’t be able to control myself around them; my sweet tooth took over.

Fast forward to now, my sweet tooth has been cured. Case in point when it comes to sweet muffins. I’m spending my days dreaming of savoury muffins, something the old me would have scoffed at.

These gluten-free, vegan, savoury breakfast muffins are the most moist I have ever come across. This is all thanks to almond meal, zucchini, tomatoes and – most importantly – caramelised French shallots.

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Gluten-free vegan savoury breakfast muffins | Zucchini and tomato muffins
Makes 6-8

3 large French shallots, finely sliced
1 1/2 cups almond meal
1 cup brown rice flour
1/4 cup arrowroot flour
1 tsp bicarb soda
1 tsp baking powder
2 flax eggs (2 tbsp ground flax + 6 tbsp water)
1 cup water
1/4 cup coconut oil, melted
Juice of half a lemon
Zest of a whole lemon
1 1/2 cups cherry tomatoes, quartered
1 zucchini, grated
1 handful basil, roughly cut
1 bunch of chives, roughly cut (optional)
1 tsp sumac
1 tsp beetroot powder

Preheat oven to 200 degrees C.

Heat oil in a wide pan and add French shallots. Let cook over a medium heat until shallots are starting to catch on the bottom of the pan. Add 1/2 tsp water and continue to cook until onions turn golden brown and caramelise. Set aside.

Mix almond meal, brown rice flour, arrowroot flour, bicarb soda, baking powder, flax eggs, water, coconut oil, and lemon zest and juice until lumps-free. Then add tomatoes, zucchini, basil, chives, sumac and beet powder and mix until combined. Make sure the zucchini is evenly mixed throughout the flour and not sticking together in clumps.

Evenly scoop mix into an oiled muffin tin. Bake in the oven for 20-30 minutes. Knife should come out clean and top crust should be golden brown. Let cool slightly then carefully remove muffins from tins with a spoon and place on a cooling rack until ready to eat.

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The best gluten-free vegan pad Thai

The day I perfected my recipe for pad Thai was the day I stopped ordering it from Thai restaurants. So, my favourite guilty pleasure is actually pad kee mao although I’ve not managed to replicate that one at home yet. I’ll get there eventually.

It can be really frustrating ordering a pad Thai without egg at Thai restaurants. It’s usually quite oily because the chef doesn’t factor in that less oil is required when egg is omitted.

Another way I describe this recipe is ‘better-than-Thai-restaurant pad Thai’ and when something has a name like that, why would you order in? OK, I know why, because you have nothing in the fridge or pantry, and/or you’ve had a rough day and just can’t. I get it, I’ve been there.

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The best gluten-free vegan pad Thai
Serves 4

1/2 cup coconut sugar
3/4 cup gluten-free soy sauce
2 tbsp tomato paste
1 tbsp rice wine vinegar
1 lime, juiced
1 tsp sesame oil
1 tsp garlic powder
1 brown onion, cut into slices
1/2 head broccoli, cut into small pieces
1 1/2 cup baby spinach
2 carrots, cut on an angle
200g rice noodles (I like brown rice noodles), cooked
250g organic non-GMO tofu, cut into pieces and baked
Coriander, to serve
Peanuts, to serve
Spring onion, to serve
Chives, to serve
Lime wedges, to serve

Add coconut sugar, gluten-free soy sauce, tomato paste, rice wine vinegar, lime juice, sesame oil and garlic to a bowl and whisk until combined.

Heat some coconut oil in a wok and add the brown onion. Cook until soft then add the vegetables, noodles, tofu and sauce ingredients.

Keep the burner on a high heat and gently stir the ingredients to ensure the sauce is coating everything. When the sauce starts bubbling around the sides of the pan, mix ingredients through. Let sit a minute or two longer, until the noodles start to catch on the bottom of the pan.

Remove from the heat and add coriander, peanuts, spring onion and chives. Plate with lime wedges.

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Quick curry | Gluten-free vegan yellow curry

Full disclosure, I was planning to make mac n cheese. It didn’t work out. I don’t know what I was thinking anyway, I never even liked it that much. I did like fettuccine alfredo though so maybe that’s my next pasta dish to conquer.

In the meantime, I thought I’d share this recipe for the fastest curry I’ve ever whipped up. It’s delicate, flavoursome, light and best of all, you can have it from farm (or fridge!) to plate in 10 minutes.

Store-bought curry paste isn’t my preference but I’m all for shortcuts in the kitchen and when you’re counting down the minutes until you can unwind after a long day, it’s a shortcut I’m willing to take. Still, it’s not a shortcut I like to take often. Enter my gluten-free, curry paste-free, vegan Thai yellow curry made in just 10 minutes. How? The trick, my friends, is concentrated tamarind.

If you have a few more minutes to spare, you could bake some tofu for some extra protein. It will probably take you about 35 mins to prep and cook this dish if you decide you want to do the tofu, but it’s worth it. Especially if you coat the tofu in a special spice mix.

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Quick curry | Gluten-free vegan yellow curry without curry paste
Serves 3-4

For the tofu:
250g organic non-GMO tofu, cut into triangles
4 tbsp vegan fish sauce (see note)
1/2 lemon, juiced
2 tbsp dried wakame flakes
2 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp smoked sweet paprika

For the curry:
1 brown onion, halved and cut into even slices
1 mild red chilli, de-seeded and sliced longways
1 thumb-sized piece of ginger, sliced into matchsticks
1 clove fresh garlic, diced
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tbsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground turmeric
2 tbsp concentrated tamarind
270ml coconut milk
2 tbsp water
1 tsp vegetable stock powder
300g baby spinach

Preheat oven to 200 degrees C.

Marinate the tofu in vegan fish sauce and lemon juice for at least 5 minutes in the fridge (the longer, the better, but who has time to wait?). Then, in a small bowl, combine the wakame, garlic and paprika. Add each piece of tofu to the mix and evenly coat.

Place tofu on a baking tray and put in the oven for 20 minutes.

Cook onion in a wide-based saucepan over a medium heat. Once soft, add the ginger, chilli and garlic (both fresh and dried) and cook until fragrant. Add the cumin and turmeric, and stir until mixed through.

Add the coconut milk, tamarind, water and vegetable stock powder and cook for a minute longer before adding the spinach. Cook until spinach has wilted then serve into bowls with some steamed rice and a couple of pieces of baked tofu on top.

NOTE: Vegan fish sauce is available from Asian grocery stores. Look out for it in the vegetarian section. Otherwise, check out the internet. Not vegan? Use real fish sauce.

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Vegan quiche

I’ve been using chickpea flour ever since I discovered socca – a crispy flatbread. It gets crispy on the edges and retains moisture inside – with it sometimes having a scrambled egg-like consistency. I knew it would soon become the base of my quiche recipe.

Growing up, my mum’s quiche was the only one I would eat. It had flaky pastry but the vegetables were the real hero. Oh, and those little bits of bacon. Bacon has always been my achilles’ heel. I toyed with the idea of adding coconut bacon but things were starting to get complicated. I had to let the vegetables shine, just like mum’s.

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Vegan quiche
Serves 6-8

1 leek, cut down the middle then sliced
1 zucchini, cut down the middle then sliced
1 head broccoli, broken down into pieces
3 spring onions, cut into 2cm pieces
10 cherry tomatoes, halved
2 roma tomatoes, thinly sliced
2 cups chickpea flour
2 1/4 cups water
2 tbsp olive oil
Pinch of salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 220 degrees C.

Gently cook the leek, zucchini, broccoli and spring onions until soft. While cooking, whisk chickpea flour with water, olive oil and salt and pepper.

Add the vegetables to the tart dish and add the cherry tomatoes. Evenly pour the chickpea flour mix over the top and then place the sliced roma tomatoes on top.

Cook in the oven for 25-30 mins. Let cool 10 mins before slicing.

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Quick vegan Thai coconut soup (tom kha)

Do you ever feel as though you give your best to your 9-5 job and after that, you have nothing left to give? It’s one of the reasons I’ve taken three years to revisit this recipe. My weeknights are a write-off and life admin patiently awaits for me on the weekend. Once my life admin and house chores have been taken care of, there’s hardly any weekend left apart from a small amount of time to recharge (to make it through until the next weekend). The cycle just keeps cycling on.

As I write this on day three of a four-day weekend, I’m feeling disorientated. I don’t know how to spend this time. To me, life sometimes feels like a to-do list you can’t get through.

So, I’m not a soup girl, but here I am again with another soup. I don’t know why. Maybe you can chalk it up to this state of limbo (or maybe because my recipe for hot cross buns didn’t quite pan out in time for Easter and this was the next thing that popped into my head). My vegan tom yum quickly turned into tom kha (Thai coconut soup) with the addition of a little more coconut milk and a tablespoon of tahini. You read that correctly, I swapped out miso for tahini. I try to avoid eating soy products more than 2-3 times a week and when I do, I try to restrict it to only what’s essential (like tofu or gluten-free soy sauce, for example).

Back to the recipe – if you have everything on hand, you can knock this one out of the park in less than 30 mins. It’s almost too easy.

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Thai coconut soup
Serves 2

2 garlic cloves, grated
2 stalks of lemongrass, mashed in a mortar and pestle
1 thumb-sized piece of ginger, grated
1 small chilli, sliced
1/2 cup sliced and dried shiitake mushrooms
2 cups vegetable stock
270g coconut milk
1 tbsp tahini
1 tbsp maple syrup
2 tbsp gluten-free soy sauce
150g fresh enoki mushrooms
1 lime, juiced
Large handful coriander, finely chopped
200g rice noodles, cooked
1 sheet of nori, cut into small pieces (optional)
Cooked tofu squares (optional)

Add garlic, lemongrass, ginger and chilli to a saucepan on a medium heat. Cook until fragrant and starting to catch on the bottom of the pan. Add the dried shiitake mushrooms and the vegetable stock and gently simmer for five minutes.

Whisk in the coconut milk and simmer for 10 minutes before whisking in the tahini, maple syrup and gluten-free soy sauce, and simmer another five minutes.

Remove from the heat and add enoki mushrooms, lime juice and coriander. Add cooked rice noodles into a bowl, and top with the soup and mushrooms. Add some of the nori pieces and tofu (if using) and some lime slices.

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Juicy vegan meatballs and gravy

Growing up, my mum would make rissoles with gravy, and sometimes I was even allowed to have them on buttered crumpets. I miss those days. Lately, I’ve been thinking about recreating them with tempeh to give them a juiciness that tofu or grains cannot.

After much experimentation, I’m pleased to report that these vegan meatballs are juicier than real meatballs. In fact, they’re so juicy you might not even need the gravy but if you’re missing the meat, the gravy will help you through it. This dish is also really quick and easy – there’s barely any prep involved, which makes it great for a weeknight meal.

Chickpea flour and a few spices are what gives vegan gravy the meatiness it needs. I first came across it about six years ago and it’s stuck with me ever since.

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Juicy vegan meatballs and gravy
Serves 2

For the meatballs
2 slices of gluten-free vegan bread, crusts removed and finely crumbled
1 brown onion, grated
300g organic plain tempeh, grated
4 sprigs of thyme, stems discarded
2 tsp nutritional yeast
Pinch of salt

For the gravy
1 tbsp garlic powder
1 tsp cumin powder
1 tsp vegetable stock powder
1/4 tsp smoked sweet Hungarian paprika
1/2 cup chickpea flour
1 1/2 cup water
2 tbsp gluten-free soy sauce

Preheat oven to 220 degrees C.

Mix the crust-less bread and grated onion. Let sit for five minutes before adding the tempeh, thyme, nutritional yeast and pinch of salt. Mix until combined and shape into meatballs.

Cook in the oven for 15 minutes before flipping and cooking a further 10 minutes.

While the meatballs are cooking, heat one teaspoon of olive oil in a pan and add garlic, cumin, powdered stock and paprika. Stir to avoid spices catching on the pan and once fragrant, add the chickpea flour. Continue to stir to avoid it catching. After a minute or two, add 1/2 cup water and whisk to remove the lumps. While whisking continuously, add the next 1/2 cup water as it thickens, and repeat for the last 1/2 cup water. Once it has reached the consistency of gravy, turn off the heat and stir through 2 tbsp gluten-free soy sauce. Season to taste.

Serve meatballs in bowls with steamed carrots and pour gravy on top.

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Gluten-free vegan basics | Best-ever guacamole and hummus

Know anyone who doesn’t like guacamole? Didn’t think so. What about hummus? Yep, didn’t think so either. They are the king and queen of dip land.

Both being extremely fast and easy to make, it’s no wonder people buy pre-made tubs from the shops. But, last week I needed avocado for Mexican night and, with no ripe avocados at home, I had no choice but to look at alternatives, and that meant a visit to the dip section of my local supermarket. I was in despair, almost all of the options contained cream cheese or yoghurt. The whole point of guacamole is the fact that it is an avocado-based dip, not a dairy-based dip. In fact, it shouldn’t even contain dairy. Anyway, I digress. Did you know the easiest way to make guac is on a flat plate and mixed with a fork? Neither did I until recently and let me tell you, it levelled-up my guac game. Not too lumpy, and not too smooth. The guac was just right.

Now, are you ready to find out the secret to great hummus? I’m a big fan of sumac and am constantly thinking of all the things I can do with it. One day I sprinkled it on top of hummus and from then on, we all lived happily ever after.

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Guacamole

2 avocadoes
6 baby tomatoes
1 lime, juiced
1/2 red onion, finely sliced
Pinch of salt

Add all the ingredients to a large flat plate and mash it together with a fork until combined. Adjust ingredients to taste, otherwise refrigerate until ready to eat.

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Hummus

2 cans chickpeas, drained
1/3 C olive oil
1 1/2 lemon, juiced
1 tbsp tahini
Pinch of garlic powder
Pinch of salt
Sumac and olive oil, to serve

Blend all ingredients on high until smooth. You may need to scrape down the sides of the bowl one or two times.

Adjust ingredients to taste blend for a few seconds longer if necessary and plate. Drizzle with olive oil and pinch of sumac.

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Vegan shakshuka (gluten-free, soy-free)

I never got to try shakshuka before I became vegan. It only really popped up on my radar in the last five or so years. I got to work on veganising it because I felt like I was really missing out. The only problem? What to do about the egg component.

I was just going to use avocado to replace the egg but it’s just not the same. On my third attempt at this dish, it came to me – I make these great savoury crepes from chickpea flour and they sometimes have an egg-like texture. What if I used that for the ‘egg white’, and nutritional yeast, olive oil and turmeric for the ‘yolk’? The first go was too bitter from the turmeric, the second go was better – but I added the ‘yolk’ too soon and it sunk into the ‘white’. Then, I cracked it (pun intended). The trick was to let the ‘white’ cook for almost a minute before adding the ‘yolk’.

It’s the closest I’ve come to a vegan fried egg, and I think it’s the closest I am ever going to get without having to add tofu. It’s easy, soy-free and chickpea flour has a good amount of protein, which always helps a vegan out. I still can’t believe I did it, and I’m sharing it with you with a huge smile on my face.

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Vegan shakshuka
Serves 2

1 brown onion, chopped
2 tbsp tomato paste
1 tbsp garlic powder
1 tsp cumin powder
1 tsp coriander powder
1 tsp powdered vegetable stock
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp garlic granules
1/2 tsp chilli powder
1/4 tsp smoked sweet paprika
1/4 tsp turmeric powder
1/4 tsp cinnamon powder
Pinch salt and pepper
8 tomatoes, diced
1/4 cup water
3 sheets lasagna pasta, broken into small pieces
1 tbsp coconut sugar *optional
Pinch sumac, to serve
Pinch nutritional yeast, to serve
Pinch white sesame seeds, to serve
Pinch black sesame seeds, to serve
Avocado, to serve
2 fried ‘eggs’, to serve (see note)

Saute brown onion in coconut oil over a medium heat. Once starting to brown and caramelise, add the tomato paste and mix into the onion for one minute. Add the spices and stir until fragrant.

Add the tomatoes and water and mix until even then add broken lasagna sheets. Let cook fifteen minutes until reduced slightly. Gently loosen the ingredients in the pan while cooking to avoid it catching on the bottom but try not to mix the pasta into itself as it may stick. If it gets too dry, add a couple of tablespoons of water then add coconut sugar – if using – towards the end.

Serve into a bowl topped with two fried ‘eggs’, avocado, sumac, nutritional yeast, and black and white sesame seeds.

NOTE: Whisk 1/4 cup chickpea flour with 1/4 cup water, 1 tbsp olive oil and a pinch of salt. Pour half into a hot nonstick pan with coconut oil and let cook for 1 minute. Mix 2 tbsp nutritional yeast in a small bowl with a pinch of salt, 2 tsp olive oil, 4 tsp water and a pinch of turmeric, then carefully spoon half of it into the centre of the chickpea batter that is cooking. Let cook a minute longer then carefully transfer it to a plate. Repeat with remaining batter and ‘yolk’ and serve.

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Vegan pho

The day I tried pho was the day I realised that soup could be loved. There’s just something about pho that elevates it beyond its competitors. It’s rich and fragrant yet still light.

There’s a little vegan restaurant in Sydney that makes the best pho I’ve ever eaten. Even better than beef pho and I promise that’s not a lie. I used to live 10 minutes away from that little hole in the wall and it was heaven devouring a bowl of their goodness. Now that I’ve moved, said place is an hour away from home. Since my dreams started being all about that pho, I set out to recreate it at home.

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Vegan pho
Serves 2-3

For the broth:
2 brown onions, halved
1 thumb sized piece of ginger, roughly sliced
1 bulb garlic, skin removed
2 star anise
2 cinnamon sticks, broken into pieces
4 cloves
1 tbsp coriander seeds
2 dried shiitake mushrooms
4 coriander stems
1/2 tsp fennel seeds
1 leek (white and green parts), roughly chopped
3 carrots, roughly chopped
1/4 head green cabbage, roughly chopped
1/2 daikon, roughly chopped
6 cups vegetable stock
2 tbsp gluten-free soy sauce
2 tbsp nutritional yeast mixed with 4 tbsp water – sediment discarded

To serve:
200g rice noodles, cooked
1/4 head green cabbage
1/2 head broccoli
1 carrot, julienned
1/2 daikon, julienned
2 heads bok choy
2 spring onions
Small handful coriander
1 lime, quartered
125g tofu, cubed and baked for 15 mins on 200 degrees C

Add halved onions and ginger pieces to a large soup pot over a high heat. Let sit until charred and almost burnt.

Add garlic, star anise, cinnamon, cloves, coriander seeds, shiitake mushrooms, coriander stems and fennel seeds and let toast until fragrant. Mix a couple of times.

Then, add leek, carrots, green cabbage, daikon and mix until evenly coated with spices. Add vegetable stock and stir then bring to the boil.

Once boiling, reduce to simmer and add gluten-free soy sauce as well as nutritional yeast water (NOTE: do not add sediment). Simmer for 2 hours.

While simmering, prepare other ingredients for plating in bowls.

Once cooking time is complete and the broth is fragrant, strain through a sieve and discard solids. Then, pour the broth into prepared bowls and serve.