Vegan BLAT salad with green goddess ranch

I’m sure many vegetarians and vegans will agree that the thing they miss the most is bacon.

While nothing really comes close to the taste and texture of real bacon, homemade coconut bacon is my preferred option – and an option much lower in soy than tofu bacon or store-bought mock bacon.

Here, I’ve paired it with a classic BLAT (in salad form) – because a BLT is good, but what is life without avocado?

Vegan BLAT salad with green goddess ranch
Serves 2 as a meal or 4 as a generous side

For the coconut bacon
3 tbsp gluten-free soy sauce
2 tbsp maple syrup
1 tsp liquid smoke (I prefer ‘hickory’ flavoured)
1 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp sweet smoked paprika
1 c unsweetened coconut flakes

For the green goddess ranch
1/4 c raw cashews
1/4 c tahini
1/2 c filtered water
1/4 c flat-leaf parsley
1 tsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp maple syrup
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp onion powder
Juice of 1 lemon
Salt and pepper, to taste

To assemble
2 gem lettuces, stems trimmed and leaves hand torn
200g cherry tomatoes, halved
2 avocados, skin removed and flesh cut into strips

Preheat oven to 180 degrees C.

To make the coconut bacon, add all ingredients excluding coconut flakes in a bowl. Stir to combine then add the coconut flakes and mix to coat.

Line a baking tray with parchment and scoop out the coconut flakes from the bowl onto the paper. Spread them as evenly as possible, then pour the remaining marinade over the top.

Place in the oven for 8-10 mins. After around four minutes, remove from the oven and mix the flakes to ensure they cook evenly and avoid them burning.

Return to the oven and check every two minutes after that. Once browned, remove from oven and set aside in the tray to cool.

To make the green goddess ranch, add all ingredients into a high-speed blender and process until well combined and smooth. Add water to get your preferred consistency. Set aside.

To assemble the salad, place the lettuce leaves in a salad bowl, followed by tomatoes and avocado pieces. Spoon some green goddess ranch dressing in then sprinkle with coconut bacon bits.

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Lebanese socca {gluten-free, vegan}

Lebanese pizza was another favourite of mine growing up. I can remember mum made it for dinner one night and I loved it so much that I asked for ‘the lamb and pine nut pizza’ again, and again, and again. 

After 10 years without Lebanese pizza in my life and after perfecting a good ‘mince’ for my current favourite taco recipe, I knew it would be possible to recreate as vegan. 

While it was definitely a pizza in my memory, I’ve avoided a heavy gluten-free pizza base for this recipe and opted for socca (an ingenious chickpea flour-based flatbread that I’ve been making for years) as the base instead. I love socca for many reasons, but especially because it’s an easy way to add soy-free protein to your plate – and I’m all about that.

Lebanese socca {gluten-free, vegan}
Makes 1 large ‘pizza’

For the ‘mince’
1 can pinto beans, drained and rinsed
1 packet tempeh
1/2 red onion
2 cloves of garlic
1 tsp ground cumin
Pinch of ground cinnamon
Salt and pepper
1/4 c pine nuts, lightly toasted
Small handful flat leaf parsley, finely chopped

For the socca
1 c chickpea flour
1 c filtered water
1 tbsp + 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, divided
Salt and pepper

To make the socca, add chickpea flour, water, 1 tbsp olive oil and salt and pepper to a bowl. Whisk until combined and no lumps remain. Set aside for 30 mins.

Preheat oven to 250 degrees C.

To make the ‘mince’, add pinto beans, tempeh, onion, garlic, cumin, cinnamon and salt and pepper to a food processor. Blitz until combined and resembling small crumbs.

Transfer mixture to a pan on a medium heat and cook a few minutes until it starts to brown and become fragrant. Set aside.

When ready to cook the socca, place cast iron skillet in the pre-heated oven for about 5 minutes.

Carefully remove skillet from oven and add remaining 2 tbsp olive oil to base of the pan to coat the surface. Then, pour the batter into the skillet and return it to the oven for 8-10 minutes until golden and crisp.

When the socca has cooked, remove it from the oven. Carefully transfer it to a cutting board and spoon the ‘mince’ over it. Then, scatter it with pine nuts and garnish with parsley. Slice as you see fit and serve with a side salad and hummus.

Vegan sausages — that happen to be gluten-free and soy-free

I’m not big on vegan sausages, but I’d put that down to the fact that almost all of the ones I’ve come across contain gluten/wheat and if they don’t, they contain another ingredient I react to.

This recipe came to be while I was working on a recipe for something else (which I will tell you all about in good time). While these don’t mimic sausages in the traditional sense of being juicy and tender – and wrapped in sausage skin – they’re a good non-meat alternative, with the chickpeas giving a good protein boost.

These bad boys are best enjoyed as part of a big vegan breakfast – with scrambled tofu, avocado, homemade baked beans and grilled tomato.

Vegan sausages — that happen to be gluten-free and soy-free
Makes 4-8 sausages

1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 c raw cashews, blended well until almost dust
1/2 c brown rice flour
1/4 c nutritional yeast
2 tbsp tomato paste
2 tsp ground flax
2 tsp onion powder
1 tsp xanthan gum
1 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp fennel seeds
1/2 tsp sweet smoked paprika
Salt and pepper

Mash the chickpeas in a medium-sized bowl. Then add remaining ingredients and mix until well combined.

Divide mixture into four pieces and roll each piece into sausage shapes. Be patient and keep the mixture as tight as possible while shaping, coating your hands with some olive oil if they’re getting a bit crumbly in parts. Wrap each ‘sausage’ in baking paper then foil, twisting the ends.

Steam the sausages for around 30 minutes, then let cool slightly before unwrapping.

When ready to eat, place sausages on a cast iron pan and cook on each side for 1-2 minutes over a low-medium heat.

Easy quinoa tabbouleh

Remember when I told you that there was a time in my life when I ate fried rice for lunch every single day? Well, there was also a time when I ate tabbouleh for lunch every single day.

I recently realised that since giving up wheat, I haven’t spent a lot of time revisiting my tabbouleh days. When I whipped up this test batch of wheat-free quinoa tabbouleh, it was clear that ignoring it for all these years was a huge mistake.

Not a fan of tabbouleh? I get it. But make sure you’ve really given it a go first. Sometimes, I cook some gluten-free penne pasta, drizzle it with a touch of red wine vinegar, sprinkle it with some nutritional yeast flakes and mix a couple of dessert-spoons of this tabbouleh through it. Some might call it carb overload. Others (myself included) would question whether that’s really such a thing.

Easy quinoa tabbouleh
Makes enough to feed four people as a generous side

1/3 c extra virgin olive oil
Juice of 1 lemon
200g cherry tomatoes, quartered
3 spring onions, finely sliced
1 c parsley, finely chopped
1/2 c mint, leaves torn
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground allspice
1/2 tsp sumac
1/2-3/4 c cooked white quinoa
Salt and pepper

In a small bowl, whisk olive oil with lemon juice. Set aside.

In a medium-sized bowl, add tomatoes, spring onions, parsley, mint and spices. Mix to combine.

Gently fold the quinoa through the salad ingredients. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Asian bean curd rolls {gluten-free, vegan}

There’s a small vegetarian Chinese restaurant in my hometown that made me fall head over heels for tofu skin (also known as yuba). You wouldn’t know it was anything special from the menu name ‘crispy bean curd skin’ but one day my mum ordered it on a whim and after that, a trip to this restaurant wasn’t complete without a plate – or two!

You can buy dried beancurd sheets from Asian supermarkets. For this recipe, you’ll need the sheets, not dried beancurd sticks, which are also available (and also delicious – but more on that later).

You can do a lot with tofu skin, like soaking it in flavourings and deep frying, or filling it with stuffing and pan frying. My love for eating trumps my love for cooking, so nine times out of 10, I’m looking for shortcuts to spend less time in the kitchen.

Which brings me to these seriously tasty tofu skin rolls that sound a lot more complicated than they actually are. Just think of it as a new way to enjoy tofu.

Once cooked, the rolls can be sliced up and added to a buddha bowl, stir fry or even used as a pho topping. Any leftover slices can be stored in the freezer. Just reheat them in a warm pan before eating.

Asian bean curd rolls {gluten-free, vegan}
Makes approx. 2 medium rolls

1 1/2 c filtered water
1/4 c gluten-free soy sauce
1 tbsp dry sherry
1 tsp coconut sugar
1 thumb-sized piece of ginger, peeled and cut into 2-3 pieces
2 cloves
1 whole dried red chilli
1 star anise
1/2 cinnamon stick
1 packet of dried bean curd sheets

Add water, soy sauce, sherry, coconut sugar, ginger, cloves, chilli, star anise and cinnamon to a small saucepan and bring to a boil.

Let simmer for 10 minutes then strain and let the sauce cool.

Unfold the bean curd sheets. Leaving the sheets on top of each other, roughly cut about 5cm off the edge right around the sheets – try to do this in one go so you have a long offcut from each sheet.

Set aside all the sheets. Group the offcuts together and tie it in a rough knot. Submerge the knot in the sauce for about five minutes to soak.

Place one sheet onto a clean damp tea towel and using tongs, pick up the knot and use it as a brush to coat the entire sheet. Repeat with remaining sheets, returning the knot to the pan as needed to soak up more sauce.

Once all the sheets have been coated, place the knot in the middle of the sheets. Fold the sides in first, then move the knot towards you, to the edge of the sheets, so it can be the centre of the roll. Then, tightly roll the sheets up to form a log.

Cut the log into two pieces (three pieces if this won’t fit in your steamer) and steam for around 15 minutes. Then, remove from steamer and pan fry each roll for three minutes on one side, and three minutes on the other side.

Let cool slightly before slicing into thin pieces. Add to a cooked stir fry, buddha bowl or use as a pho topping.

Baked sweet potato with white beans and parsley seaweed pesto butter

I’ve probably told you before that I don’t make new year’s resolutions. If I want to change something, I change it then and there rather than waiting for a new year to roll around.

In saying that, I’m not opposed to giving each year a theme. Telling you mine is going to help keep me accountable so I stick with it. My theme for this year is ‘fresh’. For as long as I can remember, I’ve focused on cooking and preparing the types of meals that warm me up from the inside out. They’re the types of meals that only need one pot, pan or tray like curry, stir-fry, stew, and sheet pans.

‘Fresh’ is about turning these meals upside down (figuratively, not literally). That means more fresh and raw ingredients in my bowl instead of featuring them as a garnish or side salad. It means more meals that marry different flavours on my plate instead of these flavours cooking harmoniously in a pot. It means turning to new ingredients or the ones I don’t use often instead of reaching for my favourites every meal.

This recipe for baked sweet potato with white beans and parsley seaweed pesto butter is about breathing new life into seaweed – to prove it can do a lot more than embrace rice in sushi. After trying this recipe, you’ll agree with me that it can.

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Baked sweet potato with white beans and parsley seaweed pesto butter
Serves 2

2 medium-sized sweet potatoes, roasted with the skin on until flesh is soft
1 can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
1 sheet nori seaweed
1 handful fresh parsley
1/2 avocado
10 baby capers, drained
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup pine nuts
Juice of 1/2 lemon
Salt and pepper

Cook the cannellini beans in a little bit of olive oil and dusted with a sprinkle of salt until the edges start to crisp up on some of them. Set aside.

To make the parsley seaweed pesto butter, add nori, parsley, avocado, capers, extra virgin olive oil, pine nuts, lemon, salt and pepper to a food processor and process until combined.

Cut a cross along the top of the cooked sweet potatoes and gently break them open. Add some spoonfuls of the cooked beans to the sweet potatoes and then some dollops of pesto butter.

Serve any leftover pesto butter on the side in a small bowl – it’s likely to be eaten in the one sitting!

Vegan baked biryani {gluten-free, soy-free}

This was actually going to be a quinoa biryani, but when I started experimenting with rice, I realised using quinoa would compromise the dish. It just won’t cut it the same way basmati rice does.

I love this biryani because it’s a one pot ‘set and forget’ wonder! All you need to do is start cooking it on the stove then transfer to the oven where it will do it’s thing. A meal this easy feels like cheating.

I recently discovered chat masala at a Indian cooking class I went to and now I’m using it on everything. If you don’t have it, you can omit it.

Vegan-biryani-kale-mary.jpg

Vegan baked biryani {gluten-free, soy-free}
Serves 4-6

1 tbsp cumin seeds
5 green cardamom pods
4 whole cloves
1/2 cinnamon quill
1 dried chilli
1 red onion, finely diced
2 garlic cloves, finely grated
1 thumb-sized piece of ginger, finely grated
2 carrots, diced
200g green beans, ends removed and halved
Salt and pepper
1 bay leaf
3 cups basmati rice
Handful toasted cashews
Handful raisins or sultanas
1 cup fresh or frozen peas
2 tbsp dairy-free butter
Spring onion, to serve
Chat masala, to serve
Homemade chutney, to serve

Preheat oven to 180 degrees C.

Heat some oil in a dutch oven over a medium heat on the stove. Add spices and let cook until fragrant. Then add onion and cook until it becomes translucent. Add garlic and ginger and cook until fragrant.

Next, add carrot, green beans, salt and pepper, bay leaf and rice, stir to combine. Then carefully pour in 6 cups of filtered water. Stir, then bring to a boil.

Cover with oven-proof lid or sheet of foil and place in the oven for 20 minutes.

At this point, give it a quick stir to make sure rice isn’t catching on the bottom. If it is, or the rice is getting a bit too dry, add around 1/4 cup water.

Add cashews, raisins, peas and dairy-free butter. Mix through and return to oven, uncovered for 10 minutes.

Remove from oven and serve with finely chopped spring onions, a sprinkle of chat masala and homemade chutney.