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!

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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.

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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.

Spanish-style vegan meatballs {gluten-free, soy-free, egg-free, airfryer}

This dish is one of my all-time favourites. I’ve been making a version of it for almost 10 years. Using an airfryer for the vegan chickpea meatballs does make cooking easier and cleaner, but you can also pan fry them.

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Spanish-style vegan meatballs {gluten-free, soy-free, egg-free, airfryer}
Serves 3-4

For the vegan meatballs
1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
2-3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 garlic clove, finely grated
Zest of 1 lemon
1 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp sweet smoked paprika
1/4 tsp nutmeg, finely grated
1/4 tsp cinnamon powder
Salt and pepper, to taste
1/3 cup gluten free bread crumbs or rice crumbs

For the sauce
1/2 red onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely grated
1/2 cup organic, vegan and preservative-free white wine
2 tbsp tomato paste
2 cans diced tomatoes
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 bunch curly parsley, roughly chopped

Add the chickpeas and olive oil to a bowl. Mash with a potato masher until no solid chickpeas remain and mixture starts to emulsify.

Add garlic, lemon zest, thyme, paprika, nutmeg, cinnamon and salt and pepper. Mix well to combine before adding the crumbs and giving it another mix.

Mould about half a palm-sized amount of the mixture into balls and set aside. When ready, place in airfryer for 15 minutes at 200 degrees C. You don’t need to preheat it or rotate the balls during cooking.

Next, cook onion and garlic with a little oil on the stove. Deglaze the pan with white wine once onion and garlic starts to brown.

When the white wine has evaporated, add the tomato paste, diced tomatoes and salt and pepper. Cook on a gentle heat for around 10 minutes.

Remove from heat and stir through the parsley, then serve with the chickpea meatballs and some brown rice.

An easy gluten-free vegan fried rice

I bring a packed lunch to work most days. My body thanks me for the home cooked nourishment. In my first office job many years ago, I took fried rice to lunch every day for at least a year. It was my mum’s recipe and it was completely and utterly delicious. Sadly it’s not something my body would thank me for today… the recipe called for lashings of kecap manis (a sweet soy sauce) and a generous amount of diced bacon.

Lately, I’ve been thinking about how I could recreate a version to live up to the fading memory of mum’s fried rice. So, when I was organised enough to have some day-old rice in the fridge, I got my act together. This easy fried rice is the result, with oyster mushrooms taking the place that bacon once did.  I’ve made it many times since.

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Easy gluten-free vegan fried rice
Serves 4

1 red onion, diced
3 spring onions, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, grated
1cm ginger, grated
2 tbsp dry sherry
2 tbsp gluten-free soy sauce
1/2 tsp sesame oil
4-6 oyster mushrooms, finely sliced
1 carrot, peeled and diced
1 zucchini, diced
1 cup green peas (washed if frozen)
3 cups cooked basmati rice, refrigerated for one day
1/2 cup baked tofu, cut into small cubes

Heat some oil in a wide-based pan and add red onion. Once starting to brown, add spring onions, garlic and ginger, and cook until fragrant.

Then add the sherry to deglaze the pan. Once the the liquid has evaporated, add the soy sauce and sesame oil, followed by the mushrooms. Cook for 2-4 minutes.

Add carrot, zucchini and peas and mix through to combine. Cook for a further 5 minutes then add the rice and tofu and mix until well combined.

Serve with extra soy sauce and eat on its own or as a side with a stir fry.

Falafel baked cauliflower {vegan, gluten-free}

A recipe I’m working on has me totally stumped. It’s a dessert. An adaptation of a childhood favourite that mum and I would make together. I’m going to give it one last shot before I throw in the towel. Because I know that most of the time, persistence pays off.

Speaking of persistence, this falafel baked cauliflower has been a work in progress for a while. I had such high hopes for it that I first made it for a dinner party I hosted. I wasn’t 100 per cent happy the dish was ‘there’ but someone even went in for seconds so there’s that.

I found it challenging removing the stalk while keeping the florets attached. After a few failed attempts, I decided to carve out the inner part of the stalk with a small paring knife. Success.

After that and a few small tweaks, I had the perfect dish. Cauliflower so soft it melts like butter in your mouth around falafel stuffing. And a crisp outer layer that’s like the shell of a giant falafel. This, dear reader, is a dish I dream about.

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Falafel baked cauliflower
Serves 4

1 cauliflower
180g dry chickpeas, soaked overnight, drained and washed
1/2 red onion
2 garlic cloves
1/2 cup flat leaf parsley
1/2 cup coriander
1 tbsp besan flour
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp coriander powder
Salt and pepper, to taste
1/4 cup gluten-free bread or rice crumbs
Extra virgin olive oil, to coat cauliflower

Preheat oven to 220 degrees C and fill a large stock pot with water to boil.

Trim the leaves off the cauliflower. Turn it upside down then carve out the stalk. Be careful not to take too much off the sides of the stalk as you want to keep the florets attached and intact.

Blitz the soaked chickpeas with onion, garlic, herbs, spices, besan flour, and salt and pepper.

Once blended into a falafel texture, transfer mixture to a wide-based pan with a little olive oil. Cook about 5-8 minutes until garlic is fragrant and mixture starts to brown. Set aside to cool.

Add the whole cauliflower to the stock pot when the water has boiled. Let it cook for around 8 minutes until cooked through.

Spoon about half of the falafel mix into a separate bowl and add the bread or rice crumbs. Mix then add enough olive oil to combine and coat the crumbs.

Grease a baking dish and place the cauliflower into the dish stalk-side up. Using a spoon and your fingers, stuff the falafel mix into the hole where you carved the flesh out of the stalk. Then stuff around the florets as best you can without breaking them off.

Carefully turn the cauliflower floret-side up being careful to keep the stuffing from falling out. Rub olive oil over the florets, then coat the cauliflower with falafel and bread or rice crumb mix.

Once the cauliflower is coated with the falafel crust, cover with foil and place in the oven for 30 minutes. Remove foil and cook for another 15 minutes until crust browns and hardens.

Cut into quarters and serve with hummus or this cashew butter and salad.

Miso green beans

How do you handle fussy adult eaters in your household? Now I’m also not calling anyone in my household fussy – but it’s more a case of making sure we’re getting enough diversity and nutrients from our diet. Sometimes “I don’t like this” isn’t an option when you’re living a 100% gluten-free and vegan life.

My parents will laugh reading this, because they’ve done their time in that situation when I was a child fussy about the food on my plate. But here I am – as an adult – living breathing proof that you can do a complete 360.

So, when my partner says he doesn’t like a certain ingredient, I treat it as a challenge. Oh but you will like it, a little voice inside my head says. And guess what? It works. Take eggplant for example – he used to cringe when I brought some home. But now he looks forward to my miso glazed eggplant or hidden veg dal among other dishes.

Another thing not liked was miso – so much so that I had to avoid it like the plague. Well, guess what, we’ve had another breakthrough. Not only are these miso green beans incredibly tasty, they’re also incredibly easy. I’m talking 10-minute meal territory. I serve this up for lunch, but it’s also perfect as a side along with your protein of choice.

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Miso green beans {gluten-free, wheat-free, soy-free, vegan}
Serves 2-4

250g green beans, trimmed and halved
2 spring onions, whites and greens divided and finely sliced
2 tomatoes, quartered (or 6 cherry tomatoes, halved)
Zest of 1/2 lemon
1 tbsp chickpea miso powder (I use Meru Miso) mixed with 1 tbsp filtered water
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 cup cashews, toasted
Thai basil, to serve

Heat some olive oil in a pan and add the green beans. Let cook 1-2 minutes before adding the spring onion whites. Cook a further minute, stirring occasionally then add tomatoes to the pan.

Stir through the lemon zest, miso powder with water, salt and pepper. Let cook an additional 1-2 minutes until tomatoes start to soften.

Add cashews, stir and remove from heat. Serve topped with remaining spring onion greens and some sliced Thai basil.

Easy weeknight pasta bake cake {gluten-free, egg-free, dairy-free, soy-free}

I try to keep pasta stocked in the pantry at all times. I rarely experience pasta cravings but this dish is simple and easy to make, especially when you’ve come home from work and haven’t given dinner a thought.

Pasta bake cake was my attempt at turning a simple bowl of pasta marinara into something a little more exciting. Needing a cheesy element, but trying not to overdo my soy intake, I pulled out my trusted recipe for cashew cheese – one of my earliest recipes – to complete the dish. Cashew cheese tastes like a hybrid of runny cheese and what I imagine queso dip to taste like (full disclosure, I’ve never had queso dip!).

You can add vegetables like spinach or kale to the pasta before you bake it, and you can make your own marinara sauce. In the interest of showing you just how easy living gluten-free and vegan can be, I’ve decided to keep this one as simple as possible. That means I’ve used store-bought sauce and left out the additions in the bake. Having said that, I do serve a slice of this with some fresh rocket or finely shredded kale (with a light drizzle of lemon juice) on the side.

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Easy weeknight pasta bake cake {gluten-free, egg-free, dairy-free, soy-free}
Serves 6

500g gluten-free vegan penne pasta, cooked 2-3 mins less than packet directions
2 x 500g jars of vegan pasta sauce
Cashew cheese (recipe below)
Rocket or finely shredded kale, to serve

Preheat oven to 180 degrees C.

Cook pasta 2-3 minutes less than the packet directions. Strain and set aside.

Grease an 8-inch/20cm cake tin. Put a tray under in case the tomato sauce seeps through the tin during cooking.

Pour about 100g pasta sauce from one jar into the tin to cover the bottom. Fill cake tin with about half of the cooked pasta.

Add remaining 400g pasta sauce from the opened jar and pour about a quarter of your cashew cheese over the top. Add remaining pasta and pour contents of the second jar of sauce on top. Add remaining cashew cheese ensuring it is evenly spread over the top.

Place tin on tray in the oven and cook for around 20 minutes. Then, remove from oven and let stand to set for 10-15 minutes. Cut into slices and serve with rocket or kale.

Vegan cashew cheese

1 cup raw cashews, soaked for at least 4 hours
1/2 cup filtered water
1/2 cup nutritional yeast flakes
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 tbsp dijon mustard
Juice of 1 lemon
1 tsp garlic granules
Pinch of salt

Add all ingredients to a high-powered blender and blend until smooth.

Pour into a small bowl and set aside.