5-minute vegan alfredo sauce that happens to be soy-free

I can still remember the first time I tried fettuccine alfredo. It was a packet one from the supermarket. I don’t know what possessed my mother to buy it for me, as she was all about cooking from scratch (something now I’m very grateful for).

This pasta was the bee’s knees. It was convenience food at its finest and I would never let it go. When I came to terms with the fact I was lactose intolerant, I didn’t have alfredo sauce again for 15 years.

There are plenty of vegan alfredo sauce recipes out there, but the soy factor has always put me off making it given I’m not big on imitation milk or cheese. So what makes this one special? It’s a vegan alfredo sauce that’s soy-free, oil-free, gluten-free and has a healthy dose of protein, is no-cook and only takes five minutes to make. It does contain nuts as I haven’t warmed to the taste that comes with using cauliflower or quinoa instead.

Remember how I said supermarket alfredo sauce was convenience food at its finest? Well, this five-minute version makes a good case for this title.

5-minute vegan alfredo sauce
Serves 2

250g pasta (I went with gluten-free brown rice penne)
1 c raw cashews
1/2 c filtered water
2 cloves garlic
1 tbsp nutritional yeast flakes
1 tbsp chickpea miso powder
1 tsp mushroom powder
1/2 tsp sweet smoked paprika
Juice of half a lemon
Salt and pepper
1 can chickpeas, half roughly mashed with a potato masher
1/4 c fresh parsley, finely chopped

Cook the pasta according to packet directions. Drain and reserve 1 cup cooking water. Set aside.

In a high-speed blender, add 1 cup cooking water, cashews, filtered water, garlic, nutritional yeast, miso, mushroom powder, paprika, lemon juice and salt and pepper. Blitz on high until sauce is smooth.

Pour the sauce onto the pasta then add the mashed and whole chickpeas. Stir to combine then sprinkle the parsley through and serve.

Warm brussels sprout, broccoli and grape salad

This warm salad is inspired by a side dish I ate at a restaurant while on holiday in New York. After all these years, I still think of it – and when I can go back to enjoy it again. Sure, this warm salad does a great job at reliving the memory, but it’s not the same as the OG.

Warm brussels sprout, broccoli and grape salad
Serves 4-6 as a side

200g brussels sprouts, halved
200g broccoli, roughly cut into pieces as large as brussels sprouts
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper
1 tsp rice wine vinegar
1 c red grapes
1/4 c pistachio nuts, shelled
1/4 c pumpkin seeds, lightly toasted
2 tbsp sultanas, blended with 1-2 tbsp water to make a paste
Zest of 1 lemon
Small handful fresh mint, roughly cut

Toss brussels and broccoli with olive oil and salt and pepper.

Air fry on an even layer for 5 minutes at 200 degrees C. Shake the contents of the tray and air fry for a further 3-5 minutes until browned well. You might have to air fry in two batches depending on the size of your airfryer.

Transfer brussels and broccoli to a large mixing bowl. Add rice wine vinegar and toss to evenly combine.

Add grapes, nuts and seeds. Then mix through sultana paste.

Garnish with mint leaves and lemon zest.

Falafel nourish bowl

Earlier this year, I was housebound with a hand injury that made it difficult for me to do things like put toothpaste on my toothbrush and button up my jeans. It didn’t help that my partner travelled to Melbourne, leaving me to manage the household and look after our mischievous puppy (who enjoys being particularly naughty when it’s just the two of us. Sigh) as well as cook and clean up after myself. It had its challenges, but here I am on the other side, relatively unscathed.

While I was off work, one pot wonders were all I could whip up. But I was dreaming of nourish bowls after having enjoyed a few good ones over summer break.

As soon as I could muster the strength, I made this falafel nourish bowl. At the time I wasn’t sure if it was really good, or whether I just thought that because it satisfied the craving that burned within. I can confirm it’s definitely the former – this nourish bowl is really good. (And really filling).

Falafel nourish bowl
Makes 4 bowls

For the falafel
180g dry chickpeas, soaked overnight, drained and rinsed
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

For the fresh tomato salsa
4-5 medium-sized tomatoes
2 medium-sized red onions
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Juice of 2 limes
Pinch of salt

To serve
Hummus
Quinoa tabbouleh
Avocado
Fresh baby spinach leaves
Toasted pumpkin and sesame seeds

To make the falafels, blitz the chickpeas with onion, garlic, herbs, spices, besan flour, and salt and pepper.

Once processed into falafel texture, transfer the 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.

Mould into balls and cook in the oven for 15-20 minutes at around 200 degrees C. (You could air fry or even deep fry the falafels instead).

To make the salsa, roughly chop the tomatoes and onion. Add them to your food processor with olive oil, lime juice and salt. Pulse 3-4 times until tomatoes and onion are in small chunks. Transfer mixture to a bowl to rest. (Make sure you transfer the juice that has been released from the tomatoes to the same bowl as it will help balance out the flavours from the lime juice and olive oil).

Add small amounts of falafel, salsa, hummus, quinoa tabbouleh, avocado, baby spinach and toasted seeds to your bowl, as pictured – and enjoy.

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.

The best Buddha bowl | Chickpea scramble breakfast bowl

I only started making chickpea scramble recently. I’m all for a good tofu scramble but lately I’ve been trying to cut down on my soy intake. Not that my intake is particularly high, just because I think tofu is an ‘easy’ option for a vegan – suddenly, you have had a lot of it over a week without even realising it.

When I first made this chickpea scramble, it was good, but something was missing. It needed something fresh, but fresh herbs and lemon juice weren’t the answer. Sure, it made it better, but it was still lacking. Then I picked up some lovely fresh pomegranates at a great little greengrocer in the lower Blue Mountains of Sydney.

Pomegranates were the answer indeed. And, while I’ve called this a breakfast bowl, it’s also a lunch bowl, and even an any-time-of-the-day bowl – also known as a Buddha bowl.

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Chickpea scramble breakfast bowl
Serves 2

3 tbsp aquafaba
1 can chickpeas
1/4 tsp ground turmeric
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp sweet smoked paprika
3 tbsp nutritional yeast
Salt and pepper, to taste
2 spring onions, roughly cut
4 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 lemon, juiced
2 cups baby spinach, roughly sliced
Seeds from 1 fresh pomegranate
1 small sweet potato, roughly chopped and roasted, to serve
1/2 avocado sprinkled with black and white sesame seeds, to serve
1/4 head leftover cooked cauliflower, to serve

Add aquafaba, chickpeas, turmeric, cumin, paprika, nutritional yeast, and salt and pepper to a bowl and mash until only a small amount of chickpeas are still whole.

Heat some oil in a saute pan over a medium heat. Add spring onions and garlic cloves and cook until browning and fragrant. Add the chickpea mix and lemon juice, and let cook for 2 minutes.

Add the spinach and mix through. Cook for a further 5-8 minutes, until spinach has wilted.

Divide the chickpea mix into two bowls and add the pomegranate seeds. Add the leftover cauliflower, sweet potato and avocado, and serve.