Hidden vegetable ragù {vegan, kid friendly}

I know it looks like I’m a bit obsessed with Asian food, especially with the last few recipes I’ve posted. Truth be told, I am obsessed with Asian food. I love the flavours and the freshness each meal delivers.

I grew up in a small town and my earliest memory of going out for dinner was to an Asian restaurant. Maybe that’s what spurred my love for Asian cuisine.

Enter this delicious recipe for vegan ragù. In addition to being Italian, it contains eggplant and mushrooms – two things I don’t cook with very often. The good news is that if you’re not a fan of these ingredients, you won’t even notice them in this meal. And if you can’t notice them, chances are little kidlets won’t be able to tell the difference either.

Hidden veg ragu

Hidden vegetable ragù {vegan, kid friendly}
Serves 4

1 medium eggplant
200g brown cup mushrooms, blitzed into fine pieces
1 brown onion, finely chopped
2 celery sticks, diced
2 carrots, diced
2 cups red wine
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup fresh parsley, finely chopped
4 sprigs fresh thyme
4 tbsp tomato paste
4 large tomatoes, roughly chopped
Salt, to taste
Polenta, to serve (see note)

Bake eggplant in the oven for 1 hour. Let cool slightly then remove skin and put flesh into a small bowl. Set aside.

Heat 1 tbsp olive oil in a cast iron pan. Add mushrooms and cook until fragrant and any juices released from the mushrooms have evaporated. Transfer mushroom pieces to a bowl and set aside.

Add a little olive oil to the pan you used for the mushrooms and add the onions. Cook over a medium heat until onions start to caramelise then add celery and carrot and cook until carrot starts to soften.

Add red wine to the pan and let cook for 5 minutes before adding the garlic, parsley and thyme. Once that has been mixed through, add the tomato paste and tomatoes. Season with salt.

Simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until liquid has reduced and tomatoes have softened.

Serve with some freshly cooked polenta or enjoy it with pasta.

NOTE: Bring 3 cups of water to the boil. Add salt and 3/4 cup polenta. Stir continuously until polenta thickens then remove from heat. Add 1 tbsp olive oil and 1/4 cup nutritional yeast flakes.

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The best vegan san choy bau {gluten-free}

I can finally see. I had LASIK last week and it truly was the best thing I’ve ever done. A few people told me I shouldn’t get it done, not because they had or had known someone who had a bad experience, but because “you suit glasses”, and “glasses are part of who you are”. It kinda shocked me a bit. Glasses are a medical device, but they shouldn’t define a person or be their identity.

So now, here I am. No more glasses, and with that, I can now open the oven and not have my glasses steam up, I can go swimming, I can exercise … properly. I was nervous in the lead up. In fact, that’s a bit of an understatement. This recipe for san choy bau was the best reward for those nerves. For a few minutes while eating this, I forgot about the procedure completely and all was right in the world.

You’ll love this san choy bau. It’s actually mushroom-free. I toyed with the idea of adding mushrooms for some meatiness but I’m not the biggest fan, and I really want to show you that there’s so much more to vegan meals than mushrooms.

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Gluten-free vegan san choy bau
Serves 3-4

250g organic non-GMO firm tofu
80g pine nuts
1 tbsp dry sherry
1 tbsp gluten-free soy sauce
1 tbsp rice wine vinegar
4 tbsp gluten-free hoisin sauce (Ayam makes a good one)
1 tsp sriracha (more if you can handle heat)
1 tsp arrowroot flour
1/2 red onion, diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 thumb-sized piece of ginger, diced
2 carrots, diced
2 zucchinis, diced
100g green beans, diced
Gem lettuce, to serve
Thai basil, to serve

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees C.

Cut the tofu into 6-8 even-sized pieces and bake in the oven for 20 minutes.

While tofu is in the oven, gently toast the pine nuts in a wide-based saucepan. Set aside.

Add dry sherry, soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, hoisin sauce and sriracha into a small bowl and whisk. Add arrowroot and mix until combined. Set aside.

Remove tofu from oven and let cool. Once cooled, use your hands to break up/crumble the tofu.

Heat some oil in a saucepan and add the onions. Saute for 10 minutes before adding the garlic and ginger. Once browned and fragrant, add carrot, zucchini and green beans and cook a further 5-8 minutes.

Add the tofu crumbles and pine nuts before adding the sauce ingredients to the pan. Cook until sauce thickens – approx. 5 minutes.

Serve in lettuce leaves with fresh Thai basil.