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.

A healthier take on Lao Gan Ma’s spicy chilli crisp

Sydney chef Dan Hong introduced me to Lao Gan Ma’s spicy chilli crisp and boy did I love it. Unfortunately my love for the MSG-ridden jar of goodness wasn’t reciprocated by my body, so it was only brought out on special occasions… think cheat days and such.

It wasn’t until I ate a dish featuring pickled chilli at Three Blue Ducks in Byron Bay that I was transported back to my love of spicy chilli crisp. So, I decided to give making my own version a shot.

Whenever I have a jar of this made, it’s forever on my mind. Thank you to my partner for never tiring of hearing me talk about it. And thank you also for not eating chilli so there’s more for me. I have a tendency to put it on everything… pizza, risotto, taco salad (this one is coming soon), braised chickpeas (still a work in progress) and it’s even great on plain rice.

The oil helps preserve it, but try to drain as much of it as you can before putting it on your plate. And it’s definitely worth going with whole peanuts as opposed to crushed peanuts. They’re my hot tips. Good luck!

Spicy peanut chilli crisp
Makes 1 1/4 cups

1 cup peanut oil
5 shallots, peeled
1 garlic bulb, cloves detached and peeled
1/2 c whole peanuts, shell and skin removed
1 tbsp sichuan pepper, ground
2 tbsp shiitake mushroom powder
1 1/2 c dried chillies, de-seeded (if you want it hot, keep the seeds but I recommend de-seeding to enjoy the flavour balance of all the ingredients)
2 tbsp coconut sugar
1 tbsp salt

Blitz the shallots and garlic in a food processor. Set aside. Repeat for peanuts.

Heat the peanut oil in a saucepan on the stove. Once warm, add shallots and garlic and stir constantly until they start to lightly brown.

Add peanuts and cook a further 45 seconds.

Remove from heat and add the remaining ingredients. Mix well then let cool.

Store in an airtight container in a cool, dry place and serve as a condiment on anything you like! This one keeps for 1-2 months… if you don’t eat it all first.

Pressure cooker risotto with sumac roasted butternut

Risotto isn’t a dish that’s ever really excited me, but since getting my pressure cooker and learning that you can use one to cook risotto, I thought about it giving it a go.

If you didn’t know about this already, just stop for a moment to think. That means no adding stock gradually and no stirring constantly. It means risotto can in fact be a ‘set and forget’ dish and sometimes, there’s nothing wrong with that.

After a few attempts to get it ‘just right’, this dish has quickly become a weeknight staple in my household, well and truly proving that risotto can be good – and simple.

Pressure cooker risotto with sumac roasted butternut
Serves 4

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, divided
1 tbsp sumac
1/2 butternut pumpkin, peeled and diced
1 red onion, diced
1 tbsp garlic powder
1 1/2 c arborio rice
3 1/4 c vegetable stock
1/2 c dry white wine
1 tsp salt
1/4 c nutritional yeast flakes
1 tbsp non-dairy butter (i.e. Nuttelex)
1 c chopped baby spinach

Preheat oven to 180 degrees C.

Toss butternut pumpkin with 1 tbsp olive oil and sumac then place in the oven until cooked and browning on the edges. Set aside.

While the pumpkin is cooking, heat remaining 1 tbsp olive oil to pressure cooker and the onion. After a few minutes when the onion starts to brown, add garlic powder and rice. Mix continuously until rice starts to become translucent.

Add stock, white wine and salt. Then, put the lid on and wait for it to reach pressure. Once at pressure, cook for 5 minutes.

Quick release the pressure and mix through the yeast flakes, butter and spinach. Return the lid to your pressure cooker and let it sit for about five minutes.

Gently fold the roasted pumpkin through when ready to serve.

Caramelised onion and zucchini pasta with roasted cauliflower

For a long time, I’ve been on the quest for a tomato-free vegetable pasta dish that is equally easy and delicious. It’s not that I have anything against tomato, more that I think there’s far more to vegetarian pasta recipes than marinara sauce – and to me that’s something worth exploring.

My pasta experiments proved successful more times than not, but they were often a little low on vegetables than I’d like. After perfecting a recipe for gluten-free zucchini fritters (more on that later), I realised that grated zucchini was the missing piece of the puzzle.

Caramelised onion and zucchini pasta with roasted cauliflower
(Serves 4)

1/2 cauliflower, florets removed from core and separated into small pieces
340g gluten-free pasta (Barilla gluten free elbows work well for this dish)
3 tbsp olive oil, divided
6-8 golden shallots, thinly sliced
3-4 medium-large zucchini, grated and excess moisture drained
1 cup vegetable stock
1/2 cup pine nuts
1/3 cup nutritional yeast flakes
Salt and pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 180 degrees C.

Sprinkle cauliflower with a little salt and a light drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. Place in the oven and cook for 20 minutes or until lightly browned and cooked through.

Bring a pot of water to the boil and then add the pasta. Cook according to packet instructions then drain and set aside.

Cook the shallots in a cast iron pan with a little olive oil. When the start to brown, add a teaspoon of water and stir to prolong the caramelisation. Repeat until onions are nicely brown.

Add the zucchini to the pan and cook out some of the moisture until the zucchini lightly browns. Then add vegetable stock and cook until the stock has been absorbed. Season with salt and pepper.

Transfer cooked pasta to a large bowl and gently mix through the onion and zucchini. Add 1-2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil to prevent the pasta from drying out then add roasted cauliflower, nutritional yeast and pine nuts. Give one final mix and serve among four bowls.

Indian nourish bowl with curried corn bread

This Indian nourish bowl has a very Western influence. It’s not heavy with curry and instead, borrows on classic Indian flavours we know and love.

It might look like a few steps are involved, but this one came to be by me finding and wanting to use up some random fridge leftovers. You can use these ingredients in different ways or just make one thing out of the list… I’m all for improvising.

If there’s one thing in the below recipe you should make, it’s the vegan cashew cream. Try keeping a small container of it on hand at all times. It keeps in the fridge for up to a week – unless it gets eaten first!

Indian nourish bowl with curried corn bread
Serves 4

For the curried corn bread
3/4 c polenta
1/4 c arrowroot starch
2 tbsp nutritional yeast
1 tbsp curry powder
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 c cooked quinoa, cooled
1/4 c corn kernels (optional)
2 tbsp chives, chopped
1 1/2 c coconut milk
4 tsp extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper, to taste

For the cauliflower and chickpeas
2 c cauliflower florets
1 tin chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp curry powder
Salt and pepper, to taste

For the pomegranate dressing
4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp pomegranate molasses
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 tbsp raw honey
Salt and pepper, to taste

For the vegan cashew cream
1 c raw cashews, soaked overnight
1/2 c filtered water
1 tsp nutritional yeast
1 tsp chickpea miso
1 tsp white wine vinegar
Salt, to taste

To serve
Leftover cumin rice
Leftover cooked greens
2 tbsp pumpkin seeds, toasted

To make the curried corn bread, preheat oven to 180 degrees C. In a large bowl, combine ingredients in the order listed and mix until combined. Let it rest for 10 minutes before putting in a loaf pan and cooking in the oven for approximately 40 minutes.

To make the cashew cream, add all ingredients to a high-speed blender. Blend until smooth and adjust flavourings to taste.

To make the pomegranate dressing, add all ingredients to a small-medium bowl and whisk until combined.

To assemble, put a spoonful or two of the chickpeas and cauliflower in a bowl. Next to it, add a spoonful of leftover cooked greens, then a spoonful of leftover cumin rice. Add a few slices of the curried corn bread, sprinkle the bowl with pumpkin seeds, add a dollop of cashew cream and drizzle everything with the pomegranate dressing.

Chickpea and kale salad

My plan to eat more salads as meals hasn’t completely fallen by the wayside since I bought my pressure cooker.

This roasted chickpea and kale salad with a simple tahini dressing is a surprisingly substantial meal. Even the fussiest eater in my household agrees.

Chickpea and kale salad
Serves 3-4 as a meal or 6 as a side

For the chickpeas
1 tin of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1-2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 tsp garlic powder
2 tsp cumin powder
1 tsp coriander powder
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp sweet smoked paprika
1/2 tsp pepper
Pinch of chilli powder

For the kale
2 bunches of kale, washed and roughly cut
1-2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp nutritional yeast flakes
Salt and pepper, to taste

For the dressing
1/3 c tahini
1/3 c filtered water
Juice of 1 lemon
2 tbsp-1/4 c chopped parsley
Salt and pepper

To serve
1/2 c quinoa, cooked
Leftover roast cauliflower florets
2 tbsp pumpkin seeds, toasted
200g cherry tomatoes, quartered
2 Lebanese cucumbers, sliced
2 tbsp sesame seeds

To make the chickpeas, preheat the oven to 180 degrees C. In a mixing bowl, coat the chickpeas with olive oil and then add the spices. Mix to combine, then spread out on a baking tray and bake until crisp.

To make the kale, massage the kale leaves with olive oil and sprinkle nutritional yeast and salt and pepper over the leaves. Spread evenly on a baking tray and cook for 5-10 minutes until crisp. The leaves can easily burn so keep your eye on them.

To make the dressing, add the tahini to a bowl and whisk in the filtered water until smooth. Then add lemon juice, parsley and salt and pepper and mix until combined well.

To assemble, add ingredients in the following order: kale, quinoa, cauliflower, chickpeas, tomatoes, cucumbers, pumpkin seeds, tahini dressing, sesame seeds.

Hot and sour soup {pressure cooker/Instant Pot}

I’m not the biggest fan of soups, but sometimes I’ll surprise myself and get a craving for a cleansing soup like hot and sour.

You can make this in a regular saucepan instead of a pressure cooker – it will take longer than five minutes to get the soup really flavoursome by going way of conventional cooking.

I was originally going to use bok choy in this soup, but I had a beautiful fresh bunch of gai lan (Chinese broccoli) and at the last minute, I decided to use it instead. While you could swap the gai lan out for another Asian green like pak choy or bok choy, gai lan really makes it special. It’s a seriously underrated vegetable that deserves some time in the spotlight.

Pressure cooker/Instant Pot hot and sour soup
Serves 4

1.5L vegetable stock
1 c dried shiitake mushrooms
3 garlic cloves
1 thumb-sized piece of ginger, sliced
1/4 c gluten-free soy sauce
1 tsp dried chilli flakes
1 tsp honey
1/2 tsp white pepper
1/2 tsp sesame oil
150g tofu, sliced into squares and baked for 15 minutes
50g firm tofu, roughly thickly grated
1/2 carrot, julienned
Bunch of gai lan (Chinese broccoli), stalks trimmed
1/2 c rinsed bamboo shoots (optional)
Pinch of salt
1/4 distilled white vinegar
3 spring onions, sliced

Put all ingredients excluding white vinegar and spring onions into pressure cooker. Bring to pressure and keep it at pressure for five minutes.

Release pressure then add white vinegar and spring onions. Stir and ladle soup into bowls.