Cheat’s vegan banh cuon chay | Quick Vietnamese steamed rice rolls {gluten-free}

I know my last recipe was for a Vietnamese dish but stick with me. This one is that good. I remember the day I begrudgingly tried banh cuon chay. I was at my usual Vietnamese haunt and they had sold out of what I usually ordered (I’m known to rave about a restaurant for the one and only meal I’ve tried there). I saw that these steamed rice rolls were gluten-free and vegan so thought I’d give it a shot. What a blessing.

I’d never heard of them before or seen them on a restaurant menu and to this day, have not seen them on any other Sydney Vietnamese restaurant menus. It’s a shame because they are so fresh and light yet still feel like you’ve had a substantial meal. Better still, they are a great option for people with special dietary needs.

Making them at home has been on my mind for quite some time. The thought of making fresh rice sheets for them was what put me off making it earlier. Then I had a brainwave. I could layer a couple of sheets of dried rice paper to get the thickness I need, in less time and with far less stress. I reckon you should give this a shot. It’s nowhere near as laborious as you might think it is, and it tastes delicious. You’ll be eating it within the hour.

Steamed rice paper rolls

Cheat’s vegan banh cuon chay
Serves 3

For the banh cuon chay
1 clove garlic, minced
3cm piece ginger, grated
1 carrot, finely diced
50g wood ear mushrooms, finely sliced
65g organic, non-GMO tofu cubes, baked and diced
25g mung bean vermicelli noodles, cooked and finely chopped
27 rice paper rounds

For the dressing
1 lemon, juiced
1 lime, juiced
1 tbsp gluten-free soy sauce
1 tsp coconut sugar
1 tsp rice wine vinegar

Heat some neutral-flavoured coconut oil in a pan and sautee garlic. Add ginger, carrot, mushrooms and tofu, and cook until carrots start to soften. Add noodles and cook a further minute.

Transfer to a heatproof bowl and lay a damp tea towel on the kitchen bench, with a shallow dish next to it filled with water to soften the rice paper rounds.

Soften one rice paper round at a time and lay them on top of each other. Layer a maximum of three rounds per roll, and ensure you have removed as many air bubbles from each layer as possible.

Spoon some filling just below the centre and roll them tightly, as you would if they were fresh rice paper rolls. Repeat until all rounds have been used and there is no more filling left.

Place a couple at a time into a steamer. Put the lid on and steam for 3 minutes. Transfer to serving plates and repeat until all rolls have been steamed.

Combine all dressing ingredients in a bowl and stir to combine. Adjust flavours to taste.

Pour dressing over the rolls and enjoy.

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Vegan pulled ‘pork’ nachos

In my former life (the one where I ate meat), I never ate real pulled pork. I wasn’t big on the meat overall so when I saw people using jackfruit to replicate pulled pork, it took me a while to jump on the bandwagon. A whole year in fact. I wondered how I could truly veganise it if I didn’t know what the original was like.

I managed to come across some tinned jackfruit in an Asian supermarket and thought I’d give it a go, especially since my local supermarket had started stocking vegan Worcestershire sauce. With a bottle of that and some jackfruit in tow, I was ready.

I came across this fantastic hand-crafted Mexican spice mix from New Zealand a few years ago and have been addicted to it ever since. I stockpile packets of it because nothing I’ve come across comes close, and I have not been able to replicate it from a DIY spice mix. It definitely helps give the flavour a lot more dimension.

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Vegan pulled ‘pork’ nachos
Serves 4

For the pulled ‘pork’ jackfruit
1 can jackfruit, drained and rinsed
3/4 cup tomato sauce
1 tbsp maple syrup
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 tbsp vegan Worcestershire sauce
1 tbsp Tio Pablo Mayan Gold Mexican spice mix
1/4 cup water

Use a potato masher to mash jackfruit into a bowl then add rest of ingredients and mix to combine.

Add ingredients to a saucepan over a medium heat. Cook for approx. 10 minutes until liquid reduces and jackfruit is soft.

For the beans
1 red onion, finely chopped
5 tbsp Tio Pablo Mayan Gold Mexican spice mix
6 tomatoes, roughly chopped
1 cup vegetable stock
1 tin black beans, drained and rinsed
1 tin kidney beans, drained and rinsed
White corn chips, to serve
Avocado, to serve
Lime, to serve

Heat onions with some coconut oil over a medium heat. Turn heat to low and cook onions until they start to caramelise.

Add the spice mix and tomatoes and stir to combine before adding the vegetable stock and beans.

Cook until liquid reduces and tomatoes soften, about 20 minutes.

To assemble, lay corn chips around the edges of a bowl. Add beans then pulled jackfruit. Top with avocado and a drizzle of lime juice.

6-ingredient green vegan balls with quick teriyaki sauce {gluten-free}

With so many dietary restrictions, the last thing I want on a plate is carrot sticks and lettuce leaves, but lately I’ve been craving more fresh, uncooked food. I’ve found myself swapping beds of white rice for beds of fresh baby spinach. Who am I?

These green vegan balls have been doing the rounds in my household. They’re very simple to make and only require six ingredients – ingredients that are staples in all kitchens let alone vegan kitchens: chickpeas, brown rice, baby spinach, soy sauce, garlic and ginger. It’s also another vegan airfryer recipe! But don’t worry if you don’t have one – you can cook them in the oven or on the stove, as you would normally cook vegan meatballs or patties.

This sauce definitely makes the dish. I often marinate some tofu in it or add it to a simple stir fry.

Lastly, how cute is this plate?! I made it in my first term of pottery.

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6-ingredient green vegan balls with quick teriyaki sauce
serves 4

For the balls
2 cups brown rice, cooked
1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 cup baby spinach, washed and dried
2 tsp gluten-free soy sauce
1 thumb-sized piece of ginger, grated
1 tsp garlic powder

For the sauce
1/2 cup mirin
1/2 cup gluten-free soy sauce
1/2 cup filtered water
3 tbsp coconut sugar
1 thumb-sized piece of ginger, grated

Blitz all the ingredients for the balls in a food processor until combined, being careful not to over-process (you still want some texture).

Put them in the airfryer for 15-20 minutes on 180 degrees C, turning after 8 minutes.

While the balls are in the airfryer, add all of the sauce ingredients to a shallow pan over a medium heat. Cook until coconut sugar has dissolved and sauce becomes slightly thicker.

Serve balls over a bed of fresh baby spinach and drizzle with the freshly made teriyaki sauce.

The best vegan tacos

I’ve come to the conclusion that careers change you, in the same way that life events change you. Working in an industry based on communication has changed me – for better in many respects, but also for worse in some ways.

I’ve always been a homebody. And, I’ve always been an introvert with a touch of awkward. When you’re ‘green’ in my industry, you learn pretty quickly that being like this isn’t going to cut it if you want to do well and be respected for what you do. To that end, my life feels like a balancing act featuring the introverted and extroverted parts of myself. Most of the time there isn’t much balance.

These tacos were a godsend when I was feeling particularly unbalanced recently. I have been dreaming about getting a good ‘meatiness’ for my tacos before now. Mexican-spiced scrambled tofu wasn’t going to cut it and nor was nut meat, especially after recently discovering I have a mild walnut allergy (just another food allergy/intolerance for the already long list). The secret? A little bit of tofu, a little bit of tempeh, and some baked kidney beans.

2 Ingredients r3 Baked beans r4 Meat mix r1 Assembled r HERO

The best vegan tacos
Makes 10-12

1 can kidney beans, drained and baked at 200 degrees C for 15 minutes
150g organic non-GMO tofu
75g organic tempeh
1/2 brown onion, diced
1 tbsp garlic powder
1 tsp chilli powder
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried rosemary
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp sweet smoked paprika
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1 tbsp tahini
1 tbsp gluten-free soy sauce
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
Pinch of ground black pepper
Fresh tomato, red onion and lime salsa, to serve
Avocado or guac, to serve
Sriracha, to serve

Blitz tofu and tempeh in a food processor a couple of times. Set aside.

Heat coconut oil in a heavy-based pan. Add onion and saute until starting to caramelise. Add the garlic and cook on a medium heat for one minute before adding the spices. Once the spices are fragrant, add tahini, soy sauce and vinegar, followed by tofu and tempeh, baked kidney beans, and a pinch of pepper. Cook until liquid is soaked up and all ingredients are cooked through.

Spoon mix into warmed taco shells topped with fresh tomato, red onion and lime salsa, avocado slices and a touch of sriracha.

Gluten-free vegan zucchini noodle japchae

A few years ago I came across sweet potato noodles in an Asian grocer and I bought them because they were surprisingly gluten-free. The noodles sat on a shelf in my cupboard for a good six months before I finally settled on what I would do with them: make japchae, also known as Korean glass noodles.

My brief foray into Korean food started with japchae and ended with kimchi. And when I say japchae and kimchi, I mean that I really didn’t give much else a go (in my defense, Korean food isn’t well suited to both a gluten-free and vegan diet).

Finding sweet potato noodles can sometimes be like finding a needle in a haystack. Without them I could have gone for regular rice noodles, or even pasta but I decided to push myself towards something even healthier and landed on zucchini noodles.

Full disclosure, zucchini noodles really don’t do it for me. I’ll eat them from time to time, in the spirit of being healthy, and when I crave something light. Nothing is ever going to tear me away from my beloved carbs.

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Gluten-free vegan zucchini noodle japchae
Serves 2

1 tsp sesame oil
1/2 brown onion, sliced
2 spring onions, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 carrot, julienned
1/2 cup shiitake mushrooms, thinly sliced
2 tbsp gluten-free soy sauce
2 tsp rice wine vinegar
1 tsp coconut sugar
1 cup spinach leaves
3 zucchinis, spiralised
1 tbsp white sesame seeds, to serve
Small handful of chives, to serve

Heat sesame oil over a medium heat and add onion, spring onion, garlic, carrot and mushrooms. Cook for five minutes.

Add soy sauce, rice wine vinegar and coconut sugar to the pan, followed by the spinach. Cook for one minute before adding the zucchini noodles, then cook a further two-three minutes until zucchini is heated through.

Divide into two bowls and sprinkle sesame seeds and chopped chives.

Quick curry | Gluten-free vegan yellow curry

Full disclosure, I was planning to make mac n cheese. It didn’t work out. I don’t know what I was thinking anyway, I never even liked it that much. I did like fettuccine alfredo though so maybe that’s my next pasta dish to conquer.

In the meantime, I thought I’d share this recipe for the fastest curry I’ve ever whipped up. It’s delicate, flavoursome, light and best of all, you can have it from farm (or fridge!) to plate in 10 minutes.

Store-bought curry paste isn’t my preference but I’m all for shortcuts in the kitchen and when you’re counting down the minutes until you can unwind after a long day, it’s a shortcut I’m willing to take. Still, it’s not a shortcut I like to take often. Enter my gluten-free, curry paste-free, vegan Thai yellow curry made in just 10 minutes. How? The trick, my friends, is concentrated tamarind.

If you have a few more minutes to spare, you could bake some tofu for some extra protein. It will probably take you about 35 mins to prep and cook this dish if you decide you want to do the tofu, but it’s worth it. Especially if you coat the tofu in a special spice mix.

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Quick curry | Gluten-free vegan yellow curry without curry paste
Serves 3-4

For the tofu:
250g organic non-GMO tofu, cut into triangles
4 tbsp vegan fish sauce (see note)
1/2 lemon, juiced
2 tbsp dried wakame flakes
2 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp smoked sweet paprika

For the curry:
1 brown onion, halved and cut into even slices
1 mild red chilli, de-seeded and sliced longways
1 thumb-sized piece of ginger, sliced into matchsticks
1 clove fresh garlic, diced
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tbsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground turmeric
2 tbsp concentrated tamarind
270ml coconut milk
2 tbsp water
1 tsp vegetable stock powder
300g baby spinach

Preheat oven to 200 degrees C.

Marinate the tofu in vegan fish sauce and lemon juice for at least 5 minutes in the fridge (the longer, the better, but who has time to wait?). Then, in a small bowl, combine the wakame, garlic and paprika. Add each piece of tofu to the mix and evenly coat.

Place tofu on a baking tray and put in the oven for 20 minutes.

Cook onion in a wide-based saucepan over a medium heat. Once soft, add the ginger, chilli and garlic (both fresh and dried) and cook until fragrant. Add the cumin and turmeric, and stir until mixed through.

Add the coconut milk, tamarind, water and vegetable stock powder and cook for a minute longer before adding the spinach. Cook until spinach has wilted then serve into bowls with some steamed rice and a couple of pieces of baked tofu on top.

NOTE: Vegan fish sauce is available from Asian grocery stores. Look out for it in the vegetarian section. Otherwise, check out the internet. Not vegan? Use real fish sauce.