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.

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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.

Easiest-ever homemade baked beans {vegan, gluten-free}

One of my fondest childhood memories is having spaghetti bolognese on buttered crumpets for breakfast. And sometimes, when the homemade sort wasn’t on the menu, we’d have it with tinned spaghetti. Yep, I was a casual tinned spaghetti eater.

I always turned my nose up at tinned baked beans even though the sauce is probably the same as the one in tinned spaghetti. Now, I’m fully supportive of baked beans – only, the homemade variety. I can’t say when or how or why, only that I’m very glad to be at this party.

The secret to this recipe is all in the herbs. Thyme is one of them but sage really elevates the dish – not too much to overpower but not to little to get lost… just enough.

These homemade baked beans are great on gluten-free toast but they’re also great without, with some avocado and hasselback potatoes if you’re looking for a less processed option.

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Easiest-ever homemade baked beans {vegan, gluten-free}
Serves 2-3

1 brown onion, diced
1 tbsp garlic powder
2 tbsp tomato paste
1 tbsp dried thyme
3 roma tomatoes, diced
1 tsp salt
1 tin cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 cup vegetable stock
3-4 fresh sage leaves, chopped

Heat some oil in a heavy-based saucepan. Add onion and let sauté a few minutes.

Once onion is soft and slightly browning, add garlic powder, tomato paste, thyme, tomatoes and salt. Mix until well combined. Cook over medium heat stirring occasionally until tomatoes start to soften.

Add cannellini beans and mix through. Slowly add vegetable stock 1/4 cup at a time until all liquid is absorbed.

Add the chopped sage and turn off the heat. Serve with toast, avocado and/or hasselback potatoes.

Chocolate bliss balls {raw, vegan, gluten-free}

How do you know when you’ve been heading down a highway of unhappiness at 100km an hour? I only know when hindsight calls in and tells me to make a U-turn. By then, the damage has already been done – in one way or another.

Remember how I realigned my priorities this year? I was heading down that road. To get back on track, I had to address the root of the problem – my job.

It wasn’t just the environment I was in, it was the actual job. I applied for a job that encompassed a lot of the elements I enjoy, and the rest is history. Now, I’m a strategic storyteller who gets to finish my working day at 4.30pm (instead of 6pm) so I can eat better, sleep earlier and spend more time with my partner.

Now, I practice yoga at a small studio and have made it a priority to focus on what I’m consuming, like increasing the amount of organic food I prepare and eat at home, and being strict about sticking to gluten-free when I go out for a meal.

These bliss balls are contributing to my newfound happiness. They were an 11th hour effort before a few friends came over for a BBQ, and they were perfect from the get-go. I’ve made them many times since.

Chocolate bliss balls
Makes approx. 16

2 cups raw cashews
1/2 cup cacao nibs
1/3 cup cacao powder
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tbsp maple syrup
8 dates, pips removed

Add all ingredients to a food processor and process on high for around 45-60 seconds.

Add a teaspoon of water to help moisten the dough if needed and process for a few seconds more.

Mould around one tablespoon of dough into a ball and repeat for remaining mixture.

Store in the refrigerator until ready to eat.

Favourite things: June 2018

You’ll have to forgive me for not being the best at sharing new things here. I’ve been working on some new recipes that I can’t wait to share with you. They just need to be photographed.

This year is all about putting myself first, and a lot of that has been focused around my health. Six months in and I’m seeing the results of my realigned priorities – inside and out. But more on that later, here’s a couple of things that have been entertaining my mind recently.

  • I finally went ahead and made Oh Lady Cakes’ spicy peanut stew with butternut pumpkin and chickpeas (replacing peanut butter with almond butter). I’m glad I made it. It’s perfect for the cold weather.
  • Planting my first official veggie patch and it not being a complete failure. I can’t wait to show my organic harvest with you when its time.
  • I tried the Beyond Meat burger patty for the first time and have been thinking about it ever since. Not huge on mock meats but this is a whole new ball game. The whole experience was too good to be true. It was so similar to a cheeseburger from a fast food chain.
  • I’m getting back into fermenting and pickling, making a fresh batch of sauerkraut today.
  • In all of two minutes, I created and perfected the ultimate recipe for chocolate bliss balls. So naughty yet so nice. The recipe is coming soon dear friends, so hang in there.
  • The real reason my #fromscratch curry pastes don’t work is because I’m not grinding my spices down enough. Came across a lovely ceramic spice grinder that I think will do the trick far greater than my mortar and pestle abilities. This ceramic spice grinder and Ayurvedic cookbook set is on my birthday wish list
  • No-churn cookie dough ice cream is just a thought in my head for now. It will be a reality soon enough, I’m sure of it.