Easy quinoa tabbouleh

Remember when I told you that there was a time in my life when I ate fried rice for lunch every single day? Well, there was also a time when I ate tabbouleh for lunch every single day.

I recently realised that since giving up wheat, I haven’t spent a lot of time revisiting my tabbouleh days. When I whipped up this test batch of wheat-free quinoa tabbouleh, it was clear that ignoring it for all these years was a huge mistake.

Not a fan of tabbouleh? I get it. But make sure you’ve really given it a go first. Sometimes, I cook some gluten-free penne pasta, drizzle it with a touch of red wine vinegar, sprinkle it with some nutritional yeast flakes and mix a couple of dessert-spoons of this tabbouleh through it. Some might call it carb overload. Others (myself included) would question whether that’s really such a thing.

Easy quinoa tabbouleh
Makes enough to feed four people as a generous side

1/3 c extra virgin olive oil
Juice of 1 lemon
200g cherry tomatoes, quartered
3 spring onions, finely sliced
1 c parsley, finely chopped
1/2 c mint, leaves torn
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground allspice
1/2 tsp sumac
1/2-3/4 c cooked white quinoa
Salt and pepper

In a small bowl, whisk olive oil with lemon juice. Set aside.

In a medium-sized bowl, add tomatoes, spring onions, parsley, mint and spices. Mix to combine.

Gently fold the quinoa through the salad ingredients. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

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Asian bean curd rolls {gluten-free, vegan}

There’s a small vegetarian Chinese restaurant in my hometown that made me fall head over heels for tofu skin (also known as yuba). You wouldn’t know it was anything special from the menu name ‘crispy bean curd skin’ but one day my mum ordered it on a whim and after that, a trip to this restaurant wasn’t complete without a plate – or two!

You can buy dried beancurd sheets from Asian supermarkets. For this recipe, you’ll need the sheets, not dried beancurd sticks, which are also available (and also delicious – but more on that later).

You can do a lot with tofu skin, like soaking it in flavourings and deep frying, or filling it with stuffing and pan frying. My love for eating trumps my love for cooking, so nine times out of 10, I’m looking for shortcuts to spend less time in the kitchen.

Which brings me to these seriously tasty tofu skin rolls that sound a lot more complicated than they actually are. Just think of it as a new way to enjoy tofu.

Once cooked, the rolls can be sliced up and added to a buddha bowl, stir fry or even used as a pho topping. Any leftover slices can be stored in the freezer. Just reheat them in a warm pan before eating.

Asian bean curd rolls {gluten-free, vegan}
Makes approx. 2 medium rolls

1 1/2 c filtered water
1/4 c gluten-free soy sauce
1 tbsp dry sherry
1 tsp coconut sugar
1 thumb-sized piece of ginger, peeled and cut into 2-3 pieces
2 cloves
1 whole dried red chilli
1 star anise
1/2 cinnamon stick
1 packet of dried bean curd sheets

Add water, soy sauce, sherry, coconut sugar, ginger, cloves, chilli, star anise and cinnamon to a small saucepan and bring to a boil.

Let simmer for 10 minutes then strain and let the sauce cool.

Unfold the bean curd sheets. Leaving the sheets on top of each other, roughly cut about 5cm off the edge right around the sheets – try to do this in one go so you have a long offcut from each sheet.

Set aside all the sheets. Group the offcuts together and tie it in a rough knot. Submerge the knot in the sauce for about five minutes to soak.

Place one sheet onto a clean damp tea towel and using tongs, pick up the knot and use it as a brush to coat the entire sheet. Repeat with remaining sheets, returning the knot to the pan as needed to soak up more sauce.

Once all the sheets have been coated, place the knot in the middle of the sheets. Fold the sides in first, then move the knot towards you, to the edge of the sheets, so it can be the centre of the roll. Then, tightly roll the sheets up to form a log.

Cut the log into two pieces (three pieces if this won’t fit in your steamer) and steam for around 15 minutes. Then, remove from steamer and pan fry each roll for three minutes on one side, and three minutes on the other side.

Let cool slightly before slicing into thin pieces. Add to a cooked stir fry, buddha bowl or use as a pho topping.

Baked sweet potato with white beans and parsley seaweed pesto butter

I’ve probably told you before that I don’t make new year’s resolutions. If I want to change something, I change it then and there rather than waiting for a new year to roll around.

In saying that, I’m not opposed to giving each year a theme. Telling you mine is going to help keep me accountable so I stick with it. My theme for this year is ‘fresh’. For as long as I can remember, I’ve focused on cooking and preparing the types of meals that warm me up from the inside out. They’re the types of meals that only need one pot, pan or tray like curry, stir-fry, stew, and sheet pans.

‘Fresh’ is about turning these meals upside down (figuratively, not literally). That means more fresh and raw ingredients in my bowl instead of featuring them as a garnish or side salad. It means more meals that marry different flavours on my plate instead of these flavours cooking harmoniously in a pot. It means turning to new ingredients or the ones I don’t use often instead of reaching for my favourites every meal.

This recipe for baked sweet potato with white beans and parsley seaweed pesto butter is about breathing new life into seaweed – to prove it can do a lot more than embrace rice in sushi. After trying this recipe, you’ll agree with me that it can.

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Baked sweet potato with white beans and parsley seaweed pesto butter
Serves 2

2 medium-sized sweet potatoes, roasted with the skin on until flesh is soft
1 can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
1 sheet nori seaweed
1 handful fresh parsley
1/2 avocado
10 baby capers, drained
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup pine nuts
Juice of 1/2 lemon
Salt and pepper

Cook the cannellini beans in a little bit of olive oil and dusted with a sprinkle of salt until the edges start to crisp up on some of them. Set aside.

To make the parsley seaweed pesto butter, add nori, parsley, avocado, capers, extra virgin olive oil, pine nuts, lemon, salt and pepper to a food processor and process until combined.

Cut a cross along the top of the cooked sweet potatoes and gently break them open. Add some spoonfuls of the cooked beans to the sweet potatoes and then some dollops of pesto butter.

Serve any leftover pesto butter on the side in a small bowl – it’s likely to be eaten in the one sitting!

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.

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.