One of the fastest growing food trends over the last decade is veganism. In the 90s Veganism was merely a fringe offshoot of the vegetarian movement centred around animal rights or environmental activists, fast-forward 20 years and there are vegan restaurants, there are vegan celebrities, vegan sports people, vegan body builders, vegan models and most interesting to my mind vegan foodies.
Terms like vegan curious or mid-week vegans are now common and understood and generally there are just more people who just generally want to include more vegan meals in their diet, be that one meal a week or every meal. Vegan cooking has also lost the bland tag it had in the 90s and is now seen as a creative way of cooking, flavor and nutrition need to come from different places and just being aware of that and thinking about those things let us create some awesome dishes.
Hopefully this article will find its way to more than the 3-4% of Australian’s who identify as vegan; but also to the other 96-97% of Australian’s who may wish to try a few vegan meals.
When cooking vegan, I hate seeing fake meats and nut cheese. I’m not interested in saying, hey, I love hotdogs, this is how we can make them vegan. I’m interested in saying, hey here is some interesting vegan cooking and even if you do eat meat and dairy, you don’t want to add them to these dishes, because they’re not needed.
So, here are my top 10 vegan dinners:
1. Spicy Nepalese Dahl Bhat, Sherpa Stew Style.
Dhal Bhat is the staple dish of Nepal, Dhal is a Lentil curry and Bhat is rice. Sherpa Stew is the staple dish of the Sherpa people who live in the Himalaya region of Nepal. What we are going to do here is combine these 2 classic dishes from Nepal into one excellent dish.
Wash 500g of lentils, then add them to 4 cups of water, and cook on the stove for 30 minutes. Add a little thyme to the mixture to add some flavour.
Cut up 2 large onions and fry them in oil with 4 cloves of garlic, a tablespoon of ginger, a teaspoon of turmeric, two teaspoons of cumin, half a tablespoon of diced red chilies, salt and pepper.
Add two diced sticks of celery and two diced carrots. Once the onions are transparent, add the lentils (including the water). Add 4 potatoes cut into quarters and cook until the potatoes are soft. Add salt, pepper and extra chili to taste.
Serve with Rice – here’s a tip to help make your rice fluffy, wash your rice beforehand to remove extra starch, then cook the rice in double the volume of water.
2. Loaded Butternuts
When you’re cooking loaded potatoes, you have to scoop some potato out to create a cavity to stuff, butternut pumpkin comes with its own convenient cavity. Its like this dish was made for butternut pumpkins and not potatoes. This is an autumn classic that takes advantage of chestnuts, which come into season around the middle of March; if you’re looking to cook this at another time of year, you can use a mixture of walnuts, almonds and cashews instead.
Grab about 250g of chestnuts, score the shell, add to some cold water with a tablespoon of salt and bring to the boil. As soon as the water is boiling, drain the chestnuts and put them in the oven for 15m at 260C. Allow the cool, then peel off the shell.
Pre-cook about 100g of short-grain or Arborio rice.
Cut your butternut in half longways and scoop out the seeds, bake in the oven at 200C for about 45 minutes. Fry one large diced onion and 3 cloves of garlic in olive oil, add rice, a cup of red wine, 6 sliced up sundried tomatoes, the finely dice chestnuts, ¼ of a cup of sultanas, ½ teaspoon of all spice, ¼ teaspoon sumac and about 10 fresh sage leaves. Cook mixture for about 5 minutes, or until it reduces and is all sticky.
Stuff the butternut with the rice and chestnut mixture and cook in the over for a further hour. If you need more space when stuffing the butternut, cut some of the flesh out and add it back into the rice mixture.
This makes an excellent vegan meal which goes well with roast vegetables.
3. Vegan’s Shepard’s Pie
There’s something about the way lentils look that just make you want to replace mince; they’re both tiny brown lumps they are super flexible. I usually prefer to make something altogether different, than to replace meat in a meal, but I’m almost always happy to swap mince for lentils.
Shepard’s Pie has 2 parts, the mash and the “meat”. We will start with the mash, but you should be able to make this while the meat is cooking. Some of you will prefer to use potato for your mash, and you can, but we’re going to recommend sweet potato, it just works really well in this dish, lentils and sweet potato are a good combo. So peel 3 medium sweet potatoes and boil them in water for 20 minutes, until soft. Mash them and season with salt, pepper, nutmeg and cinnamon and add a little garlic infused olive oil to give it the right texture.
Now it’s time for the meat – dice up one large onion, a stick of celery, a carrot and a handful of mushrooms (mushrooms should make up about half the vegetables here), fry in a pot with a couple of smashed up garlic cloves. Add a couple of sprigs of Thyme and Rosemary. Add a cup of lentils and 3 cups of vegetable stock, some mustard and port to your sauce here, add a little bit, but continue to taste the sauce and add to it until you get it right; cook for 35 minutes or until the lentils are soft. Add in half a cup of chopped walnuts, stir through and add salt and pepper and cook for another 5 minutes.
Now all you need to do is to put your meat in a dish and top with your mash and cook in the oven for 10 minutes on a low heat (160-180C).
4. Sweet and Sour Eggplant Stir Fry
Dice 2 large eggplants, rise them in water, salt them and leave them for 60-90 minutes. Chop up one pineapple, and a selection of your favourite vegetables, I like spring onions, red capsicums, snow peas and carrots; but zucchini, broccoli, cauliflower, bok choy, mushrooms and bean shoots all work well too; you should have approximately as many vegetables as you do eggplant.
Combine 2 parts ketjap manis with one part rice wine vinegar, with 2 cloves of minced garlic and a minced chili (chili optional), squeeze in a little lime juice too and some raw sugar, mix and leave for 15 minutes for the flavours to combine.
Fry eggplant and vegetables in seasame oil, in a hot wok, add sauce mixture, pineapple and a table spoon of sesame seeds.
Seve with your choice of rice or noodles.
5. Fancy Falafel Roll
If you are a vegan or vegetarian, then I think it’s almost compulsory to love falafels. You can use falafels in so many different ways and today I’m going to make a falafel and salad roll; but you can use these little balls of yummy any way you want. They are often a little dry, but that’s easily remedied by adding sauce to them, any sauce you like really.
We need to make the falafels first, so mix 600g of dried chick peas and 200g of dried fava beans and soak them overnight. Only use 400g of the chick peas, save the rest for the hummus. Then get your food processor out and blend the peas and beans with 1 bunch of chopped parsley, 1 medium brown onion, and a dozen cloves of garlic (roasted is better). Season your mixture with cumin, ground coriander seeds, salt, pepper and lemon juice. Then make into balls and deep fry.
Now onto the sandwich – I’ve going to have falafel and eggplant rolls, with grated carrots, lettuce, tomato, pickles, hummus, garlic and chilli sauce. I’m going to save you the instruction on how to make a sandwich, but here’s how to make the sauces, pickles and eggplant.
Eggplant – Thinly slice some eggplant, salt, leave for 60 minutes, then fry.
Pickles – Thinly slice up some radishes and/or turnips, soak in equal parts vinegar and sugar and leave for 60-120 minutes.
Chili Sauce – Combine 500g of diced tomatoes, with 250g of chili and a diced onion, put in a pot and cover with equal parts white wine vinegar and sugar, bring to the boil for 5 minutes, and you have your own chili sauce.
Hummus – Blend the remaining 200g of chickpeas in the food processor with a table spoon of tahini, 2 cloves of roasted garlic, the juice of one lemon, a tablespoon of olive oil. Add in a teaspoon of paprika and some salt.
Garlic Sauce – Chill 500g of oil in the fridge, then blend it with a stick mixer until it changes consistency (to that of garlic sauce). Peel every clove on a bulb of garlic, add equal parts water and lemon juice to the garlic and blend, add the oil mixture and some salt, and blend until it is consistent. You need a very high speed blender for this, a stick mixer is best, but you may be able to do this in a food processor depending on the speed of the blades and the shape and temperature of the room and well science; just use a stick mixer.
6. Kale, Black Beans, Sweet Potato and Quinoa Burrito Simple and yummy – also, you can use the salsa recipe in so many other dishes.
Soak 250g of Black Beans overnight.
Cook one cup of quinoa in 2 cups of water, add a little salt, it will take 15-20 minutes. Put aside.
Dice 3 medium peeled sweet potatoes into bite sized piece, roast in the oven at 200C for about 20 minutes. Fry a diced onion, 3 cloves of garlic and a diced red capsicum in a pan, add beans, quinoa and roasted sweet potato and you’ve got your filling.
Salsa – In a food processor mix equal parts lime juice, white wine vinegar and sugar. Add one fried diced onion and 5 diced tomatoes, 5 cloves of roasted garlic and 3 fresh jalapenos (you can use as few or as many chillis as you want), coriander, a splash of olive oil, salt and pepper. Blend.
Finally, all you need to do is get some wraps, add your sweet potato and bean mixture, garnish with the salsa and a slice of avocado and you’re done!
7. Beetroot and Black Bean Burgers with Beetroot and ginger Relish
Soak 500g of Black Beans overnight, add salt to the soaking water.
Mash Black Beans, and add 2-3 grated bulbs of beetroot. Wash the leaves of the beetroot bulbs, finely chop them up and fry them with some onions and garlic – if you have topless beetroots, you can substitute spinach. Add onion and beetroot leaf mixture to beans, add ¼ cup of LSA, paprika, cumin, sumac and black pepper. Once you’ve made these into burger patties, you can either bake these in the over or deep fry them.
Beetroot and Ginger Relish – Grate 3 bulbs of beetroot, 1 granny smith apple, add a diced red onion and a knob of ginger about half the size of your thumb. Add to a pan with 2 cups of balsamic vinegar and a cup of raw sugar; add a teaspoon of each all spice, ground coriander, ground pepper and salt. Bring to the boil and reduce.
8. Jamaican Banana Soup
This is one of the most bizarre meals I have ever made, and when I tell people it works, nobody believes me… but it works, really well. The combinations of spice, sweet and salty really works well together.
Fry 5 sliced bananas in olive oil, with one diced onion, 1 celery stick, 1 carrot, add in a sprig of rosemary and thyme and 3 birds eye chilis. Once the onions are transparent, add in 1 litre of vegetable stock, 1 teaspoon of cinnamon, 1 teaspoon of cumin and ¼ cup of sugar. Cook for 20 minutes, then blend everything together. Add one cup of orange juice and one cup of coconut milk. Add salt, pepper and tomato sauce (surprisingly tomato sauce works really well here). Garnish with banana chips and chopped parsley.
9. Sweet Potato and Portobello Mushroom Satay
Doesn’t matter what your diet is, Satay Sauce is awesome.
Any recipe for Satay Sauce seems to start with Peanut Butter – but did you know Peanut Butter is really easy to make, you need 2 things, peanuts and salt – put them in the food processor and blend. Well to make satay sauce we’re going to do almost the same thing, in a good processor put 500g of peanuts, a cup of water, ½ teaspoon of salt, a tablespoon of ketjap manis, 2 tablespoons of raw sugar, 5 cloves of roast garlic, and a chili. You can use coconut milk instead of the water if you prefer.
Roast Sweet Potatoes and Portobello Mushrooms in the oven for 30 minutes at 180C. Cook some long grain rice, and then serve the sweet potatoes and mushroom on the rice, covered in satay, garnish with some coriander and chili.
10. Chana Masala
Chana Masala is a chickpea curry. Curry is an awesome way to eat vegan food, and we could have done an article on just vegan curries; but there’s something a little iconic about the Chana Masala. This is the vegan dish you make when you want to be bold and out there, but secretly you’re still playing it safe.
Soak 500g of Chickpeas overnight, or cook them in a pot of boiling water for an hour.
Mortar and Pestle 4 cloves of garlic, 1 knob of ginger and 2 red chilies together (you can use whatever chilies you like, but red cayenne is best), add a generous pinch of salt.
In a pan fry whole mustard seeds, cumin, cloves and cardamom (1 teaspoon of each, except the cardamom, only use 2 of them). Cook for about 10-15 seconds, until you can start to smell the spices, and add in a diced onion, once the onions are transparent add in 6 diced roma tomatoes, cook for a further 3 minutes on a hot heat, until the tomatoes start to lose their shape and add the garlic, ginger and chili paste, a teaspoon of ground coriander, black pepper, ground cumin and turmeric. Add chickpeas and mix everything around.
Serve on rice and garnish with coriander and fresh chili.
Now you’ve got 10 awesome vegan meals you can try; let me know what you think and what vegan meals you cook. Happy Eating.