Tuesday, 13 July 2010

Vegan grilled aubergine & roast tomato pasta recipe

Aubergines (eggplants) are among my favourite vegetables in the entire world, and grilling them is one of my favourite methods of preparation - and then the classic combination of aubergine, tomato and basil is just.... * swoons * :)

I can't remember exactly how I developed this recipe, but I think it's safe to say it was born from a love of that particular combination. In the days before the vegan experiment (which is becoming less and less of an experiment and more of a lifestyle as time goes on - and one I'm feeling extremely good about both mentally and physically) I used to add a cup of crumbled feta to this dish, which, if you eat cheese, works very well. If you want to include it, it just goes in when you combine all the ingredients at the end. These days however, I'm using a very basic vegan 'Parmesan' - recipe below.

Grilled aubergine & roast tomato pasta
serves 2

  • 3 large cloves of garlic finely chopped
  • 15 medium-sized ripe sweet tomatoes, quartered 
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 small aubergines (eggplants), sliced lengthwise into 0.5 cm slices
  • 200 grams of dry pasta  (I usually use spaghetti, but short pasta types work very well too)
  • generous handful of fresh basil, shredded
  • 2 tbsp of toasted flaked almonds 
  • 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar 
  • salt 
  • black pepper
  • Vegan parmesan (recipe below) to taste 

1) Preheat oven to 180*C

2) Place the tomatoes in a baking tray, sprinkle the garlic over them and drizzle with the olive oil

3) Toss the tomatoes in the dish until they are well-coated in olive oil, place them in the oven, and roast for an hour or until they just start to char a little around the edges. I love them that way, but eating burnt anything probably isn't good for you, so turn off the oven a little earlier than I do if you're concerned :). If the other ingredients aren't ready yet, just leave the tomatoes in the turned-off oven to keep warm.

4) While the tomatoes are roasting, sprinkle the aubergine slices generously with salt (you'll be rinsing this off later), and place in a colander to drain for half an hour - this leeches out the bitterness aubergines can have.

5) After half an hour, thoroughly rinse each of the aubergine slices to get the salt off, and pat dry with kitchen towel. Lightly oil a griddle pan and grill the aubergine slices in it until they are cooked and have a nice dark criss-cross pattern. Once they are grilled, cut each of the aubergine slices into bite size pieces.

6) While the aubergine slices are grilling, set a pan of water to boil for the pasta, and cook it according to packet instructions

7) Remove the tomatoes from the oven and put them in a large bowl, also pouring in all the olive oil and juices in the baking tray with them

8) Add the basil, pasta, and aubergine to the bowl and drizzle with a bit of balsamic vinegar, add salt and pepper to taste, and toss everything together. I usually also stir in a tablespoon of the vegan Parmesan, and put the remaining Parmesan on the table for anyone who wants more. 

9) finally, garnish with the toasted almonds, and presto!

Vegan 'Parmesan' 

  • 1/2 cup of nutritional yeast
  • 1/4 cup of peeled almonds
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1 tsp sea salt

Blend all ingredients in a food processor until the mix has a light, crumbly fine-grated parmesan-like texture.

Sunday, 30 May 2010

Spicy vegan roast tomato and bell pepper soup recipe

This is an old favourite of mine, I've been making it for years and have recently switched the cream cheese I used to use in it for soy cooking cream. I'm not a big fan of many soy products and have not been able to get even this soy cream to work for me in any other recipes yet, but in this soup it is just fine! I really do make it quite spicy, just cut down on the garlic and chili if you prefer a milder taste (or have a date the night you're eating it :)). This soup freezes well, so I always make a large quantity regardless of how many people I'm cooking for.

Spicy Tomato and Bell Pepper Soup
(serves 4-6 as a main meal with bread)

  • 15 ripe medium-sized tomatoes, quartered
  • 2 red bell peppers, deseeded and cut into large chunks
  • 2 yellow bell peppers, deseeded and cut into large chunks
  • 4-5 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • 2-3 small dried red chili peppers, crushed
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 3 medium onions, roughly chopped
  • water as needed
  • 2 vegetable stock cubes
  • 250 ml of soy single cream alternative (unsweetened)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • handful of roughly chopped rocket for garnishing (optional)


1) Preheat the oven to 180*C, and place the chopped tomatoes and bell peppers in a large baking tray. Sprinkle with the garlic and chili, drizzle with 2 tbs of the olive oil, and toss until the vegetables are lightly coated with the oil. Roast in the oven until cooked and just beginning to char at the corners, about 45 minutes. Toss the vegetables again once or twice while they are cooking.

2) When the tomatoes and peppers have been in the oven for about 20 minutes, heat the remaining olive oil in a large pan (big enough to hold all the vegetables with some space to spare), and gently saute the onions over a medium heat until they turn glassy.

3) When the tomatoes and peppers are roasted, add them to the pan with the onions, also pouring in the cooking juices from the baking dish. Add enough water to just cover the vegetables, crumble in the stock cubes, and bring to the boil.

4) When the stock cubes have dissolved, remove the pan from the heat, add the soy cream, and puree the soup using a blender.

5) Add salt and pepper to taste, garnish with the rocket, and serve with bread and anything else you fancy!

Thursday, 20 May 2010

Recipes for vegan spicy stuffed aubergines, sweet potatoes and mango and avocado salad

My recent forays into veganism are forcing me to experiment and learn a lot of new recipes and techniques, and I'm really enjoying it! I've been using the Fitday Calorie Counter, not to count calories since I don't want to lose weight, but to track nutrients. So far, this has told me that I am quite lacking in potassium, calcium and protein today, so I will be doing a squash and spinach risotto, briefly baked in the oven with a pine nut and almond 'cheese' topping - if it turns out well I'll post it here. It's an interesting way to plan meals - fill out the counter throughout the day, and then plan dinner based on your deficiencies. It's educational, too - until I had to go googling "vegetarian potassium sources" I had no idea squashes and leafy greens were potassium-rich - or that significant amounts of potassium can be lost in the cooking process. That's okay, I'll just eat more :-)  

Since my first attempt at a cashew-based sauce I've done quite a few more, including an adaptation of this recipe for asparagus linguine alfredo: I used cashews since macadamias cost  a fortune, and it turned out rather delicious, I'll have to make it again before asparagus season is out! I also found this great recipe for a faux-cheese sauce which tastes remarkably cheesy: I've used it as a pizza topping, as a sandwich topping, in pasta sauces, and on one of today's recipes, the stuffed aubergines.

Three recipes today, which between them make a very nice 4 person meal.

Spicy stuffed aubergines
This recipe developed from an attempt to recreate a very nice takeaway lunch I got from a Turkish restaurant in The Hague. It doesn't much resemble the original anymore, but I rather like the result :)


  • 4 large aubergines (eggplants), halved lengthwise
  • 2 medium onions, finely chopped
  • 150 grams finely chopped carrots 
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped (or more, or less, depending on how much of a garlic-head you are... I ADORE garlic myself :))
  • 6 finely chopped plum tomatoes (a 400 gram can of chopped tomatoes also works fine) 
  • 1 can of tomato puree
  • 3/4 cup of dried green lentils (I'm sure it would work just fine with other lentils, too, this is just what I happened to have in the house) 
  • 1 bayleaf (optional) 
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 small dried chili, crushed
  • 7 - 8 green peppercorns in vinegar (like this, I think you can get them in brine, too), crushed
  • handful of flat-leaf parsley, coarsely chopped
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • Optional toppings: vegan cashew cheese, vegetarian cheese of your choice or toasted breadcrumbs - also fine without any topping though


1) Preheat the oven to 200*C, and place the aubergines cut-side up in a lightly greased baking tray. Roast them until they are mostly cooked and lightly browned on top - about half an hour - and while they are roasting prepare the other ingredients

2) put the lentils in a pan with plenty of water with the bay leaf (do not add salt), bring to the boil, and simmer until the lentils are quite soft (20-30 minutes). When they are done, remove from heat and pour off excess water

3) Meanwhile, in a large pan saute the onions in olive oil with a little salt for about five minutes, then add the carrots. Continue to saute until the onions are soft and sweet, then add the garlic and saute for a couple more minutes - don't let the garlic burn

4) Add the tomatoes, tomato puree, spices, crushed green peppercorns and salt to the mix, heat through and adjust spices to taste

5) When the aubergines are done, carefully scoop out the flesh, leaving the shell at least 1/2 inch thick. Finely chop the flesh, and add it, the lentils and the flat leaf parsley to the tomato sauce. Mix it all together, taste for final seasoning, and fill the aubergine shells. (I usually have some stuffing left over, and have it with toast for lunch the next day)

6) Top the stuffed aubergines with the topping of your choice or leave them as they are, and bake them in the oven for a final ten minutes - or slightly longer if your topping needs it.  

Avocado and Mango salad
This is again a recipe improvised based on a dish I had in a restaurant - the lovely Moorings restaurant in Mtwapa, Kenya, to be precise: if you ever find yourself near Mombasa, I heartily recommend it for the lovely food, incredibly friendly service, relaxed atmosphere and gorgeous location!


  • 2 very ripe mangoes, cut into bite-sized chunks
  • 4 ripe avocados, cut into same chunks as mango
  • bunch of fresh coriander (cilantro) 
  • small red onion or spring onion, very finely chopped  
  • olive oil to taste
  • salt and pepper to taste 

Preparation:  Mix it all together :)
Fresh coriander is one of those love-or-hate foods, so check with your fellow diners, and leave it on the side if anyone can't stand the stuff.

Finally, I accompanied these dishes with roast sweet potato - I can't even really call it a recipe, I just scrubbed them (1 large sweet potato per person), cut them into small chunks, and roasted them in the oven at the same time as the aubergines, tossed with some olive oil, sea salt, freshly ground black pepper, and a pinch of dried thyme.

I thought the three worked really well together!

Monday, 19 April 2010

Vegan cashew cream pasta recipe

I've been experimenting with vegan food a lot recently: I've been re-evaluating after reading Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer and The Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan, even though neither of them specifically advocate turning vegan.

I don't intend to go fully vegan either, but I've been trying to go for fewer animal products, more organic, and more local and seasonal - within the restrictions of my budget and working hours: a lot of the time I still have to go to the major supermarkets and settle for the most ethical/affordable option they have. Oh... and another boundary is stuff that won't grow here no matter what the season :) I'll cut down on the exotics, sure, but no WAY am I giving up coffee, to name just one thing.

So, for the next recipe, the cashew nuts were most definitely not local, and to be honest I'm not quite sure where the pasta and the sun-dried tomatoes came from... but the courgette was local, and organic, and from the little eco cornershop rather than the big supermarket, and the cashew nuts also came from said cornershop.

I've found that I'm not wild about a lot of soy-based dairy replacements (though some have worked well for me, recipes to follow), so in search of other options I came across cashew nuts as a base for faux creams and sour creams, which is what I was trying out in this experiment. It's not a culinary masterpiece, but it's quick and tasty, and I thought the cashew sauce worked beautifully - will definitely be experimenting further with that!

Cashew cream pasta
(serves 2)
blender or immersion blender


(the 'cup' used in this and other recipes is a mug, which, as I have just measured and used teh interwebz to convert, holds just over one US cup of water or 8.45 fl.oz)
  • 1 cup of raw cashew nuts  
  • 2 cups of water
  • 2-3 tbs lemon juice (optional)
  • 1 medium courgette (zucchini), halved and thinly sliced 
  • 10-15 sundried tomatoes in oil, coarsely chopped (if you're health/calorie conscious, drain the oil and pat the tomatoes dry with kitchen towel. I just fished them out of the jar, but didn't try to get rid of excess oil)
  • 2 tbs pine nuts
  • 250 g./9 oz spaghetti
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • olive oil
1) blend the cashew nuts, water and a little salt for a few minutes or until very, very smooth.

2) Heat the cashew sauce in a heavy saucepan, stirring frequently, until it has significantly thickened - careful not to let it burn - and turn off the heat

3) Put on water for the pasta, and in a large skillet gently dry-toast the pine nuts: careful, they can burn very suddenly. While they are toasting, chop the tomatoes and slice the courgette.

4) remove the pine nuts from the pan and set aside. Heat a little olive oil in the same pan, and gently saute the courgette unlil soft and translucent. Meanwhile, cook the spaghetti according to packet instructions

5) add the sundried tomatoes to the pan with the courgette and briefly cook, then add the cashew sauce. I wanted to go for a slight creme fraiche/sour cream-like sourness, so at this point I stirred in the lemon juice.

6) Finally, stir in the pine nuts, and add the pasta to the sauce, add salt and pepper to taste.


Wednesday, 17 February 2010

Pancake Day!!! A vegetarian pancake cannelloni recipe

Growing up, pancakes were not considered a main course in our house, they were always a desert, usually following a traditional Dutch pea soup. At the ripe old age of 29, I am still not able to overcome this part of my upbringing, not even for Shrove Tuesday. In stead, I decided to make a savoury pancake dish, an adaptation of my usual cannelloni recipe: Introducing Panelloni! (yeah, I know.... * groan *)

(serves 4 when served with side salad & bread)

I used a pancake batter recipe from BBC Good Food (great site by the way), and made my pancakes as thin as possible so the end result wouldn't be too doughy. My oven dish - dimensions to be added later when I've measured it :) - fit 8 filled pancake rolls.

  • 1 300g bag of fresh spinach, chopped
  • 1 250g tub of ricotta
  • 1 large onion finely chopped
  • couple of cloves of garlic finely chopped
  • 80g freshly grated pecorino
  • finely grated zest of 1 lemon
  • 50g pine nuts, toasted
  • 2 tbs olive oil
  • salt & pepper to taste
Tomato sauce:
  • 2 400g cartons/cans of chopped tomatoes
  • 1 onion finely chopped
  • handful of fresh basil leaves, finely chopped
  • salt and pepper
  • 2 tbs olive oil
  • 50g grated pecorino to sprinkle on top

(errr... I'm actually not to sure about the amounts of pecorino, I didn't weigh them... will do and edit next time I make this. In the mean time, trust your own judgment - if it looks like a ridiculous amount, stop)


Preheat the oven to 190°C / gas mark 5

I suggest getting a minion to make the pancake batter and pancakes while you prepare the filling and tomato sauce. While none of this is complicated, it involves a lot of parallel processes, rendering minions very useful.

  • gently fry the onions in the olive oil until they start to change colour
  • add the garlic and spinach and fry until the spinach has fully reduced, pour off any excess water
  • stir in the ricotta, lemon zest, pecorino, pine nuts, and salt and pepper to taste (taste before adding the salt, as pecorino is a fairly salty cheese)
Tomato sauce
  • fry the onion in the olive oil over a low heat until soft and sweet
  • add chopped tomatoes
  • add the basil
  • add salt & pepper to taste
  • cook until hot but not boiling
  • Put a thin layer of tomato sauce in the bottom of a large square or oblong oven dish
  • divide the filling over the pancakes and roll them up, then place side by side in the oven dish
  • cover in remaining tomato sauce
  • sprinkle with remaining pecorino
  • bake in oven for 20 – 30 minutes, until the pecorino is melted and beginning to turn brown

...Oh, and of course I had my minion make extra batter, so we had pancakes for desert as well.