Vegetarian

Quinoa & Chickpea Salad with Asparagus, Avocado and Sugar Snap Peas

Quinoa & Chickpea Salad with Asparagus and Sugar Snap Peas

Quinoa: the mere mention of the word is enough to instill a sense of dread in any meat lover!

Thankfully, the recent popularity of couscous and, to a lesser extent, bulgar wheat, have paved the way for a quinoa renaissance of sorts. With an increased appreciation of grains as a healthier alternative to traditional carbs, quinoa is no longer the preserve of sandal wearing hippies and long forgotten Incas. This once sacred grain is now the darling of the health conscious and has even sneaked into the hearts of some of the most ferocious carnivores among us, myself included!

Which brings me to this awesome salad.

Packed with the best of nature, this salad tastes like Spring on-a-plate and makes for an excellent side dish to a braai or just as a great vegan/vegetarian dinner. I must confess, this sort of food is not usually my style, but this fabulous salad was a result of the need to feed a guest who was on a restricted diet and my repertoire is all the better for it!

Forced to go “healthy” for the sake of my guest, I turned to the healthiest food I knew of – quinoa. Unfortunately, my previous experiences of this protein rich grain were limited to its popular use as a poor meat substitute in the 90s – not a great starting point for any dish! Nevertheless, after a flurry of panicked internet trawling and cookbook research, I discovered that quinoa has come along way since the days when it was relegated to being stuffed into vegan sausages.

Simple to cook and easy to digest, quinoa was an absolute revelation! Delightfully flavoured, quinoa is, in my opinion, far nicer than couscous (which can be rather dull) and bulgar wheat (which is, at best, indigestible). With its distinctly nutty flavour, quinoa is tasty without being overpowering, making it the perfect base for any tabbouleh style salad.

So, quite unexpectedly I find myself in love with quinoa…and after you try this dish, the chances are you will be too.

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Ingen no goma-ae いんげんのごま (Green Beans in Sesame Dressing)

This is one of my favourite Japanese ways to serve vegetables – it is simple, quick to make and utterly delicious!

imageThe key to the dish is toasting the sesame seeds, this adds a taste and aroma that marries perfectly with the sweetness of the dressing. Just be careful not to burn the seeds, as this will make the dish bitter. Of course, this dressing can also be used with other types of vegetables, like tender-stem broccoli, asparagus or even carrots to name just a few. Whatever your preferred vegetable though, it is vital that you cook them until just al dente.

Variations: Half a tablespoon of miso paste can also be added to the sesame dressing, however I would reduce the amount of soya sauce, as the miso will make the dish saltier.

Note: The sesame dressing makes a great onigiri filling, especially if you’ve added the miso paste!

For more Japanese recipes, please click HERE or to find out more about how to stock a Japanese Pantry, please click HERE

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Tarka Dhal

Tarka DhalDhal is perhaps the unsung hero of Indian cuisine. All too often dismissed as a poor man’s curry or a dreary side dish, dhal is in fact so much more. Nutritious, simple and varied, dhal deserves to feature in any Indian meal. Personally, I could happily tuck into just a bowl of dhal and rice!

This recipe is dhal in its purest form. Flavoured with turmeric and seasoned with a tarka, this dhal recipe is delightfully simple and incredibly tasty.

The recipe uses two different types of dhal, red and yellow, but feel free just use 150g of either.

Unlike curries, dhal is best eaten on the same day it is made.

For more of my top picks for an Indian feast, please click here

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Lobia Khumbi (Black-eyed Beans with Mushrooms)

Sometimes the best meals come into your life quite unexpectedly and they stay with you forever – this is such a dish!

Many years ago I was planning a dinner party and one of the guests came with a painfully long list of dietary restrictions, chief amongst them being the double-act of inconvenience that is veganism and gluten intolerance! As I suffer from neither affliction, my instinctive response was just to cancel the dinner altogether, problem solved! Never one to back down from a culinary challenge, however, I decided to go ahead with the dinner after all and serve the mother of all vegan cuisines – I went Indian.

Lobia Khumbi (Black-eyed Beans with Mushrooms)Your rogan joshs and butter chickens aside, Indian food is perhaps the most karma-conscious cuisine in the world. With a mind boggling array of vegan and vegetarian dishes to choose from, one is never short of tasty delights from the sub-continent. An Indian feast is always a great option for a dinner party as the multiple dishes needed, allow you to cater for a wide range of tastes and needs, all without compromising the overall success of the meal. Generally speaking, whether the dish be vegan or laden with meat, all Indian food goes well together.

Which brings me to this particular recipe. Lobia Khumbi (Black-eyed Beans with Mushrooms) is a great addition to any Indian spread, be it part of a full-on feast or humble midweek meal. Hearty, wholesome and filling, this dish is so good it could almost turn me vegan! Whilst the black-eyed beans add an earthy undertone that balances out the spices, the mushrooms are actually the star of the dish, adding a “meatiness” that appeals to both meat-eaters and vegetarians alike. Add some tarka dhal and rice to the mix and you have a meal fit for the most pious (and discerning) monk. Who knew that good karma could ever be so damn dharma-delicious.

For more of my top picks for an Indian feast, please click here, or for more great Indian recipes from The Muddled Pantry, please click here

Note: this dish also makes an excellent alternative to your traditional sides dishes like mash potato, as it is mild enough to “fit” comfortably alongside most flavours. I recently served it with some pan-fried fish, sautéed kale and a tomato lemon butter sauce and it was absolute fusion-heaven!

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Risotto ai Funghi (Mushroom Risotto)

In my experience, when it comes to risotto most people’s frame of reference seems to be the omnipresent mushroom risotto. In fact, I would wager that precious few have ever tired any other sort of risotto and who could blame them – mushroom risotto is utterly delicious! Given its popularity, it is tempting to dismiss mushroom risotto as de rigueur but don’t. It is for good reason that this risotto remains an enduring classic and, as a bonafide fungi-fiend, I would rate it as perhaps my all time favorite mushroom dish.

Should you like to read more on my thoughts on risotto, please click here

For more Italian recipes from the Muddled Pantry, please click here

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