Who has been doing way more cooking at home than usual?
We don’t do a lot of eating out or getting takeaways, but with all restaurants closed for the 4+ weeks of Level 4 lockdown in NZ, cooking every meal showed how much premade food we do eat – and how much work it is to plan every menu in advance because you can only go shopping once a week.
I don’t mind cooking. I do mind menu planning. Figuring out what to eat is hard work!
Here are some of our favourites which have been in heavy rotation in the last few months. Bonus: they are all vegetarian or vegan, which is great if you’re trying to lower your carbon footprint.
I’m obsessed with this curry. It only has one major flaw: it uses a weird amount of coconut milk, and then you are left with half a can of coconut milk, and have to figure out what to do with it.
I always use fresh spinach, and more than the recipe calls for. I also tend to be quite liberal with my ginger. I’ve never added the sugar.
For this dish I cook up four servings of chickpeas in my pressure cooker at once, use one in it, refrigerate one or two for minestrone or Moroccan vegetable soup later in the week, and then freeze the remainder for times when I’m too busy to cook them fresh.
We’ve had minestrone soup at least once a month for the last 10 years, and as far as I can tell I’ve never taken a photo of the finished dish! All I’ve got is this in-process photo, showing how I use wild garlic instead of onions when it’s available:
My recipe is a heavily altered hack of the one I’ve linked to in the heading – but it resembles the recipe less and less every year! We’ve been making it so long that it keeps evolving.
I omit the carrot, and use two potatoes instead. In winter I use wild garlic instead of onion. I use a vegetarian stock (homemade or good quality broth powder, depending on what I have on hand), use three courgettes (zucchini) instead of one, and add a cup and a half or two of cooked chickpeas or cannellini beans. I add spinach or kale instead of lettuce. When Mr D makes it he likes to add celery as well. Sometimes in summer when tomatoes are cheap I make it with fresh tomatoes. Sometimes I add a handful of fresh basil at the end. It’s the soup version of the thing you make with whatever’s on hand.
The one thing I don’t do is the croutons!
I found this recipe thanks to Loren of A Costumer’s Closet.
I find that the coconut oil really adds to the flavour of the soup, and it doesn’t taste right in another oil. We prefer it with Owairaka red or Toka Toka gold kūmara (sweet potatoes) instead of the big orange Beauregard ‘yam’ variety. We also prefer it without the dates (you will find that omitting sugary things is a common alteration in our cooking).
I love that it just says ‘a handful of greens’ – allowing you to use whatever you have on hand which sounds good. I usually end up using a not-very-curly kale variant which is self seeding in my garden, and which I call dragon kale, because it’s a little more exciting than dinosaur kale!
Green Lentils & Greens
Dragon kale also makes a frequent appearance in this dish, a hack of something my sister made as a side dish for a dinner party we threw when she was visiting. It’s such a simple dish, but it outshone the elaborate meat dish she made, and received far more rave reviews and requests for the recipe.
Basically you cook a couple of onions down very slowly in oil, add green puy lentils and sufficient stock (I use about 1.5cups lentils, 5 cups stock) and cook until the lentils are soft, and then add a couple of cups of finely chopped kale.
The trick is good quality stock, and the result is hearty and comforting, and super easy to make!
New Zealand’s most-commonly-read-but-increasingly-hysterical-and-irrelevant news site published the story of the nurse who ate this soup for 17 years straight just before NZ went into lockdown. I saved the recipe, because the mix of spices and vegetables sounded intriguing. I can’t say that I’d eat it every workday lunch for 17 years, but it’s a nice addition to the menu once a fortnight.
The recipe is interesting, because you can really see how preferences in cooking techniques have changed since 1992. It’s another great basis for playing with ingredients though. As long as you keep the spices the same, it survives a lot of substitutions to work with what’s in your fridge. And the spices are such fun…
The recipe doesn’t specify what kind of lentils, but I’ve always used brown.
We’ve found that we prefer crown pumpkin to butternut squash in the soup – which is quite good because pumpkins are a fraction of the price!
I also prefer to add the spinach at the very end, instead of at the same time as the potatoes, when it just ends up cooking until it’s dead and flavourless. Even better, I prefer to sub out the spinach for kale, or ruby silverbeet (ruby chard). It adds a glorious dash of red colour, and you can sauté the stems with the celery, or in place of the celery.
Not to be confused with the flavourless puffed-rice crackers, rice cakes are a family recipe, and quite possibly the only thing my mother cooks that her mother cooked.
Rice cakes are a way to use up leftover rice: add enough egg to hold it together (about 1 large egg to 1 cup of cooked rice/veg), and fry it up in patties.
My grandmother apparently made hers plain and ate them with butter, but my generation’s version has an Japanese twist courtesy of growing up in Hawai’i: we add a range of minced vegetables, and eat them with shoyu (soy sauce). I could see them made with peppers and coriander (cilantro) and served with avocado and salsa too…
Suitable vegetable additions include:
- Herbs like thyme, parsley & sage
- Spicy vegetables like mustard & kai choi, to give them a little bite and zing
- Shallots or green/spring onions, or wild garlic
We eat these for breakfast or lunch, and make them with long grain brown rice, the rice of choice in the House of Dreams.
They can also be made with buckwheat, which I’m using more and more as a rice alternative. Rice has the highest carbon footprint of any of the grains, because the paddies it’s grown in produce methane. Buckwheat had a very low carbon footprint, lots of great vitamins and nutrition, and a delicious nutty flavour. I told Miss 3 who was visiting that it was ‘pink rice’ to get her to eat it, and then got a phone call from her mother desperate to know what ‘pink rice’ was because Miss 3 didn’t want to eat the regular kind any more!
Let me know if you make any of these! What are your favourite vegetarian/vegan recipes?