Los Angeles-based food writer Heidi Swanson says she's watched dietary trends come and go, including low-carb, paleo, keto and turmeric-everything. But when you cut through the claims and look at long-living communities around the world, "nutrient-rich, whole-food, plant-based meals is probably where you want to settle". Her latest cookbook, Super Natural Simple, is a collection of vibrant, approachable whole-food vegetarian recipes pared down for quick, crowd-pleasing weeknight cooking.
Som tum noodles
Sweet, sour, salty and spicy – this colourful noodle dish uses techniques and flavours of the Thai dish som tum (or som tam, or green papaya salad) as a jumping-off point. Turmeric noodles are combined with a rainbow of vegetables, then tossed with a puckery sour ("som"), pounded ("tum") salty-sweet dressing.
- 230g dried brown-rice noodles
- 1 tbsp ground turmeric
- 70ml (⅓ cup) tamari or soy sauce
- 80g (⅓ cup) dark brown sugar
- 60ml (¼ cup) freshly squeezed lime juice
- 2 serrano chillies, stemmed*
- 3 garlic cloves
- 180g (1 cup) halved cherry tomatoes
- 100g (⅔ cup) grated carrot, green papaya or cucumber
- 135g (2 cups) chopped kale, stems trimmed and ribs removed
- 50g (⅓ cup) toasted peanuts
- mint leaves, fresh Thai basil leaves and flowers, lime wedges and grilled tofu, to serve (optional)
- Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil. Add the dried noodles, stir in the turmeric and cook the noodles according to the packet instructions. Drain, rinse the noodles with cold water, shake off any excess water and set aside.
- In a small saucepan over low heat, combine the tamari and sugar and simmer for a couple of minutes, until the sugar dissolves. Remove the pan from the heat, add the lime juice, chillies and garlic, then use a hand-held blender to blend until smooth.
- When you're ready to serve, combine the tomatoes, carrot and kale in a large serving bowl. Add a generous splash of dressing and crush and stir everything with a pestle or a wooden spoon. Add the noodles and toss well with more dressing. Add the peanuts, toss again and serve topped with mint, basil and tofu, with lime wedges and any remaining dressing alongside.
Prep all of your ingredients ahead of time. Photo: Heidi Swanson/Hardie Grant
Big green fried rice
Aromatic, packed with flecks of kale and punctuated with fresh vegetables, every component of this fried rice delivers. Prep all of your ingredients ahead of time, and if you're doubling the recipe to serve more people, cook it in two batches so you aren't crowding the pan.
- 1½ tbsp toasted sesame oil
- 4 spring onions, white and tender green parts, chopped
- 125g (1 cup) sliced asparagus or green beans, trimmed and cut into 5mm pieces
- 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 1 tbsp peeled and grated fresh ginger
- 460g (2½ cups) cold cooked brown rice
- 135g (2 cups) well-chopped kale, trimmed and ribs removed
- 2 eggs, beaten
- 2-3 tsp tamari or soy sauce
- sesame-chilli oil and zest of 1 lemon, to serve (optional)
- Heat 1 tablespoon of the sesame oil in a large frying pan or wok over high heat. Add the spring onion and asparagus and cook for 3-4 minutes, until the spring onion softens.
- Stir in the garlic and ginger. Wait 30 seconds, then add the rice and stir to separate the grains. Cook for about 3 minutes, until the rice is hot, then stir in the kale.
- Shift the rice and vegetables to the sides of the pan and add the remaining sesame oil to the pan. Add the egg and push it around until just set. Break up the egg with a spatula.
- Drizzle in the tamari and stir-fry everything together until well combined, about 30 seconds.
- To serve, drizzle with sesame-chilli oil if you like a bit of heat and sprinkle with lemon zest. Serve immediately.
Be sure to prep all of the ingredients before you start cooking. Photo: Heidi Swanson/Hardie Grant
Feisty tofu with broccoli, chilli and nuts
This simple but spicy stir-fry is loaded with chillies and nuts – choose cashews or peanuts, or whatever you love. Be sure to prep all of the ingredients before you start cooking because stir-fries cook quickly. Serve this over brown rice, soba or brown-rice noodles.
- 3 tbsp tamari or soy sauce
- 2 tbsp water
- 340g extra-firm organic tofu, cut into 2cm cubes
- 1 tbsp pure maple syrup
- 1 tsp toasted sesame oil
- 2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
- 7 dried red chillies, stemmed and thinly sliced
- 3 or 4 handfuls of broccoli florets
- 3 garlic cloves, chopped
- 1 tbsp peeled and finely chopped fresh ginger
- 80g (½ cup) raw cashews or peanuts
- In a wide, shallow dish, stir together 2 tablespoons of the tamari and the water. Toss the tofu with the tamari mixture. Let the tofu marinate for at least 10 minutes, but really, longer is better, even overnight.
- In the meantime, combine the remaining 1 tablespoon tamari, the maple syrup and sesame oil in a small bowl.
- Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan or wok over medium-high heat. Add the chillies and cook for 20-30 seconds, until they're fragrant and darken slightly. Transfer the chillies to a plate, leaving the oil behind.
- Add the marinated tofu to the pan and cook for 2 minutes, until golden on all sides. Transfer the tofu to the plate with the chillies.
- Add the broccoli, garlic, ginger and tamari-maple mixture to the pan. Stir well and cook, covered, for 1-2 minutes, until the broccoli brightens. Uncover the pan and stir in the nuts, tofu and chillies. Cook for another minute or two, long enough for the nuts to toast a bit and serve immediately.
This soup gains extra depth of flavour with fire-roasted tomatoes. Photo: Heidi Swanson/Hardie Grant
Peanut stew with spinach and miso
This is a substantial, creamy peanut stew with plenty of spice from a good dollop of curry paste. Use your favourite brand of curry or a homemade paste. Canned crushed tomatoes are easy to find (and good here!), but this soup gains extra depth of flavour with fire-roasted tomatoes. I thought about making the miso paste optional, because, really, it is. But it's a nice addition, lending extra body, flavour and dimension.
- 3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 brown onion, chopped
- ¾ tsp fine-grain sea salt, plus more to taste
- 130g (1½ cups) diced carrot
- 3 tbsp red curry paste
- 375g (½ cup) all-natural peanut butter
- 420g can crushed tomatoes or crushed fire-roasted tomatoes
- 1 litre (4 cups) water
- 230g frozen spinach, chopped
- 2 tbsp miso paste
- 1 lime, cut into 6 wedges, to serve
- chopped coriander, cooked brown rice or toasted peanuts, to serve (optional)
- Heat the oil in a large pot over medium heat. Stir in the onion and salt and cook for 5 minutes. Add the carrot and curry paste and cook for another minute, until fragrant. Stir in the peanut butter, tomatoes with their juice and water and bring to a simmer. Cook for about 10 minutes, until the carrot is tender. Stir in the spinach, bring the stew back to a simmer, then remove the pot from the heat.
- Stir in the miso paste, taste the stew and add more salt as needed.
- Ladle the stew into bowls and serve each with a wedge of lime and any or all of the suggested toppings.
These cookies bake up crisp, golden and vibrating with tart-sweet raspberry intensity. Photo: Heidi Swanson/Hardie Grant
Big raspberry-rye cookies
My wild-card ingredient in these extra-large cookies is an entire bag of crushed freeze-dried raspberries. Paired with the rye flour, these cookies bake up crisp, golden and vibrating with tart-sweet raspberry intensity. If you find the size intimidating, go ahead and cut them into quarters to serve on a cookie plate. The dough also freezes really well, shaped into balls and double wrapped, for up to 2 months. But if you're going to bake from frozen, increase the baking time by 4-6 minutes.
- 210g room-temperature unsalted butter, sliced
- 300g (1½ cups) granulated (white) sugar
- 55g (¼ cup) dark brown sugar
- 1 egg
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- 225g (2¼ cups) rye flour
- ½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
- ½ tsp fine-grain sea salt
- 20g (1 cup) freeze-dried raspberries, crushed
- Preheat the oven to 160C fan-forced (180C conventional) and place a rack in the top third. Line two baking trays with baking paper.
- Place the butter in a large bowl and beat it by hand or with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add the sugars and beat until uniform. Stir in the egg and vanilla extract until well-combined. Add the flour, then sprinkle with the bicarbonate of soda, salt and raspberries. Stir just until the dough is combined.
- Using a ¼ cup measure, form the dough into 12 balls. Place six balls on each prepared baking tray, spaced well apart, and chill the dough in the freezer for 15 minutes before baking. You could also chill the dough in the refrigerator overnight.
- Bake the cookies one tray at a time for 15-18 minutes, until the edges are deeply golden. Remove from the oven and transfer the cookies to a wire rack to cool completely. Store in a cookie jar.