Vegan cooking shouldn't involve buying a pantry full of new and specialty ingredients, says veteran vegan cookbook author Celine Steen. With the right recipes, it can be about saving every scrap and making the most of what you already have.
Not only will less waste save you money on your shopping bill, it will also put less pressure on the planet's limited environmental resources.
"Previous generations were far more conservative and respectful in their approach to leftovers and didn't blink twice when it came to cooking with bruised produce," she writes in her new compilation, No-Waste Save-the-Planet Vegan Cookbook.
Whether you're looking for fresh meat-free inspiration, or want to give vegan cooking a go for the first time, these four recipes promise delicious plant-based rewards.
Moroccan quinoa vegie bowl
Roasted vegetables on top of protein-rich quinoa, spiced chickpeas, drizzled with a zingy herby dressing, and topped with crunchy toasted nuts: you can't go wrong with that concept. This recipe is open to any changes you want to make: use whatever vegetable you love the most, changing cooking times accordingly. Don't care for quinoa? Use bulgur, millet, or even cous cous in its place. Just make sure the cooked grain is chilled for best panfrying results. Pick a mix of herbs you have in your garden or in the fridge. Don't want beans? Fry some super-firm tofu or tempeh cubes in a little bit of oil and soy sauce until crispy. It's also easy to make gluten-free (use tamari instead of soy sauce) provided you purchase certified GF quinoa and nuts. Nix the nuts if allergic and go for seeds if you can have those.
- 1 large eggplant, cut into large chunks
- 1 medium zucchini, cut into large chunks
- ½ medium red onion, cut into small wedges
- 4 garlic cloves, peeled
- 2 tsp toasted sesame oil
- 20g pomegranate molasses
- 15ml tamari
- 410g cooked chickpeas
- 2 tsp toasted sesame oil
- 1 tsp harissa seasoning mix or paste, or to taste
- ½ tsp smoked sea salt, or to taste
- ½ tsp ground turmeric
- 2 tsp toasted sesame oil or other oil of choice
- 325g cooked quinoa, chilled
- zippy herb dressing, for serving (see below)
- microgreens and/or thinly sliced red or green cabbage, for garnish
- pomegranate molasses or lemon wedges, for serving
- pomegranate seeds, for serving (optional)
- fresh parsley and/or mint, for serving
- dry-roasted pine nuts and/or pistachios, for serving
1. To make the vegetables Preheat the oven to 200C fan-forced (220C conventional).
2. Place the vegie chunks, onions, and garlic cloves in a 23 x 33cm baking tray. Drizzle with oil, molasses, and tamari.
3. Roast until fork-tender and caramelised, about 24 minutes, flipping once halfway through the roasting time.
4. To make the beans While the vegies roast, in a large skillet over medium-high heat, combine all the ingredients. Cook, adjusting the heat as needed and stirring occasionally, until the chickpeas are coated, golden, and mostly dry, about 8 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl.
5. To make the grain Add the oil to the skillet to heat. Add the quinoa and cook until toasted and fragrant, about 4 minutes.
6. To serve Assemble your dinner bowls or plates by dividing all the components into 4 portions. Drizzle with dressing. Garnish as desired with microgreens or cabbage, extra pomegranate molasses or a squeeze of lemon juice, pomegranate seeds, herbs, and nuts. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Tip If you cannot find pomegranate molasses, make your own. In a medium-size saucepan over medium to medium-high heat, combine 960ml unsweetened pomegranate juice with 15-30 millilitres sweetener of choice (I use agave nectar) and 15-30 millilitres fresh lemon juice. Cook until thickened and molasses-like. Adjust the heat as needed and stir occasionally. This will take a good 1 hour – some things cannot be rushed. The sweetener cuts down the tartness just a touch, while the lemon juice helps the molasses keep a brighter red shade. Set aside to cool before transferring to a heat-safe jar. Refrigerate for up to 1 month.
Creamy and zesty, this herb dressing is the ideal addition to any salad or vegie bowl, and a good way to use a single type or combination of herbs before they wilt. Double the recipe for a larger yield.
- 60g fresh celeriac leaves, mint leaves, parsley leaves, or coriander leaves
- 45ml fresh lemon juice
- 45ml roasted pistachio oil, walnut oil, or extra-virgin olive oil
- 15g tahini or plant-based Greek yogurt
- 1 garlic clove, peeled
- salt, to taste
- In a small blender or food processor, combine all the ingredients and process until smooth and blended.
- Refrigerate in an airtight container for up to 1 week.
Tip The weight of fresh herbs can vary wildly, that's why I usually just grab a big handful as a way to measure, before washing them thoroughly and spinning dry. It's perfectly OK if some of the thin stems come along as they do bring flavour to the plate, and considering they are blended, no stems will get stuck in your teeth.
Make this dish with tempeh if you're not a fan of mushrooms. Photo: Celine Steen/Harvard Common Press
Sichuan-flavored mushrooms with roasted capsicum and chilli
- 225g shishito chilli, or a mix of green capsicum and green chilli
- 15ml toasted sesame oil
- salt, to taste
- 680g mixed fresh mushrooms of choice (brown, shiitake, king oyster)
- 6g mushroom powder
- 2 tsp yeast spread (such as Vegemite or Marmite)
- 15ml toasted sesame oil
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 4 spring onions, white and green parts, minced
- ½ teaspoon ground ginger
- 1 teaspoon ground Sichuan peppercorns
- 125g dry-roasted peanuts
- 13g white sugar
- 1 teaspoon cornstarch
- 30ml tamari
- 15ml Shaoxing rice cooking wine or dry cooking white wine
- 15ml Chinese black vinegar or rice vinegar
- 45ml water
- To make the chillis and capsicum Preheat the oven grill. Place the chillis and capsicum in a large baking tray and drizzle with oil. Grill until blackened, about 8 minutes. Sprinkle with salt to taste and toss to combine.
- To make the mushrooms Brush the mushrooms to remove any dirt. Chop them into large bite-size pieces. Place in a large dry skillet over medium-high heat and cook until the mushrooms start releasing their liquid, about 6 minutes. Stir occasionally. Once the liquid is being released, add the mushroom powder and yeast spread and stir to combine. Cook until the liquid is fully evaporated, about 4 minutes.
- Add the oil, garlic, and spring onions. Cook until softened, about 2 minutes.
- Add the ginger, peppercorns, and peanuts. Cook for another 2 minutes.
- In the meantime, in a small bowl, whisk the sugar, cornstarch, and tamari until dissolved. Add the cooking wine, vinegar, and water and whisk. Pour the slurry onto the mushrooms and cook until the sauce thickens, about 4 minutes. Serve with chillis, capsicum and rice, as desired.
Tip Make it with tempeh if you're not a fan of mushrooms. I have a mushroom hater in the house, so I can understand. Just cube 225g tempeh, trim and chop a red capsicum, and saute over medium heat in oil just until golden brown all over, about 6 minutes. The cooking instructions remain the same from step 5, although the oil will have been added to brown the tempeh. Also note that the yeast spread.
Perfect with a crusty slice of sourdough. Photo: Celine Steen/Harvard Common Press
Carrot top and pea soup with pesto
Kinda fancy looking while super quick to make, this herby soup is the perfect complement to the sourdough loaf you got into baking when the world got hit by a pandemic.
- 400ml can full-fat coconut milk
- 240ml vegetable stock
- 20g roasted onion puree (see tip), plus more for serving
- 1 tsp salt, or to taste
- 1 to 2 garlic cloves, grated
- ¼ tsp ground ginger
- 455g frozen baby peas, thawed and drained
- basil-carrot top pesto (see below), for serving
- fresh basil leaves, for garnish
- In a large pot over medium-high heat, bring the coconut milk and stock to a boil. Lower the heat to maintain a simmer and cook, uncovered, for a couple of minutes.
- Add the onion puree, salt, garlic, ginger, and peas. Simmer just to warm the peas, about 3 minutes. They must remain bright green and with a firm consistency for best results.
- At this point, you are free to either partially blend the soup, or leave it as is. If you want to blend it, remove a few ladles of peas before blending to keep some texture going. Add pesto to taste.
- Garnish each portion with a little more pesto, onion puree, and a few small basil leaves.
Tip Turn white onions into a creamy, mellow, sweet mixture that will take your soups to another flavour dimension while making them look good, too. Gently scrub as many unpeeled onions as you wish and pat them dry. Preheat the oven to 200 fan-forced (220 conventional). Place the onions on a rimmed baking tray. Roast until the onions are super tender, about 1 hour. Wait a bit for the onions to cool. Once they can be handled without burning your hands, remove the peels and place the onions in a food processor or blender. Blend until completely smooth. Refrigerate in an airtight container for up to 1 week. Yield will vary, but 1 large onion usually yields 240g.
Is there anything prettier than a big bunch of carrots with a super green, super healthy head of carrot tops straight from the farmers' market? OK, maybe there are prettier things if you want to nitpick. But still, don't you dare discard those green goods. Make pesto instead. If pine nuts aren't your thing or just too expensive to justify, use roasted walnuts or cashews instead.
- 35g loose fresh basil leaves
- 25g loose carrot top fronds, stemmed
- 2 large garlic cloves
- ½ tsp salt, or to taste
- 25g roasted pine nuts (use less for a more liquid pesto)
- 1 tsp maca powder (optional)
- juice of ½ large lemon
- 60ml roasted walnut oil or extra-virgin olive oil, plus more as needed
- In a small blender or food processor, combine the basil, carrot tops, garlic, salt, pine nuts, maca powder (if using), and lemon juice. Process just until combined and for the herbs to be chopped.
- With the blender running, slowly drizzle in the oil. For a thinner pesto, add more oil as needed. Transfer to a small airtight container and refrigerate for up to 1 week.
Make this healthy-ish cake in the microwave. Photo: Celine Steen/Harvard Common Press
Fudgy sesame chocolate mug cake
If you're in the mood for something decadent but don't want to turn on the huge oven for something small, here's a healthy-ish cake to make in the microwave. You've most certainly heard of those via the internet, and my version is chock-full of sesame: seeds, tahini, and halva. There's nothing more to say except dig in.
- 36 raw sugar or coconut sugar
- 12g unsweetened cocoa powder
- 8g roasted sesame seeds
- 10g quick-cook oats
- 45ml plant-based milk of choice or brewed coffee or tea
- 30g liquid-y tahini
- 1½ tsp white miso or pinch salt
- ⅛ tsp baking powder
- 24g vegan halva, crumbled
- 11g vegan semisweet chocolate chips
- Use a coffee grinder or small food processor to process the coconut sugar, cocoa powder, sesame seeds, and oats until finely ground.
- In a medium-size bowl, whisk to combine the milk, tahini and miso. Add the ground dry ingredients, baking powder, halva, and chocolate chips to the wet ingredients. Fold to combine. Transfer to a 360ml microwave-safe mug and microwave on high power for 60 seconds. The cake should look set and not wet on top: it will remain fudgy inside. Let stand for a couple of minutes before serving, as it will be very hot. Enjoy with any of the following, if desired: a scoop of ice-cream, coconut whipped cream, extra chocolate chips and halva on top.
Makes 1 mug cake
Tip You can alter this recipe to fit what's in your pantry and fridge. Light brown sugar can be used instead of raw sugar, just don't pack too much in. Old-fashioned oats can be used instead of quick-cook. Not a fan of tahini? Use roasted cashew or peanut butter instead, just make sure whatever you choose is liquid-y rather than thick. Add-ins can also be replaced by your favourites.