Blogger, qualified dietitian and inveterate traveller Ellie Bullen has mined her interests for her second cookbook, The Global Vegan: More Than 100 Plant-Based Recipes from Around the World.
Travelling teaches you many new lessons and life skills, she says. "One thing that I often do when visiting a new country is book into a cooking class. It's a wonderful way to meet locals, tour markets, discover new ingredients and learn how to cook some local dishes."
Returning with a backpack full of recipes and ideas, Bullen has set about "vegan-ising" well-loved classics such as pad Thai, moussaka and caesar salad, along with wholesome brekkies, smoothies and other nourishing drinks.
Here are three of her favourite dishes, based entirely on plants and seeds.
Nourishing power bowl
This savoury breakfast bowl with quinoa, protein-rich vegan scrambled eggs, satisfying fats from avocado, tahini and hemp and a punch of vitamins and minerals from pumpkin and kale, is hearty enough to power you through an active morning. This recipe draws inspiration from a few different places, but especially from one of my favourite breakfast spots on the Gold Coast, Stable Coffee Kitchen in Currumbin.
- 450g peeled and deseeded pumpkin, cut into two 5cm thick wedges
- 2 tsp olive oil
- pinch of ground cinnamon
- pinch of sea salt
- 65g (⅓ cup) tri-colour quinoa
- 80g (2 cups) shredded kale leaves
- 1 × quantity vegan scrambled eggs (see recipe)
- 1 avocado, halved, stone removed
- handful of snow pea sprouts
- 4 cubes of marinated vegan feta
- 1 tbsp hemp seeds
- pinch of chilli flakes
- 2 lemon cheeks
Sweet tahini sauce
- 2 tbsp tahini
- 2 tsp tamari or soy sauce
- 2 tsp pure maple syrup
- Preheat the oven to 200C (180C fan-forced). Line a baking tray with baking paper.
- Place the pumpkin on the prepared tray, brush with half the oil and sprinkle over the cinnamon and salt. Bake for 40-45 minutes or until soft and golden.
- Meanwhile, make the sweet tahini sauce by whisking the ingredients and 1 tablespoon of water in a bowl. Set aside.
- Bring 375ml (1½ cups) of water to the boil in a saucepan over high heat. Add the quinoa, then reduce the heat to medium, cover and simmer for 8-12 minutes or until the water has evaporated and the quinoa is cooked through and fluffy.
- Meanwhile, heat the remaining oil in a frying pan over medium-high heat, add the kale and saute for 4-5 minutes or until wilted and dark green.
- Transfer to serving bowls, along with the quinoa and vegan scrambled eggs. Smear the sauce along one side of the serving bowls then place your cooked pumpkin on top. Add the avocado halves and top with the snow pea sprouts, feta, hemp seeds and chilli flakes. Serve with the lemon cheeks.
Ellie Bullen's tofu scramble. Photo: Ellie Bullen
This is definitely the easiest of my vegan egg recipes as it's essentially a tofu scramble. It is one of my favourite protein-packed post-gym breakfasts, as it's quick to make and provides about 8 grams of protein per serve. I usually cook with firm tofu, but I've come to realise that soft or medium tofu is best for scrambling, because it has more liquid.
- 200g soft or medium tofu
- 1 tbsp nutritional yeast flakes
- 1 tsp olive oil
- pinch of freshly ground black pepper
- pinch of sea salt
- pinch of kala namak (Himalayan black salt)*
- pinch of ground turmeric
- 2 garlic cloves, crushed
- Place all the ingredients in a bowl and lightly mash, keeping the tofu quite chunky.
- Heat a non-stick frying pan over medium-high heat and add the tofu mixture. Saute for 2-3 minutes or until starting to turn golden. If liquid starts to leach from the tofu, cover the pan with a lid and drain most of the liquid away. Return the pan to the heat and fry for a further 1-2 minutes or until golden.
*Note: Kala namak can be purchased from some health-food stores and online.
Taco crossed with a toastie. Photo: Ellie Bullen
A quesadilla is like a taco crossed with a toastie, and what a delicious little invention it is! While in Tulum, Mexico, I ate a vegan quesadilla at a restaurant called Sanara, where they made their own coconut tortillas and vegan mozzarella. Don't be afraid to mix up this recipe and add any filling you like – roasted pumpkin and black beans would be delicious, too.
- 3 tbsp vegetable stock
- 1 large flat mushroom, finely sliced
- ½ tsp onion powder
- 1 avocado
- juice of ½ lime
- pinch of sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 150g vegan mozzarella*
- 8 corn tortillas
- 3 tbsp cashew cream cheese*
- 1 fresh jalapeno, finely sliced, plus extra to serve
- 2 tsp olive oil
- pickled red onion, to serve (see recipe)
- coriander leaves, to serve
- Heat the vegetable stock and mushroom in a small saucepan over high heat. Cook, stirring frequently, until the stock has evaporated and the mushroom is golden. Sprinkle over the onion powder and set aside.
- In a bowl, mash the avocado with the lime juice and salt and pepper.
- Preheat a sandwich press.
- Spread the vegan mozzarella onto four tortillas and top with the mushroom, a teaspoon of cashew cream and a couple of jalapeno slices. Sandwich the ingredients with the remaining tortillas and drizzle the olive oil over the top. Transfer your quesadillas to the sandwich press and cook for 2–3 minutes or until golden.
- Cut the quesadillas in half and serve with the mashed avocado, remaining cashew cream cheese, pickled red onion and extra jalapeno. Top with a few coriander leaves and dig in.
*Note: Vegan mozzarella and cashew cream cheese are available in some supermarkets and specialty food stores.
Homemade pickled veg are quick and easy to make. Photo: Ellie Bullen
Throughout my travels to Vietnam and Korea, I learned how to use crisp pickled veg in or alongside local dishes. Homemade pickled veg are so quick and easy to make, and so much better for you than the store-bought versions. You can pickle just about any vegies you like, either separately in their own jars or thrown in the same jar for simplicity.
- 1 carrot, julienned
- 6 cm piece of daikon, cut into thick matchsticks
- 1 red onion, finely sliced
- 1 Lebanese cucumber, cut into 5mm thick slices
- 1 long red chilli, cut into thin strips (deseeded for a milder flavour)
- 1 fresh jalapeno, sliced
- 250ml (1 cup) apple cider vinegar
- 1 tsp sea salt
- 2 tsp coconut sugar (optional)
- To make the pickling liquid, heat all the ingredients and 250ml (1 cup) of water in a saucepan over medium heat. Bring to the boil, then remove from the heat and set aside to cool for 20 minutes.
- Meanwhile, bring a large saucepan of water to the boil. Carefully place a 1 litre preserving jar (or 2 × 500ml jars) and a pair of tongs in the water and boil for 10 minutes. Transfer to a drying rack and allow to completely air-dry.
- Using the sterilised tongs, place all the vegetables in the jar and pour over the liquid. Seal the jar and transfer to the fridge. The pickled veg will be ready to eat after 2 hours, but will taste even better if left overnight. Store in the fridge for up to 2 weeks – they may keep for longer, but I prefer to use them within this timeframe to maintain the vitamin and mineral levels in the veg.
- Add your pickles to sandwiches, burgers, salad bowls and tacos for a tangy and refreshing crunch.
Makes 1 × 1 litre jar
Roll your own rice-paper rolls. Photo: Ellie Bullen
Vietnamese rice-paper rolls make a fresh and healthy snack or lunch. They can be packed for school or work, but I love them most when they're just freshly rolled.
- 2 tsp avocado oil
- 100g medium tofu, cut into thin strips
- 70g oyster mushrooms, torn
- ¼ tsp five-spice powder
- 8-10 rice paper sheets
- 1 small cos lettuce, leaves separated
- 2 cups mixed herbs, such as Vietnamese mint, Thai basil and coriander
- 1 Lebanese cucumber, cut into long batons
- 10 sticks pickled daikon or carrot
- 1 long red chilli, finely sliced (optional)
- 1 avocado, sliced
- 3 tbsp nuoc cham
- 3 tbsp roasted unsalted peanuts, roughly chopped
- Heat the oil in a frying pan over medium-high heat. Add the tofu and mushroom to the pan and fry for 1 minute on each side or until golden. Sprinkle over the five spice and transfer to a small bowl.
- Lay out all the remaining ingredients in front of you.
- Using a clean damp tea towel, lightly wet a rice-paper sheet on both sides and place it on a clean work surface. Add a little of each ingredient along the centre of the rice paper, then fold both ends into the centre and place a pair of chopsticks over the filling to keep it in place. Starting with the end closest to you, gently lift the rice-paper sheet over the filling and chopsticks and roll away from you until you have a tight rice-paper roll. Gently pull the chopsticks out and repeat with the remaining rice-paper sheets and filling.
- To serve, divide the nuoc cham among dipping bowls and sprinkle over the peanuts.
In Vietnam, I learned that rice-paper sheets are only lightly moistened by rubbing a damp cloth over each side. This makes the rice paper chewier and slightly crunchy, which I absolutely love. You'll quickly learn how much filling to put in your rice-paper rolls, as over-filling will lead to your roll exploding! I usually find my groove by the third roll. You may like to only fold in one end of your rice-paper rolls, leaving the herbs and vegies sprouting out the top. I prefer to make mine this way, as it allows me to pour the dipping sauce into the roll and munch away.
A vegan interpretation of Vietnamese dipping sauce. Photo: Ellie Bullen
This dipping sauce accompanies many Vietnamese dishes, such as banh xeo, rice-paper rolls, spring rolls and dumplings. Traditionally made with fish sauce, this is my vegan interpretation.
- 2 tbsp rice wine vinegar
- 3 tbsp vegan fish sauce
- 2 tbsp coconut sugar
- 1 long red chilli, finely diced (or use 1 bird's eye chilli if you like heat)
- 1 tbsp crushed garlic
- 3 tbsp freshly squeezed lime juice
- Place the ingredients and 3 tablespoons of water in a jar or bowl and shake or stir to combine. Serve the nuoc cham alongside your favourite Vietnamese dishes.
- Store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.
Makes 250ml (1 cup)
This is an edited extract from The Global Vegan: More Than 100 Plant-Based Recipes from Around the World by Ellie Bullen, published by Plum, RRP $34.99. Photography by Ellie Bullen