Three retro vegan recipes for when you're craving fast food

Comforting: Zacchary Bird's butternut pumpkin mac 'n' cheese recipe.
Comforting: Zacchary Bird's butternut pumpkin mac 'n' cheese recipe. Photo: Pete Dillon/Smith Street Books

Who said vegan food means missing out? Melbourne recipe developer Zacchary Bird certainly doesn't think so.

His first cookbook, Vegan Junk Food, is an unabashed down-and-dirty guide for when you're craving fast food, from greasy burgers to a meat loather's pizza, plus meat-free souvlaki, herb-stuffed quesadillas and "fablova" thrown in for good measure.

So put aside your preconceptions about mung beans and kale chips, because this is a cookbook about big flavours and fun recipes. 

Zacchary Bird's new cookbook.
Zacchary Bird's new cookbook. Photo: Smith Street Books

Bird has designed each one to be supermarket-friendly and simple enough for anyone to be able to cook. 

Here are three retro-style meat-free dishes to enjoy. 

Butternut pumpkin mac 'n' cheese

Hidden vegies are a dead trend, joining other failed food fads, such as salads suspended in jell-o, in the hall of shame. It's time to proudly display your love of vegetables, with lumps of pumpkin stirred through this mac 'n' cheese instead of being snuck into the cheese sauce.

INGREDIENTS

  • 200-300g butternut pumpkin, peeled, deseeded and roughly chopped
  • 200g dried macaroni
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1½ tablespoons plain flour
  • 310ml (1¼ cups) soy milk
  • 125g (1 cup) shredded dairy-free cheese
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
  • ½ freshly grated nutmeg or ⅛ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon finely chopped thyme leaves
  • ⅛ teaspoon chilli powder
  • ½ teaspoon ground sage
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 30g (½ cup) panko breadcrumbs

METHOD

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  1. Preheat the oven to 200C fan-forced (220 conventional). Line a baking tray with baking paper.
  2. Place the pumpkin on the prepared tray and bake for 20 minutes or until soft and cooked through. Transfer the pumpkin to a bowl and lazily mash it with a fork to create a lumpy mash. Reduce the oven temperature to 160C fan-forced (180C conventional).
  3. Cook the macaroni according to the packet instructions until just before al dente. Drain and set aside in a medium baking dish.
  4. Heat the olive oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Sift in the flour and stir constantly for 2 minutes until you have a roux. Once the roux starts to bubble, gradually whisk in the soy milk a little at a time. When all the milk has been incorporated, stir in three-quarters of the cheese, the garlic powder, mustard and nutritional yeast and cook, stirring, for 8-10 minutes, until thickened. Remove from the heat and stir through the nutmeg, thyme, chilli and sage.
  5. Pour the cheese sauce over the cooked pasta, add the mashed pumpkin and gently mix to combine. Season with salt and pepper, then scatter the remaining cheese and the breadcrumbs over the top.
  6. Transfer to the oven and bake for 30 minutes or until the breadcrumbs are crisp and golden.
  7. Allow the mac 'n' cheese to cool for 10 minutes before serving.

Serves 3-4

Sausage rolls

My sausage rolls are a consistent crowd pleaser, with mushrooms and herbs serving to bulk out your choice of "meat" and give off gourmet vibes. The wash of milk and oil somehow makes them simultaneously crispy and soft, and ensures they're just as good days later if your rolls survive long enough to become cold and old.

INGREDIENTS

  • olive oil
  • 1 onion, roughly chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 200g chestnut or button mushrooms, roughly chopped
  • 2 beef- or chicken-style stock cubes
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons vegan Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 teaspoon thyme or rosemary leaves
  • 5 drops liquid smoke (optional)
  • 250g vegan mince or vegan burger patties, broken up into chunks
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • pinch of freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped flat-leaf parsley leaves
  • 2 sheets dairy-free frozen puff pastry, just thawed
  • 2 teaspoons soy milk
  • 1 teaspoon sesame seeds (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon poppy seeds (optional)
  • tomato ketchup, to serve

METHOD

  1. Preheat the oven to 200C fan-forced (180C conventional).
  2. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a frying pan over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes. Add the garlic and mushroom and continue to cook until the mushroom has broken down and any liquid has evaporated. Transfer the mushroom mixture to a food processor, along with the stock cubes, soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, thyme or rosemary leaves and the liquid smoke (if using) and blitz to combine.
  3. Place the mince in a large bowl and use a fork to mash the mustard, pepper and parsley into the mince. Stir in the mushroom mixture until well combined. Divide the mixture into quarters.
  4. Cut the pastry sheets in half and place them in front of you. Evenly spoon the mince mixture along the long edge of each pastry sheet, then fold the pastry sheets over to enclose the filling and use a fork to crimp and seal the edges. Press the sausage rolls down on this crease to seal shut, then cut in half and stuff any filling that's fallen out back into the open ends.
  5. Whisk 4 teaspoons olive oil and the soy milk in a small bowl. Using a pastry brush, brush the mixture over the top of each sausage roll and sprinkle with the sesame seeds and/or poppy seeds (if using). Bake for 25-35 minutes, until golden.
  6. Serve with tomato ketchup or your favourite tomato sauce. The sausage rolls will keep in an airtight container in the fridge for 3-4 days or in the freezer for up to 3 months.

Makes 8

The big zac

An iconic flavour combination, which I have veganised and bears absolutely no resemblance to a burger with a similar name. It's all handily wrapped up in a bun so you can eat it on the go while avoiding a cease and desist from a multinational fast-food corporation.

INGREDIENTS

  • 20g dried shiitake mushrooms
  • 400g tin black beans, rinsed and drained, reserving 60ml (¼ cup) aquafaba (see note)
  • 90g (¾ cup) small chunk TVP (textured vegetable protein)
  • 3 tablespoons tomato sauce 
  • 3 tablespoons barbecue sauce
  • 1 tablespoon liquid smoke
  • 135g gluten flour, plus 2 tablespoons extra if needed
  • 1 tablespoon beef-style stock powder
  • 2 teaspoons onion powder
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 120ml olive oil
  • 8 slices dairy-free American-style cheese
  • 8 sesame-covered burger buns
  • 2 large handfuls shredded iceberg lettuce
  • ½ white onion, finely chopped
  • 2 sweet and spicy dill pickles (gherkins), sliced into rounds

Big zac secret sauce

  • 135g (½ cup) vegan mayonnaise (store bought, or see below)
  • 2 tablespoons gherkin relish
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon or American mustard
  • 1 teaspoon white vinegar
  • ½ teaspoon granulated sugar
  • up to ½ teaspoon smoked paprika
  • ¼ teaspoon onion powder
  • ¼ teaspoon garlic powder

METHOD

  1. Preheat the oven to 180C fan-forced (200 conventional).
  2. To make the big zac secret sauce, combine the ingredients in a bowl and set aside. Place the dried shiitake mushrooms in a food processor and blitz to a powder. Add the black beans and process until smooth.
  3. In a large bowl, combine the TVP, reserved aquafaba, tomato sauce, barbecue sauce and liquid smoke. Mix in the black bean mixture and set aside. In another large bowl, combine the gluten flour, stock powder, onion powder and pepper. Stir the prepared TVP mixture into the dry ingredients until the mixture comes together.
  4. Knead until everything is fully combined, adding the extra gluten flour if needed to bring it together into a ball. Divide into quarters and press each quarter into two patties.
  5. Line a baking tray with baking paper and place the patties on top. Sprinkle over 125ml (½ cup) water. Cover the patties with another sheet of baking paper and bake for 1 hour, flipping at the halfway mark and sprinkling over another ½ cup water. Check every so often to ensure that the patties aren't browning up too much – they should be mostly dry by the time the hour is up.
  6. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool.
  7. Heat half the oil in a frying pan over medium heat. Add four of the patties and press with a spatula to flatten them slightly. Cook for 5 minutes, then flip and cook the other sides for 5 minutes. Flip again and place two cheese slices on top of each patty. Continue to cook until the cheese starts to melt, then remove from the pan.
  8. Heat the remaining oil and cook the remaining patties.
  9. While the patties are cooking, use a bread knife to halve the buns. Four of the top halves won't be required, so set these away for later use. Lightly toast the buns.
  10. Spread a generous amount of big zac secret sauce over the bottom half of four burger buns. Scatter lettuce over the sauce and top with a cheesy burger patty, cheese side down. Add a little onion and place the remaining bottom bun halves on top.
  11. Continue to build the burgers with another round of sauce and lettuce and then top with the pickle and remaining patties. Scatter over the remaining onion and finish with the bun tops.

Note: Aquafaba is remarkably versatile, the brine in a tin of beans is a miracle egg replacer.

Serves 4

Vegan mayonnaise 

INGREDIENTS

  • 60 ml (¼ cup) soy milk or 3 tablespoons aquafaba + 1 tablespoon tinned chickpeas (garbanzo beans)
  • ¾ teaspoon apple cider vinegar or white vinegar
  • ¼ teaspoon American or Dijon mustard
  • ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ¼ teaspoon sea salt
  • 185ml (¾ cup) canola oil or other neutral-flavoured oil

METHOD

  1. Place all the ingredients except the oil in the bowl of a stick blender or plastic jug. Blend with a stick blender for 20 seconds or so, until frothy.
  2. With the stick blender running, slowly pour in the oil in a steady stream for 1-2 minutes, until you have an emulsified and thick mayonnaise. Taste, and adjust the seasoning if necessary.
  3. The mayonnaise will keep in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 4 weeks.

Makes 200g (¾ cup)

This is an edited extract from Vegan Junk Food by Zacchary Bird, published by Smith Street Books, RRP $39.99. Photography by Pete Dillon. Food styling by Bridget Wald. Buy now