Veg up the classics: recipes from Suzy Spoon's Vegetarian Kitchen

Hearty ... Naomi's nasi goreng uses brown rice.
Hearty ... Naomi's nasi goreng uses brown rice. Photo: Supplied

Vegan and vegetarian cooking has been Suzy Spoon's focus for more than 20 years. She has worked as a personal chef - including for Tobey Maguire when he filmed The Great Gatsby in Australia -  and more recently opened a vegetarian 'butcher' in the Sydney suburb of Newtown.

Her first cookbook spans breakfast, soups and salads, heartier dishes like pies and pasta, and dessert. There's also a whole chapter on the meat alternatives seitan, tofu and tempeh.

Here are three recipes, all vegan twists on classic dishes.

A Spoon family staple ... spaghetti bolognese that swaps the meat for TVP.
A Spoon family staple ... spaghetti bolognese that swaps the meat for TVP. Photo: Supplied

Naomi's nasi goreng

My friend Naomi made this for me when we were camping up north once. I don’t know how she did it because we only had one frying pan! The brown rice gives this dish a heartiness that’s perfect after a big day outdoors. Textured vegetable protein is a soy-based minced meat replacement. In this recipe I use a dried variety, but you can also buy it pre-soaked and flavoured in most supermarkets. Fried shallots are available from supermarkets and Asian grocers. Remember to deseed your chillies if you don’t like it hot.

440 g (2 cups) brown rice
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons dark miso paste
100 g (1 cup) textured vegetable protein (TVP)
80 ml (1/3 cup) rice bran oil
1 large white onion, diced
2 small chillies, deseeded and finely chopped
2 teaspoons coriander seeds
6 spring onions cut into 5 cm lengths
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
3 tablespoons kecap manis (thick sweet Indonesian soy sauce)
80 g (1 cup) bean sprouts
coriander leaves
fried shallots

Combine the rice and salt with 1 litre (4 cups) of water in a heavy based saucepan and place over a medium heat. Bring to the boil, reduce the heat, cover and cook for 40 minutes, or until the water has evaporated and the rice is soft. Remove the lid and allow the rice to cool (the cooler the better). Meanwhile, dissolve the miso paste in 250 ml (1 cup) of hot water in a large bowl. Add the textured vegetable protein and leave to soak for at least 15 minutes.

A vegan twist on fish 'n' chips ... Beer-battered tofu salad.
A vegan twist on fish 'n' chips ... Beer-battered tofu salad. Photo: Supplied

When the TVP is ready, heat the oil in a wok or heavy-based frying pan. Add the onion, chilli and coriander seeds, and cook for 1 minute. Add the re-hydrated TVP and sauté for 1 minute. Add the spring onions, garlic and rice. Sauté for 10 minutes, or until the rice is golden and starts to brown. Stir in the kecap manis and remove from the heat.

Serve hot, garnished with the bean sprouts and coriander leaves and sprinkled with fried shallots.

Serves 4

Spaghetti bolognese

Quite a few people have told me that they’d love to be vegetarian but that they just couldn’t live without spaghetti bolognese. Whenever they do, I give them this recipe. We make it about once a week at home – you could say it’s a Spoon family staple. This version is vegan, but vegetarians might like to serve it with some freshly grated parmesan.


2 tablespoons dark miso paste
500 ml (2 cups) hot water
200 g (2 cups) textured vegetable protein (TVP)
60 ml (1/4 cup) olive oil
1 large onion, diced
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon dried basil
4 garlic cloves, minced
pinch of salt
8 tomatoes, diced
3 tablespoons tomato paste
350 g dried spaghetti
small handful of basil leaves

Combine the miso paste and hot water in a large bowl. Add the TVP and mix well. Set aside to soak for 15 minutes.

Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan over a medium heat. Add the onion and sauté for 3–5 minutes, or until translucent. Add the oregano, basil, garlic, salt and TVP and cook for 10 minutes. Add the tomatoes, tomato paste and 375 ml (1½ cups) of water. Simmer for 45 minutes, stirring regularly, until the sauce is nice and thick.

Suzy Spoon's Vegetarian Kitchen, Plum, $39.99
Suzy Spoon's Vegetarian Kitchen, Plum, $39.99 

Meanwhile, bring 2 litres of salted water to the boil in a large saucepan or stockpot over a medium–high heat. Add the spaghetti and cook for 9 minutes (or as per packet directions) until al dente. Drain, reserving 2 tablespoons of the cooking liquid.

Add the reserved cooking liquid to the sauce and stir. Divide the pasta between serving bowls and top with the steaming bolognese. Garnish with fresh basil leaves.

Serves 6

Beer-battered tofu salad

If you don’t eat fish and chips but sometimes get a hankering for the crunch of crispy fried batter then you must try this recipe. Yes, it’s batter, and yes, it’s fried, but it’s in a salad so it’s practically guilt-free! I use rice bran oil for frying as it has a high smoke point. You don’t need an electric deep fryer – just use a wok or a deep, heavy-based pan (an enamelled cast-iron pot or stovetop casserole work well).

225 g (1 1/2 cups) self-raising flour
375 ml (1 1/2 cups) beer
1 teaspoon salt
500–750 ml (2–3 cups) rice bran oil for frying
500 g firm tofu, cut into 2 cm cubes
200 g mixed lettuce leaves, washed
250 g cherry tomatoes, halved
salt and freshly ground
black pepper
juice of 1/2 lemon, to serve

To make the batter, place the flour, beer and salt in a large mixing bowl and whisk until smooth.

Heat the oil to 180°C in a wok or a large, heavy-based pan over a high heat. (If you don’t have a thermometer, you can tell the oil is ready if it bubbles around the end of a clean wooden spoon when you dip it in.)

Use a fork to dip the tofu pieces into the batter and then drop them in the hot oil. Fry them in batches for 5–7 minutes, or until golden. Drain on paper towel.

Place the lettuce and cherry tomatoes on a serving platter and top with the tofu pieces. Season with salt and pepper and squeeze over the lemon juice. Serve while the tofu is still warm.

Serves 6

Recipes and images extracted from Suzy Spoon's Vegetarian Kitchen is published by Plum, RRP $39.99.