Recipe: A Bountiful Vegetarian Feast
As food production becomes a more important (and contentious) issue, it’s vital that we arm ourselves with the knowledge to make the right choices for our health and our planet. We get that it’s a complicated issue though – food is an integral part of our culture. Not to mention the social justice issues that arise when you consider affordability. Even if you don’t go full vego, reducing your meat consumption can have a considerable impact. Going without meat doesn’t have to be hard (or unpalatable) either – especially when you have recipes as delicious as these from the lovely Alexx Stuart, founder of Low Tox Life. To celebrate all things veg this World Vegetarian Day, Alexx has shared not one but five recipes with us from her new book Low Tox Life Food so you can throw your own bountiful vegetarian feast!
A Bountiful Vegetarian Feast
Inspired by Rodale Farm, Kutztown, Pennsylvania, USA
Rodale Farm, created by Bob Rodale, is, as you know, the birthplace of the term ‘regenerative agriculture’. It’s also the site of the Rodale Institute, where the longest-running trials of organic versus conventional produce are run. Its Vegetable Systems Trial, for example, examining the impact of management practices on vegetable nutrient quality and soil health, includes butternut pumpkin (squash), potatoes, lettuce, green beans and sweet corn. What better way to honour the Rodale Institute than a vegetarian feast using these beautiful ingredients? Bob’s daughter Maria says:
“My father coined the term regenerative agriculture by observing nature. Our job is to tap into and support the many natural process that exist, to heal ourselves and the land by farming and living regeneratively.”
Mauritian pumpkin au gratin
Roasted Brussels sprouts and fennel with tahini cream and fresh herbs
Chopped kohlrabi, apple and rocket salad with roasted hazelnuts and honey herb pesto
Corn, spring onion and broccoli fritters
Spiced pumpkin pie with an almond and ginger crust
Mauritian Pumpkin Au Gratin
Serves 8 | Prep time 15 minutes | Cooking time 40 minutes
This dish will forever bring my grandmother back to life in my mind. We have big lunches in Mauritius, so often Grandmère would do a gratin with bread and a leafy greens salad as a simple dinner. It might seem weird to mix cheese with ginger, but trust me it’s great. It’s a Mauritian thing. You can serve it as a simple meal on its own, but it also works as an autumnal starter when pumpkins are in season. Warm comfort in a bowl.
This is really easy – yes, you do have to check on it and stir the pumpkin to ensure even cooking… but I do this when I’m also cooking another dish or two. That way, when you’re chopping and organising other bits, you just take little breaks to stir the pumpkin.
40 g (1½ oz) butter or ghee, or coconut oil or macadamia oil*
1 large red onion, finely chopped
1 x 2.5 cm (1 inch) piece ginger, crushed, grated or finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1.5–2 kg (3 lb 5 oz – 4 lb 8 oz) butternut or kent pumpkin (squash), roughly chopped into smallish chunks
1 small handful parsley, finely chopped, plus extra to serve
4 thyme sprigs
4 spring onions (scallions), green part only, roughly chopped
½ teaspoon salt or to taste
1 cup (250 ml) chicken or vegetable stock or filtered water
2 cups (200 g) grated cheese or
1 cup (60 g) nutritional yeast*
Heat the butter or ghee in a large heavy-based saucepan* over medium heat. Fry the onion for 6-7 minutes, until well softened and golden. Add the ginger, garlic, pumpkin, parsley, thyme, spring onion, salt and stock. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook, covered, for 15-25 minutes, stirring every 5-8 minutes, until the pumpkin is well cooked. The last time you stir, leave the lid off until most of the liquid evaporates.
Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F).
Remove the pumpkin from the heat and mash it roughly into a very chunky mash rather than a purée. Transfer to a 20 x 30 cm (4 x 12 inch) enamel, glass or ceramic baking dish and scatter the grated cheese over the top.
Bake until golden brown, garnish with the extra parsley and serve immediately.
*Notes: Use coconut or macadamia oil and nutritional yeast options for dairy-free. You don’t want the pumpkin to stick to the bottom of the pan and burn before it cooks, so you’ll need a heavy-based saucepan or stockpot or a flameproof casserole dish. I use an enamelled cast-iron casserole dish.
Roasted Brussels Sprouts and Fennel with Tahini Cream and Fresh Herbs
¼ cup (60 ml) filtered water
600 g (1 lb 5 oz) Brussels sprouts, halved lengthways
1 large red onion, cut in half then wedges
3 fennel bulbs, tough outer layer removed, cut into 1 cm (½ inch) slices
¼ cup (60 ml) extra virgin olive oil
1 small handful mint, roughly chopped
1 small handful parsley, roughly chopped
4 spring onions (scallions), green part only, thinly sliced
Tahini, macadamia and lemon cream
100 g (3½ oz) tahini
¼ cup (60 ml) extra virgin olive oil
¼ cup (60 ml) fresh lemon juice
½ cup (130 g) plain yoghurt*
1 teaspoon local honey or maple syrup
½ teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon salt
black pepper, to taste
140 g (5 oz) roasted* macadamia nuts, roughly chopped
Preheat the oven to 200°C (400°F).
Heat the water in a large frying pan over high heat. Add the Brussels sprouts and cook until the water evaporates.* Transfer the Brussels sprouts to a roasting tin and add the onion, fennel and olive oil, stirring or shaking well to coat. Roast for 30 minutes, until the sprouts are well-browned.
Meanwhile, pop all the tahini cream ingredients except the macadamias in a blender and whiz on high for 1 minute, or until smooth. If it’s not creamy enough, add 2-3 tablespoons of water and blend again. Taste and adjust the seasoning.
To serve, spoon the tahini cream onto a large platter, spreading it out evenly, then scatter the macadamias over the top. Remove the vegies from the oven, cool for a minute or two, then pile them over the creamy base. Top with the fresh herbs and spring onions.
*Notes: To roast macadamia nuts, spread them on a baking tray and roast in a 170°C (325°F) in oven for 15 minutes. For dairy-free, substitute coconut yoghurt for the plain yoghurt. Pre-cooking the Brussels sprouts in a frying pan will prevent them drying out and burning in the oven.
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Chopped Kohlrabi, Apple and Rocket Salad with Roasted Hazelnuts and Honey Herb Pesto
1 kohlrabi, thinly sliced using a mandoline or finely chopped
2 apples, cut into matchsticks*
2¾ cups (100 g) rocket (arugula)*
⅔ cup (100 g) hazelnuts, roasted*
1 tablespoon honey
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
20 mint leaves
1 cup basil or parsley leaves*
½ cup (125 ml) extra virgin olive oil
⅓ cup (50 g) hazelnuts, roasted*
¼ teaspoon salt
⅓ cup (35 g) grated parmesan cheese or ¼ cup (15 g) nutritional yeast
black pepper, to taste
Pop kohlrabi, apple, rocket and hazelnuts in a salad bowl.
To make the pesto dressing, whiz all the ingredients in a blender on high for 5 seconds, or until combined. You could also pound them together using a large mortar and pestle. Whatever works for you.
Mix the pesto into the salad using your hands – get in there and coat everything thoroughly.
You are ready to rock.
*Notes: To cut an apple into matchsticks, cut the four cheeks away from the core and chop into slices, then matchsticks. If you’re familiar with local wild greens, challenge yourself to find an unsprayed section of ‘weeds’ or park and collect some chickweed, amaranth, dandelion greens or another one you know about. Replace 1 cup of the rocket measurement with these local wild greens. If you don’t know what’s out there, why not take a foraging tour with a local expert?
You can make the pesto dressing with whichever of the two herbs is available at the time. To roast hazelnuts, spread them on a baking tray and roast in a 170°C (325°F) oven for 10 minutes. To remove the bitter skins, rub the hot nuts gently in a clean tea towel (dish towel). You’ll see that both the salad and the pesto dressing contain roasted hazelnuts, so roast them all together.
Corn, Spring Onion and Broccoli Fritters
Serves 6 | Makes about 16
Who doesn’t love a good fritter? You can fry these the day before and reheat them in the oven on the day. Another alternative is to get someone cooking them on the barbecue while you get the rest of the feast together for serving. You can also bake this as a ‘fritter block’ in the oven and cut into squares, which works brilliantly for easy lunchbox meals.
olive oil, for greasing
2 organic pasture-raised eggs
½ cup (125 ml) milk of your choice*
½ cup (70 g) buckwheat flour
½ cup (65 g) tapioca flour or arrowroot
1 heaped teaspoon aluminium-free baking powder
⅓ teaspoon salt
1 cup (200 g) fresh corn kernels
½ cup chopped fresh herbs (e.g. parsley, coriander/cilantro)
½ cup (60 g) chopped spring onions (scallions)
1½ cups (185 g) grated sweet potato
1 cup (90 g) finely chopped broccoli
Preheat the oven to 200°C (400°F).*
Line a baking tray with unbleached baking paper.
In a large mixing bowl, combine all the ingredients and stir until the mixture is thick, gloopy and wet. You should be able to make a blob of it without all the liquid running off, but it shouldn’t be so dry that you can form it into a shape (how’s that for specific, right?). Too dry? Add an extra splash of milk. Too wet? Add another ½ cup grated vegies and 1 tablespoon tapioca flour or protein powder.
Heat a generous drizzle of olive oil in two large frying pans* over medium-high heat and drop in heaped tablespoons of the fritter mixture. Fry for 3-4 minutes on each side, until golden brown, turning once. Cook them in batches and place on a baking tray. Pop them in the oven shortly before serving, to make sure they’re hot.
*Note: I use organic almond milk or oat milk. If you’re roasting Brussels sprouts, the oven will already be on. You will already have used one of the frying pans to pre-cook the Brussels sprouts – no need to wash it.
Fritter dipping sauce
I made a quick tahini yoghurt for the photo by whisking together ½ cup (130 g) plain yoghurt (use coconut yoghurt for dairy-free), 2 tablespoons tahini, 1 tablespoon lemon juice, 1 teaspoon salt and ½ teaspoon black pepper. An easy one to use at a moment’s notice.
Spiced Pumpkin Pie with an Almond and Ginger Crust
Serves 8–10 | Cooking time 55 minutes total
You can make the filling ahead of time and have it in the fridge ready to go. You can also make the whole pie in advance – it keeps in the fridge for 3 days.
2 cups (400 g) roasted and cooled butternut or kent pumpkin (squash)
5 organic pasture-raised eggs
120 ml (4 fl oz) maple syrup or honey
½ cup (125 ml) coconut cream or organic thin (pouring) cream
½ cup (125 ml) milk of your choice
2 tablespoons tapioca flour, arrowroot or cornflour (cornstarch)
⅛ teaspoon ground or grated nutmeg, plus extra to serve
2 teaspoons ground ginger
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
⅛ teaspoon ground cloves
⅛ teaspoon salt
Spiced pastry and/or cookies
200 g (7 oz) frozen or chilled butter
½ cup (60 g) quinoa flakes or rolled (porridge) oats
1½ cups (190 g) tapioca flour or arrowroot
120 g (4¼ oz) hazelnut or almond meal
100 g (3½ oz) buckwheat flour, plus extra for dusting
2 heaped teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground cardamom
½ teaspoon vanilla bean powder
⅓ cup (115 g) maple syrup or honey, at room temperature
To make the filling, blend all the ingredients on high for 30 seconds. Cover the bowl and set aside at room temperature while you prepare the pastry.
Preheat the oven to 190°C (375°F). Lightly grease a round 20-23 cm (8-9 inch) pie dish or tin.
To make the pastry, pop all the ingredients except the maple syrup or honey in a food processor and pulse three or four times, for 3-4 seconds at a time, until the mixture resembles moist sand or breadcrumbs. On low, gradually add the maple syrup or honey over a few seconds, until the mixture forms a dough. If it’s a bit crumbly, add 1 tablespoon of olive oil.
Dust a clean work surface generously with flour. Transfer the dough to the work surface and shape it into a ball. Place ball of dough in the prepared pie dish and, using clean fingers, press into the bottom and sides to cover evenly, to about 5 mm (¼ inch) thickness. Break off any that comes up over the edges and set aside for making decorative cookies, as in the photo.
Using a fork, gently prick the pastry bottom all over, about 10 times. Place a sheet of baking paper over the pastry and cover with baking weights or uncooked legumes.
Reduce the oven temperature to 160°C (315°F). Add the filling to the pastry and bake for 40–50 minutes, until the centre barely wobbles. Sprinkle with extra nutmeg and serve warm or at room temperature.
To make cookies, roll dough to about 5 mm (¼ inch) thick. Cut using a cookie-cutter and spread on a baking tray lined with baking paper. Bake for about 15 minutes. Cool on tray.
Images and text from Low Tox Life Food by Alexx Stuart, photography by Cath Muscat. Murdoch Books RRP $36.99.