We’re now heading into week 4 and I’m sure that if you’ve got this far, you have a handle on how to eat a plant-based diet, from breakfasts and quick pasta dishes to snacks and sweet treats. So, this week, I wanted to throw you some left-field options to add a few bells and whistles to your repertoire.
Most of this week’s recipes are from south and south-east Asia, as that’s where I take most inspiration for my column, the New Vegan – many of the countries and cultures within these regions have happily put plants at the centre of their tables for centuries, on account of religious or economic reasons. Some of these cuisines are extremely well developed, making them a joy to explore and they give me a true sense that I’m never missing out – unlike the feeling I get when I eat ultra-processed alternative meats.
Are you wondering what happens next? Perhaps you will continue eating a vegan diet, like just under half of those who signed up to Veganuary reportedly did last year. Or perhaps you’ll just eat more plants as part of a flexitarian diet and be a bit more pro-carrot than you were before. I hope, if nothing else, you’ll have seen how easy and delicious cooking with plants can be. If that’s the case, my job here is done.
Travel to Japan via this miso soup with either noodles or rice for breakfast, create some warmth in the belly with Simon Hopkinson’s congee with bok choy – or tuck into some aloo paratha and pickles, like the Punjabis do.
I’m really enjoying drinks as snacks at the moment. In particular, Taiwanese bubble tea, which isn’t as obscure as you might think. Bubble tea culture has been flourishing in London for years and, it’s easy to make at home if you have these tapioca balls. Henry Dimbleby has a recipe here but if that’s too much of a stretch, this date and banana smoothie looks great (and quick) or, easier still, pour yourself a glass of heavenly Innocent hazelnut milk.
Laab is the unnoficial dish of Laos. Traditionally, it is a meat-based salad with plenty of flavour to tickle all five tastes, but Yotam Ottolenghi has a version using mushroom and peanuts with noodles. Or how about this forbidden rice salad with tenderstem and miso – it’s one of my favourite things to make when I have people over for lunch. (Just remember to swap the summer mangetout for cabbage or edamame beans).
It’s my birthday this week so forgive me for lining up my favourites. This Gujarati cabbage and potato curry, a taste of home, would be my perfect start to the week with a side of chapatis, non-dairy yoghurt and some sweet and salty mango chhundo alongside.
Tuesday, I need speed and I’ll be making these peanut and cucumber noodles, subbing the egg noodles for whole wheat.
By the time Wednesday arrives, it’s time for mapo tofu, of which Fuschia Dunlop is undoubtedly the queen. It’s one of the best low-effort, high-reward dishes I’ve ever come across and perfect with some no-soak, quick cooking jasmine rice and a Tsingtao beer.
Fire up the oven on Thursday when you walk through the door and roast a pile of aubergines and beans to throw into this Thai basil stir fry.
And finally, on Friday, I’m going to leave the cooking to someone else. This week, I’ll be ordering a takeaway curry from Dabba Drop, which delivers curries, dal, rice and rotis in plastic-free steel “dabbas”. However, if you’re cooking, I’ll suggest this swede laksa, based on the curry laksas of Singapore. This one uses swede which turns buttery when roasted.
Yes! It’s the weekend and it’s not just my birthday, but that of the great Robert Burns – so we’re travelling back to Scotland briefly to crack out the Macsween’s vegan haggis, roasted neeps and tatties (or leftover mashed swede from the laksa?) and dance a ceilidh around the kitchen table. Wash the whole thing down with firewater, or my ginger parkin, in which the whisky and spice are both very welcome here – I’m going out with a bang.
I hope you’ve had fun.