NEW RECIPE: Orzo with Harissa and Aubergine

Based originally on a Nigel Slater recipe that’s undergone about a dozen changes by now, this is an unostentatious but truly beautiful dish that’s quick and easy to make but doesn’t scrimp on flavour.

Whether you’re eating in the kitchen with good friends or sitting down to a long meal with lots of wine, this is a fantastic little recipe that’s subtly flavoured and uses two of my favourites, Harissa and basil (with lemon thrown in too).



1 onion
2 cloves garlic
400gr chestnut mushrooms
400gr tin chopped tomatoes
Olive oil
Italian mixed herbs
Salt & pepper
1 bay leaf
1 bunch fresh basil
1 cup non dairy milk
2 tablespoons vegan margarine
1,5 tablespoons plain flour
½ cup grated vegan cheese or vegan Parmesan by Minimalist baker
6 lasagna sheets

Preheat the oven gas mark 6 / 200C / 400F.

Roughly chop the onion, garlic and chestnut mushrooms, then put in a food processor. Blitz until it is roughly the same consistency as minced beef. If you don’t have a food processor, chop them very finely. Add some Italian herbs and salt and pepper.
Put a large pan on a medium-high heat and heat up some olive oil. Add the onion, garlic and mushroom mixture and cook for about 10 minutes, until it has slightly browned. Add the chopped tomatoes and the bay leaf. Simmer for roughly 10 minutes. Once cooked, turn off the heat. Take out the bay leaf and roughly rip up a bunch of basil leaves and stir in.

While the tomato sauce is cooking away, put the non-dairy milk, margarine and flour in a small saucepan. Put on a low heat and slowly heat up while whisking the entire time. It won’t mix well at first, but once it is warmed up properly, it will suddenly bind. Keep whisking and heating up until you have a thick-ish white sauce.

Grease a medium sized oven dish (roughly the size of three lasagna sheets next to each other) with a little bit of olive oil. Put a third of the tomato sauce in the bottom, top with a third of the white sauce and then 3 lasagna sheets. Repeat and then finish off with a third tomato sauce, a third white sauce and then the grated vegan cheese or vegan Parmesan. Place the lasagna in the preheated oven for 25-30 minutes.

Spaghetti and Meat(less) Balls

People that want to switch to vegetarian diet usually face two problems : getting enough nutrients and maintaining peace with the rest of the world. However, those problems can be easily solved by having knowledge about nutrition and cooking. Trying to go vegetarian by simply eliminating meat and eating side dishes does not work well. Enthusiastically trying to feed your meat loving family and friends with side dishes works even worse. By trying to do that you will feel depleted and gain a fame of “another starving vegan”. Please don’t do that.

It is impossible to motivate others to give up eating meat by simply removing animal products. Nevertheless, it is easy to do it by providing a higher better taste that satisfies all senses. It may take a little time and effort, but it will make it even more special. When your dishes turn out really well others don’t miss meat at all, sometimes they don’t even realize that the dish that they enjoy is vegetarian.

I like to experiment with meat less versions of all meat eater’s favorites. I have been trying to get spaghetti and meat(less) balls right for a while. And now I’ve finally got it. Filling and nutritious dish is sure to satisfy the pickiest of carnivores as well as gluten free vegan health enthusiasts.

Spaghetti with Meal(less) Balls

serves 3



2/3 cup green lentils, washed under running water

1/3 cup dry roasted buckwheat groats (can be found in Russian stores), washed under running water

2.5 cups water

¾ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon asofetida

1/3 teaspoon black pepper

1 tablespoon dry basil

1 teaspoon dry oregano

1 teaspoon non-GMO corn starch

oil for frying

Pasta Sauce

14 oz can crushed tomatoes

1 teaspoon sugar

½ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon asofetida

¼ teaspoon ground black pepper

a handful of fresh basil leaves, washed and pat dried

½ teaspoon oil

3 servings of pasta cooked ‘al dente’ according to package instructions

1. Bring water to boil over high heat. Add salt and lentils. Cover and turn the heat down to low. Cook for 30 minutes.

2. Add buckwheat to lentils. Bring to boil, cover and cook for 15 minutes. After 15 minutes turn off the heat and set aside to cool.

3. Once cooled puree lentils and buckwheat in a blender or food processor. Add the spices and corn starch, mix with hands to incorporate.

4. Warm up a wide frying pan with enough oil to cover the bottom. Form small balls and carefully place them in oil warmed up over medium high heat. Fry for 1-1.5 minutes on each side rotating the balls until all sides appear crispy. I recommend using thongs to turn them.

5. To assemble the dish first place cooked pasta in a plate. Cover it with a generous amount of pasta sauce and place a few meat(less) balls on top.

To make the sauce:

1. Warm up a little oil over medium high heat. Add black pepper and asofetida. After 30 seconds follow with crushed tomatoes, salt and sugar.

2. Lower the heat, stir, cover and saute for 7-8 minutes. Add a little pasta water if your sauce gets too thick.

3. Add basil leaves, stir and turn off the heat. The sauce is ready.

Enjoy and be happy!

Dinner last night: Polenta with Wine-Simmered Veggies and Cashew Cream Tomato Sauce. 🌽🍅🇮🇹🍷

This dish sounds a lot more complicated than it actually was because I used primarily pre-made ingredients. You can, of course, make it more homemade by preparing the polenta and tomato sauce on your own, but this is my weeknight-friendly version.

Vegan wine used: Torres Viña Sol.

(Serves two)
-1 18 oz roll pre-cooked polenta, sliced into ½ inch thick rounds
-4 cloves garlic, crushed and roughly chopped
-½ an onion, chopped
-1 zucchini, cut into half-moons
-1 yellow summer squash, cut into half moons
-½ head of cauliflower (or ~2 broccoli crowns), chopped
-4 red chiles, sliced with ~2/3 of the seeds removed (adjust to your spice desire)
-¼ c dry white wine
-A pinch of cinnamon
-Salt and garlic powder to taste
-High-heat oil (i.e. Canola)

For the sauce:
-½ c good tomato sauce
-½ c cashew cream (I didn’t use this whole recipe here, but the recipe I use to keep a constant supply in the fridge consists of: 1 c cashews, soaked for at least an hour, drained and then blended with 2 cloves garlic, 1 tsp Dijon mustard, 1 tsp lemon juice, 2 tsp soy sauce or salt to taste, 2 tsp white wine, and 1 tsp arrowroot powder)

-In a large pan, sauté the onion over high heat for about two minutes, or until it first starts to turn translucent. Turn the heat down to medium, and add the chiles, garlic, some garlic powder, and cinnamon. Let sauté for about 2 more minutes, and add the cauliflower, seasoning well with salt. Let sauté for 3-5 more minutes, and then add the zucchini, summer squash, and wine to the pan. Allow to simmer on medium-low heat while you prepare the polenta.
-In a small pan, heat a small amount of oil - no more than a teaspoon - on high heat until a drop of water sizzles on contact. Fry the polenta rounds on each side, intermittently seasoning with salt and garlic powder, until warmed through and the edges are crisp.

Serve with wine and lots of love!

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