I was asked by my dear brother in-law some time back if there is such a thing as a vegetarian paella and I said yes just replace the meat or fish with vegetables. I had never made it before but always enjoyed the passionate description given by TV chefs when they make or try paella. Every time I would say to myself I should make it but never did venture out to try and find a recipe or recreate a traditional paella with just vegetables.
So as he was coming around for dinner one day I thought let me try making it. I looked at various different traditional recipes. Some had just seafood and others with game and seafood mixed together. Certain things that came out of my research were that there is usually wine, saffron, and specific types of rice used. However the method changes per region and family recipe, much like the Indian biryani or the Creole rice dish jambalaya, which I make often. So I started thinking of the vegetables that I could use, or that would have similar colours to a seafood paella – orange, black, green, red etc. It turned out to be a tasty dish which we all enjoyed.
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Tofu is fairly recent regular addition to my kitchen /cooking. It is very similar to paneer, which is an Indian cheese that does not have any particular taste and can be used for sweet and savoury recipes. As a result I use tofu more regularly. It absorbs all the flavours and hence makes it very versatile.
A few years ago I bought a basic quick vegetarian recipe book from a supermarket and Scrambled Tofu was one of the recipes in it. It was a simple red capsicum, tofu and chives scramble. I like the idea and added a few other ingredients to give extra taste and flavour to the tofu. This is a good breakfast / brunch recipe, or even to eat as a healthy snack and a good alternative to scrambled eggs.
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I fell in love with the wonderfully fresh, aromatic and spicy Thai food, whilst on honeymoon in Thailand. We went to a beach restaurant in Koh Samui and being vegetarian we were well looked after. It was reassuring to know the pots and pans were well cleaned in our view before preparing our food but it meant our food always took longer to prepare.
While we were there we were told that the authentic food is very spicy, so this is a challenge to me as I love spicy food. Towards the end of our honeymoon, in Phuket we went to another beach side restaurant. I asked for the real authentic green curry that the locals would have, to this I was told we would not be able to handle it !! It was a great curry for me I just loved it :D, on the other hand even though my dear husband had it, it was too much for him and as a result he needed a few glasses of drinks to cool him down.
With Thai food the way in which the food is prepared and served is very interesting as it shows that, if you add the correct ingredients at the right time into the curry you get the most of the herbs and spices and that adds to the flavour and entire eating experience. It not only is a fantastic treat to the taste buds but also the eye as all the food is carved and looks beautiful, even the pineapple served after every meal was cut up in such away that you just wanted to leave it rather than eating it up.
The inspiration for my vegetarian version has been created by basing it on a Tarla Dalal recipe as well as looking at ingredients on ready made jars of curry paste and from TV shows. I put more lemon grass and coriander in the paste and less coconut in the curry, or as I did this time, none at all as the rice had coconut milk. This is a great curry to have if you like spicy food, and would like a change from Indian food and don’t quite fancy Chinese.
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When I was growing up in Malawi, we used to go to a Chinese restaurant and this was one of the items we used to always have. I don’t know why it has this name but I guess that is part of the novelty of having this fun snack / starter / side dish. After many years, I made it last summer when my older sister and nieces came for the summer from Hong Kong. We just went by memory and recreated it but later I found a recipe from an old recipe file, which had cabbage and carrots in it also. It is a messy but fun dish to eat, kind of like Mexican tacos. All the same it is a good recipe to share with friends and family. Perhaps you can serve this dish as a self service meal, that way the lettuce leaves will not become soggy and people can have the amount of filling and garnish they want.
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When we first used to make stir fry or Chinese sweet & sour stir fry in Malawi, we would use specific vegetables (cabbage, french beans, carrots etc.) and make the sauce at home. We would have it either with plain rice or fried rice. Then when we came here we saw the supermarkets with pre made sauces like hoi sin, teriyaki, black bean etc. As always we had to be cautious as these tended to contain some form of fish oil or sauce. The other thing with all the ready made sauces is that they have added preservatives to give them the long shelf life. So after trying a few brands which where vegetarian, we created our own version by using shop bought sauces and our own home made mix. However I do try and make the sauces at home to taste, this way I know what I am putting into it and each time the taste is different. The list of ingredients started to change also. After marriage I started adding tofu, mushrooms, and savoy cabbage to my stir fries. By making my own sauce at home I sometimes get the correct balance of vegetables and sauces and sometimes I get it wrong, however that is all part of the fun of cooking.
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When I was growing up in Malawi we used to have cheese and tomato toasted sandwiches with white bread for breakfast on Sunday mornings. We really enjoyed them. I remember my father would cut 2 cm square pieces for us as we didn’t know how to use a fork & knife back then. The flat iron sandwich toaster would flatten the sandwich and crisp the bread (because we used to butter both sides of the bread slightly – not too healthy !) It was a perfect breakfast 🙂
Back to real life, after marriage I started eating brown and wholemeal bread and one day my husband told me to make the toasted sandwiches using this recipe combination, so this is my husbands invention. I really liked the mixture of flavours with brown bread and we make this as a light meal or filling brunch / lunch. In the past I have also added vegetarian sausages to the mix, which tastes good also. Now I know this is a simple recipe but I wanted to share my memories and give people ideas of some quick and simple healthy recipes that we may not think of normally. Especially if you are a student away from home and want to try and eat healthy food, or if you are just uninspired, or need a reminder of the simple foods that give us pleasure in our lives.
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This is a very versatile mix that can be used in many combinations and different dishes. I use this mix for a savoury pancake filling, pies, and wraps. It is a very easy recipe, the only effort is chopping the vegetables 🙂 Use your imagination and the possibilities are endless.
I first had something similar to this when we were invited over for dinner by one of my husband’s niece. I thought it was quite clever to roast the vegetables without marinating, and have the simple flavours. Then a few years later, when I was in a rush, I had some vegetables that I tossed into a frying pan and let them cook on a high flame and they tasted quite good. They became a little caramelized and spicy because of adding the chilli sauce at the end.
Give it a go and tell me how you liked the recipe and also what you used it in.
Continue reading “Savoury Filling”