Vegetarian Paella

vegetarian-paella

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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Curly Kale, Rice and Beans

curly-kale-rice-and-beans

There are times when I am challenged by my dear husband to use  new ingredients and come up with a meal that meets his seal of approval 🙂 . I sent him shopping one day and he came back with an extra item to the list – Curly Kale. As soon as I saw it I thought Oh NO ! I have tried to cook with curly kale before some years back but found it too irony in taste and it did not quite work with what I made. So this time I thought I will look for some inspiration and then try and create a dish. I did a search and looked at a blogger and from there to a site dedicated to curly kale, which had lots of recipe ideas and nutritionist information. Both the sites seem to talk about the curly kale with a lot of fondness and suggested to use it as a cabbage. So I thought, right, looked at the ingredients I had then added the ingredients to this dish until it was an aesthetically pleasing. Then I served it up and it tasted great, even my son enjoyed it – I removed the green pepper corns from his dish. I thought that something so good for us and tasty, can’t go wrong really. So I will not be avoiding this vegetable in the future. I got some more curly kale soon after and used it in a curry as well as in a pasta sauce, which also tasted good.

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Vegetable Buns

vegetable-buns

My father is a free mason, and when he used to go to the lodge, this is one of the more popular dishes that he would take as the vegetarian option. I remember my older sister helping our mother to make them for him to take. It is a good dish to serve as a snack, with afternoon tea or at parties. Because these can be prepared in advance and then baked before serving makes it good to serve at dinner parties. We tend to use the same filling and pastry as the vegetable pie, however I have also made these buns with the same filling as the toasted sandwich. Experiment with the ingredients you have or enjoy to make the buns.

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Mixed Vegetable Pie

mixed-vegetable-pie

I find this dish to be one of those that has the comfort factor, fond childhood memories and something warm and spicy to eat in the cold weather. We tend to use the basic mix of vegetables similar to what is put in samosa filling – potato, carrot, peas, sweet corn, and onion, however you can use any mix of vegetables you like. As the filling is not very saucy, the addition of the white sauce and tomato ketchup, gives it a wonderful creamy moist texture, and a surprisingly good combination to add as my husband put it. I enjoy eating the pie on its own however, you can serve it with some salad.

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Ants on Trees

ants-on-trees

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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Chora nu shaak (black-eyed bean curry)

black-eyed-beans

Part of everyday cooking is great simple food. Being vegetarian, pulses and beans are the main form of protein so we try to have them either with every meal or as often as we can in a week. The addition of the basic Indian spices and herbs, makes this a simple yet substantial meal. Chora are said to be low in fat, and have no cholesterol, and are high in iron, potassium and fibre. The reason why I am adding such a simple and basic recipe is to  either give people ideas and help create something different with the same old beans or even help students to cook while away from home.

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Cheese Tomato & Mushroom Toasted Sandwich

toasted-sandwich

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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