Category Archives: Breakfast & Brunch

smoked eggplant shakshuka

Lentil & Smoked Eggplant Shakshuka

Serves 4

Shakshuka might be one of the greatest breakfast dishes of all time, but it makes a pretty mean dinner too, especially with the addition of lentils. Typically a poached egg dish, this wildly delicious version doesn’t need eggs at all. Smoky, creamy and spicy, this will have you licking your lips and soaking up every last drop. I really don’t have much else to say. It’s easy and relatively quick, but will impress anyone you put it in front of. If you’re looking for brunch ideas to serve to your guests, or an easy dinner that tastes like it was way more effort, look no further.

Make this and eat it. That is all.

Ingredients

1/2 cup dried whole red lentils

5 cloves garlic, finely chopped

2 red capsicums, julienned or finely chopped (0.5cm or so)

2 tbsp harissa paste

1 1/2 to 2tsp ground cumin, to taste

800g tinned diced tomatoes

2tbsp tomato paste

2 eggplants, approx 800g

3 tbsp tahini (45ml)

2-3tbsp lemon juice, to taste

Salt and black pepper

Olive oil

A few tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

Method

1. Place the lentils in a saucepan and cover with a few inches of water. Bring to the boil and cook until the lentils are just tender, but still firm to the bite. Drain, rinse, set aside.

2. Meanwhile, place the eggplants directly onto the gas burner, turning every couple of minutes, until the skin is fully burnt and blackened and and the eggplants collapse in on themselves. Set aside on a plate until cool enough to handle.

3. Heat approx 2tbsp olive oil in a large cast iron skillet over medium heat. Add the capsicum and cook, stirring often, until softened. Add the garlic and harissa, and cook a few minutes until the garlic has softened. Add the cumin and stir a minute more. Add the tomatoes, tomato paste and one teaspoon of sea salt, stir well and bring to a simmer.

4. Stir in the lentils and let it all simmer away for approximately 20 minutes, stirring often. You may need to add a little water along the way if it gets too dry, you want a thick, juicy sauce consistency. Check the seasoning and reduce heat to very low to keep warm.

5. Meanwhile, cut the eggplants in half and scrape the flesh out into a bowl. Try not to get more than a few flecks of skin in the bowl. Season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste and stir it up with a fork. Spoon it into the middle of the tomato mixture, and give a quick, gentle stir to spread it out a little. Don’t mix it too much, you don’t want to completely blend it all together. Let it heat through a couple of minutes without stirring.

6. Meanwhile, put the tahini in a bowl and mix in the lemon juice. Add water 1 tbsp at a time, mixing thoroughly after each addition, until you have a smooth, creamy sauce the consistency of pouring cream. You won’t need more than 3tbsp. Season with salt to taste. Remove the pan from the heat, and drizzle with half the tahini sauce. Sprinkle with the parsley. Serve immediately in the pan with bread and the remaining tahini sauce on the side.

leek asparagus tart

Braised Leek and Asparagus Tart with Polenta Crust

I’m back in the cooking mood! After feeling a bit kitchen-lazy the last couple of weeks, I got back into the swing of things yesterday while helping the amazing ladies from Las Vegan and Big Sky to cater the Animal Activists’ Forum social. It was a fun day making canapés, actually my favourite kind of food to make. So much fun in fact that while I was laying awake all night as I always seem to do, I found myself writing a list of everything in the fridge and pantry, and scribbling down ideas for new dishes. I came up with a dozen new canapé ideas before I got onto the practical ideas, because while my brain is always very awake when I should be sleeping, it’s rarely helpful.

This recipe came to me around 5am as I was getting hungry for breakfast, and made it to the top of the list because I wanted to go for a picnic today. A perfect warm and sunny spring day, the birds were singing and the air smelled of flowers. And polenta tarts are perfect for picnics; they are best at room temperature, they are sturdy and travel well (once cut into pieces), and you don’t have to worry about keeping them in the fridge. Hooray! Plus they are gluten free, which is excellent, because most of my favourite picnic foods revolve around the bread I can no longer eat.

Of course, in typical Melbourne fashion by the time the tart came out of the oven a thunderstorm had rolled in. Bye bye picnic. It was sad times, until I ate this tart, then I was very happy again. This tart might be great for picnics, but it’s just as delicious when you eat it inside. It’s great for a rustic brunch or lunch or at a BBQ. It would also fit well into an Italian restaurant style antipasti plate (where each diner is served an individual tasting plate of 3-5 antipasti).

Ingredients

2 large leeks (mine were very large, if in doubt use 3)

3 bunches of asparagus (approx 21 spears), woody ends snapped off

5 large cloves garlic, roughly chopped

A couple of sprigs of fresh rosemary

1 bay leaf

1 cup vegetable stock

1/2 cup water

1/2 cup vegan parmesan

Olive oil for cooking

Salt and pepper to taste

For the crust

1 cup polenta (aka cornmeal)

4 cups water

A generous pinch of salt and a little more for good measure

2 tbsp olive oil

1/3 cup vegan parmesan

Method

1. Make the crust

Line a rimmed baking tray with baking paper

Bring the 4 cups water, the salt and the oil to the boil in a medium saucepan. Add the polenta to the boiling water while whisking. Reduce the heat to medium-low and continue to whisk until the mixture thickens. Switch to a wooden spoon and continue cooking over a low heat until thick and creamy, approx 20-30 minutes. Remove from the heat and beat in the vegan parmesan. Check salt and adjust if necessary.

Pour the polenta onto the tray and spread into a rectangle approx 30 x 20cm. Try to concentrate more of the mixture at the edges if you can, but make sure the middle is 1 to 1.5cm thick. Leave to cool and set a few minutes, then form a crust by pinching up the edges. Leave to set 30 minutes (or longer, you can make this in advance).

2. Preheat the oven to 200C/190C fan forced

3. Remove the tough dark green leaves from the leeks (but keep the light green parts). Cut the leeks in half, then slice lengthwise 5mm thick. Wash very well. Heat a generous splash of olive oil in a heavy frying pan over medium heat and add the leeks. Sauté until softened and starting to brown a little, then add the rosemary, bay leaf, stock and water. Stir to deglaze, then cover with a lid. Allow to braise until all the liquid has absorbed and the leeks are meltingly soft. Remove from the heat and stir in the parmesan. Keep stirring until you have creamy dip like mixture. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

3. Place the set polenta crust into the oven and bake 20 minutes to crisp up. Remove from the oven and spread the leek mixture evenly over the top. Place the asparagus spears on top, pressing them in a little. Brush with a little olive oil and season with a little salt and pepper. Return to the oven for another 20 -25 minutes, or until the asparagus spears are nice and tender and the polenta crust is nice and crispy.

4. Remove from the oven and leave to cool at least 10 minutes. Use the baking paper to lift the tart onto a serving board and let cool to lukewarm before slicing. This tart is best served at room temperature. Garnish with a little fresh parsley and a squeeze of lemon juice before serving, if desired.

Savoury french toast

Savoury French Toast

Serves: 8-10 slices, depending on the size of your bread slices

Time: 10 mins prep, plus 10 mins cooking

Fluffy, springy, eggy, delicious savoury French toast! This is by far one of my favourite breakfasts, perfect for when I’m too hungry for toast, but not hungry enough for scrambled tofu. I know most people think of French toast as a sweet dish, but I really don’t enjoy sweet things first thing in the morning.

I must have made this a hundred times, but I never measured it out before today. This morning I finally thought, hey, it will really only take you an extra five minutes to measure this, and you’re still full of popcorn from last night, so stop being lazy and do it. And so I did, hooray! One more list of ingredients turned into a recipe.

For breakfast, I serve this with just some Tabasco, fresh herbs and some tomato relish, as I don’t eat much in the morning. For brunch, I serve it with roasted cherry tomatoes, wilted spinach, tabasco and a little bit of vegan parmesan sprinkle, or with a salad. You can of course serve it with whatever you want.

Ingredients

8 -10 slices of ciabatta (or similar), around 1.5cm thick

1 cup silken tofu

1/2 cup water

4 tbsp chickpea (besan) flour

4 tbsp nutritional yeast

1/2 to 3/4 tsp kala namak (Indian black salt), depending on your saltiness preference

1 tbsp finely chopped chives

1 tbsp finely chopped parsley (or herbs of choice)

1 large clove garlic, minced

Generous amount of cracked black pepper

Instructions

1. Place the tofu, chickpea flour, water, salt, pepper, garlic and nutritional yeast into a food processor or blender and blend until smooth. Stir in the herbs and pour into a flat dish with sides

2. Heat a non-stick pan over medium-low heat and brush with a little olive oil. Dip the bread into the tofu mix to get a nice even coating and shake off the drips. Place into the pan and cook until golden brown with a very light crispness, around 4 or 5 minutes each side. Serve immediately with garnishes of choice (Tabasco, fresh herbs, vegan parmesan, relish, spinach, roasted tomatoes etc).