The emphasis here is on simple. No more than 4 ingredients, no more than 20 minutes from start to finish. One pasta dish, one curry, one legume, and one mushroom dish.
And not a block of tofu in sight.
Spaghetti aglio e olio
That’s spaghetti with garlic and oil to you and me. Really my staple everyday meal, simple and cheap as you like. The most fiddly bit for newbies will peeling and chopping the garlic. For me, that’s the most pleasurable part. But then, I’m a garlic lover!
- Dried spaghetti
- Head of garlic
- Olive oil
Bring a large pan of water to a rolling boil. Salt generously and add the pasta.
While it’s cooking, break off 4 or 5 cloves of garlic from the head and peel them. Chop them finely (but not too finely, “Goodfellas” style!). Then poach them in olive oil on a medium high heat. You want them to turn golden but not brown. So be careful and watch them closely as they will continue to cook after you’ve taken the pan off the heat. If you think they’re about to burn add some more oil.
Stir the pasta as it cooks after about 4 minutes, so nothing’s sticking together. Then after about 8 minutes, or when it’s al dente, drain the pasta and toss with the garlic and oil, and salt to taste.
Some optional nice additions to toss with the pasta are chili flakes, capers and chopped olives.
Serve with crusty bread and a nice fresh salad. I like to just tear the leaves off a lettuce and toss them with oil, vinegar and salt.
Potato coconut curry
If we use mustard seeds to form the base of this dish, then we don’t need to use onions, which can take around 40 minutes to properly “cook out.” Potatoes of course are the vegan wonder food, complete nutrition. You can add any other veg to this as well – it’s a curry after all. I like to add cauliflower, which adds another earthy dimension to this dish.
- 3-4 large potatoes, chopped roughly into large bite-sized chunks
- Tin coconut milk
- Oil – preferably sunflower or corn
- Spices – I use mustard seeds of any colour, garam masala, turmeric and hot chilli
Gently fry the mustard seeds and spices in the oil to bring forth the aromatic base of the dish. When the seeds start to pop, add the potato and coconut milk. Put the lid on the pan and cook for 15 minutes or until potatoes are tender.
Serve with rice and wedges of lime, if you like.
I like simplicity, and I like to deconstruct things to their bare bones. In the case of lentils, I find less is more. There is nothing more warming, satisfying and comforting than a hot bowl of lentils, served with nice crusty bread, preferably warmed up. The only addition is salt, and an optional bay leaf.
It may seem odd to be adding this as a recipe idea, as it’s just boiled lentils. But I find that many people want to overcomplicate things, and they would consider any dish incomplete if they didn’t add extra veg, saffron, golddust and pixies’ tears. So this is a reminder of just how good lentils are, on their own, naked and unadorned.
It’s often best to make a lot of this at once, as it’s even better the next day, reheated.
- Lentils, any colour (I like red)
- Bay leaf (optional)
Cover lentils with water and bring to the boil. Then turn down to a simmer. Be prepared to add more water as they cook, as they will absorb a lot of it as they swell. Cook for 15 minutes or until tender. Taste and season.
Balsamic tomato mushrooms
There’s some kind of alchemy that happens here while the ingredients are cooking together. An earthy woodsiness meets a tangy sweetness, with the garlicky base. Beautiful.
I like to use cherry tomatoes if I can, and pierce their skins before I add them, so the juices flow out right away to get soaked up by the mushrooms.
A great addition is a sprig of thyme, the woody variety.
This is also a great breakfast, by the way.
- 3 or 4 large flat mushrooms, thickly sliced
- Clove of garlic
- 2-3 tomatoes, quartered; or a handful of cherry tomatoes
- Balsamic vinegar – can substitute sherry vinegar
Gently saute the chopped clove of garlic in the olive oil. When golden, add tomatoes, mushrooms and vinegar, and put the lid on. Simmer on medium high for 15 minutes, and you’ll uncover the most deliciously aromatic dish imaginable. There may be quite a lot of liquid. Serve with the toast, and mop up all those juices.
And even happier eating.