Plant-based cafe classics

After four great years running a 100% plant-based cafe through various lockdowns, supply chain issues, mandates and staffing shortages, we have recently made a few changes to keep up with the times and to run a successful hospitality business in this new social and economic climate.

After moving to the country, growing our own vegetables and developing relationships with neighbours who are producers at the beginning of the food chain, we’ve seen a shift in our food philosophy. We can see the need to rely less on overseas imports and processed ingredients and move to a more local model, heroing unprocessed vegetables and making the most of the amazing produce, wild foods and herbs that Otago and New Zealand has to offer.

We’ve had some real stand-out dishes over the years as a plant-based cafe which saw people with all sorts of diets coming back again and again. I’m so happy to share some of the favourites with you so you can make them in your own home.

Green Herb Arancini

Serves 4-6 as an appetiser

Perfect to have with drinks. These can be frozen once coated in bread crumbs and kept in the freezer to fry whenever you need them!

1 cup peas (if using frozen use baby peas)

1 cup spinach or other garden greens

1 cup fresh herbs (basil, mint, coriander and parsley work best)

3 cups liquid vegetable stock

1 cup cashew cream (from supermarkets, or blend ⅓ cup soaked cashews with ⅔ cup cold water)

1.5 cups risotto rice

¼ cup nutritional yeast

Juice 1/2 lemon

Salt & pepper

Panko bread crumbs


In a high speed blender place the peas, spinach, herbs, nutritional yeast, lemon juice and cashew cream and blend until smooth.

Make a risotto by sealing the risotto rice in a little oil in a saucepan over a medium heat for about a minute, then ladle some stock into the rice, stirring til the liquid is absorbed. Continue doing this, ladle by ladle until all the liquid is absorbed.

Stir through the green herby cashew cream, turn off the heat and pop the lid on and leave for about 30 minutes. Taste for seasoning.

After 30 minutes, thanks the lid off, give it a stir then pour the rice into a sheet pan and spread it out so it can cool quickly.

Once cool enough to handle roll into balls, press into panko bread crumbs and deep fry until golden brown.

Serve with green herby mayo or pea puree.

Smoked Carrot Pate

Serves 4 as an appetiser

2 carrots

1 block firm tofu, patted dry

¼ cup nutritional yeast

1 tsp onion powder

1 tsp garlic powder

¼ tsp liquid smoke

100g coconut oil, melted

Juice ½ lemon


Wash the carrots then wrap (keep whole) them in tin foil. Roast in a 190degC oven for about an hour until soft, let cool about 10 minutes until easy to handle.

In a high speed blender place all ingredients and blend until completely smooth. Season with salt and pepper if needed.

Place in a glass bowl and let set in the fridge overnight.

Serve with crackers, vegetable sticks or on bread as a sandwich spread.

Garden Burger

Makes 4-6 burgers

2 cups split red lentils soaked 1 hour (or overnight)

2 raw beetroot, peeled and chopped

½ bunch parsley, finely chopped

1 tsp ground cumin

1 tsp cumin seeds

1 tsp Moroccan seasoning

2 tsp smoked paprika

2 tsp plant-based "beef" powdered stock

¾ cup chickpea flour

To assemble

Burger buns

Shredded iceberg lettuce

Sliced tomato

Sliced gherkin

Cheese slice

Herb pesto



In a food processor break up the beetroot to a course grind.

Add lentils, parsley and spices and pulse until lentils begin to break down.

Add chickpea flour and pulse to combine. Chill at least 1 hour.

Shape into patties then dredge in corn starch, salt and pepper and fry until golden.

To assemble, spread mayo on both sides of a toasted burger bun, add lettuce, burger patty, tomato, cheese, pesto and gherkin.

Best served with kumara fries.

Hawker rolls with nuac cham

Serves 4

This was one of the most popular dishes on our menu. It’s great for feeding a crowd as you can have all elements in bowls and people can make their own.

You can use any protein you like, we used a plant based chicken but in this recipe I have subbed tempeh.

Nuac Cham dressing

1 cup cold water

Juice 3 limes

4 tbsp soy sauce

4 tbsp white vinegar

2 tbsp toasted sesame oil

2 tbsp brown sugar

4 fresh red chillies, finely diced

2 garlic cloves crushed

Pinch kelp flakes (or fish sauce)


¼ red cabbage, finely sliced

1 carrots grated

1 cup mung beans or snow pea shoots

1 handful fresh coriander, roughly chopped

1 handful fresh mint, roughly chopped

1 block tempeh, sliced ½ cm slices


½ cup chopped salted peanuts

1 lime

4 roti, toasted


Make the dressing by putting all ingredients into a jar and giving it a shake.

Pour about half of the dressing over cabbage, carrot, mung beans, mint and coriander (keep the rest in the fridge for up to 1 week).

Fry the tempeh in a little oil til golden and season with salt.

Fill your toasted roti with dressed salad, top with hot tempeh then drizzle with mayo, crushed peanuts and a quarter of a lime.

Sesame tofu edamame salad

Serves 8

This is a super easy nutritious and filling salad. Its a meal on its own and makes a huge bowl full. If doing at home you can keep this 3 days in the fridge if well covered and take to work for lunch. It can be served cold or warm.

1 bag frozen shelled edamame

1 large block firm tofu, patted dry

1 tbsp cornflour

1 cucumber, washed and diced

3 handfuls mixed greens

⅓ cup toasted black and white sesame seeds


¼ cup tamari

⅛ cup white vinegar

⅛ cup toasted sesame oil

⅛ cup sweet chilli sauce


Make the dressing by putting all the ingredients in a jar with a lid and shake to combine.

Blanch the edamame in boiling water 3 minutes then cool in an ice bath (this retains their colour) Cut the tofu into 1cm cubes, toss in the cornflour then shallow fry in a neutral oil til golden brown. In a large bowl mix together all the salad ingredients, toss with the dressing and serve.

Creamiest hummus

Serves 4-8 as a snack

The trick here is to blend the tahini, cold water and lemon juice first until they are emulsified then blend in the chickpeas. This makes the hummus super smooth and creamy.

2 tins chickpeas rinsed and drained

Juice and zest of 2 lemons

¼ cup cold water

¼ cup tahini

¼ cup olive oil

3 cloves garlic, crushed

1/4 tsp ground cumin

Salt, pepper, roasted chickpeas to serve

Pickles vegetables to serve


In a food processor blend the lemon juice, cold water and tahini until smooth and whipped up. Add a little more cold water if necessary.

Next add the chickpeas, olive oil, garlic and cumin and blend until very very smooth. Don't be scared to blend away for 5-10 minutes. You can add a little more water at this step to if you need to.

To serve spread on a flat plate, drizzle with olive oil, crispy chickpeas, pickled vegetables, herbs, flowers and serve with flatbread.

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