Time to take stock of veges

Nadia Lim in her garden. Photo: supplied
Nadia Lim in her garden. Photo: supplied
There is no other food source that is so unreservedly good for people and versatile - they can be eaten raw, roasted, braised, blended, stir-fried, barbecued, steamed, mashed and baked - as vegetables, Nadia Lim says.

''There are so many possibilities in the vegetable world that we will forever be discovering new varieties and ways with them.''

Lim, who studied nutrition at the University of Otago and rose to fame through television cooking programme Masterchef, has showcased this versatility in her latest cookbook, Vegful, which is entirely vegetable-focused.

''I've created this book for vegetarians, vegans and omnivores alike. Whichever way we choose to eat, there's no doubt that eating more vegetables would do all of us good. So instead of a vegetarian/vegan cookbook, I'd more accurately describe it as a vegetable cookbook. Or, a very ''vegful'' cookbook! One to celebrate beautiful, colourful, bountiful vegetables,'' Nadia says.

Plant-based eating is rising in popularity, one in 10 Kiwis now identifying themselves as vegetarian or vegan.

''All around the world, people are looking to eat more vegetable-based meals, and I've had that feedback from A LOT of Kiwis, so I figured it was time to do a vegetable cookbook. I'm not vegetarian myself; however, my family and I do love our vegetarian and vegan meals.''

The book aims to provide inspiration for people who want to incorporate more vegetables into their diet.

''There is no doubt about it that eating more vegetables would do all of us lots of good. It's the one food source of which we can't simply eat too much.''

While Kiwis' cooking culture has been largely based around meat - most of the time it's the starting point of a meal - and there are concerns vegetarian food might be somehow ''lacking''.

Lim says that is not the case but it requires a bit of a change in mindset.

''Once you get used to thinking of vegetables as your starting point, and exploring new varieties, ways and techniques you'll wonder why vegetables weren't the star of your main meals all along.''

She has divided the book into chapters such feasts and sharing, leftovers, hearty salads and there is even a sweets section full of recipes that star vegetables - such as a parsnip, pear, ginger and walnut cake, carrot bliss balls, pumpkin and cinnamon donuts and sweet potato pie.

To see

Nadia Lim, Vegful: at PaperPlus Cromwell (signing) and Wanaka November 4, Queenstown November 5, Winton and Invercargill November 11, Gore November 12, Mosgiel November 13 and Oamaru November 14.


Photos: Supplied
Photos: Supplied

Beetroot, chocolate and orange cake

This light, almost sponge-like cake is one that is great as a morning or afternoon tea-type cake by itself (as its not overly sweet or rich), or you can make it more decadent and special with the chocolate ganache and fresh berries. This recipe makes a smaller cake, enough to serve 8-10 nicely.

Serves 8-10

Prep time 20 minutes

Cook time 60 minutes

GF | DF*

350-400g beetroot, peeled and chopped
¼ cup coconut oil or melted butter
1 cup brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla essence or extract
1 cup (100g) ground almonds
1¼ cup (100g) desiccated coconut
finely grated zest of 1 orange
3½ Tbsp dark cocoa (I use Dutch cocoa) or cacao powder
1 tsp baking powder
5 medium free-range eggs

Chocolate ganache
85g dark chocolate, chopped
⅓ cup cream or coconut cream
1 punnet fresh berries, to garnish

1. Preheat oven to 170degC. Lightly grease and line the base and sides of a 20-21cm cake tin with baking paper.

2. Boil beetroot for 10-15 minutes until tender.

3. Drain beetroot well and place in a food processor or blender along with coconut oil/butter, brown sugar and vanilla. Blend until smooth.

4. If using the food processor, add ground almonds, coconut, orange zest, cocoa, baking powder and eggs, and continue blending until mixture is smooth and well combined. Otherwise, pour mixture into a large bowl, add other ingredients and whisk until smooth and well combined.

5. Pour into prepared cake tin and bake for 1 hour or until cake is just set. Leave to cool for at least 10 minutes before removing from tin and transferring to a cake rack, then allow to cool completely before icing.

6. To make ganache, place chocolate and cream/coconut cream in a heatproof bowl and melt together in the microwave in 30-second bursts, then stir until smooth and glossy. Alternatively, place bowl above a small pot of barely simmering water and stir gently every now and again until melted. Allow ganache to cool slightly before using.

7. Spread ganache over the top of the cake and a little down the sides and top with fresh berries.

*To make dairy-free, use coconut oil and cream and dairy-free dark chocolate

Kumara focaccia with grapes and rosemary

I reckon everyone needs to experience how satisfying it is to make your own focaccia bread. There's nothing quite like it fresh out of the oven, then plonked on the table to pull apart and generously dip into extra-virgin olive oil and balsamic or cut into thick slabs to have with salad or soup.

Serves 6-8

Prep time 25 minutes (+ 1 hour 45 minutes to rise)

Cook time 30 minutes

DF | Vegan

300g kumara (red, orange or gold), peeled and chopped (or you can use potato)
250ml warm (not hot) water
1 tsp sugar
1 Tbsp active dried yeast
2 tsp salt
6 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
450g high-grade flour

1 cup grapes, cut in half
leaves from 1-2 sprigs rosemary
1 Tbsp flaky sea salt or rock salt

1. Cook kumara in boiling salted water until soft. Drain and mash well.

2. While kumara is cooking, combine warm water and sugar in a large mixing bowl. Sprinkle yeast on top and stir gently. Set aside for about 10 minutes until frothy.

3. Whisk in mashed kumara, salt, and 3 tablespoons of the olive oil. Sift in flour. Mix until ingredients are just combined.

4. Tip dough on to a clean, dry surface. Bring together with your hands and knead for 10 minutes until smooth and elastic, adding a little flour as needed. The dough should be soft; if it's really sticky, add a little more flour.

5. Drizzle the inside of the bowl the dough was in with olive oil. Fold edges of the dough underneath to create a smooth, rounded top, then place in the oiled bowl. Drizzle and rub dough with a little more olive oil to prevent a crust forming on top. Cover with a clean tea towel and leave in a warm place for 1 hour until it has doubled in size.

6. Drizzle a baking tray with olive oil. Slide dough on to oiled tray. Use your fingertips to make indentations in the dough while gently stretching and flattening it into an oval shape about 1.5cm thick. Drizzle with more olive oil, cover with the tea towel and leave in a warm place for 45 minutes to rise again.

7. Heat oven to 220degC. Once the dough has risen, press your fingertips into the dough to make more indentations. Dot with grapes and sprinkle with rosemary and sea/rock salt. Drizzle with the remaining olive oil. Bake for 20 minutes until golden and puffed around the edges. Eat warm, fresh out of the oven.

Marinated vege kebabs

Marinating the vegetables and haloumi makes these kebabs all the more succulent and delicious, and cooking them on the barbecue will add a subtle smokiness. You can't have a barbecue without these on the menu and, what's more, kids love them too!

Serves 4-5

Prep time 20 minutes

Cook time 15 minutes

GF | DF* | Vegan**

16 bamboo skewers

Marinade and dressing
¼ cup olive oil
zest and juice of 1 lemon
1 clove garlic
1 tsp ground coriander
¼ tsp ground cumin
½ tsp sweet or smoked paprika
½ tsp salt
2 Tbsp pickled jalapenos (from a jar, optional)
1 cup chopped parsley
1 cup chopped coriander
1 punnet cherry tomatoes
2 capsicums (red, yellow or orange), cut into 2-3cm pieces
1 red onion, cut into 2-3cm pieces
1 eggplant, cut into 2-3cm pieces
2 courgettes, sliced 1cm thick
200-250g haloumi, cut into 16 cubes
½ cup natural, unsweetened yoghurt, to serve

1. Soak bamboo skewers in a dish of water for at least 20 minutes while you prepare the marinade and vegetables.

2. Place all marinade ingredients, except parsley and coriander, in a food processor or high-speed blender and blend until smooth. Add parsley and coriander and pulse a few times until the herbs are finely chopped. Reserve 2 tablespoons of marinade for the yoghurt dressing.

3. Place vegetables and haloumi in a large bowl or zip-lock bag and add marinade. Toss to combine and coat the vegetables. If you have time, leave to marinate in the fridge for 4-6 hours.

4. Preheat barbecue or oven grill. Thread vegetables on to wet skewers, so that the vegetables are lightly touching each other. I like to place a piece of courgette on first, followed by capsicum, eggplant, haloumi, red onion, another piece of courgette, and finally a cherry tomato.

5. Brush skewered vegetables with oil. Grill kebabs for 10-15 minutes, turning once or twice, until vegetables are soft and haloumi is golden.

6. Arrange kebabs on a platter. Mix reserved marinade with yoghurt and drizzle over kebabs just before serving.

*To make dairy-free, omit haloumi and use coconut yoghurt.

**To make vegan, omit haloumi and use coconut yoghurt.

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