Weeknight vegan: three simple, flavour-packed plant-based dinner recipes | Vegan food and drink

Victorian animal shelter Edgar’s Mission have asked some of their favourite vegans – from passionate home cooks to rock stars and professional chefs – to share their recipes for a new book, The Kindness Community Vegan Cookbook. Here, we’ve chosen three of the simplest in-season weeknight dinners.

Awesome spicy kind of Chinese stir-fry

By Lindsay McDougall

Serves 2

I like to keep things fairly simple in the kitchen. Get the vegetables how you want them, chuck them in the cooking device, add stuff to make it rule. That last bit is the important bit: the stuff to make it rule.

I’ve been making tofu stir-fries for about 24 years, ever since I joined the band – Frenzal Rhomb – in the mid-90s and got told to go vegetarian. In that time I’ve learned the things that make it rule. You need the saltiness, the sweet stuff and the spicy-as-hell stuff too.

On that note: the hot soybean paste. The brand I use is from Taiwan and imported by Rockman, appropriately. I can’t read the writing on the jar, but there’s a donkey saying something, probably, “Man, this is hot”, Because it is! It’s the secret ingredient, but you can’t use too much, sadly, because it just makes everything too spicy. And I like it hot!

For the tofu marinade
1 block firm tofu
3 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp sweet chilli sauce
2 tsp liquid smoke
(we use Colgin Hickory, but they’re all pretty much the same)

For the stir-fry
1 large onion
1 large carrot
1 head broccoli
(I use all the broccoli, even the stems, because I’m an egalitarian)
1 Chinese broccoli (gai lan)
1 capsicum
1 large punnet pearl oyster mushrooms
1 bunch kale
, with the harder stem bits cut off (I’m not that much of an egalitarian)
Half a bulb of garlic
(yep, don’t be a coward)
Bit of ginger
(I use rice bran oil, but don’t let me tell you what to do)
1 tbsp vegetarian oyster sauce
1 tbsp sweet chilli sauce
1 tbsp soy sauce
1–2 tbsp hot soybean paste
Jasmine rice
, to serve
Sliced spring onions,
to serve

Before we start, there are two things you need to know. All amounts are approximate, because live your own life. And don’t let anyone tell you that using packet or jar sauces is cheating!

To marinate the tofu: Slice tofu block into 1cm steaks. Press between two chopping boards lined with paper towel, with something heavy on top, for about 10 minutes (ideally prepare your tofu ages before your stir-fry, but it still tastes good if you do it while you’re cutting up your vegetables).

Mix the soy sauce, sweet chilli sauce and liquid smoke in a bowl or plastic container. Press the tofu steaks into the marinade, coating both sides, and then stack them in a container or somewhere they can soak up the goodness. Chuck them in the fridge for a bit maybe.

To make the stir-fry: Cut up your veggies into the same shapes you see in your favourite Chinese takeaway. Break up the pearl mushrooms into individual little mushroom guys. Tear or chop the kales leaves. Crush the garlic and grate the ginger.

Heat up your electric wok to really very hot. If you don’t have an electric wok, don’t worry! Just go to the shops and buy one. Your life will be better. Pour in about 2 tablespoons of oil.

Add all the vegetables except the mushrooms and the leafy bits of the Chinese broccoli. Add the sauces and soybean paste. Add the mushrooms and Chinese broccoli tops, and mix everything in.

Taste it! We sometimes leave the garlic and ginger until last, to keep it tasting fresh, and sometimes salt and pepper are good.

While that’s all happening, get a frying pan going on your stovetop, turn it up high and put your tofu steaks on it. Now fry the dickens out of them so they get a little charred, with the sauces all caramelising. Turn them over and do the same to the other side.

Carefully transfer the tofu steaks from the frying pan to a chopping board, let them cool down enough to touch, then slice them into 5mm strips and in half lengthways too. Chuck those strips back in the frying pan with any leftover marinade. Stir them around a bit as they get all nice and crispy. Then chuck the tofu strips into the wok with the stir-fry and give it all a good mix.

Serve it on top of the steamed jasmine rice you’ve quickly and easily prepared in your rice cooker. If you don’t have one of those, you should have bought one when you went out to get an electric wok.

If you want, slice up some spring onions to go on top. Or don’t. I’m not your mother.

Crunchy black rice salad

By Mel Baker

Serves 6–8

Crunchy Black Rice Salad by Mel Baker
If you haven’t cooked with black rice before, absolutely give it a try. Photograph: Julie Renouf

I want to preface this recipe by saying please don’t ever be put off by a longish list of ingredients. It’s often the recipes with greatest number of ingredients that are the easiest, require the least amount of skill and are the quickest to make. This is such an easy recipe. If you haven’t cooked with black rice before, absolutely give it a try. Its firm, nutty texture is bold, and it’s packed full of nutrients. You’ll find black rice in mainstream supermarkets, as well as health food stores and Asian grocers.

If you are taking this to gathering, don’t add the dressing or the fried noodles until you’re about to serve it.

Replace soy with tamari for a gluten-free option.

½ cup black rice (I use Forbidden Black Rice)
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 small brown onion
, finely diced
10 button mushrooms
, sliced
Pinch of salt and pepper
2 large silverbeet leaves
, stems removed, leaves roughly chopped
3 tbsp coriander stems
, finely sliced
Large handful of basil leaves
, roughly chopped

For the dressing
1 tbsp soy sauce
2–3 drops sesame oil
2 tsp freshly squeezed lime juice
½ tsp minced ginger
1 large clove garlic
, minced
1 small red chilli,
seeds removed, very finely diced
1 tsp maple syrup

To serve
½ cup of roasted, unsalted peanuts
½ cup of Chang’s fried noodles
Extra sliced chilli
(for colour and a little more heat)

Cook the rice according to packet instructions – black rice can have different cooking times. Place all the dressing ingredients in a small bowl and set aside.

While the rice is cooking, heat the oil in a medium pan and cook the onion on gentle heat until it caramelises. Add the mushrooms to the onions and a pinch of salt and pepper, and continue cooking till softened and coloured.

Once all the ingredients are cooked and cooled, place in a serving bowl with the silverbeet, coriander stems and basil. Toss well, then add the dressing and mix until it’s well combined. Check the seasoning.

Top with the peanuts and Chang’s fried noodles, and serve immediately.

Cauliflower and vegan halloumi salad

By Nat Lawrance

Serves 4–6

Cauliflower Salad by Nat Lawrance
This delicious cauliflower salad is topped with vegan halloumi. Photograph: Julie Renouf

This delicious and quick-to-make salad is packed with flavour and nutrition. Use whatever dried fruit, herbs and vegetables you have on hand or whatever’s in season. You can also leave the lentils out or substitute other beans.

If you don’t dress the salad, it will keep in an airtight container in the fridge for three days. It is delicious in a wrap the next day.

½ to whole cauliflower head
400g can lentils
, drained
1 Spanish or spring onion
Herbs of choice (mint, parsley, coriander, chives or dill)
5 dried apricots
Handful of sultanas
1 fig
3 radishes
1 capsicum
10 almonds
Extra-virgin olive oil
Vegan halloumi (I use Hello Friend)
Wedges of roast pumpkin, to serve

For the dressing
2 tbsp tahini
1–2 lemons
, juiced
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
1 tbsp tamari
Salt and pepper
, to taste

Coarsely grate the cauliflower into a large serving bowl. Add the lentils to the bowl. Roughly chop the remaining ingredients (except the halloumi) and add to the bowl.

Cut the halloumi into strips. Heat a little oil in a non-stick pan and cook the halloumi on both sides until golden brown. Drain on paper towel.

Mix all the dressing ingredients and season to taste.

When you’re ready to eat, add the dressing to the salad, toss and top with the halloumi and an extra squeeze of lemon.

Serve with wedges of roast pumpkin, creamy polenta or beans.

Kindness Community Vegan Cookbook - Cover Image - $35, Affirm Press
Photograph: Affirm Press

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