Vegetarian Pho

Are you a pho addict yet? I didn’t know about this brothy Vietnamese soup until a couple of years ago, but once I did I was hooked. HOOKED I tell you!

Most commonly you see it made with thinly shaved raw beef that’s cooked by the heat of the broth and ladled over rice noodles. You’re given mix-ins like bean sprouts, lime, basil and chilli on the side that you can add at your own discretion. Interactive food! You know I love that.

But it’s often hard to find vegetarian-friendly versions of pho in restaurants. Luckily, you can make this aromatic broth at home pretty easily and load it up with all the veggies you want.

My version used a heap of mushrooms and spinach, as well as soba noodles in the place of the rice noodles. Traditional? Not all all. Vegetable-packed, slightly spicy, aniseedy pho-like goodness? Yessir.

You can easily make this broth non-vegetarian by using beef or chicken broth and fish sauce. I personally prefer the fish sauce here instead of soy sauce, but it’s up to you. You could also add cooked shredded chicken or prawns.

Vegetarian Pho Broth (serves 4)
adapted very slightly from The Kitchn

- 1 large onion, peeled and halved
– 4-inch/10-cm piece fresh ginger root, peeled and halved lengthwise
– 2 3-inch/7.5-cm cinnamon sticks
– 2 star anise
– 4 cloves
– 2 teaspoon coriander seeds
– 8 cups vegetable stock (or stock of you choice)
– 1 tablespoon soy sauce (or fish sauce)
– 2 carrots, peeled and coarsely chopped

Char onion and ginger directly under a broiler until slightly blackened, about 5 minutes on each side. Rinse with water.

In a large pot, dry roast cinnamon, star anise, cloves, and coriander over medium-low heat, stirring to prevent burning. When spices are aromatic (about 2 minutes), add vegetable stock, soy sauce, carrots, and charred onion and ginger.

Bring broth to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer, covered, for 30 minutes. Strain and keep hot until ready to serve.

Vegetarian Pho
– soba noodles (or rice noodles)
– 3 cups mushrooms
– 2 cups fresh spinach, roughly chopped

– finely chopped chilies
– finely chopped green onion
– bean sprouts
– basil
– mint
– cilantro
– sriracha

Prepare noodles ahead. For soba noodles, cook in boiling water for about 4 minutes (according to package) strain and portion into bowls. If using rice noodles, soak in boiling water for approximately 20 minutes or according to package instructions. Pour broth over the noodles when you’re ready to serve.

I added sliced mushrooms to my finished broth and cooked covered for about 10 minutes until tender, adding the spinach in the last minute or two. Serve hot with desired toppings.

Spicy Coconut and Lentil Soup

It’s been a grey and rainy week. I’ve been caught in the rain three mornings in a row trying to go for a run. My umbrella’s all bent out of shape. I don’t want to leave the house.

What’s your favorite rainy evening ritual? Mine looks like sweat pants, bad tv (wuttup Revenge), a glass of red and a curry.

I don’t love the rain, but I don’t mind the excuse it gives me to get cozy, make something warm, and treat myself right.

I was impressed with this recipe for 2 reasons:
It develops a rich Thai flavor in less than a half an hour – if you’re craving a Thai red curry, this is probably a quicker bet than delivery.
It’s also easily adaptable for whatever vegetables you have at home. Asian veggies like bok choy, baby corn and snow peas are all at home here, but mushrooms, green beans, carrots, spinach and even sweet potato are all welcome too.

Spicy Coconut and Lentil Soup
adapted from Donna Hay’s Off the Shelf
(makes 4 serves)

- 2 tablespoons oil
– 2 tablespoons red curry paste
– 4 spring onions, light green and white parts thinly chopped
– 4 cups vegetable stock
– 2 cups coconut cream
– 1 cup red lentils
– 1 1/2 cups button mushrooms, thinly sliced
– 1 cup snow peas, trimmed and sliced in half
– 2 cups spinach, chopped

Heat the oil and curry paste in a large saucepan over a medium-low heat and cook for 2 minutes. Add in spring onions and cook 1 minute.

Add stock, coconut cream and lentils and cook for 10 minutes.

Add mushrooms and simmer for 5 minutes. Add snow peas and cover, simmering for 2 more minutes.

Stir in spinach and let it wilt down. Serve hot with rice or grilled flat bread.

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Zucchini, Garlic and Rosemary Soup

Dang, if ever there was a soup day in Sydney – today is it.

Each day I’ve been trying to write down 3 things that I am thankful for. It doesn’t matter how big or small, I just throw them in an Evernote list as I think of them. It’s supposed to be a practice in positivity. I learned it from a TED talk, so it must be a good idea.

A lot of times, I find myself thinking of  things I am grateful for in times of frustration, which makes me think that it’s working.

Stuck at the bus stop for 45 minutes in the rain? I am thankful for a warm, dry home to go to, fresh banana bread on the counter and a slack tea with my favorite guy.

I have also noticed that a lot of my gratitudes are weather-dependent. You can usually tell what type of day it was by at least one item of the three.

Today’s thankful three would look something like: sweatpants, cookbooks and soup. (Food is another common theme, as you might have guessed. I’ve mentioned important things like cheese, popcorn at the movies, curry and banoffee pie.)

I usually have a couple of zucchini kicking around in my fridge this time of year. Most of the time, I just roast them with heaps of seasoning until they taste like candy. But I thought I’d branch out when I saw a recipe for zucchini and mint soup in Gourmet Traveller. I decided to swap the mint for rosemary to justify the addition of cheese. I also doubled the amount of garlic, just because.

And that is what I call good decision-making.

Zucchini Soup with Rosemary and Chili
inspired by Gourmet Traveller

- 2 tablespoons olive oil
– 1 onion, finely chopped
– 6 cloves garlic cloves, thinly sliced
– 1 small red chilli, finely chopped
– 1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, chopped
– 4 medium zucchini, diced into 1 inch/ 2.5 cm pieces
– 3 small chat potatoes, diced very small into .3 inch/1 cm pieces
– 600 ml of hot vegetable stock
– 1/4 cup Parmesan, plus an extra to garnish
– salt and freshly ground pepper
– sprinkling of toasted almonds to garnish

Heat olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat.

Add onion, garlic and chilli and stir occasionally until tender, about 5-6 minutes.

Add zucchini, potatoes some fresh ground pepper and sprinkle of salt. Stir occasionally until the zucchini is bright green, about 4-5 minutes.

Add hot stock, increase heat to high and bring to the boil. Reduce heat to medium, simmer until zucchini is just tender, about 4-5 minutes.

Let cool for about 5 minutes. Process with a hand-held blender or in a standing blender until smooth and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Bring the pureed soup back up to a boil. Stir in Parmesan.

Serve warm with more Parmesan and toasted almonds.

Brothy Chinese Noodles with Barramundi

I understand that, in some circles, slurping is considered rude.

But let’s be real. Hot soup, cool night, lots of broth and noodles… slurping is bound to happen.

Sometimes you’ve got to do it. The meal demands it. And hey, slurping isn’t really the rudest thing you can do, is it? …you know you want to.

This soup is easy to prepare, warming, satisfying, but light and brothy enough to eat the whole bowl.

The slurping of such a dish is non-negotiable though. Deal with it.

Brothy Chinese Noodles with Poached Barramundi  (serves 2)
Adapted from Eating Well

- 1 tablespoons sesame oil
– 1 red chili pepper, finely sliced
– 4 scallions or green onions, sliced
– 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
– 1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
– 3-4 cups vegetable broth
– 2 tablespoons soy sauce
– 130 grams/4.5 ounces dried chinese noodles
– 2 cups thinly sliced bok choy, roughly chopped
– 500-600 grams/1.25 lb of barramundi or meaty white fish, but into 5 cm/2 inch chunks

In a large pot, heat sesame oil over a medium high heat. Add chili, green onions, garlic and ginger and cook for 3 minutes until everything is beginning to soften and become fragrant.

Add vegetable broth and soy sauce and bring to a boil.

Add noodles and cook for 5 minutes.

Add bok choy and stir into the broth.

Place fish on top of noodles and bok choy, half-submerged in the liquid and reduce to a simmer. Cover and cook for 5 minutes. Turn the pieces of fish over and cook for another 3 minutes covered. Fish should be white throughout and easily flaked with a fork.

To Serve, place noodles in a large bowl, with fish on top and pour broth over it.

this week in vegivore meals: corn and potato soup, zucchini patties

While I will openly admit to being a breadophile, I tend to hesitate when aligning myself with more mainstream categories of eating habits. For about 3 years I was “technically” a pescetarian (someone who does not eat meat, but eats fish) – which some people still consider a vegetarian (I do not, for the record). I always found myself qualifying my status as one who abstained from eating land-roaming animals by responding with a,”but I eat fish,” to anyone who would call me a vegetarian outright. I felt like I was lying about vegetarianism if I left that part out, but for the sake of brevity it worked for communicating that I would prefer not to be served chicken, please.

This is not something I think about anymore because these days I eat meat, (which I started to do again after 3 years because I got a very persistent craving for a medium rare steak) but my awkwardness around such labels persists. Slightly reluctantly, I stamp the brand of vegivore on myself because I like what it stands for, even if I don’t like the labeling itself.

As anyone who has spent a day eating with me could tell you, I love vegetables. I love making fresh salads, stir fries, curries, soups, burgers – really anything I can pack a combination of fresh veggies into, I am a fan of eating and cooking. While I enjoy learning about nutrition and do take my caloric intake and overall health into account when preparing meals for myself, I choose vegetables for their taste first and the good feeling I get from eating them (not the self-righteous kind of good either, the physically energized kind of good feeling). Plus, I like a bright colour combination.

For me, vegetables are the stars of most of my meals. I love incorporating meat (and fish too, of course) into my meals, but most of my meals throughout the week tend to be vegetarian, vegetable-based meals. I would rather save a good piece of beef or pork for when I am really craving it. Or else I will use very small doses of extra-tasty meat, like chorizo or prosciutto, to bring rich flavours to vegetable side dishes and salads.

This is my 3rd week of receiving fruit and vegetable delivery from Box Fresh and I feel as though it has brought my vegivore-ism (still awkward) to a new level. I am always excited to discover the contents of my delivery and comb through magazines, cookbooks and websites for meal ideas incorporating my rotating selection of produce.

This week I have made a few dishes that really showcased the fresh, seasonal ingredients I had.

Roasted Corn and Potato Soup (makes 4 servings)
– olive oil
– 1 onion, chopped
– 1 clove of garlic, minced
– 1 celery rib, chopped
– 3 sprigs of thyme, picked
– a dash of crushed red pepper (optional)
– salt & pepper
– 2 cups vegetable or chicken stock
– 4 or 5 small chat potatoes, diced
– 3 ears of corn, roasted

1. Preheat oven to 200C. Place corn in their husks on a baking sheet and bake for 25 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool until they are easy to handle. Peal back the husks and remove the kernels.
2. Sauté onion and garlic in olive oil inside a large pot until onions are translucent. Add celery, thyme, salt&pepper and crushed red pepper.
3. Add stock and bring to a boil, then add potatoes and cook for about 5-10 minutes until the potatoes are nearly cooked.
4. Add roasted corn kernels and simmer for an additional 5 minutes.
5. Allowing the soup to cool for a few minutes first, put 2/3 of the soup through the food processor. You will have to do this in batches if your food processor is on the small side like mine is. Add puree to the remaining soup and bring back up to a simmer.
6. Garnish with a little grated aged cheddar and ideally, avocado (mine wasn’t ripe yet).

Zucchini Patties
(makes 4 servings)
This recipe is adapted from The Greengrocer by Leanne Kitchen. Where she called for parsley and mint, I used basil. I also pre-cooked my onions which she does not do, but I prefer the sweeter, sautéed onion.
– 3 medium zucchini, grated
– 1 small onion, chopped
– 3 tbsp self-raising flour
– 4 tbsp of Parmesan cheese
– 1 tbsp chopped mint
– 2 tsp chopped flat-leaf parsley
(I used 3 tbsp of chopped fresh basil instead of the above two herbs)
– a pinch of nutmeg
– 3 tbsp dry breadcrumbs
– 1 egg
– salt&pepper
– olive oil

1. Sauté onions until they are just beginning to turn golden. Put the onion and grated zucchini in a paper towel or clean dish towel and wring out to remove all the juices.
2. Place this mixture and all other ingredients into a large bowl and mix with your hands to a stiff batter.
3. Heat olive oil in a medium sized pan. Place 2-3 tbsp of batter in the pan and press flat. Fry over a medium heat for 3-4 minutes or until browned all over.

Ms. Kitchen served these with a yoghurt sauce, but I decided I was more in the mood for a dollop of fresh ricotta, cherry tomatoes and a couple of crispy pan-fried pieces of of chorizo instead.

Below is a quick veggie fry up. I started by sautéing onions and a few pieces of chorizo in paprika and garlic-infused olive oil and then I added cooked chickpeas, fresh spinach, cherry tomatoes and shredded carrot. I cooked covered over a medium heat for a few minutes until warm. It’s a quick and easy concoction that makes a nice lunch with a cup of soup or some crusty bread.

For more on vegivores, check out this New York Magazine article: Vegetables Are the New Meat

beet it: cooking the whole beetroot

This week I was given some beetroot in my second Box Fresh delivery. I love the earthy sweetness and deep magenta color but I rarely ever buy whole beetroot for myself (more specifically, I am guilty of buying pre-boiled and ready-peeled beets to throw in my salads).
I tackled these babies strait right out of the gate and I wanted to make sure I used as much of the plant as I could. I roasted the beet bulbs to use in a salad and I used the beautiful crimson-stemmed leaves as my green (and a little pink) in a white bean soup.
Both were simple recipes and techniques and I was satisfied that I was able to successfully use the whole plant, as the top half of the beetroot is often ignored.

To roast my beetroot, I removed the majority of the stem, rinsed and placed the bulbs on an oiled baking sheet. They were in the oven for almost an hour, after which I let them cool, placed them in cold water and then easily peeled the skin off by hand. After that they were ready to go in my spinach, poached pear, walnut and bleu cheese salad. I love the mix of the rich, tangy cheese with the mild beetroot and the crunchy walnut.

While my beets were roasting, I started my white bean soup with olive oil, onion, garlic, celery, carrot, thyme and rosemary. After these were sauteed together for a few minutes, I added 3-4 cups of vegetable broth and 1/2 a cup each of soaked cannellini beans and brown rice. After bringing that to a boil and reducing to simmer I added the chopped beetroot leaves and a handful of finely chopped stems. After about 40 minutes the soup was full of flavour with a slight pink tinge to it from the stems.

I was happy to give the whole beetroot some love and it paid off with two easy, healthy dishes.


new kid on the block


The theme of the last few days has been The Move. We spent Saturday and Sunday buying some essentials for the new place. Rebuilding your home after you left the majority of it on an East Village curb 10 months ago is difficult – but exciting!

Saturday night was ugly and rainy and we had spent the afternoon in a massive shopping center (Bondi Junction has now been dubbedimage The Junc), so we decided on something fun and homemade for dinner and settled in with some Almost Famous and Banrock Station casket (oh yeah) Shiraz Cabernet. I was inspired by this Ryn and Cordie recipe for Pork Gyoza they posted on Twitter last week. They were delicious. I loved the addition of minced black beans and the ginger/scallion combo with the pork was perfect.

The mint, coriander and chili dipping sauce was nice, but I think it needed something. I’ll have to play around with it next time. The recipe made plenty, so I’ve got a supply of these babies waiting in the freezer.

Monday was the move, pretty simple considering our lack of stuff. Ikea furniture building has consumed these past few days, as has treating a cold I developed, conveniently enough, on move in day. Luckily, I have my new beautiful kitchen (I am in love) to cook all the healthy, get-well kind of meals I can dream  up.


Since it is Spring here in Sydney (despite my best efforts to wish it Fall), it’s asparagus season. I went for a classic that most asparagus enthusiasts could tell you is an A+ pairing: poached egg+grilled asparagus (a little Parmesan doesn’t hurt either.)


Next up on the Get Well Menu was white bean and silverbeet (swiss chard to us Americans) soup. Nothing fancy just some onions, garlic, vegetable broth, carrots,  chili peppers (to clear the sinuses and because I had them) and of course the headliners, white beans and silverbeet. And again, you can’t go wrong with a little sprinkle of Parmesan to serve. Makes you feel special.

Then came The Ultimate Shake This Cold Shake (well, smoothie really): Almond milk, 1/2 a ganny smith apple, 1/2 a pear, a big silverbeet leaf,  a generous scoop of honey, cinnamon and nutmeg. It may look funky and green, but it is seriously tasty. I love to throw a handful of  greens (spinach and kale work perfectly too) into a smoothie – the sweeter fruit and honey flavors easily mask the mild earthiness of the greens. You get a bonus health boost without sacrificing taste. Win win.

And then there was carrot, mint and silverbeet (I have a big hunk of this stuff, clearly) salad. I tossed this food processor miracle with Heidi’s Magic Sauce and some feta for an enjoyable Vitamin A injection.



…and now I’m feeling better! And we have a home complete with our record player – flown in all the way from New York. Win win win.