Tikka-Spice Lentil Patties

Serves 3-4

(Vegan; no gluten, dairy, egg, nightshades or grain)

Enjoy the crisp texture, moist interior and mild Indian flavours. Serve with roasted, steamed or mashed vegetables. Or with a hearty salad such as Coleslaw with Tahini Dressing. The patties cook in just 4 minutes. Make a double batch and freeze some – shaped but uncooked – for an easy meal later. Left-overs are also good cold for lunch. Cook extra quinoa* – and lentils, or use tinned – and use in soup, stew or salad.

Every ingredient is available in good supermarkets. Spices are one of the highest sources of many antioxidants, minerals and specialised phytonutrients designed to protect plants and thus those who eat them. Legumes are a good source of protein, soluble and insoluble fibre. These qualities are excellent for blood sugar regulation and thus vitality and weight management. Read more

(You’ll-never-go-back-to-commercial) HUMMUS

Makes 1½ cups

Vegan; no gluten, dairy or nightshades

Express yourself. Make this once, and thereafter you can concoct variations at speed by rough visual measure. This has wonderful contrasting textures, freshness and flavours that make commercial versions seem pallid. Just put everything into the processor; whiz until well mixed but chunky; serve or chill.

Traditionally hummus is made with chickpeas. These can be used here, but cannellini beans give a softer result. Find these at the supermarket cooked and in tins such as the Ceres organic range. Any cooked bean or lentil could be used. Usually lemon juice is employed as the culinary acid (helping with piquancy and blood sugar regulation), but white wine vinegar provides a sharper tang. Read more

Israeli Chermoula (sort of like pesto) with Chermoula Stuffed Vegetables and Quinoa ‘Tabbouleh’ with Chermoula

Makes about 1 cup of chermoula
Vegan and Paleo; no gluten, dairy, egg, soy or other legumes, potato or tomato

No wonder the people of the Mediterranean have such great health statistics – as well as so many diners eager for their classic dishes.

Chermoula is an Arabic word used to describe a North African fresh herb, lemon, olive, nut and spice mixture used as a marinade or topping for fish, meat or vegetables. My hearty version was inspired by reading the sigh-inducing and internationally popular cookbook Jerusalem by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi. The book is also a touching memoir by these two men who lived in the western and eastern parts of the city and met later in London. These districts have been embattled with each other, but the authors say the food and hospitality practices, culturally unify them.  Read more

Lebanese Lentil Soup

Serves 3-4
(No gluten, dairy; with options for vegans and no nightshades)

It doesn’t get much easier than this: basically, throw everything into a pot and simmer. The final addition of lemon and parsley beautifully refreshes, lifts the colour and provides punch. This has a richer flavour with chicken stock, but can be done vegan with top quality vegetable stock (try a little non-traditional flaky yeast or dark miso* for the umami flavour or savouriness that meat provides). The soup is heartier with soaked green lentils, but you could use red lentils which require no soaking. Adding salt after legumes are cooked helps them cook faster. A stick/immersion blender is easiest to use right in the saucepan.

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Italian Bean Dip

Makes 1¼ cups
(Vegan; no gluten, dairy, egg, soy or nightshades)

If you like to eat foods that bite you back with similar intensity: try this. It resembles a chunky hummus, Italian-style. Use it on bread, crackers or as a dip for raw vegetables and triangles of bread toasted with my dairy-free, herb and garlic version of Better Butter (see website RECIPES). Or add as a flavourful topping on baked or steamed vegetables, salad, poached fish or tofu. Any left-overs can be mixed with an egg and breadcrumbs and used to fill large mushroom caps. Fan Grill about 7 minutes for a vegetarian main. Serve with kumara wedges and salad.

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LEGUMES – Why and How To Love Them

Most people would acknowledge that a diet without vegetables would be missing important nutrients. However they might be missing out on an equally significant category of food: legumes.

Legumes are characterised as seed bearing pods such as fresh peas and beans; dried and sprouted beans, split peas, dhal and lentils; soy products and peanuts. They are among our oldest cultivated plants – lentils were grown in Central Asia in 7,000 BCE. So esteemed was this classification of food that each of the four prominent families of Ancient Rome sought to enhance their status by taking one major type as their name: Cicero from the word for chickpea; Fabius from faba bean; Lentulus from lentil; Pisa from pea.

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Bean Burgers

Makes 12
(No gluten or dairy)

Even people of otherwise refined sensibilities commonly exhibit a murmuring pleasure from food eaten messily by hand with primal juices dripping. These burgers can be fried, baked or barbequed. Consume sedately as patties – accompanied by salad or mixed steamed vegetables – or serve on toast or buns. Offer an assortment of stack-your-own components: lettuce, tomato, gherkin, cooked onion and mushrooms, mustard, relish, aioli or Green Herb Dressing (see The Shape Diet).

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Italian-style Pasta with Chickpeas and Basil

Serves 3-4
(Vegan; no gluten, dairy, egg, or soy)

Elegantly simple, this can be used as a side dish or main. Like pesto, many traditional Italian pasta sauces look more like salad dressings. They are intensely flavoured and used sparingly. Another authentic practice is to use some of the starchy, pasta cooking water to augment and thicken the sauce.

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Sicilian-Style Pasta

Serves 3
(Vegan; no gluten, dairy or legumes)

Sicily is at the bottom of the Italian boot. Due to its hot, dry climate and relative poverty its dishes use little meat and focus on an abundance of sun-ripened tomatoes. Savoury dishes are flavoured with dried fruit, nuts and sometimes a touch of chilli pepper. Meals are bulked up with lots of pasta and seasonal vegetables. The sauces that may accompany them are thickened with some of the starchy water left from cooking pasta.

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