Creamy (Vegan) Mushroom Sauce for Pasta/Veg/Tofu/Fish or Chicken

Serves 3-4
(Vegan; no gluten, dairy, egg, nightshades*; with options for legumes*)

Such a rich taste and almost cheesy – yet with no dairy or other animal products, or flour as a thickener. The texture is achieved by warming your choice of Milk Option* and blending it with cashews and onion for a thick, surprisingly buttery result. This gets seasoned and added to colourful veg for a quick, easy meal. A pinch of turmeric (high in antioxidants) gives egg yolk colour with little hint of its heritage. If just serving with veg or pasta the protein content might be light for some so a range of options follow; the legume* ones keep it all vegan. You can also use this recipe to replace cream or cheese-based sauces such as in lasagne.

New Zealand shoppers are well served with the many widely available products that are gluten-free. However in this country dairy products are the far more likely food intolerance (contact this office for an allergy test). Dr Walter Willett, Chair of Harvard Nutrition has recommended that dairy intake be minimised especially in light of research on osteoporosis and some types of cancer (especially prostate). See TIPS for my articles on Modern Milk; and Strong Bones.

¾ cup (185 ml) soymilk or oat milk*
1 med to large red onion: ¼ c finely chopped; remainder in large slices
½ cup toasted* cashews
1 large clove garlic, chopped
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil*
1 large carrot, thinly angle-sliced
125 g asparagus (about 15) or green beans (about 20)
150 g portabello mushrooms (3-4 large), thinly sliced
2 tsp sea salt with kelp*
1 tsp caraway seeds (optional)
¼ tsp turmeric
¼ tsp nutmeg
3 Tbsp lemon juice
1 Tbsp chopped parsley

In a small saucepan lightly heat soymilk or oat milk with ¼ cup finely chopped red onion (reserve remainder), cashews and garlic. Do not bring to a boil or it might curdle. Process in blender or food processor until smooth.

In a large cast iron frypan or heavy-bottomed saucepan heat oil over low heat. Add remaining onion, carrot, green veg and mushrooms. Cook about 3 minutes to lightly soften. Add salt, caraway, and nutmeg. Fry about 2 minutes to release the flavour of the spices.

Pour milk mixture over veg and simmer until tender. Turn off heat and stir in lemon juice – too hot and it might curdle. Serve sprinkled with parsley and accompany as below.

Serving Options

• Pasta: serve on top or alongside hot drained pasta* tossed with ½ cup tinned cannellini beans or other cooked legumes*; or ½ cup grated firm tofu; dash of olive oil, sea salt with kelp* and optional dried dill leaf. Surround with cherry tomatoes, sliced cucumber or steamed beetroot.

• Salad: serve with mixed steamed veg or other option. Accompany with a side salad of mesclun, bean sprouts, chopped gherkins and dried figs. Top with legumes*, tofu, hard boiled eggs or tinned tuna*.

• Mash: to Sauce add ½ cup tinned cannellini beans or cubed firm tofu along with spices as above. Serve with mixed vegetable mash (eg steam, drain and mash pumpkin, orange sweet potato/kumara, green peas or broccoli; beat in sea salt with kelp, Milk Option* and olive oil*).

• Steamer: in one large steamer cook just until tender potato or yam, cauliflower or broccoli, green beans or asparagus; pieces of tofu, fish or skinless chicken. Serve veg on a platter drizzled with sauce and more at the centre.

• Topping: use as a topping or side sauce for grilled or poached fish or chicken. Accompany with mixed steamed or roast vegetables.

Shopping and Preparation Tips*

• Fish-tinned: buy plain varieties. Most ‘seasoned’ fish (and snack foods) include sugar, wheat, dairy, and artificial additives (which are also usually based in dairy, wheat, potato or soy).

• Legumes: pod-bearing plants such as peas, beans, lentils and soy. Soak overnight and discard water to help eliminate an enzyme that can lead to poor digestion and gas. Add ample fresh water. Bring to a boil uncovered (watch for foaming; do not add salt as this slows cooking) until soft enough to squeeze between your fingers. They will almost triple in volume. See The Shape Diet for individual cooking times. Or buy cooked and tinned (Ceres and Delmaine brands in supermarkets have only salt, water). Cook extra and freeze, or chill and use within a week in fritters, casseroles, salads, soups, stews.

• Milk Options: organic cow or goat; soy, oat or nut milk. Or use rice milk – to each cup 1 Tbsp coconut cream can be added for more body. Use options in the same quantity as regular milk called for in recipes. Check packet milks for added sugar; ensure soy milk is organic and made from the whole bean. Pure Harvest is a good brand with many varieties; whole, organic, no added sugar.

• Nightshades: another name for the solanaceae family of potato, tomato, eggplant, peppers (includes paprika, chilli). Some people cannot breakdown its solanine alkaloid (related to nicotine) affecting calcium metabolism, nerves, bones and joints (TIPS: Aches and Pains). To determine sensitivity obtain an allergy test from this office (TIPS: Why You May Be Allergic to the 21st Century).

• Olive Oil: Extra virgin olive oil is achieved by using cold mechanical pressure rather than the high heat and chemical solvents typical to most supermarket oils. These practices damage oils and the people who eat them. For information on which fats to choose for which purpose and why, see my article on the TIPS page: The Fats of Life.

• Pasta/Noodles: Boil Asian rice noodles in ample water about 5 minutes until tender (or follow packet instructions as per minimum time); drain, rinse to prevent sticking; use. Orgran makes a wide variety of gluten-free pasta available in most supermarkets; usually rice-based or with buckwheat, corn, tapioca or mung bean flour (TIPS: Gluten). Lower in protein than ordinary pasta these are high-GI, so accompany with other blood sugar moderators (eg protein, fat, fibre, culinary acids, crunchy texture).

• Sea salt: is sea water dehydrated by sun. When mixed with seaweed (containing iodine and other minerals low in our soil) it is ideal in terms of flavour (interesting but not too strong) and mineral balance. Try Pacific Harvest or Malcolm Harker brands; both in health and gourmet stores. Ordinary salt is taken from mines or sea and so highly refined over extreme heat that it contains nothing but sodium chloride. All other minerals are stripped away, such as potassium and magnesium which help regulate fluid balance and blood pressure. Bleach as a whitener and chemicals to prevent clumping may be added to table salt.

• To toast coconut, other seeds and nuts: simply place in a sturdy cast iron pan (no oil is necessary) over low-medium heat until lightly brown and fragrant. Or put on a baking tray in a low-medium oven (no more than 180°C or 350°F). Stir frequently and watch carefully to prevent burning.

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