Like most Australian women of my generation and my mother’s generation, The Australian Women’s Weekly taught me how to cook. Not the magazine itself, in my case, but all of my first cookbooks were AWW publications, and two of my most trusted sources for fail-safe recipes and general kitchen know-how are books by AWW. However, AWW did not teach me how to to eat. No, the blog and writer who has influenced my diet and approach to food is The Stonesoup (written by Jules Clancy).
I’d never seen a recipe blog before, and I was reading a review of a local organic market where the writer of the article was discussing olives and wine with Jules. A link was provided to her blog: my ticket to culinary enlightenment. At the time I’d very recently decided not to eat meat other than fish and seafood – this was challenging, because I’d never been a great cook, and could only really make three things well: cheesecake, spaghetti bolognaise and chicken schniztel. I’m not sure that I ever had bought a tin of legumes. The Stonesoup changed all of that, dramatically.
I learnt that legumes, olive oil, salt and pepper are staple ingredients. I learnt that you can make very good cheesecakes, endlessly versatile and incredibly fine icecream, and the richest, most restaurant-worthy chocolate mousse, using five ingredients, in under ten minutes (I was still eating dairy at that point). I learnt that a tasty nutritious meal can be made without a kitchen, without heat, without preparation, and even without a plate. I reduced my reliance on grains and instead, tinned legumes became my new go-to filler for a satisfying meal. Each of Jules’ blog posts are informative and interesting, with tips and tricks that created and shaped my habits in the kitchen. I absolutely devoured (pun intended) every single one.
When people ask me for tips on meal planning, healthy eating and/or veganism, the first place I direct them is to The Stonesoup. One of the best things about the recipes is that they are so simple – most of them consist of just five ingredients, and although many are not vegan, most have a vegan option noted.
While I love a complex curry with a billion ingredients as much as the next person, there is something to be said for the simplicity of cooking in a minimalist way. When you have a limit of five ingredients, you’ve really got to think about what five flavours and textures will work together to create the best possible dish. Each ingredient needs to be of a good quality, because you’ll certainly be able to tell if it’s not. Blank and boring ingredients (like refined grains and sugars) are a waste of space. What this means is that a good minimalist dish involving daringly few ingredients can be absolutely outstanding – the whole somehow being more than a sum of its parts.
In tribute to The Stonesoup, the recipes that I’m sharing with you today are each quick to prepare and have close to five ingredients. Although I know this is my third chickpea recipe in a row, I promise it’s worth it. The combination of chickpeas with brown rice provides a great texture, fresh flavours of sweet grilled peppers, salty preserved lemon and green beans bounce off each other, and nutty roasted almonds bring it all together with a satisfying crunch. The leftovers make a great salad if unheated and thrown together with a handful of leaves, or reheated and eaten as-is. It keeps well overnight or for a few days in the fridge (if it lasts that long), so is suitable to make for a potluck or barbeque – in fact I’m planning to whip it up again next time I’m asked to ‘bring a dish’.
Chickpeas With Green Beans And Grilled Peppers (serves 2)
6 ingredients, 15 minutes
Jules doesn’t count salt, pepper or olive oil in the five ingredient limit. I tend to agree. But I’ve cheated just a little more here by combining both long red chillis and half of a red capsicum (or bell pepper for you US readers) under the same title. Grill them together and it’s pretty much the same thing.
- 1 cup cooked chickpeas
- 1 cup cooked brown rice
- 10 long red chillis and half a red capsicum, grilled until charred and sweet, most of the skin peeled off, chopped
- 2 handfuls green beans, chopped
- 2 handfuls roasted almonds
- 2 pieces of preserved lemon (half a lemon), pith removed and rind sliced finely
- Saute the chickpeas, brown rice and green beans in water over a high heat until the beans are bright green but still very crunchy.
- Stir through the other ingredients, season with salt and pepper, and serve.
See? Easy as pie. Easier than pie even.
My second recipe uses only four ingredients, and takes about two minutes – quite possibly the easiest dessert you will ever make. It also happens to be raw, vegan, and relatively healthy (as far as obscenely indulgent desserts go).
It’s a chocolate pudding that I’ve been making for a few years whenever I crave an intense chocolate hit. I haven’t shared it with you until today, for fear that once you taste the decadent chocolatey richness and discover how easy it is to make, you’ll fall into a dehabilitating chocolate addiction, which will leave you destitute and stuffed with cocoa. At least the antioxidants will help prevent cancer, if even to prolong your imprisonment in chocolate. But it’s time to ‘fess up, so here goes.
Instant Single-Serve Chocolate Pudding
I like the taste of tahini, and it’s very very good for you, so that’s what I like to use. But if you prefer a more indulgent pure chocolate taste, use almond butter, cashew butter or even macadamia butter. Peanut butter is nice too, but only if it’s the natural 100% peanuts type – the salty, sugary “85% peanuts” (wtf is the other 15% made of?) stuff just doesn’t work as well.
Same goes for the honey – I know many vegans don’t eat honey – I do, and again I like the way the flavour comes through in this recipe. I’ve found that using golden syrup brings out a deeper chocolate taste without any noticeable golden syrup flavour (weird right, it’s so strong on it’s own!), so it’s an excellent alternative. Otherwise, maple syrup, agave, or any other sugar syrup would work just fine.
- 1 tbsp cocoa powder
- 1 tbsp tahini
- 1 tbsp honey
- pinch of salt (trust me, it brings out the sweetness)
Mix all ingredients with a tablespoon of water until smooth and creamy.
That’s it? Yep. Do it, and don’t sue me if you never recover your senses.