Vegan cooking gets a bit of bad reputation for being outlandishly complicated, full of “weird” ingredients not available in local supermarkets, and requiring days to make. I have to admit that I have indeed seen and used recipes like that. Some of them were worth the effort – especially the fresh mozzarella – but some were actually unjustifiably tedious! And: I am also guilty in using ingredients that fall into “unlikely to be found in the local grocery store” category, like jackfruit or soya chunks. In my case, I get these ingredients and more from a local Indian grocery store, but I know that for many of you these are not immediately available.
However, we all know that vegan cooking does not need to be convoluted, and that some of the best vegan recipes are simple and restrained. In them, the real plant-based ingredients shine through with their clear flavors and textures. These simpler and tamer recipes frequently appeal to non-vegans as well, and are therefore a must-have for anyone who is eating a vegan diet while surrounded by omnivores.
There are many on-line resources for those of you looking for an inspiration. This blog (obviously), as well as sites like Minimalist Baker and similar. Luckily for us, we now also have a cookbook that we can refer to when in need of simple vegan cooking. The cookbook is called “The Vegan 8: 100 Simple, Delicious Recipes Made With 8 Ingredients or Less“, by Brandi Doming, a blogger and recipe developer. Brandi’s story is the one of love for cooking from a very young age, then transitioning into vegan cooking later in live for health reasons as her husband suffers from a form of arthritis known as gout. So, Brandi had to adopt her cooking to help her husband navigate his condition. In doing so she has also decided to keep her recipes simple, and free of not only animal ingredients but gluten-free, oil-free, tofu-free, and frequently nut-free, which makes the food Brandi has been sharing with the world very allergy-friendly.
The new cookbook is richly illustrated and well organized, with an entire section dedicated to the “Vegan 8 Kitchen” where Brandi takes us through her kitchen and shares what are her go to staples, from sauces to flours. This was a great chapter to read and I would urge anyone who is just starting on their vegan journey, or who has been struggling with vegan food preparation to take a look. For me, the most informative was the section on different gluten-free flours as I am indeed trying to keep gluten out of my diet.
After flipping through the entire book, one recipe captured my attention – Hungarian Red Lentil Soup. There is a lot of Hungarian influence in Serbian cooking, and lots of paprika, so I wanted to give this one a shot. And it turned out really delicious! Although I was a bit skeptical about the amount of the sweet Hungarian paprika this recipe uses – two whole tablespoons! – I do think that the paprika is what makes this soup so good. By the way, my soup turned out very thick, more like a stew than a soup. But the flavors are amazing, and the soup/stew goes great over some basmati rice, so I have now made it several times as a main dish.
Overall, I found “The Vegan 8” to be a great resource for vegan cooking. Congratulations to Brandi and best of luck in the future!
REPRINTED WITH PERMISSION FROM “The Vegan 8” BY BRANDI DOMING, OXMOOR HOUSE 2018.
Hungarian Red Lentil Soup, by Brandi Doming
oil free gluten free nut free
Dinner doesn’t have to take forever. This recipe comes together fast, thanks to red lentils and easy ingredients. The Hungarian paprika, dry mustard, and tomato paste give this simple dish a wonderful depth of flavor. This soup goes great with some fresh crusty bread!
Prep: 15 minutes
cook: 23 minutes
Yields: 5 servings
1 packed cup (160g) diced yellow onion
3 medium carrots (154g), cut into 1⁄4-inch-thick slices
3 large garlic cloves, minced (15g)
1 cup (209g) dry red lentils, rinsed well with cold water
6 tablespoons (90g) tomato paste
2 tablespoons (15g) Hungarian sweet paprika
1 teaspoon (2g) dry mustard
1 1⁄2 teaspoons (9g) fine salt
1⁄4 teaspoon (1g) ground black pepper
1 cup (240g) canned “lite” coconut milk, well shaken
- Add the onion, carrots, garlic, and 1 cup (240g) water to a medium pot over medium heat. Bring to a simmer, and cook for 8 minutes, stirring a couple of times during, or until the veggies are tender but not overly so. Remove the pan from the heat, and add the lentils, 2 1⁄2 cups (600g) water, tomato paste, paprika, dry mustard, salt, and pepper. Stir well, and bring to a boil over high heat. Cover, reduce the heat to low, and simmer for 10 minutes.
- Add the milk, and increase the heat to medium-low; cook 5 to 10 minutes or until the lentils are tender yet still firm, and the soup thickens some. Stir often, and do not overcook, as you don’t want the lentils to become mushy. Taste and add more salt, if desired. Serve immediately.
Note: Make sure the paprika you are using is not hot paprika. For the milk, it is important to use a creamy milk like cashew or “lite” coconut milk here for best results. The “lite” coconut milk is very creamy but yields no coconut taste. Almond and rice milks don’t do well, and definitely don’t use full-fat coconut, as it is too rich and thick and will ruin the flavor.
RECIPE AND IMAGES REPRINTED WITH PERMISSION FROM “THE VEGAN 8” BY BRANDI DOMING, OXMOOR HOUSE 2018. NO FURTHER RE-PUBLISHING ALLOWED WITHOUT EXPLICIT PERMISSION OF THE ORIGINAL CONTENT CREATORS.
Disclosure: I received a free copy of this cookbook through a community of vegan bloggers. This did not influence my views about the recipes I tried thus far and mentioned above.