Crispy tempeh with sautéed greens

I can’t remember when or how I was introduced to tempeh.

Tempeh, I find, has a nutty, mushroom-like taste. Which I like. And it’s a hearty, source of vegetarian protein too. It originated in Indonesia and is made of whole soy beans that have been soaked, cooked and fermented with the rhizopus oligosporus bacteria. The fermentation process binds the beans into a firm ‘cake’, and makes the soy easier to digest.

In Australia, tempeh is usually sold in vacuum-sealed packs, in the shape of a thin rectangular-shaped block of about 200–300g. I buy it from an organic food store, but you should be able find it in the fridge section of most health food stores and some supermarkets. Thankfully, it’s usually organic too, so you don’t need to worry about genetically modified soy. But just check to be sure.

I enjoy cooking with tempeh. It’s easy to handle. The texture, while being firm, is slightly spongy. This makes it ideal for marinating — it soaks up all the yummy flavours. Tempeh does rely on other ingredients for flavour, otherwise it’s bland without. Tempeh also freezes well. I usually defrost in the fridge overnight to cook the next day.

I use tempeh in the simplest of simplest ways. I either pan-fry it into crispy squares of goodness and toss them through fried rice, salads or sautéed veggies, or I mash it with other ingredients and turn it into a substantial veggie patty.

Let’s have it with some sautéed green veggies today.



Enough for 2

  • 1 tbsp sesame seeds, lightly toasted
  • coconut oil, enough to generously coat the base of your fry pan + 2 tbsp extra
  • 150 g tempeh, sliced into thin pieces
  • tamari (gluten-free soy sauce), to taste
  • 1 brown onion, finely diced
  • 15 g ginger, minced or finely grated
  • ½ tsp chilli flakes, or to taste
  • 5 heaped cups greens, chopped/shredded (I used kale, snow peas & bok choy; other options: broccoli, cabbage, silverbeet)
  • sea salt, to taste

First, lightly dry toast the sesame seeds in a small fry pan over medium heat. Shake the pan regularly. Once you have a lightly golden colour, tip the seeds into a small plate and set aside.

Next, heat coconut oil in a fry pan — generously coating the base of the pan — and fry the tempeh over medium–high heat for about 3 minutes each side until golden. Before turning off the heat, drizzle about a teaspoon of tamari over the tempeh and quickly stir the tempeh as the tamari sizzles, so you coat all the pieces. (Note: You may need to fry the tempeh in a couple of batches, depending on how large your fry pan is.) Spoon the tempeh onto a plate lined with a sheet of paper towel, and set aside.

Heat 2 tablespoons of coconut oil in large wide-based saucepan or fry pan. Gently fry the onions until translucent and add the ginger and chilli. Sauté for about another minute, then add the greens. Continue to sauté until the greens are cooked to you liking. Then add the fried tempeh and season to your taste using tamari and/or sea salt. Serve with brown rice or quinoa and sprinkle with the toasted sesame seeds.

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Vegan banana cake


banana-cake_resizedThis cake is wheat-free, vegan and wickedly moist.

  • 1 tsp ground chia seeds
  • 2 cups white spelt flour
  • ½ cup rapadura (panela) sugar
  • 1/3 tsp baking powder (gluten-free)
  • 2 tsp baking soda (aluminium free)
  • 4 ripe bananas, mashed
  • ½ cup coconut yoghurt (or use 1/3 cup nut milk with 1 tbsp lemon juice; or natural dairy yoghurt if not vegan/intolerant)
  • 100 ml macadamia nut oil or melted coconut oil, plus extra for greasing cake tin
  • 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar (fermented, unpasteurised)
  • 1 cup walnuts, roughly chopped, plus extra halves for decorating (optional)
  • 1 batch of coconut frosting (optional)

Preheat oven to 180C/355F (160C/320F fan-forced)

Line and grease a 22cm springform cake tin

In a cup, mix the ground chia seeds with 45 ml water. Allow to stand for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

In large bowl, combine flour, sugar, and baking powder and soda.

In a separate bowl, fold the chia mix, mashed banana, yogurt (nut milk/lemon juice), oil, and vinegar.

Pour the wet mix into the dry, and fold until mixed.

Fold in the chopped walnuts.

Pour mix into prepared tin, and cover tin with a sheet of foil or it will brown too quickly before fully cooking inside.

Bake for 50–60 minutes, or until a cake skewer comes out clean and the cake is firm in the middle.

Cool in tin for 5 minutes before removing and cooling on a wire rack.

Once cool, enjoy as is or frost it up with this coconut-lemon frosting and some walnut halves.

Sautéed beet leaves with coconut milk & capers

Beet greens are the leaves and stalks attached to beetroots. Have you ever eaten them? In case you didn’t know, they’re edible, delicious and nutritious!

Because beetroots are mostly sold in the supermarket without their leaves attached, many don’t know that these gorgeous leaves can be eaten and are highly nutritious (since they’re greens!). You are most likely to find beet greens (attached to their beets) at organic grocery stores and farmers’ markets. And it’s also an economical way to get some greens (basically they’re ‘free’ when you buy the beets).

About a month ago, I found myself inundated with beet leaves (and beets). I couldn’t resist buying them at the organic store where I shop. They looked so beautiful and fresh – both the beets and the leaves, so I bought a bunch. Then my parents popped by on the weekend and brought me a large bunch from their home garden. (By the way, their home garden is their whole back yard!)

Since beetroot leaves don’t keep fresh for too long after harvesting (up to a week or so), I needed to make something quick smart so I would not waste these gorgeous, luscious leaves. Plus I needed more room in my refrigerator. This got me thinking of different ways to cook up beet leaves. I came up with seven:

  1. use it in a curry with the beets
  2. add it to a frittata, like you would silverbeet
  3. use it instead of spinach in a spinach and fetta pie
  4. juice them (younger beet leaves are best because of lower oxalic acid than older leaves)
  5. eat in a salad (again, younger beet leaves are best)
  6. add it to soups, like you would spinach, kale or silverbeet
  7. just sauté them with some garlic and herbs to have as a side, or try variation I came up with below


beetroot-leaves-with-capers-coconut-milk_resizedServes ~ 3 people, as a side

  • 2 tbsp coconut oil
  • 1 small brown onion, finely diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely diced
  • 5 cups (~500g) shredded beet leaves & chopped stems
  • 2 tbsp salt-crusted capers
  • ½ cup coconut milk
  • sea salt to taste
  • squeeze of lemon

In a wide and deep fry pan, heat oil and sauté onion until translucent. Add garlic and sauté briefly before adding the beet leaves. Stir continually.

Once the leaves have wilted add the capers and coconut milk. Saute for a couple more minutes, then turn off stove. Season and squeeze over some lemon juice.

(Note: the dish is not meant to be saucy — the milk evaporates off. But if you would like it to be, just add more coconut milk.)

Serve as you would  side of greens — I ate mine with pan-fried fish on one occasion, and with some rice and dhal on another.

What other ways have you used beet greens?


Pumpkin & date brown rice porridge

I’m a 5-year-old again. In my mother’s kitchen. The waft of ground cardamom fills my nostrils. It’s Diwali, and my mum is making Indian sweets.

That’s the place I go to whenever I smell freshly ground cardamom. I love it. And I think of my mum every single time I grind this spice.

It’s funny how certain aromas take you back to yesteryear — to a time and place that you think of fondly (or, perhaps, not so fondly, whatever the case may be). It just shows you how complex the human brain is, with our senses and memories fusing together to play a notable part in our food behaviours and cravings.

Being from Fiji, and with parents who have a penchant for growing and cooking their own food, I was rather lucky in the food stakes. Much of my cravings stem from my mum’s curries, with staples like dhal, rice and fresh tomato chutney — which translate into comfort and security.

This rice porridge certainly fits the bill of comfort, security and fond memories too. It’s my take on the Indian rice pudding, kheer. Except that it’s healthy enough to eat for breakfast.


brown-rice-porridgeServes 4–6

  • 1 cup brown rice
  • 1/3 cup pumpkin seeds (pepita)
  • 1/3 cup sunflower seeds
  • 1 cup packed grated pumpkin
  • 3 medjool dates, seeded & finely chopped
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • pinch nutmeg
  • ¼ tsp ground cardamom (or grind seeds of 6 cardamom pods)
  • 2 tbsp coconut oil
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 ½ cups cashew milk (or any other milk)
  • ¼ cup maple syrup

In a large bowl, soak brown rice and seeds in water overnight. Add a tablespoon of something acidic like lemon juice or apple cider vinegar in the soaking water.

Next day rinse and drain the soaked rice and nuts, and pour into to a large, heavy-based pot. To the pot add the grated pumpkin, spices, dates, coconut oil and water.

Bring to a boil then turn down the heat to a gentle simmer. Simmer for ~ 40 minutes, until the rice is cooked. Stir continually to avoid the porridge from sticking to the bottom of the pot. A heat diffuser helps.

Add milk and maple syrup. Continue to simmer on low heat for another 30 minutes or so (until the rice is as soft as you’d like it and the porridge is thick and creamy). Stir often.

When ready, serve with extra milk, and top with natural yoghurt and freshly sliced fruit. Or perhaps some shredded coconut, goji berries, walnuts and cinnamon.

Make a batch over the weekend for the week ahead (double the quantities to make a bigger batch). Extras will keep in the fridge for 3–4 days. Or you can freeze in batches. Reheat with some milk or water.

How to make almond milk (video)

Hi guys, this is my first ever video!

The reason for creating a video is to show you how easy it is to make your own nut milk. All you need is a blender, some nuts, filtered water, a muslin cloth or nut milk bag, and about 5 minutes. It’s that simple.

Why enjoy nut milk?

almond milk 1Some people turn to nut milk because they have a problem with dairy, or they choose to live a vegan lifestyle.  But you can still enjoy nut milk even if that doesn’t apply to you.

Nuts are one of nature’s amazing foods, and are loaded with vitamins, minerals and healthy fats. Besides, it’s a good way to reduce the amount of dairy we eat in the western world. Commercially available dairy is heavily processed, and it takes some research and time to find the real stuff.

Why make your own?

There are many reasons why I make nut milk instead of buying it:

  • I get to choose the quality the nuts I’m using (they’re either organic or pesticide free).
  • I get to make it how I want it, with no additives and sweeteners — just nuts and filtered water. (You can add a medjool date or two if you’re like a sweetish milk.)
  • there’s no packaging, which reduces waste and I don’t have to worry about what the packaging is lined with.
  • it’s cheaper.
  • it’s super easy to make, especially with a nut milk bag. And only takes around 5 minutes.

How to use nut milk?

I use nut milk like I would use normal milk and cream. I’ve used nut milk for:

  1. smoothies
  2. baking muffin, cakes, and cookies
  3. curries (especially cashew or coconut milk)
  4. risottos (I’ve used a thick cashew milk instead of cream)
  5. pancakes
  6. eating with muesli
  7. making bircher muesli (soak homemade muesli in nut milk)
  8. pasta sauces (or sauces of any kind)
  9. custard (I make chocolate custard using cashew milk in the Thermomix)

Ready to make some nut milk?

Here’s the video!

While I’ve used almonds in this video, you can make nut milk with any type of nuts you like (my favourites are cashews and almonds). You can make seed milk too. The most common seeds I’ve seen people make milk with are sunflower and hemp seeds.

To make nut milk, use a ratio of one cup nuts to 3–4 cups filtered water:

  • soak nuts overnight, then strain and rinse (discard the soaking water)
  • blend nuts with fresh filtered/spring water on high-speed (60 seconds for a high-powered blender, and up to 2–3 minutes for a standard blender)
  • Strain milk using a nut milk bag or a muslin cloth. If using a muslin cloth, fold it so there are at least 3 layers of the cloth, and use it to line a sieve before straining. (Note: A huge bonus to making cashew milk is that you don’t need to strain it!)
  • Nut milk will keep fresh in the fridge for up to 4 days.

In the video you’ll also notice that I didn’t remove the almond skins. It’s really up to you if you’d like to do that. To me that’s just one extra step, and I don’t find it really affects the taste. Remember, the taste also depends on quality of the nuts you use. So make sure they’re not rancid (they’ll taste very bitter). Nuts should be as fresh as possible and, preferably, organic or pesticide free.

Did you enjoy this recipe? Then you may wish to check out Nourished, my healthy eating ebook with 93 wholefood recipes.

Baked quinoa risotto

baked-quinoa-risottoServes 3 as a main, or 4 as a side

  • One cup quinoa, thoroughly washed
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 celery stalks finely diced
  • One red onion, finely diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, finely diced
  • 1/2 tsp chilli flakes, or to taste
  • A handful of fresh herbs, like thyme and rosemary or 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 1/2 small sweet potato, about 150 g (1 cup), diced into small cubes
  • 8 medium mushrooms, diced
  • 1 cup sprouted mung beans (or use 1 cup of any cooked legumes, like chickpeas and kidney beans)
  • 3 cups homemade stock
  • 1 large broccoli head (3 cups, including stems)
  • sea salt, to taste

Preheat oven to 150C fan-forced (170C conventional). In a large pot (that is also oven-proof and has a lid) heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil over medium heat. Sweat the celery for about 5 minutes then add the onions, chilli, garlic and herbs. Sweat for another 5 minutes, stirring continuously.

Next, add the sweet potatoes and sauté for another 3–5 minutes before  stirring in the mushrooms, quinoa and legumes. Season with  salt and add stock. Put the lid on and pop the pot into the oven. Bake for 15 minutes, then remove and stir in the broccoli. Place the lid back on and bake for another 15 minutes. Then check whether the sweet potato has cooked through. If not, bake for a few more minutes.

Stir in the remaining tablespoon of olive oil and season to your taste. I also like to squeeze in some lemon juice.

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Homemade nutella

You may have heard. In case you haven’t, here it is:

Two mothers in the US took Nutella to court over false advertising and won their case — and got a $3.5 million payout.

About time, I say.

On the other hand, my version of Nutella is basically a chocolate nut butter (so it’s thicker than Nutella) with a touch of natural sweetness from some maple syrup. It’s healthy, delicious, vegan and gluten-free. Enjoy it, guilt-free.


nutella butterYou need a good quality food processor to make this — something that can turn nuts into nut butter without burning the motor!

Makes about 1 cup (if  this isn’t going to last long in your household, just double the amounts)

  • 1 cup hazelnuts, toasted with the skins rubbed off (as much as possible) 
  • 2–3 tbsp (30–45 mL) macadamia nut oil (or unscented coconut oil, melted)
  • 1.5 tbsp organic, fair trade cocoa 
  • 2–3 tbsp (30–45 ml) pure maple syrup 

In a food processor, blitz together the hazelnuts and 2 tablespoons of oil until it turns into nut butter. You may need to stop the processor couple of times, and scrape down the sides to get a nut butter consistency. Having a nut butter consistency is important, otherwise you won’t have a very spreadable ‘Nutella’. If it’s not quite there add another tablespoon of oil to help it along.

Then add the cocoa and maple syrup. Whizz together until everything is blended. If it’s too thick, add a touch more oil and/or maple syrup and process. (Note: This Nutella will be thicker than the store bought one).

Store in an airtight glass jar. It will keep for weeks in the fridge (if it lasts that long!).

Shaved zucchini & rocket salad

Greens are essential for healthy living. They help with purifying the blood, strengthening the immune system, and promoting healthy gut, liver and kidney function.

Dark leafy green vegetables in particular — like rocket (arugula), kale, silverbeet (Swiss chard) and spinach — are full of many nutrients. Think calcium, iron, zinc, vitamins A, C and K, chlorophyll and folic acid. (Tip: adding a source of vitamin C, such as squeezing some lemon juice over your raw greens or at the end of cooking helps to absorb iron — so important for vegetarians).

While many greens can be eaten raw, some are better eaten in moderation or, at least, cooked because they contain a phytochemical called oxalic acid. Oxalic acid (oxalate) binds to calcium — making it hard for calcium to get absorbed. In fact, the levels are so high in rhubarb leaves (not the stalk), that it’s not safe for eating. (A list of some vegetables with their oxalic acid levels here.)

Greens with high amounts of oxalic acid (but that are safe to eat) include beetroot greens, silverbeet and spinach. These vegetables are best eaten cooked with dairy or other rich foods like meat, tempeh, legumes or oil, because it reduces the oxalic acid levels. For this reason, I prefer using kale to spinach in juices and smoothies.

So now it makes sense why the French cook spinach with cream, Greeks, silverbeet with feta, and Indians, spinach (palak) with paneer — it wasn’t just for the delicious taste! (It always amazes me how traditional ways of preparing foods — like soaking, sprouting and fermenting — nourishes and protects the human body. Somehow, the people of the past just knew what to do.)

It’s best to rotate and try different greens, as they have various levels of different nutrients (you’ll see a lot of variety if you venture out to farmers’ markets). Learn how to prepare them and include some in your diet every day — your health will thank you for it.


shaved-zucchiniServes 2

With a potato peeler, thinly shave 2 young, small zucchinis into a salad bowl. Wash and dry a large handful of rocket (arugula) and add to the zucchini. Gently combine the two ingredients with your (clean) hands. Dress with extra virgin olive oil, squeeze of lemon, and some sea salt. Add some freshly cracked pepper if you wish.

Potato & radish leaves curry

radish leavesI don’t know how we humans get into certain habits. Then continue on with them as if they’re the norm, without asking, why? Like throwing out perfectly good, nutritious and edible vegetable parts — which produces methane as it rots.

Since I discovered that cauliflower leaves are edible, I now use them in my cooking. This subject came to ahead again when I bought a bunch of organic radishes at the Boroondara Farmers’ Market last weekend. The leaves looked too beautiful to toss in the bin. And because I recently found out my parents cooked the leaves from radishes in their garden, I consulted mum before going ahead.

As radish leaves wilt quite a bit, I cooked them with potatoes to have a dish that served 4, as a side. Very enjoyable, indeed, especially with some rice, dhal and fresh tomato chutney.

Later on, I searched the Internet to see what else could be done with radish leaves. Turns out Indians are known for making Mullangi (or Mooli) ka patta (literally, leaves of radishes) curry. Among other discoveries was this radish leaf pesto from Chocolate and Zucchini.

The more we get to know about fresh produce (like what parts are edible, and the best ways to store them for longevity), the less we’ll throw out — better for us and our planet.

What have you made with lesser-used veggie parts? Please share in the comments section.


  • 2 tbsp olive oil (or 1 tbsp each of olive oil and ghee)
  • 2 tsp mustard seeds
  • 1 sprig curry leaves (optional)
  • 1 brown onion, thinly sliced
  • 4 cloves garlic, finely diced
  • ½ tsp red chilli powder
  • ½ tsp turmeric
  • ½ tsp ground fenugreek (optional)
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 2 tsp ground coriander
  • 2 potatoes (I used Nicola), scrubbed and diced into 2cm cubs
  • Leaves from a bunch of radish, shredded
  • sea salt, to taste
  • juice of half a lemon

Cook it up

First, cook potatoes in salted boiling water until they’re slightly underdone (i.e. firm and still have a ‘bite’ to them). Drain and set aside.

In a heavy based pot, heat the oil then add the mustard seeds. Once the seeds begin to pop, add the curry leaves. Be careful, the curry leaves make the oil splatter.

Next, sauté the onions and garlic for a couple of minutes, before adding in all the spices. Continue to sauté for a couple of minutes, and then tip in the potatoes. Stir to coat the potatoes with the masala (spice) mixture. Place the lid on and cook for about 5 minutes or so, until the potatoes are fully cooked. You will need to stir continually, so the potatoes and spice mix don’t catch and burn. At this point you can add some salt.

When the potatoes are cooked, stir in the radish leaves. Saute for a minute or so, until they wilt. Turn off the heat and squeeze in some lemon juice. Adjust for seasoning and eat it up.

Did you enjoy this recipe? Then you may like to get your hands on Nourished – my healthy eating ebook with 93 wholefood recipes.

Date & nut protein bars

I’ve called these little bars ‘protein bars’ because they contain quinoa (pronounced keen-wa), nuts, and eggs (if you’re making the non-vegan version). Quinoa is renowned for its high protein content compared to other cereals and grains, and is considered to be a complete protein because of its essential amino acid content.  

Technically, quinoa is a seed, not a grain, and is gluten-free. It is commonly used as whole seeds, flakes – as I have used them for this recipe – or flour. As a flour, the taste is quite assertive, so it’s best used mixed with other flours.

Quinoa is mostly harvested in South America, and most of what is available in Australia comes from this region. But there is also a local product grown in Tasmania. The Tasmanian quinoa does need bit of washing, though, to remove the bitter, soapy coating (saponin) from the seeds.

Quinoa is very versatile – think salads, soups, patties, porridge, baked goods – and, so, is handy to have in the pantry. Especially if you need to make a gluten-free, vegetarian meal in a hurry, as it cooks quickly too.

Now that I’ve sold you on quinoa, do give this protein bar a go. It makes for a filling, nutrient-dense treat that will keep little tummies happy – and big ones too.


Date and Nut protein sliceI’ve made these date & nut protein bars with eggs, and without, for a vegan version. Both are lovely. With the vegan version, as usual, I had to think about binding, fat and moisture – i.e. what could do the job of eggs? For binding, I still haven’t moved beyond chia seeds. And for fat and moisture, I just added more oil. The vegan version is, however, a little more fragile than the egg one, but, nevertheless, it does hold itself together.

  • 2 tsp chia seeds, ground, to make chia gel* (or use 2 large eggs)
  • 8 medjool dates, seeds removed and finely chopped
  • ½ cup (120 ml) almond or melted coconut oil (if using eggs, reduce the oil to ⅓ cup – 80 ml)
  • 2 tbsp (40 ml) pure maple syrup 
  • 1 ½ tbsp (30 ml) apple cider vinegar (exclude if using eggs)
  • ¾ cup quinoa flakes
  • ½ cup brown rice or sorghum flour
  • ¼ cup unsweetened desiccated coconut
  • 2 tsp gluten-free baking powder (reduce to 1 tsp when making the egg version)
  • ½ cup roughly chopped walnuts
  • pinch of sea salt

Preheat oven to 180C. Lightly oil a square or rectangular baking size dish (I used a 16 x 21 cm Pyrex dish), and line with baking paper.

*If you’re making the vegan version, first make the chia gel – add 100 ml water to the ground chia seeds and set aside. In a few minutes it will turn into a gel-like substance.

Add chia gel (or eggs), dates, oil, apple cider vinegar (exclude for egg version) and maple syrup into a bowl and mix well.

In a separate bowl, combine the remaining ingredients before mixing thoroughly with the wet mix. The batter will be a little stiff. Tip batter into the prepared baking dish and spread evenly with the back of a spoon.

Bake for about 20 minutes, or until cooked through (check with a skewer) and lightly browned at the edges. Cool in dish for about 5 minutes before cooling on a wire rack. Once completely cooled, slice into 12 bars. The bars will keep in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days. They freeze well too.