Eat plants, be happy! Eating the vege rainbow

We think everyone should eat more plants, and we don't just mean two carrots instead of one - it's about enjoying all the colours of the veggie rainbow. Vegetables too often play second fiddle in a dish, and this book is here to change that. Between spiced rhubarb chutney, fennel gratin, and roast sweet potato with miso and ginger caramel, Eat Plants, Be Happy! puts veggies back exactly where they should be: at the centre of a meal.

With 130 simple, delicious, vegetable-focused recipes, authors Caroline Griffiths and Vicki Valsamis show how eating plant-based means eating well - and ensuring a happier mind, body and planet.

  • Eat Plants, Be Happy! by Caroline Griffiths and Vicki Valsamis, Smith Street Books, $39.99.

Artichoke, basil and baby pea lasagne

Artichoke, basil and baby pea lasagne. Picture: Supplied

Artichoke, basil and baby pea lasagne. Picture: Supplied

This is a beautiful alternative to traditional lasagne. Using preserved artichokes, rather than preparing fresh ones, makes this dish very quick to assemble. If possible, use artichokes in brine - if yours are packed in oil, be sure to drain them very well. Serve with a simple rocket salad, dressed with a balsamic vinaigrette.

Ingredients

olive oil cooking spray

350 g artichoke hearts in brine

1 tsp freshly ground black pepper

375 ml thickened cream

large handful of basil leaves, chopped

500g fresh or frozen baby peas

800g firm fresh ricotta

100g grated parmesan

2 large free-range eggs

1 tsp sea salt

375g packet dried lasagne sheets

450g grated mozzarella

Method

1. Preheat the oven to 180C. Spray a deep 20cm 30cm baking dish with olive oil.

2. Drain the artichoke hearts, then cut into slices about 1cm thick. Place in a bowl and sprinkle with the pepper. Drizzle with 60ml of the cream, add half the basil and half the peas and gently mix together.

3. Place the remaining basil, peas and cream in a food processor. Add the ricotta, parmesan, eggs and salt and puree until smooth.

4. Spread about one cup of the ricotta mixture over the bottom of the baking dish, then cover with a layer of the lasagne sheets. Spread half the artichoke mixture over the top, followed by another two cups of the ricotta mixture and one-third of the mozzarella.

5. Top with another layer of lasagne sheets. Spread the remaining artichoke mixture over the top, then most of the ricotta mixture, and another one-third of the mozzarella. Add a final layer of lasagne sheets, then the remaining ricotta mixture and mozzarella.

6. Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for a further 20 minutes, or until the lasagne is cooked through and the cheesy topping is golden brown.

7. Remove from the oven and allow to stand for 20 minutes before serving.

Serves 10.

Charred tomatillo tostadas

Charred tomatillo tostadas. Picture: Supplied

Charred tomatillo tostadas. Picture: Supplied

There is nothing quite as good as a fresh tomatillo - and the tomatillo salsa is definitely the hero in this Mexican dish. Also referred to as a "Mexican husk tomato" due to the fine, almost translucent papery husk that encloses it, the flesh of the tomatillo is firm and tastes simultaneously fruity and tart. If tomatillos are not in season, green tomatoes can be used instead. However, don't use tinned tomatillos here - the flavour just won't be the same.

Ingredients

vegetable oil, for shallow-frying

10 small soft tortillas

40g shaved red cabbage

40g shaved white cabbage

kernels from 1 fresh corn cob

5 radishes, trimmed and finely sliced

coriander, to garnish

hot sauce, to serve

Tomatillo salsa:

400 g husked tomatillos

1 small white onion, quartered

10 garlic cloves, skin on

1 fresh jalapeo chilli

1 tbsp vegetable oil

handful of coriander leaves

60ml lime juice

Method

1. Preheat the grill to high.

2. To make the tomatillo salsa, toss the tomatillos in a large bowl with the onion, garlic cloves, jalapeo chilli, oil and a generous pinch of salt. Spread the mixture on a grill tray and grill for eight minutes, or until charred and tender. Set aside until cool enough to handle. Squeeze the garlic cloves out of their skins and place into a food processor. Add the charred tomatillos, onion and chilli, then the coriander and lime juice. Pulse a few times, until the mixture is chunky and combined. Season and set aside while you cook the tortillas.

3. Fill a medium-sized saucepan with 3cm of vegetable oil and heat over medium-high heat.

When the oil is hot, fry the tortillas one at a time, for 30-40 seconds, until golden brown. Remove using a slotted spoon and drain on paper towel before transferring to serving plates.

4. Top the tostadas with the cabbage, corn kernels, radish and tomatillo salsa. Garnish with coriander and serve immediately with your favourite hot sauce.

Makes 10.

Corn tikkis with raita and tamarind sauce

Corn tikkis with raita and tamarind sauce. Picture: Supplied

Corn tikkis with raita and tamarind sauce. Picture: Supplied

These tasty corn tikkis are rich in spice and flavour, and a quick way to use up leftover cooked corn, peas and potatoes. If you fancy a little less heat, omit the chilli. The tamarind sauce can be made a few days ahead and stored in a sealed container in the fridge until required; but bring it back to room temperature to serve.

Ingredients

110g frozen corn kernels, blanched

50g cooked peas

2 large boiled potatoes, about 600g in total

100g dry breadcrumbs

1 tsp garam masala

1/2 tsp chopped chilli

2 garlic cloves, crushed

1/2 tsp finely chopped ginger

small handful of coriander leaves, finely chopped

vegetable oil, for shallow-frying

Tamarind sauce:

1 tbsp vegetable oil

1 tsp ground ginger

1 1/2 tsp cumin seeds

1 tsp fennel seeds

1/2 tsp cayenne pepper

1 tsp garam masala

275g sugar

60ml tamarind purée

Raita:

250g Greek-style yoghurt

1 tbsp lemon juice

1 tsp ground cumin

1 small cucumber, grated and strained

Method

1. To make the tamarind sauce, heat the oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the ginger, cumin seeds, fennel seeds, cayenne pepper and garam masala and stir for one to two minutes, or until the spices are aromatic.

2. Pour in 500ml water, then add the sugar and tamarind purée, stirring to combine. Increase the heat and bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 40 minutes, or until the mixture coats the back of a spoon. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool completely.

3. Combine the raita ingredients in a small bowl. Mix together with a spoon, then cover and set aside in the fridge until required.

4. To make the tikkis, put the corn, peas and potatoes in a mixing bowl and roughly mash using a potato masher. Stir in the breadcrumbs, garam masala, chilli, garlic, ginger and coriander, mixing thoroughly.

5. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

6. Scoop out two tablespoons of the mixture into your hand and form into a round patty. Place on a lined baking tray and repeat with the remaining mixture.

7. Heat 1cm of vegetable oil in a large frying pan over medium-high heat. Working in batches, cook the tikkis for four minutes on each side, or until golden. Drain on paper towel.

8. Transfer to a serving plate and serve immediately with the raita and tamarind sauce.

Makes about 24 tikkis.

Spicy avocado and watermelon salad with mint and jalapeno chilli

Spicy avocado and watermelon salad with mint and jalapeno chilli. Picture: Supplied

Spicy avocado and watermelon salad with mint and jalapeno chilli. Picture: Supplied

Mixing both pink and yellow watermelon makes for a gloriously coloured summer salad. If you can't find the yellow variety, just use pink watermelon. This salad works well with Mexican dishes such as tostadas.

Ingredients

2 tbsp grated palm sugar

60ml balsamic vinegar

1/2 small fresh jalapeno chilli, finely chopped

500g pink seedless watermelon, chilled

500g yellow seedless watermelon, chilled

1/2 red onion, finely sliced

200g finely sliced feta

1 avocado, diced

100g snow pea shoots

1 long red chilli, finely sliced

4 finger limes (see note)

60ml lime juice

salt flakes, for sprinkling

Method

1. Place the palm sugar, vinegar and jalapeno chilli in a small saucepan over high heat. Bring to the boil, stirring constantly, then reduce the heat and simmer for five minutes, or until nice and thick. Set aside to cool slightly.

2. Cut the melons into 1cm thick slices, then into wedges. Remove the outer rind.

3. Arrange the melon wedges on a large platter, along with the onion, feta, avocado, snow pea shoots, chilli and the "caviar" from the finger limes.

4. Drizzle the lime juice over the salad, followed by the balsamic glaze.

5. Sprinkle with salt flakes and serve immediately.

Note: Commonly referred to as "lime caviar", the finger lime is a native Australian fruit typically grown in warm, subtropical climates such as southern Queensland. To remove the finger lime caviar, simply cut the lime in half horizontally and gently squeeze the lime to push the caviar out. If you are unable to find finger limes, you can peel and segment a standard lime as an alternative.

Serves 4.

Eat Plants, Be Happy! by Caroline Griffiths and Vicki Valsamis, Smith Street Books, $39.99.

Eat Plants, Be Happy! by Caroline Griffiths and Vicki Valsamis, Smith Street Books, $39.99.

This story Eating the vege rainbow first appeared on The Canberra Times.