guac two ways (vegan) and purple tom kha Thai coconut curry

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Being thoroughly inspired by the food and culture of Northern Europe, I came home re-energised, ready to arm myself to the teeth with knowledge and recipes. I was determined to flex my imagination in, flailing which at least to try, the exploration of cooking and eating vegetables. 

Even if you’ve read my recent stories about suddenly encountering incredible vegan food the likes of which I'd never eaten before (do you remember what new tastes feel like?) and feeling revitalised about eating less meat, you may not have come across the fact that I’ve tried and failed miserably at being vegetarian a long time ago. When I was much younger I went cold turkey and cut meat out at the snap of my fingers the day I decided I was done! with! hamburgers! And also, done! with! chicken! mcNuggets! Very enthusiastically, and very poorly prepared. Without much research, I think these were the early days before the internet was a huge thing filled with YouTube videos and recipes (I think we had Friendster and LiveJournal) so I spent a lot of days eating tofu and miso soup. I was positively miserable. 

Needless to say, I lasted about a good 6 months feeling self-righteously starved before a trip to Germany cancelled all of that out. I gave in to currywursts and pork knuckle and many many years (and many many McNuggets) passed till now. 

Giving credit to trends where credit is due, vegetarian and vegan foods have become more mainstream. With it, access to many fabulous vegan cooking videos on YouTube, a dozen blogs and restaurants that put together things I couldn’t ever dream up myself back then. Who thought up blended cashew nuts in lieu of cream sauce? Or carrot lox in lieu of salmon? Who in particular is responsible for my massive obsession with pickled beetroots, red onions, and cucumbers? They simply go with everything! As you'll see below. 

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FOR BREAKFAST & LUNCH: GUAC TWO WAYS (VEGAN)

Guacamole: chopped red onions, cherry tomatoes, avocado, salt, squeeze of lime

Guac-Stuffed Baked Mushroom & Tofu Scramble

Stuffed portobello mushroom baked with Italian herbs, paprika and salt
Topped with crispy hashbrowns
Served alongside tofu scramble (tumeric, garlic, onions, paprika, jalapeños)

Baked Sweet Potato with Guac, Tahini and Pickled Red Onions
My favourite part of this are the pickled onions. It lifts everything up. 

Baked sweet potato with Italian herbs, paprika, salt
Topped with guac, pickled red onions, drizzled with tahini (optional)      

I made guacamole with a few baby avocados that were a day or two out from being unusable ( I hate that I still can't get the timing of ripe avocados right). The best way to finish them up was to make a nice, smooth guacamole instead of possibly eating half a dozen smashed avocado toasts in 24 hours. Tortilla chips aren't really my thing, so naturally I was trying to find non-conventional ways to enjoy guacamole. I polled Instagram: what was the best way to guzzle down some fresh, tangy guacamole? I'd landed on two ingredients that I already had on hand in the fridge and ended up trying both. 

FOR DINNER: PURPLE TOM KHA THAI COCONUT CURRY

Learning from my past mistakes, I’m not diving head over heels into veganism or vegetarianism immediately. I’m not jumping on the Meatless Monday movement. I’m doing what I can, when I can, if that means eating two meatless meals a week or more, Monday or Sunday. That means not beating myself up when I use fish sauce in an experimental, otherwise vegetarian tom kha Thai coconut curry dish with sweet potato and red cabbage. It was absolutely delicious.

It has been absolutely storming for days, on and off, and when it does the world whites out into a blank, blurry landscape I love staring out into. There's no better weather to enjoy a hot bowl of curry. With the exception of the fish sauce in the instant tom kha paste I'd bought from Bangkok and the extra I drizzled into the pot, the meal was largely vegetarian. The red cabbage and sweet potato (again!) turned the soup and tofu a rich, dense purple and the tastes remained as authentic as I remembered.

I used instant tom kha paste I'd bought from Bangkok. For a vegan or vegetarian option, some recipes call for a mix of white miso and soy to mimic the umami flavour. Unless certain dishes call for specific measurements I don't really do tbsp or tsp; I pretty much pinch and toss as I go along. This comes from years of just cooking to taste from hundreds of recipes and different types of dishes. I encourage everyone to do the same to figure out what works best for you.

For the soup: 
Fry chopped red onions, chopped garlic, cut red chillies, grated ginger, cut lemongrass, dried kaffir lime leaves.
Add sliced red cabbage, cubed sweet potato, stir fry till a little soft.
Add vegetable broth, tom kha paste, fish sauce.
Add coconut cream or milk just before taking off the heat, and squeeze in lime juice.
Serve with rice (I love the nuttiness of red or brown rice that goes well with this tangy soup) .
 

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