When Aussie cookery writer Jessica Prescott sat down to write her third book, Australia was burning, the wildfires ripping through the bush bringing a new urgency to conversation about the climate crisis. And then a pandemic arrived, and the way we live was changed in an instant.
“No one knows how long our new way of living will go on, or what life will be like when it’s over, but dealing with this on the heels of the climate catastrophe has many of us riddled with helplessness, despair, and increasing anxiety in the face of so much uncertainty,” Prescott muses. “As we tighten our purse strings and brace ourselves for a global recession, now more than ever it’s important to remember that our future is quite literally in our hands.”
All that said, however, the flipside of a world on fire is that we’re all time poor, overwhelmed and in need of a rest – making Veganuary seem like a daunting prospect for many of us. That needn’t be the case, Prescott insists.
“I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of doing the dishes,” she writes. “Breakfast, lunch, dinner, and if you have small children, a million and one snacks in between. The mess is relentless, which is why I wrote this book. I know I’m not alone when I say I need recipes that nourish the body and soul, while simultaneously being low mess, versatile and easy to prep ahead of time, and kind to the planet.”
Here then, are four of Prescott’s favourite dishes, taken from her latest book, Vegan One-Pot Wonders. From Italy to Mexico to Asia, the flavours span the globe – but the lack of fuss is universal.
Mushroom gnocchi with peas
“Frying gnocchi before adding liquid to the pan has been a one-pot revelation for me that I am so excited to share in this book!,” says Prescott. “Do hunt for the best quality gnocchi you can find, preferably one that is stored in the fridge and not on the shelf (unless you are making at home, in which case, hats off to you). If you can’t find wild mushrooms, porcini will do. I don’t recommend substituting for shiitakes, which I love but they have a very distinct flavour that doesn’t really compliment this dish.”
10g dried wild mushrooms
350ml boiling water
A few tablespoons of olive oil
1 brown onion, diced
1 x 500g pack potato gnocchi
1 large garlic clove, finely chopped
1 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon ground or freshly grated nutmeg
10 sprigs of lemon thyme
150g frozen peas
100g fresh spinach
Freshly cracked black pepper
Dried chilli flakes, to taste
Put the mushrooms in a heatproof bowl and cover with the boiling water. Set to one side while you cook the onion and gnocchi.
Heat the oil in a large frying pan over a medium-high heat. Add the onion and gnocchi and fry for about ten minutes, until the onion is translucent and golden, and ever so slightly starting to blacken, using a metal spatula to get all the sticky bits off the base of the pan if you need to.
Strain the mushroom soaking liquid and set the mushrooms aside, squeezing any liquid from them into the strained soaking liquid.
Add the garlic to the pan and cook for about one minute, then pour the strained mushroom liquid into the pan. Finely chop the mushrooms and add them to the pan. Add the salt and cook for ten minutes until the liquid has reduced by half.
Add the nutmeg, thyme, peas and spinach. Cook for 2 minutes, then add some pepper and chilli flakes to taste and give it a good stir before spooning into bowls and devouring.
“This is a household favourite that comes together in minutes once you’ve got your water boiling. If you aren’t familiar with kaffir lime leaves, don’t be put off by their inclusion in this recipe! They are easier to find than you think and once you’ve tried them you’ll want to use them in everything.
“There are very rarely any leftovers for this dish, but if there are they are delicious both hot and cold. Of course, substitute the udon or soba noodles for any noodles you like; however, thick are better, as they hold the heavy ingredients more easily.”
270g soba or udon noodles
200g shelled frozen edamame, thawed
200g baby spinach
1 ripe avocado, peeled and diced
3 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh coriander, plus extra to garnish
5 fresh kaffir lime leaves, thinly sliced
Fresh chilli, thinly sliced, to garnish
For the satay sauce:
125g smooth peanut butter
2 tablespoons maple syrup
1 teaspoon tamarind paste
100ml warm water
- Bring a large saucepan of water to the boil.
- While you are waiting for the water to boil, make the satay sauce by combining the peanut butter, tamari, maple syrup and tamarind paste in a small bowl. Add the warm water and stir. It should be thick but slightly runny. If it seems too thick, add more warm water, a tablespoon at a time, until the desired consistency is reached. Set aside.
- Once the water is boiling, add the noodles and cook according to the packet instructions. Add the thawed edamame for the final minute and the spinach for the final 30 seconds. Drain in a colander and shake to remove excess water. Return the noodles, edamame and spinach to the pan and add the dressing, diced avocado, sesame seeds, coriander and kaffir lime leaves. Toss to combine then serve in bowls, garnished with fresh chilli and additional coriander, if you’re a fan.
The quickest and easiest smoky lentil tacos
“Black beans are and forever will be my favourite taco filling, however tinned lentils have a very special place in my heart too, due to their sheer ease and ability to come together in moments.
“For the toppings, you can use whatever you like, but to keep the chopping to an absolute minimum I usually use something leafy like rocket or baby spinach, and something I can quickly grate such as carrot or beetroot. The lentils can be eaten immediately or left for a few days and reheated as needed. They can also be spooned onto baked sweet potatoes, over rice, in burritos…
“Do try to get your hands on chipotles in adobo. They last forever and have the ability to take a meal from mediocre to incredible.”
2 x 400g tins of green or brown lentils, drained and rinsed
400g tin chopped tomatoes
1 chipotle pepper in adobo, chopped, plus 1 tablespoon of the sauce
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon salt
A large handful of fresh coriander leaves, finely chopped
For the tacos:
12 soft-shell wheat or corn tacos a few handfuls of fresh leaves and vegetables such as rocket, grated carrot, grated beetroot etc.
1 ripe avocado, peeled and cut into wedges
3–4 tablespoons good-quality vegan sour cream
1–2 limes, halved, for juicing
- First, prepare the lentils. Put the lentils in a medium-large saucepan with the chopped tomatoes, chipotle, onion powder, garlic powder and salt. Stir to combine and allow to heat through for a few minutes while you gather and prepare the rest of your ingredients. Once warm, stir in the coriander.
- Spoon the lentils onto tacos and top with some leaves and vegetables of your choice, plus some avocado and whichever fresh and creamy ingredients you are using, and squeeze over some lime juice. Devour.
Vegan One-Pot Wonders by Jessica Prescott with photography by Bec Hudson is out now, published by Hardie Grant (£15). Buy your copy here.