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Pass the pasta, please!


Versatile in form and flavours, pasta is a classic staple on high rotation for many household menus for very good reasons.

 

But don’t make the mistake of relegating this ultimate comfort food to winter. Instead, impress your guests (or even just yourself) with these refreshing springtime pasta suggestions that will make anyone say, “Mama mia that is good!”.

The creamy no cream pasta:
Hear us out – for those of you that are dairy-free or vegan, this is the substitute for you. Make like top tier New Zealand chef Nadia Lim who uses a creamy cashew cream sauce in place of dairy alternatives to ensure creamy cravings are satisfied, but dietary requirements are not compromised.

The no fuss fancy pasta:
Instagram foodie favourite @alexskitchenstory makes using highbrow ingredients look easy (and ‘grammable). Alex shows us how sometimes all it takes is one gourmet ingredient like truffle oil to elevate any dish from ooh la nah to ooh la la. She pairs such luxe components with fresh, nutritious partners like fresh mushrooms and herbs.

The non-pasta pasta:
If you were wanting to mix it up, try creating a pasta dish… without the pasta. Scandalo, as the Italians would say. Opt for courgette spaghetti, like that pictured, using the refreshing vegetable in season from October until May. You can also try using kumara or broccoli stems, or purchase readymade options fashioned from lentils and pulses.


 

2020 Food Predictions


In recognition of the new decade, we caught up with My Food Bag’s development kitchen team, comprising of Nadia Lim and 13 talented chefs and nutritionists, about what we can expect to see on the culinary horizon for 2020.

 


1. Mindful eating – Consideration for health and the environment are on the rise.

When it comes to our food choices, people are more aware of what they’re putting in their bodies and their footprint.

Mindful eating is also about being present while we eat, appreciating food and spending quality time at the dinner table.


2. Out with fad dieting – When it comes to health and weight loss, sustainability in all things is the way forward.

Understanding the tried-and-tested method of eating real, nutritionally balanced food with a vegetable focus will become the ultimate goal.


3. Home food fast, not fast food – Convenience is key.

With Kiwis short on time, they want to be able to prep and cook food fast, but this doesn’t have to mean eating badly.

Homecooked and veggie-packed ready meals are in hot demand.


4. Zero-waste and home composting – Over the past decade ‘nose to tail’ and ‘stalk to tip’ have become commonplace.

This year we’re continuing to lessen our waste from the beginning to the end of our food’s journey.

Home composting is also on the rise with composts and urban worm farms increasing in popularity.


5. Mezze plates are the new platters: The bowl reached its peak in 2019 and although this movement isn’t going anywhere, the platter is catching up – think Middle Eastern influences, elaborate grazing platters and mezze plates.


6. Mini foodies: The next decade will see kids’ palates continuing to evolve. Forget chicken nuggets and chips!

Thanks to the rise in popularity of baby-led weaning, olives and sushi are becoming everyday staples for many youngsters.

My Food Bag predicts New Zealanders are raising a generation of foodies interested in eating and cooking nutrient-dense foods with bold flavours.


7. Nut butters: New Zealand’s nut butter industry has taken off in the last five years with several artisan suppliers such as Pic’s and Forty Thieves providing a range of simple, minimally processed nut butters free from sugar and added vegetable oils.

Peanut, almond, cashew and hazelnut butters, as well as tahini are becoming more common in cooking, adding flavour and texture to sauces and dressings.


8. Alternative flours: Alternative flours have been used as replacements in baking for years but now they’re going mainstream and forming the bases of staple food items like pasta and bread.

Rapidly growing in popularity due to the rise in gluten-free and coeliac and the desire for more diverse foods, these flours are becoming regular supermarket purchases for those without dietary requirements.


9. Fermentation: Kombucha and sauerkraut are so 2019! However, the rise and focus on gut health is here to stay in 2020 and this will see an increased focus on improved digestion from prebiotics, the non-digestible starch our gut bacteria feeds off, which is typically known as fibre.

Think lots of veggies and fibre-rich foods like broccolini, sweetcorn, whole grains and chickpeas.


10. Is smashed avo out? We’d be lying if we said avo on toast is on the out, but the bread base is changing and Kiwis are becoming increasingly creative when it comes to their avo toppings and add-ons.

We’re moving from ciabatta and rye to bespoke sourdoughs made from fermented oat and potato, as well as gluten-free almond, turmeric and cricket bread.

Meanwhile, favourite toppings in 2020 will include whipped pumpkin and feta, tahini or almond butter and kimchi mushrooms, crushed peas or crispy buckwheat and hummus.


 

Curried Cauliflower, Chickpeas & Mango Salad with Coconut Yoghurt Dressing


Chickpeas love a good spicing; otherwise they can be a bit bland and boring. Then they make a great base for filling, hearty, flavour-packed salads like this one with spice-roasted cauliflower, fresh mango, a kick of chilli and a creamy coconut dressing. There’s a bit of Pacific and Indian fusion going on here and the result is sublime.

 

GF | DF | VEGAN | Extracted from Vegful by Nadia Lim

 

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INGREDIENTS

1 small head cauliflower, chopped into florets
400g can chickpeas, rinsed, drained and patted dry with paper towels
1 cup natural cashew nuts
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 ¼ teaspoons curry powder
1 ¼ teaspoons cumin seeds, crushed
1 ¼ teaspoons coriander seeds, crushed
2–3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 tablespoons maple syrup
1 ripe mango, peeled and diced
3 handfuls of baby spinach
1 red or green chilli, finely sliced
2 spring onions, finely sliced (mostly green part)
½ cup chopped coriander

COCONUT YOGHURT DRESSING

½ cup natural unsweetened coconut yoghurt
Juice of 1 lime
¼ – ½ teaspoon curry powder

 

METHOD

1. Preheat oven to 220°C. Line an oven tray with baking paper.
2. In a large bowl, toss cauliflower, chickpeas and cashew nuts with olive oil, curry powder, cumin and coriander seeds, garlic and maple syrup. Season with salt and pepper, tip onto lined tray and roast for about 15–20 minutes until cauliflower is just tender and golden.
3. Mix all dressing ingredients together and season with a little salt.
4. Set roast cauliflower mixture aside to cool slightly. Just before serving, toss with mango, baby spinach, chilli, spring onion and coriander and drizzle with the dressing.

 

 


 

Nadia Lim gets vegeful


She is proudly an omnivore but Nadia Lim isn’t afraid to make veges the star of the show. We catch up with the culinary mastermind about how good old veges have given her a hit of inspiration in the kitchen.

 

 

 

You’ve just launched My Plant-based Bag, a limited-edition meal delivery kit packed with the best of New Zealand produce and plant-based proteins. What encouraged you to start a plant-based food bag and how has it been received?
It’s been amazingly received, and we’ve all been blown away by how popular it’s been so far. It’s totally a reflection of what more and more people want these days. People used to think vegan food was rabbit food, but now so many omnivores are impressed (and often surprised) by just how delicious vegan/vegetarian food can be.


Your latest cookbook Vegful has also just hit the shelves. How difficult is it creating recipes where veges play the starring role?
Not difficult at all! I absolutely loved writing my latest book, Vegful! Whenever I pick a beautiful glossy, plump, vibrant purple eggplant or a hoard of cheerful cherry tomatoes from the garden, I can’t help but be inspired. I love my veggies so much and have so much respect and awe for what nature creates – they deserve to be the stars of more meals on Kiwi dinner tables. And the delicious meals they turn into for my family just inspire me to create more and more.


What are some of your favourite veges and favourite plant-based meals?
Too many to choose from! I love my spuds, kumara, eggplant (often underrated), and pumpkin, and since I’ve just been to Italy and Greece, tomatoes (they are so full of flavour there!). As for favourite plant-based meals, hmmm…. well, I could eat my vegan tacos (with walnut almond chilli and guacamole), masala dosa, and burrito bowls any day, any time.


After turning your talented hand to vegetarian and even vegan meals, how surprised have you been at what you’re able to create without dairy, meat and eggs?
I did a one-week vegan challenge several years ago and I surprised myself (and my fourth-generation sheep farmer husband) with how easy and delicious being vegan was. Since then, I’ve always known that vegan food isn’t ‘lacking’ in any way (including flavour, satiety and ease). We’re both still omnivores, but we genuinely love delicious vegan meals done well.


How much more adventurous has this encouraged you to get in the kitchen?
Creating vegetarian and vegan recipes has actually given me an inspiration boost in the kitchen. I’d almost go as far as saying it has been liberating; once you start with vegetables as the star of your meal, it opens up a whole world of new varieties, flavours and techniques. So many delicious cuisines, like Middle Eastern and Indian, typically have loads of amazing vegetarian dishes so it’s encouraged more experimentation, like my masala dosa and Middle Eastern pita salad.


What are your go-to veges for spring?
Well, asparagus of course. Because it only makes a fleeting visit, so I go a bit crazy with it while it’s here. Lots of leafy greens (of all sorts) as you’re starting to crave lighter meals, and new spuds. Because, spuds… mmmm!


Families are increasingly making separate meals for the adults and the children. As a busy mum, what are your go-to family meals?
I love a good old spag bol, and it’s always a guaranteed winner with the kids. We also love the creamy tomato, mushroom & black bean shepherd’s pies and kumara, chickpea and mushroom burgers from Vegful.


What are some of your favourite ways to get veges into fussy toddlers?
Haha, ummm…. bribe them with ice-cream? I’m not going to lie, that’s what we often resort to. I don’t have any magic tips, sorry. Toddlers are fussy little food critics. I do hide veggies a lot in our meals, like in sauces (the Autumn Harvest sauce in Vegful is great for that). My veggie pops (also in Vegful), contain pineapple, cucumber and spinach, but my two young boys think they’re a treat for eating their veggies. Little do they know the joke is on them, ha!


What are some of your most versatile vegetables to work with?
I’ve just been ‘living’ in Italy for seven weeks, so eggplant, courgettes, capsicum and tomatoes are at the top of my mind. Also, green beans. All of them are super versatile vegetables. That was just about all the vegetables that were in the veggie garden (and there was no supermarket) so I had to get creative with them. But boy you can do a lot of different things with veggies – we would grill, BBQ, slow-roast, roast and blend, have in soup, stuff, steam and stir-fry them. I’d say they cook well anyway except for boiling.


How involved do you let Bodhi get in the vege garden and does this make him more engaged with the cooking and consuming of the food?
Yes, he is definitely more likely to eat or try something if it’s straight from the garden. Like green beans… he wouldn’t touch them if they’re on his plate but let him pick some young ones straight off the vine and he won’t share any with you.


What do the next 12 months have in store for you?
Probably lots more cooking and looking after kids. I’m also moving to Central Otago!

 

We have a Nadia Lim plant-based bag delivery and a copy of Nadia’s new book Vegful to give away to two very lucky readers! Just head to the Metropol Facebook page to enter.

 


 

Oven gloves to dancing shoes


Kiwi chef personality, entrepreneur and healthy food whizz Nadia Lim is taking off her oven gloves and stepping into her dancing shoes to take on channel Three’s Dancing with the Stars NZ – and it’s all for a great cause.

 

Nadia Lim first attracted attention in the culinary arena after she took home first place in the second series of MasterChef New Zealand and has since become an advocate for wholesome food and healthy eating, which led her to founding home meal kit delivery service My Food Bag.
The chef has announced that she will be donating funds raised from votes from national food education charity Garden to Table. Providing food-based life skills to school children years three to six at 176 schools throughout the country, Garden to Table’s goal is to raise enough money to support communities in higher need, so their students can learn and share the skills and knowledge of growing, harvesting and cooking.


Nadia is well known for her ‘Nude Food’ philosophy, which promotes fresh, healthy eating and ethical food practices. She chose to support the charity because she believes providing children with the essential nutritional and practical skills is fundamental. “Teaching kids to love gardening and cooking is absolutely one way that we can give them skills to help look after their mental wellbeing both throughout their childhood and beyond into their adult life. Dancing with the Stars NZ’s brand-new season premiered on Sunday 14 April and will be on screens every Sunday (7pm) and Monday (7:30pm) on Three.