I think I should become an international ambassador for courgetti. I could travel the world promoting it as a healthful alternative to wheat spaghetti, touting dishes such as courgetti with sardines, courgetti with salmon, courgetti with bolognaise, and my new dish – an entirely vegan courgetti with vegetables and nuts.
So where does eating vegan – or should I use the new trendy phrase ‘plant-based’ – fit with the Natural Kitchen Adventures food philosophy?
Well first, I don’t even know why I have to explain myself. I hate the idea of definition in food choices. Why pigeon hole yourself? To become a full fledged member of a food tribe? Bah. I blame the hashtag for all this.
I’ve been putting off writing on my current thoughts on food choices for some time, because I was worried that if I mentioned tending away from a 100% paleo diet, that my loyal paleo inspired friends and followers would leave me. I also worried that plant-based eaters wouldn’t respect me because I do eat animal products most days, because I still feel that is right for me. It seems silly to spend so much time worrying about it. In the grand scheme of things, there is plenty to worry about in the world.
Throughout this last year – first during my natural chef training, and now in the big wide world as a chef in a vegetarian café, I think I’ve managed to settle in a really happy place bouncing between multiple food tribes: I’m equally happy tucking into a grass-fed steak as I am trying out one of London’s new raw food cafes. I’m equally happy devouring salmon and avocado for breakfast on Monday, then having gluten free porridge with blueberries on Tuesday, a green smoothie and a boiled egg on Wednesday, and so on.
When all I am eating is whole unprocessed gluten free foods, lots of vegetables, balancing protein and fats, with tonnes of flavor does it really matter? Funnily enough I feel I’ve ended up where I initially started when my health kick started back in my mid-20s – just wanting to be healthy. The healthy tribe is the only tribe I want to be a member of. Our mantra at Bauman College was ‘Eating for Health’ makes perfect sense to me.
On to the recipe…
I devised this recipe for a community cooking class at London’s Made in Hackney. The organisation has a plant-based ethos, and this, in respect for their principles, is my first vegan courgetti dish (which, incidentally my lovely paleo readers, is paleo!). Without animal or fish protein I was conscious that some protein and a rich flavor needed to be added to the courgetti. As delicious courgetti is with a simple pomodoro sauce, it’s just a plate of vegetables requiring some extra calories for a proper meal.
Inspired by the rich mushroom truffle flavor I sampled in Tuscany this summer I decided to use porcini mushrooms – they are fairly high in protein for a vegetable (even though we only use a little) and bring an intense, earthy umami flavor. I added walnuts for some more bulk to the sauce, and a good dose of seasonal, colourful beta-carotene rich butternut squash.
- 30g dried porcini mushrooms
- 400g cubed and peeled butternut squash (a medium-sized squash)
- extra virgin olive oil
- 1 white onion, finely diced
- 3 cloves of garlic, minced
- 4 large courgettes, julienned (reserve the cores, and dice and add to the sauce)
- 40g walnuts, chopped
- A few sprigs of rosemary, minced
- Juice of ½ lemon
- Ground black pepper/ fresh basil/ truffle oil to serve (optional)
- Soak the dried mushrooms in boiled water for at least 10 minutes (ideally 20). Drain, reserving the stock, and rinse. Chop the mushrooms and set them aside. Filter the stock again to remove any remaining sediment.
- Meanwhile steam the butternut squash for 5-7 minutes (fork tender, but still retaining quite a bite), drain and reserve.
- Warm a Tablespoon of olive oil in a large frying pan and sauté the onion until softened, approximately 3-4 minutes. Add the garlic with a pinch of salt and stir for another minute. Now add the steamed squash, diced courgette cores, porcini mushrooms, walnuts, and minced rosemary. Cook over medium heat for 8-10 minutes, until the squash is of desired tenderness. For more flavour, add a Tablespoon or so of reserved mushroom stock to help the veggies cook. Season with teaspoon of salt, to taste.
- Add the remaining courgetti to the pan. Cook for a further 3-4 minutes until the courgetti are done to the bite. Finish with the juice of half a lemon.
- Plate up and top with some ground black pepper, fresh basil, and a drizzle of olive oil. Truffle oil would be an exquisite (but pricey) addition.
What’s your favourite sauce to have with courgetti? How do you feel about an occasional or exclusive plant-based diet? Do you eat paleo and if so are you still reading?? Do tell! 1