Vegan Meat Pies

Vegetable Lentil Pot Pies - English - The Lotus and the Artichoke

The Americans have their Pot Pies, the British have Steak Pies. There’s also English and Irish Shepard’s Pie and Cottage Pie. And then there are Australian Meat Pies, to which New Zealand also stakes a popularity claim. For the record, South Africans have traditional pies, too, and variations exist throughout other parts of Africa and the Middle-East.

The concept is similar, regardless of the accent of the eater: A pastry (or even potato) crust and a savory filling. The sizes vary greatly, too. From the U.S., I’m familiar with medium-sized pot pies. In England and Ireland, I’ve usually only seen larger pies. And for whatever reason, the traditional steak pies and meat pies of that continent down under are much smaller. They fit in your hand, can be eaten in a few ambitious bites, and are immensely popular for take-out. Or is it take-away? Aye, mate – Let’s not get lost in semantics before the baking even begins!

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Tarte au Citron

Tarte au Citron - Vegan Lemon Pie - The Lotus and the Artichoke - World Travel Recipes

This last summer, I was at a picnic hosted by a French-German couple we’re friends with here in Berlin. It wasn’t the first time their Tarte au Citron made an appearance and was an instant hit. I’d seen it before and wondered if there was a way to make a vegan version. The original, like many famous French culinary creations, consists largely of butter and eggs.

We got to talking at dinner two weeks ago. I was telling them more about the vegan cookbook, and then the Tarte au Citron came up again. “Sure, we’ll give you the recipe! Maybe you can find a way to put it in the cookbook.”

When I got the recipe a few days later, I unfolded the paper anxiously and scanned the list of ingredients. How am I going to do this? I thought to myself. I’m not really a whiz kid when it comes to baking, but I do know the advanced basics of egg replacement, and I have a few pie and quiche crusts I do well. And I can sometimes force myself to actually follow instructions and not tweak everything like I usually do. This was going to be a major challenge. It would certainly require a lot of tweaking.

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Roasted Walnut Brownies

Roasted Walnut Brownies - Sweets - The Lotus and the Artichoke - World Travel Recipes

You probably know Germany has a long, outstanding tradition of great desserts. Especially on my first visits to Germany in the late 90s, I enjoyed many apple strudels, cherry, plum, and peach cakes, and lots of other fruity and nutty delights. Germany is also famous for Lebkuchen (gingerbread cookies), Stollen (fruitcakes), and tons of other decadent treats, increasingly available as vegan adaptations. The best, of course, come from home kitchens. In addition to the pastry shops and bakeries, the cafés almost always have great sweets, too.

In these cafés, you’ll see something that looks a lot like a brownie. There might even be a card next to it that says: Brownies. However – I grew up (mostly) in the United States – with awesome brownies at home, friends’ homes, from school bake sales, and just about anywhere else baked goods are found. Sadly, most of these German “Brownies” are imposters. They’re lackluster chocolate cake cut in the shape of a brownie! Fluffy and cake-like, and maybe pretty, but not gooey or chocolatey. I stopped ordering them years ago, probably after the third or fourth time someone told me: “No, no, this one really is a brownie!” Only to be fooled again.

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Endive Sprout Boats with Sesame Soy

Endive Sprout Boats with Soy Sesame Dressing - The Lotus and the Artichoke - Vegan Cookbook

This is a fun salad that I came up with sometime last year. The inspiration comes from salads I’ve had at restaurants and homes across Europe, especially in Germany and France. I’d seen endives (chicory) prior to moving to Europe over ten years ago, but they seem to be much more popular and celebrated on this side of the Atlantic. That said, I have had some great endive salads in Montreal, too.

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Blintzes

Blintzes . The Lotus and the Artichoke - Vegan Recipes from World Adventures

I grew up with blintzes. I have always loved the funny little things. My grandmother, originally from Chicago, made huge batches of them for our family dinners when we visited. She learned how to make blintzes from my great grandmother. She also passed down family recipes for borscht and all kinds of other Russian/Ukrainian classics.

From them, my mother learned the art of blintzes. She, too, often made them for special occasions. It was a common request for birthday dinners among my brothers and I. Some of my earliest kitchen memories are of my grandmother and mother at the stove cooking up tall stacks of blintz pancakes in a special crepe pan. I remember being just a bit taller than the kitchen counter, looking at eye-level into a big bowl of cottage cheese and mashed crackers. I’d watch the blintzes being filled, rolled, fried in vegetable shortening, piled up on plates, and put on the dining table with bowls of sour cream and jars of cherry preserves.

When kids at school asked me what my favorite food was, I’d usually tell them: BLINTZES! All too often I had to explain what they were. That seemed pretty weird to me. Didn’t everyone’s mother and grandmother know how to make awesome cheese-stuffed crepes?

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German Zwiebelkuchen

German Zwiebelkuchen with smoked tofu - The Lotus and the Artichoke - Vegan Recipes from World Adventures

When I announced that I would be adding 5 traditional German recipes to the cookbook, including a recipe for vegan Zwiebelkuchen, one of my Kickstarter backers wrote to me with a special request.

His birthday is tomorrow and he asked if I’d share the Zwiebelkuchen recipe earlier so he could make it and serve it with traditional Federweißer (“new wine”) for a birthday party. I told him I’d get to work on testing and finishing the recipe and would get it to him today. I made it last night and it turned out even better than I hoped!

Zwiebelkuchen is sort of like a cross between French quiche and Italian thick-crust pizza, but it’s also reminiscent of German Flammkuchen, which has a thinner crust and less toppings. This is a tasty savoury cake which actually has a lot less onion flavor than one might expect. The result is a delicious and hearty meal which stirs memories. It takes some time and involves a lot of steps, but it’s well worth the effort!

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General Tso’s Chicken

General Tso's Chicken - Vegan Chinese - The Lotus and the Artichoke cookbook of world travel recipes

I’ve experimented and refined this Vegan General Tso’s Chicken recipe for over ten years. I always have fun making it, and the results are always delicious. This month when I made a few changes, I really nailed it, and I’m ready to go public. It finally tastes almost as amazing as the General Tso’s Chicken made by my favorite vegetarian Chinese restaurant in the world: New Harmony in Philadelphia. I’ve been to a lot of vegetarian Chinese places in a lot of cities and countries. This place stands out. And this dish is one you’ll never forget. Mildly spicy, a touch of citrus and sweet. Crunchy batter-fried chewy seitan in a crazy tasty sauce. Such good stuff!

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Vegan Paneer Makhani

Vegan Paneer Makhani - North Indian - The Lotus and the Artichoke - Vegan Recipes from World Travel Adventures

I could talk about Paneer Makhani for hours. I have so many stories about and memories of this dish, mostly from my visits to India, but also from great Indian restaurants around the world and the many variations of it.

This dish actually parades about under many names. This is true with many incredible Indian recipes. Anyone who’s been to more than two Indian restaurants or eaten at home with Indian families understands this. In fact, I’ve found myself in passionate debates and confusing conversations revolving around these naming issues! Every family has their own idea of what a dish is and isn’t, what it’s called, and what it contains. Or doesn’t. Imagine trying to get a concise definition of pizza, with all it’s shapes, colors, toppings, and flavors – You start to get an idea how complicated the naming game is.

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Kickstarter at 108% – New Goals

JPM in the kitchen - Vegan Cookbook Kickstarter 105% funded! New Goals!

Yesterday, The Lotus and the Artichoke – Vegan Cookbook on Kickstarter passed the initial funding goal of $6500 and sped on to 105% funding. Currently, we’re at 108%… and going strong!

UPDATE October 10: We’re now over 200% funded and have less than 24 hours to reach our final goal of $14,000!

Words can hardly express my excitement and intense gratitude. That’s why I made this little painting for the occasion!

Because we’ve gotten our initial amount in pledges, the project is a definite GO, the first printing of the cookbook is possible. We still have another 19 days to bring in more funds for our extended goals. There’s still time for more pre-orders of the cookbook and selecting other cool rewards and project perks.

 SUCCESS! GOAL: $8,000 – GET STICKY!

  • All rewards at $25 and above will include a pack of 8 awesome, artsy The Lotus and the Artichoke stickers.
  • Starting Now: Any backer who increases their pledge $3 or more also gets a sticker pack!

 SUCCESS! GOAL: $10,000 – ÜBER-VEG!

  • I will add 5 new, vegan German recipes to the cookbook
  • This chapter will be included in the first edition of the cookbook and ebook scheduled to ship in December 2012.
  • A bigger, better cookbook with even more delicious recipes, mouth-watering photos, fun stories, and cool art.
  • All rewards to German addresses will get FREE shipping.
  • Already added shipping? I’ll give you some great extras so you’re über-happy!

 SUCCESS! GOAL: $12,000 – BANGKOK & BEYOND!

  • I will add 5 new, vegan Southeast Asian recipes to the cookbook. More fun from my travels and culinary adventures in Thailand, Vietnam, and Cambodia.
  • These recipes will be included in the first edition of the cookbook and ebook scheduled to ship in December 2012.
  • The cookbook gets even better, even tastier, and even bigger!

GOAL: $14,000 – DAS KOCHBUCH!

  • We can fund the first printing of the cookbook and publication of the ebook in German. German editions will be available and shipped in March 2013.
  • All backers who choose a reward including an English copy of the cookbook (or ebook!) can also receive the German ebook FREE.
  • Any backer who selects a reward including a printed English cookbook can also get a printed copy of the German cookbook, if they increase their pledge by $15 or more.
  • New reward options for existing backers who want German cookbooks!

If you’re wondering what in the world this is all about, perhaps it’s because you haven’t visited the Kickstarter project page or seen my last post on the Kickstarter launch. Take a look and find out more about how the cookbook project and first printing is being funded.

And don’t worry, if none of this business and promotion stuff is your cup of tea… Very soon I’ll be back to posting more recipes inspired by my world travels and wild adventures and experiments in the kitchen.

I also had a guest-post at Scissors & Spice featuring a vegan North Indian Dum Aloo recipe, which will soon find a home on this site… and in the cookbook.

The Lotus and the Artichoke cookbook on Kickstarter

Vegan Cookbook Kickstarter GO! - Justin in the kitchen

The Lotus and the Artichoke – Vegan Cookbook launched on Kickstarter today!

I can hardly contain my excitement and anticipation! These last two weeks I’ve been so unbelievably busy with the preparations for today. I’m proud to announce the project is finally live, the trailer video for the cookbook is finished and online, and we’ve officially begun the fundraising to back the first printing of The Lotus and the Artichoke – Vegan Recipes from World Adventures.

It also means that as of today, now you can place a pre-order for the cookbook – both printed and as ebook – to be sent to you in early December. Here’s where you can read more about the cookbook and the publication plans.

We have 30 days to reach our goal of $6500.

I want to be as optimistic as possible, but I need to be realistic: I cannot do this without your support.

I really hope to meet and exceed the financial goal and have enough funding to also publish the German version of the cookbook by the end of the year. I’m doing something that means a lot to me. I want it to mean something to you, too. Let’s make it a reality!

Why I need your support:

  • Help fund the first printing of the book (around $5000)
  • Enable me to invest in the cool rewards: stylish t-shirts and tote bags
  • Provide art materials used for the illustration and design of the cookbook and website
  • Give fair compensation for translation, editing, publicity and press helpers
  • Share the inspiration, experience, and adventure with everyone!

Printing books is expensive. Especially when done all nice and fancy like I do. Nice covers, nice paper, lots of full-color photo pages, and a great design. The rewards will be high-quality as well: good shirts, decent cloth carry bags. My art materials are costly: I use good stuff. The prints are done on handmade Japanese hemp paper and I use an excellent German printing ink. The acrylics for paintings are an investment.

Lastly, I do have editorial and translation help on this project. I compensate people properly for their quality involvement. For all these reasons, this project needs greenbacks.

Justin in the Kitchen - Vegan Cookbook Kickstarter Launch

What’s in it for you?

Some of my friends are telling me I’m crazy for pricing my rewards so low. Most people use Kickstarter as a way to just bring in the big bucks and rely on generosity based on that good feeling you get from being nice. I think that’s dandy, but I also want all my backers to get cool stuff and to TALK about the fun perks I built into the project.

On one end of the scale, you can throw in a few bucks and spread the word. If hundreds of people do that, it helps plenty! I’ll be grateful. Pitch in a bit more and you get a cool, personal postcard with fancy stamps from my next trip. Or pre-order the cookbook. Get a stylish T-shirt with some of my art, or get in on the fashionable Berliner hipster game with one of my cloth carry bags. Like my artwork? I’ve also got limited edition blockprints.

I also plan to introduce even more fancy rewards in the next weeks.

Hold on to your hats. There are already some BIG rewards!

Am I nuts to propose I’d go (almost) anywhere in the world on your instructions to create new recipes and artwork? Maybe. I like to think it’s a cool kind of crazy. I’m adventurous enough to accept the bare minimum in financial support to make the trip possible. Would I fly to a new location in Europe, all-expenses included, to stay with locals and learn a new cuisine and create cool new recipes for the book? Yes, I would.

How can I possibly do that for under $1000 – especially if that money’s needed for printing the cookbook? Well, I have lots of experience with traveling on a budget. Back in 2001, I spent 4 months in India and Nepal for less than $2500, including my airfare and all transportation costs. I also spent less than $1000 on a 4-week trip through Portugal, Spain, and Morocco. And it’s just the way my priorities work.

If I want to travel somewhere, I find a way to make it happen.

I’m so into the idea, I’d travel for this project and for fundraising purposes even if it doesn’t financially break even. You see, I have this belief that if you really passionately believe in something you can make it real, one way or another. I believe all things will come together when you really focus. Things fall into place, even if differently than planned. Of course, you’ve got to work hard to make it happen, too. I’ve been very busy!

It’s not all daydreams and visualization exercises over here! I do my homework, too, when it comes to the practical and rational aspects of making a dream materialize. Stuff like moving abroad, learning languages, crossing continents, and launching creative enterprises.

(Details on rewards and project backing at the cookbook’s Kickstarter page)

What others are saying about The Lotus and the Artichoke:

What people are saying about my vegan cookbook and food blog

“The Lotus and the Artichoke is a great source for delicious vegan dishes from all over the globe. We love how the detailed recipes are presented along with a personal story from Justin, plus mouth-watering food photography. If you are looking for creative vegan recipes, this is the place!”
Dani & Jess (Germany/USA), Globetrotter Girls

“Judging by the photos and awesome recipes I’ve seen, this is going to be a must-have in your kitchen collection. I’m especially excited because there’s such a focus on world cuisines. I definitely support this project and you should too!”
Paul Jarvis (Canada), author of Eat Awesome

“This is a book that will open your mind to new tastes, new lands, and new adventures. I’m really looking forward to making these recipes with my family and teaching my young children about how our simple food choices can have such a profound impact on our health, the lives of animals, and our planet.”
Kristen Palana (Italy), Aura’s House & Veggie Propaganda

“I’ve had the chance to get to know Justin over the past few months in Berlin. If you spend just a short while talking with him, you’re guaranteed to come away feeling better about yourself… and the universe. His passion for life and interest in travel and food is palpable. And trust me: his cooking is delicious… and I’m not even vegan!”
Adam Groffman (USA), Travels of Adam

“Justin has a true passion, talent and love for sharing beautiful vegan cuisine from around the world. He’s introduced me to so many incredibly delicious dishes and flavours that I had never experienced before. I highly recommend The Lotus and the Artichoke to all food lovers!”
Jennifer Vega (Canada), Sweet On Veg

“I met Justin in Nepal way back in 2001. We quickly discovered a shared obsession with vegetarian world cuisine and began swapping travel stories of exotic dishes we’d had in foreign countries. As a vegetarian chef myself, I really enjoy when fellow veggies “get” international cuisine. We’ve spent years bouncing ideas off one another and evolving recipes. I’m excited that Justin’s committed his ideas to paper – I’m really looking forward to getting my hands on this cookbook!”
– Vincent Campellone
(Ireland), Inside Job Catering

“I’m proudly supporting Justin’s The Lotus and the Artichoke because he’s a fellow traveler following his dream and sharing his passion with the world. The food pics leave me drooling!”
Niall Doherty (Ireland), Disrupting the Rabblement

“Justin ist durch die halbe Welt gereist. Seine Rezepte sind einfach die Wucht! Er sucht sich aus allen Spezialitäten nur das Beste raus und mixt es zu etwas ganz eigenem, besonderem zusammen. Man wird immer überrascht und nie enttäuscht!”
Marko Streitenberger (Germany), CLIMA

“This is a must-have cookbook for any lover of good food, art, travel, and adventure. I had the good fortune of experiencing Justin’s cooking while in Berlin a few years ago. Many adventures and fabulous meals later comes the perfect culmination of Justin’s passion for living and sharing the good life creatively. I am looking forward to making these recipes for my family and having a fresh selection of exciting vegan recipes for parties and potlucks!”
Christine Donley (USA), Diary of an Art Luvah: Art and Culture around the Globe

What other people are saying about The Lotus and the Artichoke vegan food blog and cookbook

How you can help:

  • Show your support with a pledge! Remember: everything helps and Kickstarter is ALL or nothing. Let’s all win! Pitch in a few bucks, or…
  • Pick a great reward and sponsor generously!
  • Share my Kickstarter page with your friends and followers on Facebook and Twitter. Be proud of your support!
  • Subscribe to the website newsletter for free recipes straight to your inbox
  • Like my Facebook page – follow the regular updates, enjoy and comment on the photos and features
  • Follow me on twitter: @lotusartichoke RT my tweets, spread good words
  • Contact me for more information about interviews, guest blog posts, feature articles, and other publicity + promotion!

Poha – Indian Breakfast

Poha - Indian Breakfast - The Lotus and the Artichoke - Vegan Recipes from World Travel Adventures

On my first two visits to India in the early to mid-2000s, I had idly or dosa for breakfast almost whenever possible. I’m a huge fan of South Indian breakfasts. Unlike most North American and European breakfasts, which tend to be on the sweeter side (think: cereal, toast with jam or even chocolate spread, pastries, muffins, pancakes), Indian breakfasts are typically spicy and savory… and did I mention: delicious?

Amazingly, it wasn’t until my third and fourth trip to India that I got to know the Indian breakfast hit, poha. These kinds of things happen if you’re too focused on your favorite dishes and foods! That’s why it’s so important to try new things. Be open to suggestions, take chances, and enjoy invitations to home cooked meals! I encountered poha so late in the game probably because it’s much more of a family dish – prepared at home kitchens across India. It’s less likely found on restaurant menus. That said, some hotels (code word for restaurant on the sub-continent) and breakfast spots do offer poha.

The best poha I ever had, as with many Indian dishes, was not at a restaurant, but at a home. A very special home in fact, where I was welcomed and treated like family. If you’ve been following my stories on this blog, you know I lived for a year in Amravati, India – deep in the state of Maharashtra. I had amazingly generous and attentive neighbors, and my host family was particularly endearing and kind.

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Vegan Lassi with Saffron & Mango

Indian: Vegan Lassi with Saffron and Mango - The Lotus and the Artichoke - World Travel Vegan Recipes

Many years ago, on my first India trip, I stayed for several days in the city of Jaipur – The Pink City of Rajasthan. I recall walking for hours, mesmerized by the people and the loud colors and fantastic, flowing saris and shirts. I was constantly taking photographs. I remember riding with insane auto-rickshaw drivers along the crowded, dusty streets, weaving around pedestrians, bicycles, beggars, and cows. Just like in all the books and movies.

I’d only been in India for a few weeks at that point, and I was still very much in New Arrival Mode: The first two to four weeks of being in India – everything is an overwhelming assault on the senses. You’re in near-constant amazement at how wild and vivid life can be. The circus and overloaded charm fade (somewhat) after a few weeks, but usually one or more things happen every day that remind you: you’re in a very different world.

Next to only perhaps seeing the Hawa Mahal, and trekking around some of the old forts, my favorite experience in Jaipur was at a small café that was famous for their saffron lassi. I remember retreating from the hot sun into the shade with my journal and heavily marked-up guidebook, sliding my tired self into a plastic chair, and sipping this amazing, glowing, pink-orange chilled treat. The flavor was intense, exotic, new to me. That fresh saffron lassi straight from the fridge was the best thing in that moment. I contemplated how many I would need to order and drink before it would be too much. I stayed long enough to need a second one, and then got on my way of exploring the streets further.

For something so simple, it’s hard to believe it took me so many years to figure out how to make a good lassi. The secret is the right combination of soy yogurt, water, and ice cubes. I think I’ve got it down good now, so I’m ready to pass on the recipe for my all-vegan rendition of the Indian classic yogurt shake.

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Tempeh Lettuce Tomato

TLT - Tempeh Lettuce Tomato Sandwich - The Lotus and the Artichoke - Vegan Recipes from World Travel Adventures

You’ve probably figured out by now that here at The Lotus and the Artichoke, I love world cuisine. The majority of my recipes are inspired by my world travels to far-off countries and enthusiastic experiments with ethnic cooking.

Once in a while, however, I crave some good, old-fashioned comfort food. For me, that means a classic dish from the country where I spent most of my growing up: America. For breakfast and brunch, I’m a pancake kind of guy. But when I’m hungry for a more savory, lunch or dinner bonanza, the totally vegetarian T.L.T. is the way to go. But, but… what about Mac & Cheeze?! Sure… there’s that too, but sometimes it’s just gotta be a sandwich.

This particular dish really takes me back to the old days of diner deliciousness. You’ve probably heard about the classic B.L.T. – Bacon Lettuce Tomato sandwich, but today I want to share with you a healthier and even tastier, more compassionate spin on that: The vegan T.L.T. – Tempeh Lettuce Tomato sandwich superstar.

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Vegan Moroccan Stuffed Squash

Moroccan Stuffed Squash - Couscous, dried apricots, herbs - vegan recipe from world travel

Last Thursday I found some great posts from travel blogger friends who also visited Morocco.

I started with Jaime’s Breakaway Backpacker post on the beautiful mountain town of Chefchouen, with breathtaking photos of the blue town. Soon, I found a similar post by Robert of Leave Your Daily Hell, and this post on Travels of Adam. One thing you’ll probably notice: travelers have mixed experiences in Morocco. It’s an intense place. You’re sure to find great food, meet incredible people, and see some fantastic sights. However, it’s also extremely likely some of the food, people, and places will provide material for great travel stories of misadventure and malady. That’s Morocco!

Isn’t it cool to read others’ blogs about places you’ve been, or dream of seeing yourself? For me, it’s a great way to relive and revive travel memories, and totally inspiring for future travel adventures.

All these awesome photos and stories got me thinking about my own travels in Morocco and the food I had there. It’s true: vegetarian and vegan options in Morocco are often limited to varieties of vegetable tagine and vegetable cous-cous. After eating these two dishes twice a day you might start to get a little bored, as I did, but you never have to look too far for an excellent, unforgettable veggie cous-cous or tagine.

For me, it was on one of my last nights in sleepy, chilled-out Chefchouen at a somewhat fancy restaurant decorated wonderfully with tiles, flowers, and plants. The night air was cool and refreshing, the view of the town and surrounding hills and valley: majestic. I can still smell and taste the fluffy cous-cous, the soft chickpeas bathed in a sweet and savoury stew of vegetables, and the delicate flavors of the dried fruits and nuts accenting the dish. In fact, nearly all of my kitchen adventures with Moroccan cuisine since then have been attempts to recreate the experience of that heavenly meal.

This recipe below for delicious, vegan Moroccan Stuffed Squash can be used with just about any kind of big squash, or made on it’s own as a sort of vegetable cous-cous dish or vegetable tagine. Just increase the water or stock to make more of a vegan Moroccan stew (tagine) without stuffing and roasting anything. It’s your call if you want to use the squash interior you remove in the stuff itself. With larger squash, they’re often already partly hollow or the insides aren’t always that tasty anyway. Experiment!

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Veg Pakoras & Apple-Tamarind Chutney

Veg Pakoras (Spinach & Carrot) with Apple Tamarind Chutney - The Lotus and the Artichoke - Vegan Cookbook

Of all the famous and celebrated Indian street food in the world, vegetable pakoras are ranked at the top, along with samosas, chaats  — and perhaps dosa and idly, depending on if we’re talking about North Indian street food or South Indian street food. Is there a difference? You better believe it. But where do the two meet?

Conceptually, veg pakoras (or pakodas or bhajji or even veg fritters, depending who you ask) are something found in both North and South India, and the love and lust for them is equal. It’s not a culinary civil war as with the chapati (roti) vs. rice battle of the traditions.

With veg pakoras, the spices vary and the vegetable ingredients certainly vary, but the idea and the appreciation are shared. While we’re on the subject of pakoras: in many places in India you’ll find not just pakora made with all kinds of vegetable bits, but also fun things like deep-fried pakora-battered sandwiches and slices of bread.

In my many trips to India and especially in the year living there, I’ve had the opportunity to eat veg pakoras from hundreds of different places. I actually ate them a lot more eating out than eating at home with families. I will say, some of the street vendors and store fronts have some pretty grubby setups, and I wouldn’t recommend eating the samosa and pakoras from just any train station vendor. But still, there’s almost always a decent enough place to be found. If not… just step into your own kitchen!

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Mirza Ghasemi – Persian Eggplant

Mirza Ghasemi - Persian Eggplant dish (not quite from Iran)

Mirza Ghasemi is an incredibly delicious, remarkably simple, classic Persian eggplant dish. This recipe is totally vegan, though traditionally Mirza Ghasemi is usually made with eggs. (See Variations below)

I was taught this amazing recipe while living with a wonderful family in a small village in Iran, intensively studying Persian vegetarian cooking for 4 weeks and learning Farsi for Foreigners. Twice a day we cooked and feasted on traditional dishes. We snacked on exotic fresh and dried fruits throughout the slow, enjoyable days. Enchanting traditional folk music drifted now and then in the air. The sun set into the intense jagged lines of the mountains each evening. Continue reading

Masoor Dal

Masoor Dal - Indian Red Lentils recipe - The Lotus and the Artichoke vegan cookbook

Masoor Dal, or Indian red lentil curry, is one of the most classic dal recipes and a standard and favorite all across India — and the world. It accompanies almost any excellent Indian meal, and goes well with rice, chapati, naan, roti and all of your favorite breads. You can even serve it in a bowl with crackers or croutons and be a true East-West fusion superstar.

There are endless variations on this dal recipe. The tomato is optional but improves the flavor dramatically, going well to smooth the Indian spices and compliment the fresh ginger. Many Indian cooks make an even simpler, stripped-down version of dal, relying only on the key spices: cumin, coriander, and turmeric — possibly with a dash of garam masala. The smooth texture is obtained by cooking the lentils long enough that they literally fall apart. You can speed things up with an immersion blender, as noted below. (You might need to start with less water, as immersion blending a  hot, liquidy soup is a messy and dangerous matter.)

Even when cooking non-Vedic, I do use asafoetida and mustard seeds. Many Indian lentil and bean dishes just don’t need the strong garlic and onion flavors, especially if one or more vegetable dish you’re serving with the meal does rely on garlic and onion. Garlic quickly overpowers other tastes. I encourage you to experiment with less – or even none – and discover the true flavors of the more exotic spices.

With some practice it’s quick and simple to make and perfect when you want a nutritious meal and haven’t got much in the kitchen. You do always keep plenty of lentils, spices, and rice, right? Exactly. Continue reading

Mutter Tofu Paneer

Mutter Paneer Tofu - North Indian - The Lotus and the Artichoke vegan cookbook

Mutter Tofu Paneer is the vegan Mutter Paneer – a peas and homemade cheese-cube curry, one of the most famous and popular North Indian vegetarian recipes and dishes. It’s on almost every menu of every Indian restaurant everywhere. But every cook makes it their own special way.

I experimented with this dish several times a month for the year that I lived in India. Even if you aren’t a numbers whiz, you probably have the idea: Yes sir, Yes ma’am, I’ve cooked this dish a lot. I’ve also sampled dozens of different variations across the subcontinent and at Indian buffets throughout North America and Europe.

The best Mutter Paneer ever? No question, no doubts: at homes eating with the family as an honored guest. Indians know how to make you feel like the most welcome guest in the world. Amazing food makes it easy.

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Zucchini Lasagna

Zucchini Lasagna with smoked tofu and mushrooms - The Lotus and the Artichoke vegan cookbook

One of the most embarrassing moments in my life involved a giant baked vegan lasagne and the evil oven of a Jersey Shore rental apartment.

I was seventeen, living in Ocean City, New Jersey with about 5 (sometimes 10+) friends in a one-bedroom apartment a block from the beach and the boardwalk. It was the summer before my first year of college. I’d invited a girl I’d just met and was eager to impress, and I’d prepared this mega lasagna — enough to serve the roomful of people hanging out, too.

As I was pulling out the oven tray to remove the finished, steaming-hot lasagna, the tray popped out of the slots, forming the perfect slope aiming my giant lasagna right at the floor. I watched in horror as it slid — in slow-motion and way too hot to grab — tumbled off the metal tray, flipped over and landed top down. On the carpet. In front of everyone.

Did we eat it anyway? Heck, yeah. It was like a lasagna upside-down cake. I had to trash of the top layer, but managed to save the rest. Once I got over my initial embarrassment, we all laughed. And if my memory is correct, the lasagna was pretty tasty and we all liked it.

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African Red Curry

African Red Curry with coconut and tofu - The Lotus and the Artichoke - Vegan cookbook

This African Red Curry is a hybrid dish which takes a more typically Asian (particularly Thai and Indonesian) curry recipe and changes up a few key ingredients and spices. I love to make Thai curries of all kinds– yellow curry, green curry, red curry, and my personal favorite: Massaman curry, usually with potatoes, tofu, onion, and peanuts. Anytime I see it in my travels I have to try it, and am constantly amazed at how different countries and different cooks prepare it. Massaman curry is by origin a hybrid dish: a Thai recipe enhanced by the aromatic spices that Muslim traders brought to South East Asia in ages past.

When I lived in Boston’s Chinatown and later in Philadelphia’s Chinatown, I experimented often with store-bought curry pastes from the Asian supermarkets. This recipe goes for a more Do-It-Yourself  approach, also altering the base ingredients to make a more world-fusion recipe. I enjoy making my own homemade sauces and curries and I encourage you to try the same. Anyone can buy prepared sauce and paste in a jar, but when you make an awesome curry from scratch and it works, it’s so satisfying!

If I had to locate the Africa in this African curry, I’d trace it back to Mombasa on the Kenyan coast. I had such an amazing, spicy coconut curry at this simple place in the old Muslim quarter of town. I remember how intrigued I was by the Asian influence and artifacts I saw on that first trip to Africa. I was continually surprised by great Indian food and Thai and other Asian restaurants in Nairobi and other cities in East Africa. Even on the other side of Africa, in Senegal and The Gambia, a good decade later, I also enjoyed excellent Asian, particularly Indian food. Just goes to show, people have been migrating, moving, and mixing world cuisines with amazing results for a long, long time.

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