While I am very much a fan of incorporating home-cooked meals while travelling, cooking in a foreign kitchen is not without its difficulties, as I found out during my 3-week visit to London last October. Allow me to elaborate with some vital lessons learned:
- Never underestimate the power of a spice rack. Even the most basic spices can take a meal from mediocre to marvellous – but as any seasoned cook (pun intended) will know, a decent collection of spices can take years to cultivate, and unsurprisingly, do not come included in most furnished apartments.
- You may have to get creative with your cooking instruments. With only a few (read: 2) pots and pans at my disposal, and no oven-safe trays, I definitely had to improvise with some tinfoil and carefully timed cooking to make a full meal.
- Storing leftovers is near impossible in a sparsely stocked kitchen. Invest in some tupperware for any stays over two weeks, if you plan to do any kind of cooking.
All things considered, this meal definitely came together in a cinch. I must admit that the first time I concocted it I had help from the prepared fresh foods aisle at Waitrose where I grabbed a couple of trays of pre-chopped Mediterranean veg ready to be roasted. That said, if you’re not averse to a little chopping, this recipe is practically foolproof, not to mention fast, flavourful and filling. Now how’s that for alliteration?
- 1 eggplant, cubed
- 1 yellow and 1 green bell pepper, roughly chopped
- 1 medium red onion, roughly chopped
- 1½ cups butternut squash, cubed (or ½ a medium butternut squash)
- 1 large or 2 small zucchinis, sliced
- 3 cloves of garlic, smashed with skins on
- 1 tbsp oregano or dried mixed herbs (I used a combination of oregano, thyme, parsley and rosemary)
- 2 tbsp fresh parsley, finely chopped
- 1-2 tbsp coconut oil
- 1 can of organic tomato sauce or chopped tomatoes
- 1 can of chickpeas (or 1½ cups boiled chickpeas)
- Sea salt and black pepper to taste
- ½ cup vegetable stock (optional)
- Preheat your oven to 220 C. Toss your prepped veggies in a large roasting pan with the coconut oil, some sea salt, black pepper and dried herbs of choice. Roast for 20-25 minutes until vegetables are soft and fragrant - keep in mind you don't want them too overcooked as they will get a chance to cook some more on the stove.
- Once done, add your tomato sauce, roasted vegetables, and chickpeas to a large pot on medium heat. Season as needed with additional herbs and allow to simmer for about 5 minutes. If you prefer a more liquid-y stew, add in the vegetable stock and stir through.
- Serve on a bed of baby spinach with some brown rice or quinoa (or both!) on the side.
While I’m all for gourmet vegan meals with hard-to-pronounce obscure ingredients, truth be told, it’s recipes like this that really make my heart sing.
Roasted vegetables are the star of the show here, complemented beautifully by a rich tomato sauce, delicate herbs, both dried and fresh, and a dose of plant-based protein on account of the chickpeas.
My favourite way to serve this up is on a bed of brown rice and quinoa (I do a 50-50 mix, soaked overnight then cooked in organic vegetable stock), but you could even serve this over some wholewheat pasta, or cold on top of salad greens. I’m willing to bet it would make a pretty tasty soup, too.
There really are no rules.
Until next time, dear readers!
(Ps. Please bear with me, I know my posting schedule is erratic as ever, but I’m hoping to remedy that very soon.)