As plant-based eaters the question we always get asked is where we get our protein from.
There is a meme that does the rounds on the internet that shows a gorilla being asked the same question. Or an ox in another one. Get the idea? Mother Nature provides and it is easy to get all your protein needs met on a plant based diet. Variety and nutritional knowledge is key. In fact a lot of protein rich plant-based foods are more efficient than meat, fish and dairy, packing more nutrients into fewer calories.
Some examples of protein rich plant based foods include tofu (18g protein per 100g); nuts, seeds & nut butters & milks (think flax seed, hemp seed, chia seeds, cashew nuts, walnuts); beans and legumes (check out pea protein, chickpeas at 19g protein per 100g, and lentils at a whopping 26g per 100g); nutritional yeast (adds the cheesiness to vegan food – a complete protein, packed full of B12 and other nutrients); and vegetables such as broccoli, spinach, kale, asparagus and watercress.
This month I’m sharing with you a protein rich plant-based version of Mac n Cheeze. The recipe contains plant-based staples like liquid smoke and nutritional yeast. I like to use leeks, being Welsh, but onion would also work as would onion powder. You can get chickpea or lentil pasta at most supermarkets. The “cheeze” sauce can be adapted and used in lasagna, moussaka, and pies.
Protein Rich Vegan Mac N “Cheeze”
Serves 2-3 (bear in mind, I feed Alex!)
1-2 Leeks finely sliced
3-6 Garlic Cloves, chopped
1.5 Tbsp Dairy Free Butter
1.5 Tbsp Plain Flour
Splash of White Wine (check it’s vegan)
Unsweetened hemp, soy or cashew milk
1 Vegetable Stock Cube
1-2 Tsp Wholegrain Mustard
4 Tbsp Nutritional Yeast
Fresh Parsley (chopped)
1 crown of Broccoli, broken up into florets
150g Shiitake Mushrooms
Salt & Pepper to taste
Chickpea or Lentil Pasta (100g per person)
Pre-heat oven to 375F / 190C / Gas 5
For the shiitake bacon: Clean and slice the shiitake mushrooms (about 0.5cm). Mix in a bowl with a dash of oil, salt and pepper, and a splash of liquid smoke & maple syrup – make sure the mushrooms are covered. Lay the mushrooms in a single layer and spaced apart on a baking sheet (if your sheet is prone to stick, use parchment paper). Bake for about 30 minutes until brown & slightly crispy.
For the sauce: Fry the leeks and garlic in a little oil of your choice until softened. To make the roux add the dairy free butter to the leeks, melt and then remove from the heat. Stir in the flour until smooth (add more flour for a thicker sauce, less for a thinner consistency). Place the pan back on the heat for a minute, stirring continuously. Add a splash of white wine and stir into the roux. Add the plant-based milk a bit at a time, stirring continuously to create a thick, smooth sauce – the amount of milk you use will determine the thickness of the sauce.
Stir in the vegetable stock cube, a splash of liquid smoke, 4 tablespoons of nutritional yeast, 1-2 teaspoons of wholegrain mustard, chopped parsley and stir until your sauce is the required consistency (add more milk or some water if required). Very gently simmer the sauce, stirring regularly.
For the pasta: Cook the chickpea or lentil pasta as per packet instructions. Add the broccoli florets for the last 5 minutes. Drain and stir into the sauce. Add some spinach or frozen peas if you like and cook out. Season to taste and serve, sprinkling the shiitake bacon pieces over the top.