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It is Middle Eastern Vegan cooking this time and it feels like a journey to the other far side of the East with lots of legumes, couscous and tinned tomatoes. The truly beautiful thing about being vegan is how much that exposes you to the huge variety of plant foods around the world rather than the restricting world of meat people tend to get cooped up in when clinging to the likes of standard local fare.

Middle Eastern food conveys the impression of deep tasting savory spices like cumin, as well as hearty, solid fare that almost sticks to your ribs in a warm, nourishing way. Our agenda for the day was the following: Hummus with toasted Pita Bread, a warm Couscous Salad with Roast Pumpkin and a Harira soup

Hummus & Pita (Vegan)Hummus is certainly no stranger to any self-respecting vegan. It’s probably one of the first recipes to the vegan survival guide. High in protein and definitely satiating, it is also a matter of bunging ingredients into a blender and letting rip. For really smooth, baby-food like, velvety pureed hummus the real trick is to only use freshly cooked chickpeas (soak overnight and pressure cook till soft) and remove the skins which remain slightly coarse and a hindrance to digestion. We used canned chickpeas this time, a boon for the time-strapped and literally took no time at all.

Besides the chickpeas, tahini, garlic and lemon juice, which are absolutely non-negotiable must-have components of Hummus, we also seasoned with paprika, cumin, adding a smidgen of water and EVOO to gain a smooth, creamy, whipped consistency.

For the pita toasts, even simpler. Separate pitas into halves and score once or twice for pita chips. Then lay on a baking sheet, spraying on oil and spices before toasting to get crispy soft pita toasts. To garnish, sprinkle on herbs, paprika and drizzle more EVOO over hummus and serve with the pita toasts.

Don’t know what starter to serve a vegetarian? May this one be it.
Warm Couscous Salad with Roast Pumpkin VeganCouscous seems to have been almost forgotten since the world discovered quinoa. But nothing says quite Middle Eastern than a couscous dish. We first roasted cubed pumpkin with balsamic vinegar. Warm roast starchy vegetables always bring out a sweet earthiness. Then made the couscous which literally took minutes from box to pot. No cooking required as you pour in hot water and wait for the couscous to become fluffy all by itself. When the couscous is done, fluff with a fork to prevent sogginess and add a dollop of *vegan* butter aka Earth Balance (available from Supernature) or just use more EVOO.

To bring together everything, saute garlic, onions and red peppers. Add spices of cumin, turmeric and garam masala followed by chickpeas and roast pumpkin. Last tip in the couscous and mix, just like a Middle Eastern fried rice! To finish off, generously toss in chopped parsley, an aromatic mainstay of Middle Eastern cuisine. Serve with a wedge of lemon and it’s done!
Vegan HariraI’m convinced that Harira soup is really a hearty Middle Eastern minestrone. Chunky from legumes, hearty from tomato and spices. Begin by sauteing onion, garlic, celery and ginger adding turmeric and cinnamon halfway. Add tinned tomatos, saute then add veggie stock or water, bringing it to a boil. Add legumes, in this case chickpeas and soaked green lentils as well as tomato paste and let cook until soft but not too mushy. To serve, squeeze lemon juice over and garnish with parsley and coriander.

With some grains, this could possibly be an excellent, hearty, one-pot dinner meal unto itself. For vegans who like robust meals, Middle Eastern food is definitely the way to go!

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Next, I’ll be going back to posting about our Indian Vegan class with an eggplant curry, veggie masala and Aloo Tikkis (potato cutlets)! Hope this inspires you to try out more vegan recipes and incorporate them into your regular repertoire 😀