Happy Thursday, guys! I hope you are doing well and staying safe in these challenging times. After several gloriously warm and sunny days, here in Bristol, it’s our turn to take some rain and so I have the overwhelming need for comfort, and that includes some comfort food. While I love and am capable of making a wide variety of foods, it is pasta that I always seem to gravitate towards when I want something simple, yet ultimately really comforting, to eat. This is maybe why right now, when things are so uncertain, I seem to have lots of cake and pasta ideas percolating in my head. I shall test them meticulously ( 😉 ) and release them into the world one at a time to sweeten your ‘life in captivity’.
First up is a real classic – spaghetti carbonara – made vegan. It’s not an easy thing to veganise as the traditional version relies on animal products (bacon, eggs, cheese) heavily, but I have come up with a vegan version and I am really happy with the outcome. It may ruffle a few feathers as I have noticed that certain omnivores are particularly hostile when you attempt to veganise dishes that are inherently (very) non vegan. They just don’t get it, do they? Many of us grew up on them and miss the taste of them, we just don’t want to inflict pain on a living being for the sake of our pleasure. Simples.
I replaced bacon with meaty king oyster mushrooms, which used to only be available in Asian grocers but nowadays you can easily find them in big supermarkets (I bought them in my local Tesco). I marinated them in a heady concoction of sauces and spices for a few hours and then cooked them on a griddle pan until charred. If you cannot find them, use other mushrooms instead or make facon tofu or tempeh, almond, or coconut flakes – there are many many possibilities, so open your pantry and get creative! As for the pasta sauce, I made a simple, skillet-only and nut-free sauce using olive oil, vegan single cream (you can get it made out of oats, soya or almond) and starchy pasta cooking water – yup, that’s right. Super easy. It’s flavoured with garlic and miso paste for a hint of umami and nutritional yeast for cheesiness. It’s been a big hit in our house and I hope you and your housemates will enjoy it just as much. x
- 200 g / 7 oz king oyster mushrooms*
- 15 ml / 1 tbsp olive oil
- 15 ml / 1 tbsp quality balsamic vinegar
- 20 ml / 4 tsp tamari or soy sauce
- 5 ml / 1 tsp maple syrup
- 1 tbsp nutritional yeast
- 1 garlic clove, very finely grated
- ½ tsp smoked sweet paprika
- a generous pinch of salt
- 200 g / 7 oz spaghetti (GF if needed)
- 30 ml / 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 large garlic clove, finely diced
- 120 ml / ½ cup vegan single cream** (I like Oatly)
- 10 g / 2 tsp white miso paste
- 2 tsp lemon juice or 1 tsp apple cider vinegar
- 2 heaped tbsp nutritional yeast
- black pepper, to taste
- salt, to taste
- chopped parsley, to serve
- toasted coarse breadcrumbs*** (optional)
- store-bought vegan parmesan (optional)
- Slice mushrooms into 5 mm / 0.2″ slices lengthwise and mix all marinade ingredients together.
- Place mushroom slices in a large shallow dish and pour the marinade over the mushrooms. Coat well and leave the mushrooms aside for a few hours (the longer the better) to marinate, flipping them now and then so that everything is well coated.
- Heat up a grill pan on a low heat. Once hot, lay the marinated mushroom slices on it. Allow them to cook without touching until charred (the ones in the middle will get done quicker), then flip to the other side. Continue until all the mushrooms have been cooked. Chop into bite-size pieces.
- If you don’t have a grill pan, you can also bake them in the oven at 190° C / 375° F for about 25 minutes, flipping them once, halfway through.
- Cook spaghetti in salted water until just below al dente. Don’t use too much water so that the cooking water is rich in starch and make sure you reserve 120 ml / ½ cup of pasta cooking water just before you drain your pasta.
- Heat up a large frying pan on a low heat. Once hot, add oil and allow it to warm up before adding chopped garlic.
- Sauté the garlic on a low-medium heat for a few minutes. Stir often and do not let it brown or else it will impart a bitter taste to your pasta.
- While the garlic is sauteing, whisk vegan cream and miso paste together until there are no lumps.
- Add a splash of pasta cooking water, lemon juice and nutritional yeast to the garlicky oil. Stir until emulsified and then add vegan cream / miso mixture. Whisk really well and season to taste. Add a little more pasta water if the sauce needs thinning or a splash more cream if you perfer it more indulgent.
- Toss cooked pasta in the sauce quickly, then add mushrooms and parsley.
- Divide between two plates. Sprinkle with toasted breadcrumbs (if using) and some fresh pepper.
**If you aren’t able to find vegan cream you like, use and extra tablespoon of olive oil, 120 ml soy milk and 2 tsp of cornstarch to thicken the sauce and make it cling to the pasta better.
***I make coarse breadcrumbs from leftover Turkish pide, which we enjoy on a regular basis. I let it go stale and then crush it coarsely using a pestle and mortar. I keep it in a jar in my pantry. You can do the same with any quality bread – foccacia, sourdough etc. or simply use shop-bought coarse breadcrumbs (like panko).