food

Just 5 easy meat-free recipes if you're wanting to do more for the planet.

Animals Australia
Thanks to our brand partner, Animals Australia

Opting for a plant-based meal even once a week can make a positive impact on our planet.  

When it comes to going meat-free, you don’t need to go cold turkey (excuse the pun) in order for your efforts to "count".

Animals Australia has invited Mamamia to take part in something pretty special. As a vegetarian myself, their new campaign really resonates with me, as they're calling anyone to join the evolution – an evolution of kindness, consciousness and choice that has the potential to transform our world.

They're wanting to inspire a new way of thinking and living that shapes a kinder future not only for animals, but people and our environment. 

We live in a time where there is an abundance of plant-based food alternatives – and my partner and I share a love for trying them. While he's not vegetarian full-time, he does enjoy many meat-free meals with me, confirming they definitely don’t compromise on taste! Wins all 'round.

As we cook together, we’re always on the lookout for new plant-based recipes to try that aren't complex to follow. Nobody has time for that. 

That’s why I’ve pulled together 5 easy meat-free recipes if you're wanting to do more for the planet (that are also nutrient-rich and nourishing).

1. Classic Black Bean Tacos

Image: VegKit.com. 

In my opinion, Mexican food should be on your dinner recipe rotation at least once per week. At the absolute minimum. It’s super quick and easy to whip up, you can jam-pack your meal with flavour AND it’s just so damn delicious.

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Black beans are high in both protein and fibre and they’re full of good stuff like calcium and iron so as well as being tasty, they’re also really good for you. And the best part? None of the ingredients are hard to find. Everything – even down to the dairy-free sour cream – can be found at your local supermarket.

Ingredients:

Mexican beans

  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1 brown onion, diced
  • 2 teaspoons mild taco spice mix
  • 400g tin crushed tomatoes
  • 400g tin black beans, drained and rinsed
  • salt flakes and freshly ground black pepper
  • ⅓ cup fresh coriander, roughly chopped

Fresh salsa

  • 250g cherry tomatoes, quartered
  • 1 long red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped (optional, consider omitting if for kids)
  • ½ small red onion, finely diced
  • 1 Lebanese cucumber, deseeded and finely diced
  • 1 avocado, diced*
  • ⅓ cup coriander leaves, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice
  • Salt flakes and fleshly ground black pepper

To serve

  • 10 mini soft corn tacos, lightly chargrilled
  • Extra sprigs of coriander, for garnish
  • ⅓ cup dairy-free sour cream (plain/natural-flavoured coconut yoghurt works great too!)

Method:

1. For the Mexican beans, heat olive oil in a medium saucepan over a low heat. Add onion and spice mix, stirring until well coated. Cover and cook for 10 minutes or until onion is tender.

2. Add tomatoes, beans, salt and pepper, stirring until combined. Increase heat to medium and cook for 10 minutes or until mixture reduces by a third. Add chopped coriander, stirring to combine.

3. For the salsa, combine all ingredients together in a small bowl, stirring to combine. Set aside until required.

4. To serve, spoon the black bean filling into the centre of each taco. Top with salsa, a sprig of coriander and a dollop of dairy-free sour cream.

2. Roasted Cauliflower Salad with Tahini Dressing

Image: VegKit.com. 

On hot days, there is something super satisfying about a fresh, hearty salad. I love the cooling effect that the mint, cucumber, and pomegranate adds to this recipe.

Plus, if you double the recipe, you can take some to work for lunch the next day. And I can guarantee you’ll have at least 10 people in the kitchen ooh-ing and aah-ing with food envy over how good your lunch looks. 

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Ingredients:

  • 1 head cauliflower, cut into small florets
  • 1 red onion, cut into segments
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons dukkah
  • 1 Lebanese cucumber, de-seeded and sliced
  • 1 avocado, quartered and peeled
  • ½ cup pomegranate seeds
  • ¼ cup flaked almonds, toasted
  • ¼ cup coriander leaves
  • ¼ cup mint leaves
  • ¼ cup flat leaf parsley leaves
  • ½ cup lightly salted, roasted chickpeas
  • Salt flakes and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons nasturtium flower petals (optional), to garnish

Tahini dressing

  • 2 tablespoons tahini
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • ⅓ cup dairy-free plain yoghurt
  • Salt flakes and freshly ground black pepper

Method:

1. Preheat oven to 200°C (180°C fan-forced). Line two baking trays with baking paper.

2. Place cauliflower and onion on prepared baking trays. Drizzle with olive oil and dukkah, tossing to combine. Place in preheated oven and roast for 40 minutes or until golden.

3. Meanwhile for the tahini dressing, combine the tahini, lemon juice and garlic together in a small mixing bowl, stirring until smooth. Add yoghurt, ¼ cup water, salt and pepper, stirring to combine. Set aside until required.

4. To finish salad, top roasted vegetables with cucumber, avocado, pomegranate seeds, almonds, coriander, mint and parsley leaves, lightly salted chickpeas, salt, pepper, and nasturtium petals if using. Drizzle with tahini dressing and plate with a big ol’ serving spoon.

3. Yellow Split Pea Dhal with Garlic Naan

Image: VegKit.com. 

You know when sometimes you just want to eat something really comforting, warm and delicious? This is it.

Add a garlic naan and honestly… It’ll be the highlight of your week. Split peas give you that satisfied and full tummy feeling that makes you feel like you’ve just been embraced into a warm hug. 

It’s healthy, plant-based and 100 per cent mouth-watering.

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil
  • 1 brown onion
  • 5 cardamom pods, lightly pounded
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 ½ teaspoons cumin seeds
  • 4 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 5 cm piece fresh ginger, peeled and grated
  • ½ teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 3 teaspoons ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon curry powder
  • ¼ teaspoon chilli powder, or to taste
  • 1 ¼ cups dried yellow split peas, rinsed well
  • 400 g tin whole peeled tomatoes
  • 2-3 cups vegetable stock
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • ½ bunch coriander, chopped

Garlic Naan

  • 1 tablespoon dairy free margarine
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 cup coriander leaves, washed and finely chopped
  • 2 cups plain flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ¼ cup soy milk
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Method:

1. Heat oil in a large nonstick saucepan and sauté onion over low heat for 10 minutes, or until soft. Add cardamom pods and cinnamon stick and stir for 1 minute. Then stir in cumin seeds, garlic, ginger and a pinch of salt and mix together for 1 minute. Finally add turmeric, ground coriander, curry and chilli powder and stir for a further 1-2 minutes, until spices release their flavour.

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2. Add split peas and cook, stirring frequently, for 3-5 minutes, taking care not to let them stick to the pan. Stir in tomatoes and vegetable stock* until well combined, then bring to a simmer. Cook, uncovered, for 30 minutes, or until the split peas are soft, adding a little more stock or water if needed.

3. While the dhal is simmering, make the naan. Melt margarine in a small nonstick saucepan over medium heat. Fry the garlic and coriander for about 30 seconds, until garlic becomes aromatic. Set aside.

4. Combine remaining naan ingredients in a bowl, then add ½ cup water, and mix into a soft dough using your hands, adding more flour if needed to bring the dough together. Knead the dough gently until soft and pliable.

5. Break dough into 8-10 smaller balls. On a flour-dusted surface, roll out each ball into a flat circle about 5 mm thick, stacking them between sheets of baking paper so they don’t stick together.

6. Heat a nonstick frying pan over medium to high heat. Place a dough circle in the pan; bubbles will start to form. After 1-2 minutes, flip and cook the other side for 1-2 minutes, until golden brown in patches. Remove from pan and place on a sheet of foil. Lightly brush with the sautéed garlic mixture, sprinkle with a pinch of salt, and close the foil over the naan to keep it warm. Repeat with remaining naan breads. You can keep them warm in a low oven, wrapped in foil, until ready to serve.

7. Just before serving, stir the lemon juice and coriander leaves through the dhal. Serve with the warm naan breads.

4. Lentil Shepard’s Pie

Image: VegKit.com. 

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I love cooking vegetarian or plant-based food for guests. One of my favourite things about it is the genuine surprise when they taste just how bloody good it is because I think a lot of people have a preconceived idea that plant-based food might not be as tasty, varied or exciting as a meat-based dish (which could not be farther from the truth!). 

I’ve never gotten as many compliments as I have when I made lentil Shephard's pie for my in-laws. Because honestly, the flavours pack a punch, and it's kinder on the environment. 

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon oil (or sub water)
  • 1 brown onion, diced
  • 3 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 tablespoon thyme
  • 1 tablespoon basil
  • 2 cups lentils, cooked (brown or green)
  • 2 cups vegetables (carrots, peas or corn)
  • 2 cups passata or crushed tomatoes
  • 1 cup vegetable stock
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Topping

  • 5 large potatoes, peeled and chopped
  • ½ – ¾ cup any plant-based milk (almond, soy or coconut)
  • 3 tablespoons vegan butter or olive oil (optional)
  • ½ teaspoon salt

Method:

1. Preheat the oven to 180°C.

2. Heat the oil in large pot over high heat. Add the onion and saute for 2 minutes or until softened. Add the garlic and herbs and saute for 1 minute or until fragrant.

3. Add the lentils, vegetables and passata and stock. Boil for 10 minutes then reduce the heat to medium. Allow the mixture to cook for 20 minutes or until everything is tender. Season with salt and pepper.

4. At the same time, add the potatoes to a large pot of water over high heat. Boil for 15 minutes or until the potatoes are very tender. Drain, add the milk, plant-based butter or olive oil and salt. Mash thoroughly.

5. Pour the lentil mixture into a large casserole dish. Spoon the mashed potato on top. If desired, use a fork to scrape lines on the mashed potato.

6. Bake in the oven for 15 minutes or until the potato is golden brown. Serve hot.

5. Fattoush Salad with Chickpeas

Image: VegKit.com. 

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If there is one thing I’m a firm advocate for, it’s that salads need a crunchy element. And this recipe delivers in spades.

Now, I know you might be thinking that those toasty little flatbread croutons look really hard to make… But they’re actually the opposite. I made this Fattoush salad for Christmas dinner last year and even in the high-pressure Christmas cooking environment, I whipped them up in just a few minutes. 

If you’re taking leftovers for lunch the next day, make sure to keep your crunchy croutons in a separate container to avoid them getting soggy. 

Ingredients:

  • 4 serves of regular or wholemeal pita bread, torn into pieces (gluten-free if needed)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 head of baby cos lettuce, chopped
  • 1 can chickpeas, drained
  • 1 cucumber, sliced thinly
  • 2 tomatoes, chopped roughly
  • 1 cup mint, loosely packed and chopped
  • 1 cup parsley, loosely packed and chopped

Dressing

  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil*
  • 1 tablespoon ground sumac
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Method:

1. Preheat the oven to 180°C.

2. Toss the pieces of pita bread with the olive oil and scatter them on a large baking tray.

3. Bake the pita for 15 minutes or until golden and crispy. Set aside.

4. Add the lettuce, chickpeas, cucumber, tomatoes, mint and parsley to a large salad bowl. Toss until combined.

5. To make the dressing, mix all the ingredients except the salt and pepper in a small bowl. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

6. Right before serving, add the toasted pita and dressing to the salad. Toss until combined and serve.


I hope these recipes are inspiring you to embrace the extraordinary smorgasbord of colourful and delicious plant-based ingredients we're lucky to have at our fingertips. 

If you’d like to explore more tasty plant-based recipes to weave into your weekly meal planning, check out Animals Australia’s beautiful free magazine, Join the Evolution

It's incredible to see how much we can create with the plant-based food alternatives on offer today. Choosing them when we can is the ultimate act of kindness to animals. 

Do you dream of a kinder, more sustainable world? Animals Australia do.

Order their new magazine for free, which is packed full of inspiring stories, tips, recipes and beautiful animals.

Feature image: VegKit.com/Mamamia. 

Animals Australia
Ever wondered what you can do to help make the world a little bit kinder? What steps you can take to protect our precious planet and all the amazing species we share her with? Animals Australia invites you to Join the Evolution - an evolution of kindness, consciousness and choice that has the potential to transform our world. You can order your free magazine at www.AnimalsAustralia.org which is packed full of inspiring stories, delicious plant-based recipes, and beautiful animals. Join the evolution and help make this world a kinder, more compassionate place for everyone.