Today’s recipe is a light but very satisfying, spicy, Thai-inspired ‘vegfest’ for Valeos i.e. those people who want to avoid meat and make vegetables the mainstay of their Primal/Paleo diet. To be honest, if you’re opposed to eating eggs and dairy too, it’s probably not possible to make up for the nutritional deficit you’ll suffer if you try to combine veganism with a Primal lifestyle. Nonetheless, most of the vegetarians and vegans that I’ve known would fare much better health-wise if they lived up to their namesake by actually eating far more plants and much less pasta!
In my view, it is perfectly feasible, nay advisable, for everyone to go grain-free. Grains contain anti-nutrients such as phytic acid (prevents the absorption of minerals), enzyme inhibitors (inhibits digestibility), lectins (compromises our gut and disrupts the immune system) and gluten (causes gut inflammation and increased intestinal permeability a.k.a. “leaky gut”). Conversely, organically grown potatoes, purple and orange sweet potatoes, jerusalem artichokes, taro, tiger nuts, bananas, apples, pears and berries can provide all the carbohydrates, minerals, protein, fibre and vitamins, without the unpleasant and dangerous side effects of grains. In a nutshell, strict vegans/vegetarians should be eating real, nutrient-dense vegetables and fruits and, if they insist on eating grains, they should make sure they’re sprouted, both to increase their nutrient content and to decrease their anti-nutrient effects.
Meanwhile for those of us that favour vegetarian, or at least believe less meat is more when embracing Primal dietary principles, Braised Thai Style Vegetables with Golden Cashews is a delicious way to eat at least four portions of vegetables in one go. In fact, we became so enthused about eating the colours of the rainbow in a single bowl of goodness that we created the photo backdrop to match!
You can mix and match this recipe with any seasonal vegetables you fancy, just make sure that all the vegetables are chopped or sliced to roughly the same size to ensure even cooking.
Braised Thai Style Vegetables with Golden Cashews (Serves 4)
100g raw, organic cashews
2 tbsp organic coconut oil
1 organic onion, finely chopped
4 organic shallots, thinly sliced
2 stalks fresh lemongrass, finely chopped (see note below for how to prepare lemongrass)
2 kaffir lime leaves, fresh or dried - optional
450g organic carrots, peeled
1 x organic red pepper, deseeded and sliced into long strips
2 x 400ml tins organic full-fat coconut milk
3 tbsp tamari
2 tbsp Thai red curry paste (see Notes below)
2 tsp organic cumin seeds
1-2 drops organic liquid stevia - optional
Sea salt and freshly ground organic black pepper
225g small florets of organic cauliflower
225g organic frozen petits pois, defrosted
200g organic asparagus (or 4 large handfuls of organic baby spinach leaves - or both)
2 tbsp organic lime juice
Small bunch of fresh, organic coriander, roughly chopped
Boil a kettle of water.
Heat a medium non-stick frying pan and add the raw cashews, stirring from time to time until they are golden brown - they burn very easily so keep a watchful eye on them. Once brown, transfer to a plate and set aside.
Cut the carrots on the diagonal into ¼ inch slices. Prepare the asparagus by bending the spears until they snap at their natural breaking point, then throw away the woody ends. For a more attractive finish, you can pare away the outer skin from the bottom third of the spears with a vegetable peeler.
Heat the coconut oil in a large wok or deep sauté pan, add the onions and shallot to the pan, then cover with the pan lid and cook for 5 minutes to soften without colouring.
Remove the pan lid, then add the lemon grass and kaffir lime leaves. Stir-fry for 2 minutes.
Add the sliced carrots and red pepper strips to the pan and stir-fry for a further 3 minutes.
Add the curry paste, coconut milk, tamari and cumin seeds, gently stirring everything together until evenly incorporated. Taste and season to taste with salt, pepper and a drop or two of liquid stevia if you think it needs it. Cover and simmer for 5 minutes,
Meanwhile, tip the boiling water from the kettle into the bottom of a steamer. Put the cauliflower florets and asparagus in the top of the steamer. Cover and blanch the vegetables for just 1-2 minutes, then quickly remove them from the steamer into a metal sieve. Briefly run under a cold tap to ‘set’ the bright green colour of the asparagus and to stop the cooking process. Drain well, then cut the asparagus spears in half.
Add the drained cauliflower, asparagus and defrosted petits pois to the rest of the braised vegetables. Cook for 1-2 minutes more before stirring in the spinach and cooking just long enough to allow the spinach leaves to wilt down - only takes 30 seconds or so. Take the pan off the heat and add the lime juice. Check the seasoning and adjust to taste if necessary.
Ladle the vegetables with the sauce into four pre-warmed serving bowls, making sure the different vegetables are divided evenly between the diners. Finally, sprinkle over the toasted cashews and chopped coriander and serve immediately.
To prepare lemongrass, begin by treating it pretty much like you would a spring onion. First, remove the root and top, then peel away a couple of the fibrous outer layers until you reach the smooth, pale green centre. Next, smash the lemongrass stalk with a rolling pin - this breaks down the fibres to release more of its fragrant oil - then using a very sharp knife, finely slice across.
Geo Organics ready-to-use Red Thai Curry Paste contains cornstarch, a grain best avoided. To make your own vegetarian Red Thai Curry Paste, try this Riverford Organics recipe - although I’d leave out the sugar and replace it with a teaspoon of organic honey, maple syrup or a drop or two of organic liquid stevia.
Carbohydrate 35g Protein 15g - per serving