Nicky’s Recipes


You can never have enough vegetarian recipes to add to your culinary repertoire. Our very own Nicky Owers from Wellington test drives some old favourites and new concoctions for your gastronomical benefit. Here are some of Nicky’s picks for you to try out.

It goes without saying that these tried and tested recipes are tasty and healthy, but they are also easy, inexpensive, seasonal, and don’t require difficult-to-find ingredients – what more could you ask for?

Cauliflower Curry / Aloo Gobi

This dish makes uses of a very popular vegetable in North India, and no doubt you will have seen it offered on many Indian restaurant menus.  I like this recipe because it is simple, it does not have to be hot, and its ingredients are usually on hand.


  • 3 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 tsp fennel seeds*
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • ½ tsp ground turmeric
  • chilli powder to taste
  • 4 tbsp tomato purée
  • 250g cauliflower florets
  • 150g green pepper, cored, deseeded and cubed
  • 4 tomatoes, quartered
  • 600ml soya or other plant milk, according to your preference
  • small bunch of coriander, finely chopped (including some of the stalks, which have lots of flavour)
  • salt to taste


  1. Heat the oil in a medium saucepan. Add the fennel seeds and cook, stirring constantly, for one minute, or until golden brown. Add the onion and cook for 10 minutes, stirring frequently.
  2. Add the turmeric and chill powder and fry for two minutes, then stir in the tomato purée. Add the cauliflower florets, green pepper, tomato quarters, milk, 250ml water, and some salt. Cook over a medium heat for 5–8 minutes, stirring frequently.
  3. When the vegetables are tender, stir in the fresh coriander. Serve with Indian bread, cashew nut and lemon rice, or plain rice.


Gazpacho is a chilled soup and there is a huge variety of recipes for it, some using roasted tomatoes, and some, raw – as with this recipe.  Play around with quantities until you get a soup that suits your tastes. You might even be able to get tomato haters to eat this, as I have.


  • approx. 8 medium tomatoes
  • ¼ to ½ cup water
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 8–10 leaves of fresh basil (if you have it), chopped
  • ¼ medium onion, roughly chopped
  • 3 Tbs balsamic vinegar
  • 2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
  • salt to taste
  • a few grinds of black pepper
  • optional: half an avocado for an especially creamy soup


  1. Blend all ingredients together in a food processor, chill, and serve.

What could be easier? (Add a touch of sweetener if your tomatoes are not nice and ripe and need a bit of help).

Serves four.

Greek Lentil Salad

This is such a hearty salad that it is really like a main dish, and it is a delectable combination of flavours. If you are not a lentils fan, don’t be put off-the lentils lend themselves well to the zing and tang of the other ingredients.


  • 1 1/2 cups brown lentils (sometimes called ‘green/brown lentils’)
  • 1 Tbsp cumin seeds, toasted and lightly crushed
  • juice of one lemon
  • 2 Tbsp chopped mint
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup chopped parsley
  • 4 Tbsp preserved lemon
  • 1/4 cup salad oil
  • 1 small red onion, finely chopped
  • 1 red or green pepper, finely chopped-optional
  • 4-6 Tbsp thick yoghurt
  • salt to taste


  1. Cook lentils until just soft (approx. 20-30 mins.*), drain, and shake dry;
  2. Toast the cumin seeds for one minute in a dry frying pan and lightly tamp to crush in a mortar and pestle (or on the chopping board with the butt of your knife handle;
  3. Combine the oil, lemon juice, mint, cumin, garlic, and two tablespoons of chopped preserved lemon. Reserve one tablespoon and dress the lentils with the rest;
  4. Add the chopped parsley to the lentils;
  5. Stir the red onion and capsicum into the reserved dressing;
  6. Mound the lentils on to a platter and scatter the onion mix over the top;
  7. Spoon the yoghurt on and sprinkle with the remaining preserved lemon.

Cooking time depends on the age of your lentils.

Preserved lemons, with their intense citrus tang, are traditionally used in Moroccan food. They are used to flavour a surprising variety of savoury dishes, such as couscous, tagines, risotto, stuffing, casseroles, and even vinaigrettes. Only the rind of the lemon is used in cooking. Discard the flesh and bitter pith and finely slice or chop the rind before adding to your dish.

When I do not have preserved lemon, I zest the rind of a lemon as a substitute, but it is really worth making your own. Preserved lemons can be stored for up to six months in a cool, dark place.

Bean Chilli (Vegan)

This dish is my version of a chili, and it is probably different from a traditional one, but it is an easy dish to throw together after work or in a hurry.  Served on delicious and quick-cooking buckwheat (it has a wonderful ‘toasted’ flavour, and in the Wellington area you can get it from Commonsense Organics), this dish makes for a filling, nutritious meal that will give you a good supply of fibre, protein, iron, B-group vitamins, calcium, folate, magnesium, phosphorous, potassium, zinc…(I could go on).


  • 1 1/2 cups cooked borlotti/aduki/kidney/haricot beans (that’s about one tin’s worth, or use up your leftovers from the fridge)
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 1/2 tsp smoked paprika (please don’t waste your money on the Gregg’s brand)
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground cummin
  • pinch of ground cayenne (I prefer the heat from this spice to that of chilli powder, but use chilli powder if you wish – up the quantity slightly though)
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • salt, to taste
  • tin of chopped tomatoes
  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 6-8 strips of marinated capsicum*, chopped.  Or fresh, chopped capsicum, if you prefer.
  • fresh coriander, chopped – optional


  1. Sauté the onions in two tablespoons of oil until soft and clear.
  2. Add the remaining ingredients and simmer away with the lid off for approximately ten minutes.
  3. At the same time, put onto cook whatever you are going to serve the chili on.
  4. Serve (garnish with the coriander, if desired).

Serves three to four.

Serving suggestions:
If you don’t have buckwheat (which cooks in ten minutes), you can use rice (preferably brown, as it is much better nutritionally), or for a flavoursome, chewy variation, try pearl barley (which cooks in about 15 minutes).

Serve with a fresh green salad and you have a well-balanced meal.

*It is very useful have a jar of marinated capsicum in the pantry.  You can use it in sushi fillings, wraps, on pizza, and so on.  It is especially worthwhile if capsicums are not in season.

Carrot / Courgette Cake (Amrita cookbook)

The Amrita cookbook is one that many people have on their shelf (and some of you might even remember the Cuba Street restaurant of the same name), and it’s one that over the years has provided me with a number of great, easy recipes.  I have discovered that courgettes are just as good in this recipe, which is helpful when there seem to be only so many ways to use up the growing number of large courgettes on ours plants.  It’s a great dessert-style cake if you want to serve it with cream instead of icing it and it improves by the next day.


  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup desiccated coconut
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp mixed spice
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 cup cooking oil
  • 1 cup currants
  • 1 ½ cups grated carrot (or courgette)
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • ½ cup coconut cream


  1. Mix the dry ingredients together (except baking soda);
  2. Add oil, currants, and carrot/courgette;
  3. Dissolve baking soda in coconut milk and stir in.  Add more coconut milk if necessary;
  4. Bake in greased tin for 45-55 minutes (until a knife or skewer comes out clean) at 180°C/350°F.
  5. Remove from oven and, as with all cakes, leave it to stand for five minutes before turning out.

Very Easy (Vegan) Date Scones

I served these recently at a cooking class I taught, as a nice way to start off, and received lots of compliments.  With my ingredients assembled, I can have the scone mix made in under three minutes.  Not a bad recipe to include in your repertoire, then!


  • 2 cups plain flour and 4 tsp baking powder, or 2 cups self-raising flour
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 2 dessert spoons sugar
  • ¾ cup soya milk mixed with slightly under ¼ cup lightly flavoured oil (don’t quite allow the mix of milk and oil to come up to the one-cup line)
  • roughly ½ cup chopped dates


  1. Sift dry ingredients then whisk together to mix.
  2. Add chopped dates (use a pair of kitchen scissors to cut them up.  It is much faster this way).  Mix the dates in, again using the whisk (the whisking adds lightness to the scones).
  3. Stir first then add the milk and oil mixture (Vitasoy is creamy enough to use half and half with water).
  4. Mix until the ingredients are just combined—over mixing them will make the scones tough.  After a little bit of stirring, I pick up the slightly sticky dough (add a little more flour if it is too sticky) and gently turn it in on itself a few times to finish the combining and tidy up all the bits.
  5. Place dough on a floured baking tray and gently pat down until it is about 1.5 centimetres thick.  Cut into scones and bake in a hot oven (approx 200ºC) for around 12 minutes (or until they are turning a light golden brown).
  6. Lay a clean tea towel on a cooling wrack, on which you place your scones to cool, then fold tea towel over to cover.

Nepalese Vegetable Curry

Adapted from Fresh and Natural: Vegetarian Dishes for New Zealanders


  • 4 Tbs ghee, butter, or oil (add a touch more salt if using oil)
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 bay leaf, broken
  • ½ tsp ground black pepper
  • 1–2 green capsicums, chopped
  • 1 chili or chili powder (to taste)
  • 3–4 cloves garlic
  • 5 cm piece of root ginger, chopped (or grated whilst frozen)
  • 2 tsp salt
  • ½ tsp turmeric
  • roughly 500 gms potatoes or a mixture of potatoes and other vegetables
  • ½ cauliflower—in flowerets (or a substitute vegetable)
  • 1–2 cups peas
  • 2 Tbs ground coriander
  • 6 spring onions (opt.)
  • 1 Tbs cumin


  1. Heat butter and fry onion until golden brown.  Add bay leaf, black pepper, capsicum, chili, garlic, ginger, salt, and turmeric;
  2. Stir in potatoes and fry briefly;
  3. Add remaining ingredients and approximately ¾ cup of hot water;
  4. Cook gently until vegetables are tender (add peas last) and most of the moisture is absorbed.  Serve on some nice, chewy, nutty brown rice.

Sicilian Zucchini

When courgettes/zucchini are appearing in abundance, here’s a superb dish to make the most of them.  If you love basil, throw in some torn up leaves at the end as well.  This dish tastes great served cold, too.  Team it up with a green salad and spaghetti tossed in a good quantity of olive oil, and garlic and salt pounded together in a mortar and pestle.


  • 3 Tbsp plump raisins
  • 3 Tbsp white wine vinegar
  • 3 Tbsp pine nuts/slivered almonds
  • 75mls cooking oil
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 750gms zucchini
  • ¼ cup semi-dried tomatoes, drained/ dried tomatoes soaked in boiling water for 15-20mins
  • ½ tsp salt, or to taste
  • 2 Tbsp chopped mint


  1. Soak raisins in vinegar whilst preparing the dish.  Also soak dried tomatoes if using these instead of semi-dried tomatoes;
  2. Dry-fry pine nuts or slivered almonds until golden and set aside;
  3. Heat oil and cook onions for five or so minutes;
  4. While these are cooking, cut zucchinis in half and half again lengthways, then cut these fingers in half widthways.  Add to the saucepan and fry gently for a few minutes, stirring often;
  5. Add salt, raisins and vinegar, and drained semi-dried toms.  Cook gently, uncovered, for approx. five minutes;
  6. Add pine nuts/almonds and mint, then toss and serve.

Frozen Chocolate Tofu Dessert

This dessert can be served straight from the freezer, but the flavour is enhanced by allowing it to thaw at room temperature for half an hour.  Can be frozen for up to a month.


  • 300 gms tofu (try the softer Japanese style for this one.  Drain for 10 mins. first.)
  • 50 gms softened marg./butter
  • 3 Tbs salad oil
  • 4 Tbs cocoa
  • 90 gms brown sugar
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence


  1.  Mix all the ingredients together in a blender;
  2. Spoon into storage container or metal bowl, cover and freeze for about four hours, or until the mixture is mushy;
  3. Serve in individual serving bowls with chocolate hail and cream or fresh fruit.


This fantastically easy recipe will not only save you money, but it makes nicer pumpernickel than any shop-bought stuff. I halve each slice and serve topped with different vegetarian antipasto type things, e.g. red pepper pâté and chopped olives; but you can use it to put out with your favourite dip, too.


  • 880 gms kibbled wheat or kibbled rye
  • 1 Tbs salt
  • 750 mls water

Mix together well and leave overnight. Next day add:

  • 2 Tbs molasses
  • 2 Tbs golden syrup
  • 2 Tbs soya sauce
  • 1 cup wholemeal flour


  1. Mix together well. Grease two loaf tins and divide mixture between two;
  2. Pack down firmly and place greased tin foil over top of each tin;
  3. Place in a cold oven, turn to 200°C and bake for 40 minutes;
  4. Leave in tins until cold.

Caramelised Upside Down Onion Tart

This is a great vegan alternative to pizza and I can guarantee that there will never be any leftovers, but if there are, it’s also great served cold the next day. Bear in mind that since it is popular, you should probably double the recipe.

If you prefer, you might also like to try the more subtle flavour of shallots, when they’re in season.


  • Dough base:
  • 1 ½ cups flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ cup water
  • 2 Tbs oil


  1. Sift flour, baking powder, and salt.
  2. Mix in oil and then roll out to a circle the size of your medium-sized flan dish (you can do this while the onions are cooking).


  • 2 Tbs margarine/butter (if using margarine, add a generous pinch of salt)
  • 3 cups chunky-sliced onions or peeled shallots (to peel shallots easily, soak for about five minutes in boiled water)
  • 2 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 1 Tbs margarine
  • 1 Tbs brown sugar
  • 2 Tbs vinegar
  • 1 tsp cornflour mixed with a small amount of water


  1. Melt the first measure of margarine in a saucepan over a gentle heat. Add the onions/shallots and garlic. Cover and simmer over a low heat for approx 25 minutes, or until succulent, and moist;
  2. Add the second measure of margarine, then the brown sugar and vinegar. Cook a further two to three minutes until syrupy. Then add the cornflour paste and stir until things thicken up (less than a minute);
  3. Remove from the heat. Tip the onions into your flan dish and place the dough on top, tucking in around the edges to seal;
  4. Bake at 12-15 minutes or until golden brown;
  5. Remove from oven and run knife around the edge of the dish to loosen crust. Place a large plate over the tart and tip upside down. Lift off the flan dish off, then cut and serve.

Serves four to six

Red Lentil Dahl

This dish has a lovely mild, ‘golden’ flavour and can be served on rice or with chapattis.  Sometimes I throw in some grated carrot or finely chopped broccoli when I add the lentils, just so I can sneak some extra vegetables in.  And I often soak the lentils in the morning (in the stated three cups of water), if I think of it.  Although this is not necessary, it has the benefit of boosting the lentils’ vitamin and mineral content, plus reducing cooking time.  When it’s time to put the lentils into the dhal, I just tip the soaked lentils in, water and all.


  • 1 cup split red (orange) lentils
  • 3 Tbs butter/marg.
  • 1 large onion, peeled and finely chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 2 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp chilli powder, opt.
  • 1 tsp salt
  • up to 1 Tbs lemon juice, according to taste
  • 3 cups water


  1. Melt the butter in a heavy-bottomed saucepan; add the onion and garlic and sauté over a gentle heat until the onion is soft;
  2. Add all the spices and salt and sauté for one or two minutes;
  3. Add the washed and drained lentils, the lemon juice, and the water;
  4. Bring to the boil, then lower the heat and simmer uncovered for 15-20 minutes.  Stir regularly and add extra water if necessary.
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