Black Bean and Sweet Corn kernels come together to make amazing flavor-packed tacos, using a taco-seasoning made from scratch.
Today I’m sharing with you a recipe that is so simple and easy to put together, and results in such an extremely flavorful dish, you are going to be blown away.
That was a bold statement to start off with, right? Well, that’s because it’s the truth. Everybody needs a few recipes like this in their arsenal, because let’s face it, life can get hectic and recipes like this make it easy to get dinner on the table in a hurry. I know a lot of folks do ‘Taco Tuesday’. We personally don’t, but that’s just because we enjoy Tacos whenever we feel like it.
Tacos are usually associated with meat fillings, usually chicken, beef, pork and sometimes even fish or shrimp. But this doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy a really good taco if you follow a plant-based diet. And today’s recipe is going to show you just that.
We’ll be making a quick black bean and corn taco mix and a chunky guacamole to fill our tacos with. For the black bean mix, I use half a cup of dried black beans. These beans are soaked overnight and then pressure cooked the next day. I have a stovetop pressure cooker that gets the job done in under ten minutes. This works out so much better than buying canned beans because there is less waste, it works out to be more economical and I feel the beans are so much tastier. Try it out, if you have a pressure cooker or an instant pot. If not, you can simply use a can of black beans.
My chunky guacamole is also a very basic and simple recipe. It combines the richness of the avocado with the punchy flavors of a pico de gallo or a salsa. And like me, if you just need to serve 1 or 2 people, save the half of the avocado that has the pit still in it, squeeze some lime juice all over the cut surface, pop it into an avocado saver if you have one, or simply cover it with some cling film and pop it into the fridge for the next meal or the next day. This reduces the browning of the avocado. Do you have any tips for storing half an avocado? Leave me a comment and let me know. I’d love to be able to store it without having to use any single use plastic.
Assembling your tacos is one of the most fun parts of this recipe. You can add whatever your heart desires to your taco. Here’s what I use to make up my tacos –
- Hard corn taco shells
- Black bean and corn mix
- Chunky guacamole
- Pickled jalapenos
- Plant based sour cream
- Finely shredded lettuce
If you love a good taco, you simply have to try it out and I hope you love it as much as we do. This recipe makes enough of the bean mix for 12-15 tacos. If you’re serving 12-15 tacos in one sitting, double the guacamole recipe.
This Thai Chilli Basil Fried Rice is packed with vegetables. It uses all plant-based ingredients but still has all the flavors found in Thai cuisine.
A good fried rice is a must have in every aspiring home cook’s arsenal. I enjoy fried rice a lot. Sometimes, I think, maybe a little too much. But in my defense, what’s not to love about it? While I love a good Chinese style fried rice, this Thai Chilli Basil Fried Rice has become a new favorite.
Its a simple meal in itself that is super versatile. You can use a lot of different vegetables, whatever you have on hand. It requires just a little advance planning in the form of cooking the rice ahead of time. Combine that with a clever use of some sauces that I always keep on hand and I can sit down to a nice, hot, home cooked meal in a jiffy.
In the past, I’ve always relied on a Chinese style fried rice. But a couple of years ago, when I tried a Spicy Thai Chilly Basil Fried Rice at a local Thai restaurant, I was smitten. All this flavor and spice – this fried rice blew my socks off. I ordered it every time we went out for Thai food. After a few such instances, I knew that I simply had to learn to make this at home and so with some experimentation, I ended up with a recipe that was really close to my favorite version.
Fast forward to December 2019. Just a few weeks before Christmas, my husband and I decided to switch to a more plant-based diet. And I’m happy to report that we’re loving every bit of this new plant based diet. The last couple of months have involved a lot of experimentation and researching substitutes to make my favorite recipes vegan-friendly. And I have finally found the ever elusive ‘mushroom oyster sauce’ that always seems to be sold out at my local Asian grocery store. Obviously, the next step was to try a vegan version of my Thai Chilli Basil Fried Rice.
It took a little tweaking, but OMG, this fried rice is phenomenal. I think I may like it a little more than the original recipe. So if you like Thai food, whether or not you follow a plant based diet, you must try this recipe out. Its a simple recipe, but is so flavorful and packed with veggies, that I promise you won’t even miss the meat.
So let’s talk about the recipe. There are a few steps involved but they are all really easy to follow. The fried rice is ready in minutes and its best to have all the components prepped and ready to go.
Step 1 – Making the rice
I used some Basmati rice as that’s what I had on hand. Wash the rice out a couple of times and soak it in some water for about 30 minutes. Drain the water, rinse with some fresh water. Bring a large pot of water to a boil, season with salt, add the rice and cook it till is done about 80%. The rice should still have a little bite and shouldn’t be too soft. Let it cool completely.
It’s best to cook the rice atleast a few hours before you need to make the fried rice. You can even make the rice the previous day. Let it cool completely and refrigerate till you need to use it.
Step 2 – The spice paste
This couldn’t be simpler. Its a combination of some Thai birdseye chillies and garlic. We like our food spicy and this recipe is no exception. If you like Thai food but want to cut down on the spice, you can use a combination of birdseye chillies and some cayenne peppers or any other milder chilly. Grind this to a coarse paste.
Step 3 – The sauce
This sauce makes this fried rice what it is. I have had to make a few substitutions to make this recipe vegan friendly but I believe this combination of sauces comes really close.
Simply stir together all the ingredients for the sauce – the miso paste, soy sauce, mushroom sauce, white pepper powder and sugar. Set this aside to use once we start cooking.
Step 4 – Prepping the veggies
Clean and cut all the vegetables and keep them ready. I use onions, carrots, zucchini, mushrooms and broccoli.
Pick the Thai basil leaves and keep them in a separate bowl.
Step 5 – Making the fried rice
This is by far the easiest part of the recipe. Now that all our prep work is done, the rest is just a matter of stir frying our ingredients in stages. Make sure you use a large wok or a large enough pan. At this stage, all the cooking is done on a high heat.
Now that you’re familiar with the process, let move on to the recipe.
Matar Paneer is an easy, tomato based Indian cottage cheese curry that is full of flavor and pairs well with roti, naan, steamed rice or jeera rice too.
This recipe is one of the first curries I ever learned how to make. Paneer or Indian cottage cheese is not a typical ingredient used in most Goan / Mangalorean households, but it’s one that’s widely used throughout north India. If you haven’t tried it yet, you really should. It’s one of the tastiest things I have eaten. Right from the first time my mother made this curry for us, I was hooked. I think this is one of the main reasons I actually wanted to know how it was made.
To really enjoy your paneer, you need to source some good quality paneer. In India, most dairy shops have some great, fresh paneer and it’s quite easy to find. Outside India, you will have to try a couple of brands out to find something you really like. I’ve found that the brands in my local supermarkets just don’t cut it. The paneer is rubbery and chewy and is not that flavorful. Now that goes against everything that good paneer is supposed to be. So after a lot of trial, I found some great quality paneer at my local Indian grocery store. This paneer is locally made and ticks all the boxes for me, when it comes to taste and texture.
This curry is a tomato based curry. Ideally, use fresh tomatoes if they are in season. If not, you can always use some passata, canned tomatoes or tomato puree. You can serve this curry up either with some roti or naan and it even goes really well with rice. Plain steamed rice is fine, but I serve it up with a beautiful Jeera Rice that is perfect for curries like this one.
Let’s have a look at the recipe, shall we?
Veggie Pasta in a Tomato Sauce
4 large cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1/4 onion, chopped
1/3 – 1/2 cup capsicum, chopped (I used a mix of red and green peppers)
1/2 zucchini, thickly sliced
A handful of broccoli florets
1/3 cup corn kernels
10 olives, sliced
1 cup passata / tomato puree / canned tomatoes
1/2 cup vegetable stock
2 tbsp olive oil
Salt, to taste
Freshly cracked black pepper, to taste
Red chilly flakes, to taste
1 tsp mixed herbs (dried)
1/2 tsp oregano (dried)
1/2 tsp sugar
Parmesan cheese, to grate over the pasta
Start by cooking the pasta according to the package instructions.
Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil, season the water generously (I use 1.5 tsp salt) and add the pasta to the pot. Stir immediately, to prevent the pasta from sticking to each other and to the bottom of the pot.
When the pasta is cooking, heat another pan.
Add olive oil to the warm pan and add the garlic. Saute till the garlic turns fragrant.
Add the onions and cook over a medium heat till they soften a bit.
Add the peppers and continue to cook for 1-2 minutes or till they start to soften.
Add the broccoli florets and saute for another minute or so.
Now, add the zucchini and corn and stir through. Cook for another minute or two.
Season with some salt and pepper, to taste.
Add the red chilly flakes and the herbs. Stir through.
Add the passata and the stock.
Let it come to a boil and leave to simmer for 5-7 minutes or till the veggies cook through and the sauce develops good flavor.
Add the olives and the sugar and stir through. Take off the heat and set aside.
By now the pasta should be cooked. Reserve 1/4 – 1/2 cup of the pasta water and drain t
Add the pasta to the sauce and toss to coat the pasta with the sauce.
Place the pan on medium low heat. Add a couple of tbsp. of the reserved pasta water. Stir through and let the extra liquid cook off for another minute or so, or till your pasta reaches the desired consistency.
Grate some parmesan cheese over the pasta and serve.
After a lot of searching, high and low, I found a recipe, that I tweaked to try and replicate the flavors I so vividly remember. Since I cook for just my husband and I, this recipe is scaled down. I also just use my favorite veggies from that day – okra (bhindi) and potatoes (aloo). I found that these are also some of the easy ones to work with. I don’t make this recipe very often, because the veggies start off by getting deep fried and are then tossed with a spice mix (tava masala), and the deep frying tips this to the slightly indulgent side.
The spice mix, or my version of the tava masala is hot a very hot mix. The spices used are warm and flavorful. The chaat masala is an integral part of this recipe. If you haven’t tried it before, it is a blend of a few spices like cumin, pepper and a few others with some powdered mango. So it has a unique flavor profile, you get a slight hit of salt, tang from the mango and delicious flavor from the blend of other spices. You can easily find this at any Indian grocery store. (This chaat masala also works well with other chaat recipes you find on my blog.)
So try this easy stir fry recipe. This is best enjoyed served hot with some chapatis, rotis, naan or other flatbread of your choice. It would also work well as a side dish to some hearty Dal & Rice.
Tava Style Aloo Bhindi
3 medium potatoes
1/4 tsp turmeric powder
1/2 – 1 tsp Kashmiri chilly powder (or any other mild chilly powder)
1 tsp coriander powder
1/4 tsp cumin powder
1/4 tsp chaat masala
Salt, to taste
1 1/2 – 2 tbsp oil, plus oil for deep frying
Place a pan with the oil for deep frying on medium high heat.
Wash and peel the potatoes and cut into evenly sized fries / chips.
Wash the okra and pat dry. Chop the stalks off the okra and discard. Try and use okra that is similar in size, if not, cut them down to about the same size as the potato pieces.
By now, the oil should be hot. Carefully, and in batches, add the potatoes to the oil. Don’t overcrowd the pan or the oil will froth over and spill.
Deep fry the potatoes on medium heat till they’ve cooked through. Drain using a slotted spoon and set aside on some kitchen paper to get rid of any excess oil.
Deep fry the okra on medium heat till they have start getting a little darker in color and have started crisping up.
Drain using a slotted spoon and set aside on some kitchen paper to get rid of any excess oil, like you did the potatoes.
Take the oil for deep frying off the heat.
Heat 1 tbsp oil in a large pan on medium heat. When the oil is warm, NOT hot, add in the turmeric powder first and then add the rest of the spice powders.
Stir that through for about 20-30 seconds or till the spices get aromatic.
Add the okra to the pan and toss well. Lastly add the potatoes and toss to coat the veggies with the spices evenly.
Check for seasoning and add salt, to taste. Toss well.
You can watch the video recipe here –
In my house, we love veggies. Whether it is steamed, in a curry, stir fried or straight up in a salad, we love it all. We are trying to include more veggies in diet as much as we can, because it is healthier for you. And when you eat what’s in season, it tends to be a lot easier on the pocket too. I try to eat local produce as much as I can and always go for what’s in season.
When I came across a recipe for a vegetarian Shepherd’s Pie, I knew I had to try it. It calls for a bunch of veggies, which most of us usually have on hand, and lentils. We eat a lot of lentils, pulses, legumes, so I knew this would be an interesting way to switch things up. There are a few processes involved in the recipe, but they are all really simple and I loved that there were leftovers.
This Veggie Shepherd’s Pie is chock full of veggies and lentils and is the perfect meal for a cold, wet day. The veggies and lentils are full of flavor and are topped with mashed potatoes.And who doesn’t love mashed potatoes?
Vegetarian Shepherd’s Pie
Recipe from: Budget Bytes
1 cup cooked lentils
1 tbsp olive oil
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 large onion, chopped
2 stalks celery
Handful of button mushrooms, sliced
Salt, to taste
1 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
Freshly cracked black pepper, to taste
1 tbsp tomato paste
1 tbsp flour
1 cup vegetable broth
1 cup frozen peas
6-8 potatoes, depending on size (You need enough to make about 4 cups worth of mashed potatoes)
A knob of butter (optional)
Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat.
Add the onions and garlic and saute till the onions have softened.
While the onions are cooking, dice the carrots and celery to ‘more or less’ resemble the size of the peas and lentils.
Once the onions have softened, add the diced carrots and celery to the pan and cook till the celery has started to soften.
Now add the sliced mushrooms, salt, thyme, smoked paprika and pepper to the pan. Stir well to let the spices incorporate. Continue cooking till the mushrooms have fully softened.
Add the tomato paste and the flour to the pot. Stir and continue to cook the veggies till they’re coated and the pasty mix starts to coat the bottom of the pan. This should take about 2 minutes.
Add the vegetable broth to the pan. Stir to dissolve the flour and tomato paste that has coated the bottom of the pan.
Bring the broth to a simmer. It will have started thickening. Add in the cooked lentils and peas and let them all heat through.
Taste for seasoning and add more salt and pepper if needed, stir through and take the pot of the heat.
Preheat your oven to 200ºC.
Wash and peel the potatoes and cut them into cubes to cut down on cooking time.
Boil them in salted water till tender. Drain and mash the potatoes with the butter (if you are using) till no lumps are left. Taste and add more salt, if needed.
Add the vegetables to a large casserole dish (I used my 9 inch ceramic pie dish). Top with the mashed potatoes. It is easier to handle the mashed potato when it is still warm. I used the back of a spoon to flatten the mashed potatoes. You can choose to use a fork or a spoon to create a decorative pattern if you’d like.
Bake for around 15 minutes till everything has heated through. If you want the mashed potatoes to brown some more, place it closer to the top heating element of your oven, or turn your broiler on (if your oven has that function) and bake for a few more minutes. Watch closely and when it has browned to your liking, take it out of the oven.
Sprinkle some more freshly cracked black pepper over the top and serve hot.
Enjoy your veggies!!!
Pin this now for later –
Here, on The Aspiring Home Cook, I love to make things from scratch. I have tried a made from scratch version of Sambhar too, and it was okay, but didn’t turn out like my Mother’s did. So for this one, I’m following her recipe and since she’s uses a store bought blend called a Sambhar Masala, I did just that. This Sambhar Masala is a delicately balanced blend of spices and gives a beautifully complex depth of flavor to the dish. Now, I always have a box of this masala in the pantry. I’ve used a couple of brands in the past like Everest and MDH, both of which you should be able to find at your local Indian grocery store, and they are both good. This time around, I’ve used the Everest Sambhar Masala.
Moving on to the vegetables. I use a mix of all sorts of veggies. This time around, I used some sweet potato, carrots, eggplants (I grew these ones in my own backyard, so I’m thrilled about them), okra / lady fingers and drumsticks. You can also use bottle gourd (white pumpkin), pumpkin and potato if you like. Use what you have on hand. Typically a sambhar always has drumsticks, eggplant and some bottle gourd. For those of you who aren’t familiar with drumsticks, its the fruit of the moringa plant and supposed to be very good for you. They come in long canes ranging from 1 to 2 feet in length. They are chopped into smaller pieces, about 2 inches long and you don’t eat the outer hard skin. Your after the pulp on the inside and the seeds. It is eaten much like how you would scrape the icing from the inside of an oreo cookie with your teeth.
This sambhar can be served up with some plain, boiled rice and a side of papad (poppadums) and Indian pickles of your choice. This sambhar pairs very well with idlis or dosas. I also enjoy a bowl of this stew with some crusty bread.
If you want to see this being made, check out the video version of the recipe here –
1 cup toor dal (pigeon peas)
1/2 sweet potato
A handful of okra
2-3 small eggplants
A couple of drumsticks (A handful of frozen pieces)
8-10 curry leaves
1/2 tsp black mustard seeds
3 dried Kashmiri chillies
1 tbsp Sambhar masala
1/2 tsp Kashmiri chilly powder, or any mild red chilly powder
1 tbsp olive oil
Salt, to taste
Tamarind, the size of a small walnut
Cooking the lentils –
Wash through the toor dal with cold water and drain. Do this 2-3 times.
Cover the dal with fresh water till the dal is fully submerged and set aside to soak for about 10 minutes.
While the dal is soaking, chop up the vegetables you are using into similar sized cubes.
Drain the dal, and rinse through with fresh water and drain again. Pressure cook the dal with 2 cups of water and 1 tsp of salt. Cook till tender, almost mushy. It takes about 5 minutes in my WMF pressure cooker. Follow your manufacturers instructions to get you the best results. If you don’t have a pressure cooker, simply boil it in a pot with plenty of water till it is well cooked.
Once the pressure dies down, open the pressure cooker.
Cooking the vegetables –
While the dal is cooking, place the chopped vegetables in a large pot, top off with water from a recently boiled kettle and 1/2 tsp salt. Boil the veggies till they’re almost done. Don’t over cook the vegetables, because they will continue to cook in the sambhar. When the veggies are ready, drain them and set them aside. Reserve the water the vegetables were boiled in.
To make the sambhar –
Soak the tamarind in a small bowl with about 1/8 cup of warm water. Set aside till later.
Heat 1 tbsp of olive oil in large pot on medium heat.
When the oil is hot, carefully tip in the mustard seeds. When they start to sputter, add the curry leaves and the Kashmiri chillies.
When they have warmed through and released their flavors and aromas into the oil, lower the heat and add the cooked lentils and the water it was cooked in. Stir through.
Now add the sambhar masala and red chilly powder and stir through.
Add 1/2 – 1 cup of the vegetable stock to loosen the lentil curry as needed. You can add as much or as little of the stock as you need, depending on the consistency you’d like the sambhar to be. Keep in mind, the sambhar tends to thicken a little as it cooks.
Bring this back to a boil and add the cooked vegetables.
Once everything has heated through, check for seasoning and add more salt, if needed.
Now, mash the tamarind with your fingers in the water it was soaking in to extract the pulp. Pass this through a sieve into the pot of sambhar. Add this tamarind extract to taste.
Let it simmer for a couple of minutes.
Today’s post takes me back about 16 years. Back to when I first started working (gosh I feel old now). Back then, our meals were taken care off by the work place. And for me that was novelty because growing up we almost never ate out. My mum would cook up every meal and snack for us at home and as kids we were content with that. But eating in the office cafeteria was interesting. Here, I was introduced to such a variety of food from different parts of the country (India). But I wasn’t too keen on cooking then. During those days I only enjoyed making our traditional Goan sweets (Kuswar) for Christmas and other Goan sweets that my Nana would whip up for us for afternoon tea or an after school snack.
One of the dishes I encountered in the office cafeteria, that eventually became a favorite, was Methi Malai Matar (meaning Grean Peas in a Creamy fenugreek gravy.) It has strong Indian flavors but is mildly spiced. After moving to Sydney, I began craving some of this stuff. And it was only then I decided I was going to have to learn to make this dish myself, much like I had to learn so many other Indian recipes that I wanted to enjoy. Now the challenge was finding fresh Fenugreek leaves. The only place I’ve found fresh leaves is at one vendor at the Paddy’s Market in Flemington. But that’s a long drive from us. So I thought I’d try and find a recipe that used dried leaves (known as Kasoori Methi) which is easily available at any Indian grocery store. And let me tell you, I found one. I couldn’t believe how easy this little curry is to put together. With just a handful of ingredients, in less than half an hour you can be sitting down to a warm bowl of Methi Malai Matar for dinner. This goes really well with roti / chapatis, but you can also enjoy this with some bread or plain rice.
Methi Malai Matar
Recipe from: Sharmi’s Passions
1 cup green peas (fresh or frozen will both work, if using frozen let it thaw before using)
3 tbsp Kasoori Methi
1 onion, finely chopped
1 tsp ginger garlic paste
1/2 tsp Cumin seeds
1 green chilly, finely chopped (optional)
1 cup milk
5 cashew nuts
2-3 tbsp cream
1/2 tsp Garam Masala Powder
1 tsp Red Chilly Powder
1/4 tsp Turmeric Powder
1 tbsp oil (I use olive oil for cooking)
Salt, to taste
Soak the cashewnuts in a couple of tablespoons of milk for about 15 minutes.
Grind this to a smooth paste and keep aside.
In a pot / saucepan heat the oil on medium heat.
Add the cumin seeds to the oil.
When the cumin seeds start to sizzle, add the ginger garlic paste and green chillies and saute for a minute.
Now, add the chopped onions and saute till they’ve slightly browned.
Add the cashew paste and fry it for a couple of minutes, stirring to avoid burning.
Now add the turmeric powder, red chilly powder and the garam masala powder. Add salt to taste and stir well.
Now add the rest of the milk and stir.
Let it come to a boil and then simmer for about 2-3 minutes and the gravy will start thickening.
Add the cream and stir in.
Now add the green peas. Let the peas heat through and let the gravy come to a boil again.
Now add the kasoori methi and stir.
If the gravy is too thick at this stage, add a little water to achieve desired consistency. Just make sure the gravy comes to a boil after the water is added and simmer for a couple of minutes.
If the gravy is not thick enough, let it continue cooking, stirring occasionally, till it thickens to your liking.
Serve hot with rotis / chapatis.