Put your hands up if you like plants. Even better dance around or give plants a kiss – if you love having them around you, in the earth and fields or your living space, and especially if you love how they nourish us in so many ways. A few months ago in Edinburgh someone had written on a wall ‘Love animals, eat plants’. I remember looking at it and thinking something should be added onto the end: ‘love plants too’. Often if you’re vegetarian or vegan it’s presented as out of a love for animals and not wishing to cause them harm or suffering. But what about plants? They deserve all the love in the world because, together with soil and insects, they pretty much give us everything. Oxygen, greenery, food, textures, flavours, spices, cleaner air. We need to celebrate plants and appreciate them in all their glory.
London-based company All Plants is one bunch of eco-warriors doing just that. They cook up delicious vegan meals and deliver them to your door, making a plant-based diet easier than ever before. For too long being vegan has been tricky with fewer options, fewer places to buy, more effort involved than the dominance of meat and dairy products everywhere, which has been something of a barrier for those who want to eat more plants or are curious about doing so.
But sigh and struggle no longer. All Plants has an array of planty meals on offer which you can eat at your leisure, with your feet up, no hassle, no sweat, literally easy as pie. Their Cashew Mac is to taste-die for and if you order a box Golden Sesame Satay has gotta be in there – you won’t be disappointed. These two are just the tip of the plantberg though – they’ve got everything from paella to burrito bowl to moussaka to risotto, and all of ’em are hearty, nutritious and satisfying.
All Plants is so inspiring because not only are they making it fast and simple to eat healthy delicious plant-based meals for all us mega-busy foodies, but their mission as a whole is one big boost of planet-positive. Their aim is to encourage and stir up the next billion plant-powered people, doing so in as sustainable way as possible with recyclable and compostable packaging, carbon neutral deliveries and huge reduction of food waste. What’s not to love? It’s too easy and no one has an excuse not to eat or try 100% plant-dishes now.
Eat plants, love plants. Simple.
Wild garlic is one of the most amazing examples of nature’s gifts to us. Come spring it sprouts out of the ground in abundance with sleek leaves and beautiful white-star flowers, and it’s just there for the taking! It’s the easiest wild food to harvest in the world – you simply pick the leaves and bam you’ve got a bundle of flavoursome garlicky goodness which can be added to any salad or dish to enhance both its nutrition and taste. No prickly thorns to outmanoeuvre or having to peel anything or discard lots of outer layers or worry that it might be poisonous. It’s almost as if the plant wants other creatures to eat it. And personally I think it’s crazy not to take advantage of such a local, seasonal wonder, especially when it’s free and there’s almost no effort involved. It’s so simple to find – just follow your nose! I picked my leaves less than two minutes’ walk from my house. How great is that? Wild garlic’s health benefits are numerous – it’s antibacterial, antimicrobial and antiseptic, and it can be effective at lowering blood pressure, which reduces the risk of heart disease and strokes. And the best thing about picking it yourself is you know the leaves are perfectly fresh, so it’s as nutritious as it can be. The combination of wild garlic and seasonal spring onions really gives this pesto a piquant essence. It proves that vegan food doesn’t mean an automatic diminution of taste – trust me, it’s a rival to any parmesan-stuffed pesto out there!
The asparagus season is well under way and it’s such a yummy and special spring vegetable – I look forward to it all summer, autumn and winter. Its window is narrow though so you’ve got to take advantage of it now and in the next few weeks. It’ll never taste as good as it does at the moment so grab yourself a bunch. It complements the wild garlic pesto so well and adds a subtle crunch to this hearty spring pasta dish. Serves 4
For the pesto:
- 110g wild garlic leaves
- 2 cloves of garlic
- 4 spring onions
- 110ml extra virgin olive oil
- 40g pine nuts
- 40g pecans
- 1½ tablespoons nutritional yeast flakes
- ½ a lime
- A small handful of basil leaves
- Salt and pepper
- 300g asparagus
- 300g gluten free pasta (or your favourite durum wheat pasta)
To make the pesto, start by crushing the garlic gloves in a garlic press. Slice the spring onions finely. Place a pan on a medium heat and add a little olive oil. Once the oil’s hot, add the crushed garlic and spring onions and gently fry for about 3 minutes. Be careful not to let them burn and once softened remove from the heat and set aside.
In a dry frying pan, lightly toast the pecans and pine nuts (on a medium heat) until they’re starting to turn a golden brown and then pour them into a food processor. Once the fried garlic and spring onions have cooled a little, add them to the food processor along with the extra virgin olive oil, yeast flakes, basil leaves and a good grinding of salt and pepper. Squeeze the juice of the ½ lime in as well and then roughly slice about a third of the wild garlic leaves. Add these to the processor and blend until combined. Slice another third of the garlic leaves and blend once more, repeating with the final third until it’s all mixed into a paste.
Bring a pan of water to the boil and add the pasta, simmering for about 9 minutes or until you have the desired softness (I like mine al dente). While the pasta cooks, steam the asparagus for about 2-3 minutes, poking the spears with a knife to check when they’re soft but not turning to mush. Chop the spears into inch-length pieces and drain the pasta. Place everything back into the pasta saucepan and mix together (making sure the pesto is coating the pasta and asparagus evenly) and serve without delay.