8 Plant-Based Recipes from my Grandma's Kitchen
Updated: Jun 21
Hello, let me briefly introduce myself!
I am Ruwan Teodros, Head of Content at Capture, and I have been writing articles for our blog on a number of topics, including green technology innovations, carbon offsetting, the science behind climate change, and most importantly, how to reduce your environmental footprint.
As you may know, the Capture app has recently launched food emissions tracking -meaning that you can understand the environmental impact of your food choices. Users set regular food preferences within the app (lots of meat, medium meat, low meat, pescatarian, vegetarian and vegan), which will appear as a daily log alongside journeys. We’ve made it flexible to edit your daily food choices - perhaps you aim for vegetarian days during the week and then choose to enjoy some meat or fish on the weekends? We’ve got you covered!
But why track emissions from food? The food industry is responsible for approximately 26% of global greenhouse gas emissions… In a special report commissioned by the United Nations, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) took a comprehensive look at how land use influences climate change and vice versa. Their conclusion: Land use, “specifically how we grow, get and eat our food — is a major driver of climate change.”
We’ve found that there’s plenty of advice out there on reducing food based emissions, but the impact of advice can vary considerably… for example, ‘eat local’ is a well known recommendation (with the UN giving this too); but it would only have a significant impact if transport was responsible for a large share of food’s final carbon footprint. For most foods, this is not the case.
Greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from transportation make up a very small amount of the emissions from food; we’ve found that what you eat is more important than where your food traveled from. Producing beef, for example, uses 20 times the land and emits 20 times the emissions as growing beans, per gram of protein, and requires more than 10 times more resources than producing chicken.
So... to those of you that are interested in eating more plant-based meals, or have began making the transition to a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle, I thought I could inspire you with some of my favourite vegetarian meals!
Having grown up in Lebanon, eating food cooked by my Lebanese grandmother (Otherwise known as Teta, the Arabic word for grandmother), I have consistently eaten dishes that were plant-based.
She didn’t specifically make these dishes because she was aware of her environmental footprint, but because the Lebanese cuisine, and the Mediterranean diet is not centred around heavy meaty dishes. While there are several tasty meat-based dishes, you can easily be a vegetarian while living in Lebanon and eating Lebanese food that is cooked at home. Sometimes, eating at Teta’s home for lunch every day, I’ve realised that accidentally, I’ve been eating a vegetarian diet for several days in a row.
Also, in trying to eat a healthier diet in her older age, she has found alternatives for meat-based dishes that somehow taste even better than the original versions (but still have a lot of protein!). So, I’ll be providing 8 plant-based dishes for people to experiment with, in case you need any inspiration for creative plant-based dishes to cook for yourself, friends, or members of your family.
These four dishes are usually side dishes as part of a main meal, or a part of “mezze”, a selection of small dishes served as appetizers in parts of the Middle East, the Balkans, Greece, and North Africa.
Hummus has become a staple side dish at many people’s tables, with many people using it as a dip with crackers in other parts of the world. At my grandmother’s home, she makes hummus every other day as a side dish with the main meal she prepares for lunch.
My grandmother has been making it for most of her life, so she’s got the recipe memorised like the back of her hand.
Chickpeas: 1 cup of these, and you’re good to go!
Tahini: Be very careful about the tahini you buy! Taste-test these before you purchase. The taste of this has a huge impact on the hummus.
Garlic: This recipe calls for one clove, but honestly, one can never have too much garlic...
Lemon juice: Fresh, please! It will alter the taste of the hummus if it is store bought lemon juice.
Ground Cinnamon: This adds a certain flavour that I love, but isn’t necessary if you don’t like cumin.
Olive Oil: This will be used in the hummus mixture, and drizzled onto it when it’s ready!
My grandmother’s method is to soak the chickpeas in water 10-12 hours before. Then, boil the chickpeas with a small amount of baking soda, so that they cook all the way through.
Once they’ve boiled, you use a food processor to blend the tahini, chickpeas, clove of garlic (that has been grinded), fresh squeezed lemon, olive oil, a tiny bit of cinnamon, and salt together. Voila, you’ve got hummus! My grandmother always garnishes it with parsley and cooked chickpeas in the middle (set a few aside), and drizzles it with olive oil.
If you don’t want to pre-soak the chickpeas and want a faster version of this recipe, this is a good one.
Next up is “Hindbeh”, another side dish that often graces our lunch table. “Hindbeh” is the Arabic word for dandelion leaf, which is what Teta uses for her dish. You only need two ingredients for this- dandelion leaves and onions. You thoroughly wash the leaves, cut them into small pieces and trim 1-2 inches off the stem, and boil them in water until they’re soft.
You then drain the leaves in a colander, and squeeze them with your hands to get all excess water out. While the leaves are cooking, delicately slice two onions into thin, half moon slices. Add two spoons of olive oil to a pan, and sauté the onions until they are caramelized. Next up, you fry the dandelion leaves using the same olive oil that was used to fry the onions (this is Teta’s secret trick!)
Add freshly squeezed lemon juice (this is in almost every recipe!), a tablespoon of olive oil, salt, lemon, and garlic to the fried hindbeh, and sprinkle the sautéd onions on top! It is best eaten with Arabic pita bread, but also still tasty without it!
The third dish is “Batata Harra” which directly translates to spicy potatoes. This one’s super easy!
Peel and cut potatoes into cubes, fry them in olive oil until they’re a crispy golden colour. Beat garlic and lemon together, wash some coriander and drain them. While the potatoes are roasting, you can start to make the sauce. This is where all the flavour for the dish comes from. It’s a mixture of coriander, garlic, crushed red pepper and olive oil. Once the potatoes are finished, you add on this topping onto the potatoes! There are several methods to preparing these potatoes, which you can find here.
The last side dish as part of Mezze is “Foul” or fava beans with olive oil, fresh lemon juice, and garlic. People eat this dish for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. There are several variations of this, but the one my grandmother makes is simple. Boil fava beans with water in a pot, grind garlic and lemon juice in a separate bowl, mix them together once the fava beans are finished and pour some olive oil into the mixture. For an alternative recipe, with chickpeas, I’ll direct you to this recipe.
Next up: 4 main dishes that take a little more time to cook than the first four. We’ll start with “Bazella w Riz” which directly translates to pea stew and rice. It’s super healthy, full of vitamins and veggies. It is usually made with meat, but this is easily modified for vegan or vegetarian purposes.
2 tsp Seven Spices
2 tsp Cinnamon Powder
2 tsp All Spice
2 tsp Salt
1 Chopped Onion
2 Bags Frozen Peas and Carrots (800g) Carrots chopped finely
1 Large Potato Chopped into small cubes
2 tbsp Tomato Paste
1/2 Cup Tomato Sauce
In a large pot, heat 3 tbsp olive oil on low fire. Add the onions and fry them around for 3 mins.
Add the carrots and potatoes making sure you stir them to avoid them sticking. Stir them for around 2 min and then add the peas. Add all your spices and salt and mix them with the veggies. Add the tomato paste. Stir the paste well into the veggies so that they are evenly coated. Cook with lid closed for around 30 min. Best served with vermicelli rice!
Onto a more complicated dish… “Koussa”, otherwise known as stuffed zucchini! This recipe also usually includes ground beef, but this is easily removed for plant-based purposes.
8 small/medium sized zucchinis
20 ounces tomato juice or tomato paste mixed with water
1 cup uncooked long grain white rice rinsed
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
6 cloves garlic grated
2 tablespoon fresh squeezed lemon juice
Plain (vegan) yogurt to serve
2 full-sized onions
To hollow out the zucchini, trim off the top and use a zucchini core to slowly remove the inside of the squash. Be careful not to poke through the bottom or the sides. Once the squash is hallowed out, set aside. In a medium bowl, rinsed uncooked rice, salt, and pepper. Add half of the garlic (3 grated cloves), finely chopped up onions and tomatoes, parsley and season it with salt, pepper, and lemon juice. Before you start stuffing the squash, place the tomato juice or tomato paste/water mixture in a large pot and heat in medium high until boiling.
While tomato juice is heating up, begin stuffing the kousa, careful to leave about 1 1/2 in at the top which leaves room for them to expand. When tomato juice has come to a boil, add the remaining garlic (1/2 tbs and 3 cloves) as well as more lemon juice and olive oil. If you used tomato paste/water, add salt and pepper to the broth to taste. Gently add in the stuffed kousa. Bring to a boil then turn to low and simmer for 35 minutes. Best serve in a bowl with plain (vegan) yogurt on the side.
“Kibbet Batata” is a new dish that I’ve been enjoying lately at my grandmother’s lunches. Kebbe is usually a meat-based dish, but she has been making it with potato and onions instead. It tastes even better!
225g (1 cup) Organic bulgur wheat
1 kg (2.2 pounds) Potatoes
5 medium onions
2 tbsp Tahini
½ tsp Cinnamon
½ tsp Cumin
Black Pepper (to taste)
Basil (optional, to taste)
Sumac spice (to taste)
2 tbsp Olive Oil
Wash and rinse the bulgur, then soak it for 10 minutes in a bowl of water. Then, squeeze them and drain them of the water. Mix them together with the salt, cinnamon, cumin, black pepper, finely chopped onions, two spoons of tahini, and basil to taste.
While you’re doing this, put a tablespoon of olive oil and sauté finely sliced onions (don’t have to be chopped super small).
Peel and cut potatoes, boil them until soft. Place the potatoes, while hot, on top of the burgul and spice mixture, mix them together all by hand until it is in a dough form. Drizzle olive oil into the plan, and place your first layer of dough as flatly as possible. Then, put the caramelized onions for the filling, and put another layer of dough on top of the onions. Cut the dough whichever way you want (triangles is usually how people do it) and stick a hole in each one, to let the dough breathe as it bakes. For cooking times, you can consult this recipe. You apply the sumac and squeeze some lemon onto the top once it’s finished baking!
Last, but not least, we have “Loubiye”, which is a dish made of green beans. This one’s pretty simple!
500 g/1 pound green beans
4 tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion
1 clove of garlic
150 g/1 pound of ripe tomatoes skinned and chopped
1 tbsp tomato puree
Cut the green beans into smallish peaces about 5 cm/2 inches and wash them in fresh water. Head up olive oil in a large sauce pan over medium heat, add the chopped onion and sauté for a couple of minutes, stir in the chopped garlic and cook for another minute. Add the prepared beans and stir them into the mixture, season with salt and black pepper, cook for two more minutes. Next, stir in the chopped tomatoes, tomato paste, and cover and let it simmer for 15-20 minutes. The tomatoes will have melted into a nice, thick sauce. Taste and adjust seasoning accordingly. And, you’re done!
So, we hope you’ve given some inspiration for people who are transitioning to eating more plant-based meals or are already vegan or vegetarian but looking for new recipes to try! As you can see, the Mediterranean diet has a lot to offer in terms of plant-based options.
We hope our food tracker will make it easier for users to lead a planet-friendly lifestyle - whether they are on a journey towards eating a more plant-based diet, or are simply curious about the effects that changing food habits can have on climate change.