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Suzy Spoon's Vegetarian Kitchen recipes for spring

The following recipes are from Suzy Spoon's Vegetarian Kitchen, by Suzy Spoon (Plum, $39.99).

Rice noodle lasagne

Serves 6

This recipe is inspired by my friend Adam, who is incredibly inventive with rice noodles and wonton wrappers. Traditional lasagne, with its layers of pasta, is usually quite a heavy meal, but the rice noodle sheets in this version give it a lightness that's satisfying without being stodgy.

100 g (2 cups firmly packed) baby spinach leaves
1 litre (4 cups) boiling water
1 kg fresh flat white rice noodle sheets
500 g butternut pumpkin, cut into 5 mm thick slices
salt and freshly ground black pepper
150 g firm tofu, cut into 4 or 5 large thin slices
1 large eggplant, cut into 1 cm-thick slices

Tomato sauce:

2 tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, diced
2 × 400 g cans chopped tomatoes
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 tbsp tomato paste
5 basil leaves, roughly torn

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White sauce:

60 g dairy-free spread
2 tbsp cornflour
750 ml (3 cups) soy milk
3 tsp savoury yeast flakes
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper

To make the tomato sauce, heat the olive oil in a saucepan over a medium heat and saute the onion for three to five minutes, or until translucent. Add the tomatoes, garlic, tomato paste and basil leaves. Reduce the heat, cover and simmer for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, to make the white sauce, melt the dairy-free spread in a saucepan over a medium heat. Stir in the cornflour and cook, stirring constantly, for two minutes, or until the flour and dairy-free spread are completely mixed. (This is a "white roux".) Slowly add the milk, stirring continuously for five to 10 minutes, or until the sauce thickens. Add the savoury yeast flakes, salt and pepper. Remove from the heat and set aside.

Preheat the oven to 180C. Place the spinach in a colander over the sink and carefully pour over the boiling water to wilt it. Drain the spinach well, pressing any excess water out of it and set aside.

Grease the base of a 20-by-30 centimetre baking dish and line it with a double layer of rice noodle sheets. Cover with a layer of pumpkin slices and ladle over one-third of the tomato sauce, spreading it evenly. Add another double layer of rice noodle sheets, followed by the spinach and a sprinkle of salt and pepper. Ladle another one third of the tomato sauce over the spinach and cover with another double layer of noodle sheets. Cover with the tofu and spoon over the remaining tomato sauce. Add a final double layer of rice noodle sheets and cover with the eggplant slices. Ladle over the white sauce.

Cover with foil and bake for 40 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for a further 30 minutes, or until nicely brown and crispy on top. This is delicious with a leafy green salad.

Layered vegetable tian

Serves 6 as a side

This recipe has it all. It's easy, healthy, quick to prepare and looks amazing. Tian refers both to the glazed terracotta baking dish that the French use for this traditional recipe, and also to the recipe itself, which involves layered ingredients baked in the oven.

2 zucchinis, sliced
4 yellow squash, sliced into rounds
1 red onion, sliced into rings
2 tomatoes, sliced into rounds
1 baguette loaf, sliced thinly
300 g desiree or Pontiac potatoes, sliced into thin rounds
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
10 sprigs of thyme
3 tbsp olive oil
salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 170C. Grease a deep, rectangular baking tin or casserole dish. Start at one end of the dish, arranging the vegetable slices in rows, alternating slices of zucchini, squash, onion, tomato, bread and potato until you have filled the dish.

Sprinkle over the garlic and thyme sprigs and drizzle over the olive oil. Season the veggies with a good pinch of salt and a couple of twists of freshly ground black pepper. Bake for 45 minutes or until the veggies are cooked and beginning to caramelise. Serve immediately. 

Hills hoist bean salad

Serves 4

When I first started making this salad I loved it so much that I ate it almost every day for months! Even now it's still one of my favourites. I used to make this salad at one of the cafes I owned. People would sometimes ask about the meaning of the name and I would have to admit that there wasn't one – I just thought it sounded good! Double the quantities and you'll have a great offering to take to a barbecue.

2 × 400 g cans red kidney beans, drained
60 g (2 cups) flat leaf parsley leaves, chopped
1 red capsicum, diced
¼ red onion, diced
½ avocado, cubed
½ continental cucumber, diced
3 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp lemon juice
1 garlic clove, minced
salt and freshly ground black pepper
8 large, firm iceberg lettuce leaves, to use as cups

In a large mixing bowl, combine all the ingredients except the lettuce. Stir well. Spoon the bean salad mixture into each lettuce leaf 'cup', and serve two per person.

TIP:  To prepare your own beans, place one and a quarter cups of dried kidney beans in a bowl with 800 millilitres of water and soak overnight. Drain, rinse and place in a saucepan with one litre of fresh water. Bring to the boil over a medium heat, reduce the heat and simmer until tender (about two hours).