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Recipe: Vegan-friendly butternut mac ‘n’ cheese

Eating on a vegan diet doesn't mean you have to give up your favourite comfort foods. This recipe puts a vegan spin on the classic mac 'n' cheese.

Vegan mac and cheese
I have several friends who, over the past few years, have changed their eating lifestyle to ones of vegetarianism or veganism. I’m always impressed as they require a bit more effort to make sure they’re still getting in all the right nutrients, and pairing plant-based proteins so that the appropriate animo acid combinations occur.

I for one couldn’t commit to being vegan. I could probably swing being vegetarian, but would end up as a pescatarian as I love any kind of seafood. The main reason I couldn’t fully commit to the vegan diet is I love cheese and eggs too much. I eat them every single day. They’re staples in my diet. Yes, I keep my cheese consumption under control… well at least on most days. One of my all time favourite dishes is a comfort food from my childhood: homemade mac and cheese. Made with my Mom’s deliciously creamy cheese sauce, broccoli because we needed greens, and hotdogs if we were lucky. It’s like heaven in a bowl.

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That’s the inspiration for this week. Knowing that vegans aren’t able to indulge in mac’n’cheese anymore is devastating to me. So I sought out a vegan version. While it’s not directly comparable to the cheesy stuff, this dish made a wonderfully creamy, rich sauce with hints of spices that add some flair. If you make this don’t expect that traditional mac’n’cheese flavour palate, instead get ready for a bright, creamy, flavourful new pasta dish to add to you repertoire.

Vegan Butternut Mac’n’Cheese
500g pasta of your liking
300 g butternut, roughly chopped
½ tsp salt
2 ½ cups unsweetened soy/almond milk
½ cup tapioca flour
½ cup nutritional yeast
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp smoked paprika
½ tsp chilli flakes
1 tbsp oil
½ onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
salt & pepper, to taste
juice from ¼ lemon

1. Place a large pot of water on the heat and bring to the boil. Add salt and then the pasta. Cook until al dente, then drain.
2. Place the chopped butternut in a medium sized pot. Add the salt and enough water to cover. Bring to the boil and cook until tender, then drain and place in the jug of a blender.
3. Add the soy/almond milk, tapioca flour, nutritional yeast, turmeric, smoked paprika and chili flakes. Blend until smooth.
4. In a large pan, heat the oil and add the onion and garlic. Cook for three to four minutes until slightly browned and fragrant, then add the butternut mixture. Heat the mixture slowly while whisking it constantly until it thickens about five to seven minutes. If it gets too thick then add more water/milk.
5. Season with salt, pepper and lemon juice. Stir the pasta in the sauce and transfer to serving bowls. Enjoy!

READ MORE: Smoked salmon with fresh lemon cream cheese

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