The Toothless Connoisseur
Sophia Feliciano shares plant-based, world-inspired recipes for babies, toddlers and their families.
My recipes aim to introduce a variety of global flavours and colourful produce early on in babyhood, so that tiny babes evolve into curious little people with an appetite for veggie-centric food packed full of flavour. I want to gently challenge the beige and brown baby food scenario by encouraging children to eat what you eat – and then some! Food breaks down barriers and brings people together, and by introducing world cuisines to your little ones, they are more likely to cultivate respect and appreciation for cultures outside their own.
I hope you enjoy discovering this recipe for the toothless and the toothed!
Vietnamese Spiced Pumpkin and Dumplings
When I was a new mum, Lisa, a very dear friend of mine, would often cook for me and hold my baby so that I could enjoy a hands-free supper. She made the most unforgettable stews and soups using a Vietnamese spice blend. While the flavours were commonplace for her, for me they were complex and mysterious. I’ve done my best to recreate her woodsy and warming flavours in this dish, which features fennel, cloves, cinnamon and star anise. With the holiday season fast approaching, I knew I wanted a vegan and gluten-free comfort-style main to accommodate all my friends and family, some of whom are vegan or have coeliac disease. This please-all meal of hearty vegetables and dumplings is a textural bounty and very satisfying – perfect for autumn.
Serves 6–8 / Preparation time: 15 minutes / Cooking time: 1 hour 30 minutes
For the stew:
- 900g fresh pumpkin, skin on
- 630g aubergines (2–3 small aubergines)
- 230g butter beans (1 tin, drained)
- 200g baby corn
- 200g carrots
- 160g brown onion (1 medium onion)
- 150g cashew nuts
- 80g cavolo nero, stems removed
- 500ml vegetable broth
- 250ml tinned coconut milk
- 120ml red wine
- 3 garlic cloves, pressed
- 2 tbsp cooking oil
- 2 tsp tamari
- 1 tsp Chinese vinegar
- salt and pepper to taste
For the Vietnamese spice blend:
- 1½ tsp paprika
- 1 tsp ground fennel
- 1 tsp chili powder
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1 tsp ground star anise
- 1 tsp cardamom
- ½ tsp ground cloves
- ½ tsp garlic powder
- ½ tsp onion powder
For the dumpling batter:
- 220g gluten-free self-raising flour
- 250ml vegetable broth
- 60ml plain soy yogurt
- 60ml olive oil
- 1½ tsp onion powder
- 1½ tsp marjoram
- 1½ tsp sage
- 2 garlic cloves, pressed
- salt and pepper
Weigh vegetable ingredients for the stew and set aside.
Halve the pumpkin and scoop out the seeds and core. Chop pumpkin into small uniform sections.
Mix Vietnamese spice blend in a small bowl and set aside. Prepare vegetable broth, red wine and coconut milk for the stew and set aside. Drain and rinse butter beans.
Fill a small to medium-sized saucepan with 3–4 inches of water and place a steamer insert inside. (You will probably need to stack two inserts unless you have a deep insert.) Place the pumpkin inside. Cover with a lid and turn heat to medium. Steam for 30 minutes or until a knife slides in easily.
While the pumpkin is steaming, chop aubergines into bite-sized pieces, carrots into discs, and halve the baby corn. Dice onion and tear cavolo nero into large bite-sized pieces.
Mix the dumpling batter and add salt and pepper liberally. The batter will be sticky and wet.
Carefully remove skins from the pumpkin and place pumpkin flesh into a blender or processor with coconut milk. Blend until smooth.
Add oil into a large, wide saucepan and turn to medium heat. Add in onion and sauté for 2–3 minutes or until it begins to turn translucent. Next add carrots, corn and a couple of splashes of water. Cook for 3 more minutes. Add aubergines next and cook for another 6–10 minutes or until aubergines are softened, stirring frequently. Add salt and pepper and mix thoroughly.
Add butter beans, spices, pumpkin mixture, pressed garlic, wine, Chinese vinegar, tamari and stir. Next add the vegetable broth and stir. Cover with a lid and turn up the heat to high, bringing the pot to a rolling boil. Taste the broth and add salt and pepper to taste.
Fold in the cavolo nero and spoon in the dumplings – about 2 tablespoons of batter for each dumpling.
Reduce heat to low, cover with a lid and cook for a further 20–25 minutes, flipping the dumplings after 12 minutes. Test the dumplings with a fork. You want firm yet tender dumplings. Slice one in half and taste if you’re unsure.
Toast cashew nuts while the dumplings are cooking. Simply add cashews into a small skillet and turn to low heat and wait for a golden colour and nutty smell. Ladle soup and dumplings into bowls and garnish with the toasted cashew nuts (whole or crushed). Serve immediately.
You will need at least a 3l saucepan. Using a wide 5.7l saucepan will reduce the cooking time.
To rehydrate leftovers, add more vegetable broth.
Sophia Feliciano is a London-based mother, part-time hand model, full-time recipe innovator and creator of The Toothless Connoisseur.
This feature was originally published in JUNO Autumn 2020.