February 05, 2012

Cabbage and chickpea salad with grilled portobello mushrooms

 "If you look for lack, that's what you'll find. If you look for abundance, that's what you'll discover."
Colleen Patrick-Goudreau

Eating out as a vegan can be challenging. Especially in a country like Australia where a culture of 'meat-eating' still lives strong. Although most restaurants offer salads and other vegetarian dishes, there generally aren't many (if any) vegan options on the menu. Personally I don't find this so much as a problem since I don't eat out very often. I do realise, however, that for some people the social aspect, or rather the difficulty of it, is one of the reasons why they think they couldn't follow a vegan diet. 

There are a few ways around this, however. Obviously it is easier if you are attending a family dinner or a picnic/barbeque with friends and you can bring your own vegan dish to the party. When eating out in restaurants, it also helps to be prepared: 1) browse the restaurant's menu online to see if they already have some vegan options on the menu, 2) give the restaurant a call and ask if the chef is able to prepare something for you off the menu. 3) if possible, look for restaurants that are likelier to have more vegetarian/vegan options - many Asian cuisines offer a vast variety of all-vegetarian dishes,  Middle Eastern restaurants often have a selection of dips and nibbles (olives, tapenade, falafel), and in most Italian restaurants you can order egg-free pasta served with a simple tomato sauce or a cheese-free pizza loaded with vegetables.

Last night, we went out for dinner with my fiancé's parents and their family friend. I had booked a restaurant (there aren't many in my area to choose from) and called in advance to ask whether they had any vegan options on the menu or whether they were able to make something for me off the menu. The restaurant staff was extremely helpful and friendly and said the chef will be able to accommodate my request. To be honest, I wasn't expecting more than a bowl of lettuce and that's pretty much what I ended up having. Rather than complaining about my creative-less dish, I remained positive and friendly and I hope my attitude helped others to understand what it means to be vegan. Plus who knows, if there will be enough vegan requests, maybe the restaurant will actually add a vegan dish on the menu permanently.

In last night's case, I was also prepared by eating something at home before dinner. I had made this cabbage and chickpea salad with grilled portobello mushrooms that will most definitely be my stand-by salad from now on. I adore portobello mushrooms - they are so incredibly juicy and 'meaty' and perfect for marinating and grilling. I love the crunchy cabbage and toasted walnuts with the softness of chickpeas and mushrooms with a tangy dressing of olive oil, apple cider vinegar and mustard. It was perfect!

Cabbage and chickpea salad with grilled portobello mushrooms
(serves 2-4)

3-4 portobello mushrooms
pinch of chilli flakes
1 garlic clove
1-2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 small red cabbage
1/4 small green cabbage
2 green shallots
200g cooked chickpeas
100g walnuts

3-4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon mustard powder

1. Preheat the oven to 180C and line a baking tray with baking paper. Clean the mushrooms and remove the stalks. Combine one or two tablespoons of olive oil with one grated clove of garlic and a pinch of chilli flakes. Brush the mushrooms with the oil and bake for 10-15 minutes or until just tender.

2. Finely slice the cabbages and shallots and place in a large mixing bowl. Lightly toast the walnuts in a dry pan and add into the salad. Also add in the chickpeas and toss to mix. Whisk the dressing ingredients together and toss into the salad.

3. Cut the mushrooms in thick slices and arrange on top of the salad. Serve immediately.

More tips on eating out as a vegan can be found in Colleen Patrick-Goudreau's new book 
"The 30-Day Vegan Challenge"


  1. Oh, this looks so much better than just a bowl of lettuce! How unfortunate that they couldn't do better.

  2. Thanks so much for your fabulous recipes. As a sugar free vegetarian (sugar free only a short time, long time vego), who is not so good in the kitchen, I am loving your recipe ideas.

  3. What a beautiful salad! Looks healthy and wholesome too...

  4. Mielettömän ihana salaatti !Ja niin kaunis:)

  5. Oh I love this salad, bright & so many flavors & textures...just wonderful,

  6. We are just recently vegan after being vegetarian for 11 years. I think the most creative cooks are those like us who have to think outside the box!

  7. Tell me one thing which is 'boring' in this salad? Can't wait to try it :D !

  8. What a unique combination of flavors! How can a person not be satisfied by such a colorful, nourishing salad? Love it!

  9. I'm a country Australian vegan. I know what you mean. Thank you for another yummy dish to try.

  10. Though I'm not vegan I do agree that more restaurants should cater for alternative eaters - how hard is it? Just one menu item, one salad... but anyway! I'm also in love with mushrooms. I made stuffed mushrooms on the weekend and will be posting that recipe later this week :)

  11. I love the combination of flavours and textures in this dish!


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