Crispy Cauliflower with Torn Basil and Lemon Dressing

Vegan, Gluten Free, Low Fat IMG_2309 Guys, where have I been the past few weeks?? I’ve been so slack! Holidays are only three weeks away though and assignments will be done and dusted so get ready for some very exciting posts coming up!! (Salted coconut gelato anyone?!) Also, it’s almost mango season. If you don’t know what that means for this space, perhaps consider checking out last years mango frenzy, when I went a little cray cray and made about ten mango desserts in two months. (Mango Honey Tart, Mango Froyo, Coconut Mango Tarts… I am obsessed.) But before we get ahead of ourselves, it’s time to have some salad appreciation. This salad is literally the best combination of flavours. See that platter of salad in the photo? I ate the entire thing over about two hours, no joke. And I have zero regrets too. IMG_2293 Also, you can spruce it up with all kinds of fun things like broccoli, brussel sprouts, green beans, some lettuce if you want. The dressing is so tasty you can just dip fresh vegetables in it and call it a day. If you’ve never tried roasting cauliflower before, you are living a half life. I was a roasted cauliflower sceptic until I had it at a restaurant one day and my mind was BLOWN. Such a simple vegetable, transformed! If you follow my Instagram you probably know I eat this salad all the time, in some form or another. But that’s because it only takes 30 minutes and it’s better than any other meal I can think of! I’m notoriously bad at making nice food when I’m going to uni and always end up spending $15 on random snacks because I convince myself it’s cheaper than just buying a sandwich. I made this salad last week though, and it tasted just as good a few hours later. Very impressed with myself 🙂 Have a great week guys! I will be back soon with ice cream. One Year Ago: Vegan Chocolate Fudge Jaffa Cupcakes (GF)IMG_2317 Cauliflower Salad with Basil and Lemon Dressing:

1 small cauliflower head, cut into florets

1 small butternut pumpkin, sliced in half long ways, de-seeded and sliced into 1cm strips

1 tbsp olive oil

3 tbsp za’atar

1 large handful fresh basil

1 small handful fresh coriander

Dressing: 3 tbsp tahini juice of 1 lemon

1 tbsp olive oil

2 tbsp warm water  IMG_2306 Preheat the oven to 200C/390F and line a large baking tray with baking paper. Toss the cauliflower and pumpkin slices in a tbsp of olive oil and a pinch of salt and pepper and spread out on the tray. Sprinkle all over with za’atar. Bake for about thirty minutes, until the vegetables are crispy. Tear up the herbs and toss with the vegetables. Mix all the dressing ingredients together and stir well. Spoon over the vegetables and serve either warm or at room temperature. Serves 4-6 IMG_2292

Green Salad with Garlic Mushrooms

Vegan
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Guys! Big news. I’ve decided that once a month I’m going to do a “fun things you should add to your salads post.” It’s going to be epic! I know, right now it sounds kind of boring. But trust me, lately I have been KILLING the salad game. My uni schedule this semester means most days I got home at 2.30pm, with half an hour before I go to work. What does that mean? Salad!!

The best lunch ever.

Salad can easily be the worst meal, or the best. It all depends what you put in it and how you make it. For me, the most important thing is the salad base. If you don’t have a strong base, the rest of your salad will never be able to shine like the star it should be.
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Take careful note of the photo above. Today I used two types of lettuce, washed and whizzed completely dry in my lettuce washer. It must be completely dry! Otherwise your salad will be sad. Two big handfuls for each person please. Next I added half a finely chopped shallot, for some zing. You could add finely sliced red onion if that’s your thing for this element.

Select two of your favourite herbs. Today I used basil (heaps of basil!) and coriander. You can add parsley, mint, dill (although I can’t be your friend anymore if you add dill because I HATE dill irrationally), or any other soft herb you like. Use a small palmful of leaves, and finely chop.
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Now it’s time to add your crunchy elements! I like to add a stalk of celery, half a chopped apple, half a chopped capsicum, and/or some cucumber for the crunchy part of the salad. Today I just used apple and capsicum because that’s all we had. Chop everything into 1cm chunks and throw into your salad bowl.

Next, time for some substantial greens. The best by far is broccoli, but today for the first time maybe forever we were out of broccoli, so I added steamed baby peas and zucchini. If you have time, you can roast the greens in the oven, but today this is an under half an hour salad so steaming will have to do! Chop in half an avocado for creaminess too.

And now for the secret: mushrooms!! Get out your pan, crush a garlic clove in there, add a drizzle of olive oil and fry up a huge handful of them. Mushrooms make an ordinary salad an extraordinary salad. Only add them at the last second because the heat might wilt the lettuce.
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For dressing mix 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar with 1 tbsp olive oil, 1 tsp seedy mustard, and the juice of half a lime. Toss all the ingredients well. I drizzled over a tbsp of tahini as well for extra protein.

YUUUUM. There you have it. The best 20 minute salad in existence. Enjoy! And get excited for next months salad adventures!

One Year Ago: Coconut and Vanilla Ice Cream Sandwiches

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Dumpling Month Part 4 – Pumpkin and Beetroot Dumplings

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Are you guys ready for the next instalment of dumpling month? Because it’s pretty darn exciting. I swear each new flavour I’ve tried has been better than the last ones. These are possibly, *dare I say it* the best so far!

They kind of happened by accident. The other day I was roasting a pan of vegetables with vague plans of eating them for lunch/dinner/as a random morning snack, and I had a lightbulb moment. How good would these be in a dumpling?! Maybe dumpling month has got to me and sent me a little bit crazy. Maybe you’ll see me trying to squeeze all kinds of terrible things in dumplings from now on (is it just me or is nutella a fantastic idea) but luckily this time I was right!

I made a little soy dipping sauce to go along with them and they were so perfect. I had a pack of wonton wrappers in the fridge as I am still experimenting with different brands, but you could easily make your own dumpling dough from my first post.
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These are super easy to make even for dumpling amateurs like me. As long as you can use an oven and do some simple folding you’re sweet. When I was making these I had a little realisation that so many cuisines have some form of dumpling. If you rolled the dough slightly thicker and replaced the ginger and chilli with ricotta, these would be undeniably Italian tortellini. I guess great minds just think alike!

You can mix up the vegetables you put in there, and even just use pumpkin. I made these planning on putting them in a miso soup but ended up eating them all prematurely. If you wanted to do that though I bet they would be delicious! Have a great week everyone 🙂

One Year AgoCinnamon, Dark Chocolate and Berry Ice Cream Cake
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Roast Vegetable Dumplings (vegan)
1 shallot, finely minced
1 tsp ginger, finely minced
1/2 red chilli, finely chopped
1 sweet potato, peeled and chopped into big pieces
2 beetroots, peeled and chopped
1 cup pumpkin, chopped
1 carrot, peeled and chopped
salt and pepper
olive oil, to drizzle

1 packet wonton wrappers (30-40)
soy sauce
1/2 red chilli
1 shallot, chopped
ponzu vinegar
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Preheat the oven to 180C (350F). Put the chopped vegetables on a roasting tray and season with salt and pepper. Drizzle with olive oil and bake for 40 minutes, until the vegetables are soft. Mash them with the ginger, shallot and chilli and allot to cool.

Put a small spoonful of the mashed vegetables on a wonton wrapper and lightly wet the edges. Pull the top half over the bottom half like you’re folding a piece of paper, and seal all the way around. Pull one side over the other side and slightly wetting one edge, crimp it closed in a circle to make a round shape. Repeat with the rest of the dumplings.

Mix the soy, chilli, shallots and vinegar to make a dipping sauce. Steam the dumplings from fresh for about 8 minutes, or from frozen for about 15-20 minutes, until cooked through. Makes about 35 dumplings.
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Dumpling Month Part 3 – Spicy Eggplant Dumplings

Vegan

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Brace yourselves for the most amazing dumplings so far! (Possibly the best dumplings…I’ve ever eaten!) Seriously. I made these, I ate one, I died. They are so. yummy. I made thirty that first day, I very nearly ate thirty in that same day.

The filling is just spicy eggplant fried until soft. There’s a dumpling place near my uni that has eggplant dumplings as one of the vegetarian options, and they’re so awesome. I have a theory that eggplant is kind of a magical vegetable. How does it become so good when you cook it? Have you ever tried to eat raw eggplant? It’s disgusting. But cooked eggplant is like a whole different universe.

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Apologies for the horrendous photos today! I’ve been trying to not get so hung up on photos recently because that’s the major blocking point for so many of my posts. I always feel like if the photos aren’t up to scratch I can’t post it at all, but that’s silly right?! RIGHT?! (You’re all looking at your screen and these horrendous pictures thinking no Lilli…just no…)

Regardless what they look like, these are definitely the favourite dumplings so far. They are also basically the easiest, with hardly any ingredients. You can buy pre-made dumpling wrappers, or you can make your own. Pick your own adventure. Just make sure your eggplant is 100% cooked before you fill the dumplings because it won’t cook anymore when you’re steaming them. Enjoy!!!

One Year Ago: Lavender and Lemon Tarts (gluten free)
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Eggplant Dumplings:
Makes 30
Filling inspired from this recipe
1 large eggplant, cut into 1 inch wide strips and salted liberally
2 tbsp chilli oil (or 2 tbsp vegetable oil mixed with 1 tsp fresh chopped chilli
1 garlic clove, crushed
2 shallots, finely sliced
1 small red onion, sliced thinly
1 tbsp black vinegar
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp raw sugar

1 quantity dumpling dough or bought wrappers
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After salting the eggplant slices, wash the salt off and pat dry. Slice the eggplant into 1 cm strips and then 1cm squares.

Heat the oil and chilli in a wok and fry the garlic, onion and shallots until soft and slightly brown. Add the eggplant, soy and vinegar and fry until the eggplant becomes soft. Add the sugar and season well with pepper (no more salt) to desired taste. Set aside and let cool completely.

Take a small dessert spoon of filling and place on a dumpling wrapper. Slightly wet the edges with your finger and fold the wrapper towards you, pressing down the edges to seal in the eggplant. Either bring the edges together and join to make a round shape, or leave as pillows. Can be frozen and steamed for fifteen minutes, or cooked straight away until wrappers are soft. Serve with vinegar and chilli oil.
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Dumpling Month Part 2 – spring vegetable and mushroom

Vegan

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Are you guys ready for the second instalment of dumpling month?! I know I’m ready. This time round I tried to channel my absolute favourite dumplings from a local Chinese restaurant. Every time we go there I go a little bit cray cray over them. They’re full of vegetables and mushrooms, which makes them kind of…meaty? That sounds gross, but you know what I mean. They’re hearty!

This time did the moneybag shape, which worked well and was super easy to store and steam. Plus it was faster than the crimping method in last week’s spinach and tofu dumplings, which was helpful. I was inspired by Smitten Kitchen‘s recipe to use a mix of seasonal vegetables, so you can kind of add what you like to these. I used a mix of fresh pea, cabbage, spinach, mushroom and tofu. This time round I lightly stir-fried the vegetables first before putting them in the dumplings. This made the flavours much more intense and tasty so I will definitely keep doing this step.

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For the sake of experiment (code for laziness) this time round I didn’t make my own dough, I bought some pre-made dim sum squares from the local Asian grocer. It did save a lot of time, but the dough was really hard to work with. Any moisture that got on them would disintegrate it into pieces. They did steam fine, but I think they would be too delicate for pot stickers. If you know any good brands for dumpling wrappers let me know in the comments!

This week I’m going to Splendour in The Grass music festival, so I may be a little slow with comments and questions. My third dumpling recipe will be going up some time in the week though and it’s my favourite by far! So make sure you check it out 🙂 I’m loving all the dumpling suggestions I’ve been getting so keep telling me your favourite flavours! May dumpling month never end!

One Year Ago: Lemon Berry Poppyseed Cake (gluten free)
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Spring Vegetable and Mushroom Dumplings: Inspired by Smitten Kitchen
Makes about 30 dumplings
1 tsp sesame oil
1 tbsp vegetable oil
2 shallots, finely sliced
1 garlic clove, crushed
2 tsp finely chopped fresh ginger
1 cup finely shredded wombok (Chinese cabbage)
1 cup finely shredded English Spinach
1/2 cup baby peas (frozen ok)
3 large flat mushrooms, chopped finely
100g (3.5 ounces) firm tofu, chopped into small pieces
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp black vinegar

1 quantity dumpling dough or 30 bought wrappers
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In a hot wok, fry the shallots, garlic and ginger in the oils until transparent. Add in the mushrooms and tofu and stir fry until slightly brown. Throw in the greens and just slightly cook. Pour off any excess liquid that comes out in the cooking process and discard.

Once the mix has cooled a little, use a spoon to put a small amount (about 3cm, 2 inches) of mixture in the centre of the wrapper. slightly wet (not too much!) the edges with a bit of water and fold the dumpling over towards you, in half. Press down the edges. Slightly wet one edge of the dumpling and fold over the front, pressing it together with the other side. Keep on a plate with baking paper whilst you make the rest of the dumplings.

To cook, place each dumpling about 1cm apart from each other in a steamer. Steam for about 5 minutes, until the skin is shiny and translucent in places. If you freeze them first you will need to cook them for longer. Enjoy! Serve with chilli and vinegar
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Crispy Chilli Tofu Rice Paper Rolls and a Small Rant

Vegan, Low Fat, Gluten Free
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This week a very small thing happened that made me sad, and then it made me quite angry. Someone posted a judgmental comment on my Instagram! Don’t worry, this happens all the time. Mostly I laugh, and show my friends. Sometimes I troll them and write something dumb on their Instagram. Usually I just ignore it and feel mildly flattered that people take the time to comment on my photos at all.

But this particular thing upset me because it was a judgment about the fact that my photo of breakfast had eggs in it. Yes, I do eat eggs. I’ve never claimed to be a vegan here or on any other internet space, but I completely understand why one might think I am vegan when so many of the things I eat and make are animal product free. (Plus I also hashtag all my vegan photos a ridiculous amount of times – #veganfoodshare #vegansofig #bestofvegan and my possible favourite/most dumb of all hashtags #healthyveganfoodshare)
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But I really hate when people criticise others (period) but more specifically when they bring judgment to an aspect of that person’s lifestyle choices, when that person is obviously making a conscious effort and doing what they can already. It doesn’t achieve anything except encourage that person to become defensive, and usually to defend their actions even more than they normally would. I’ve noticed ever since that this kind of thing isn’t confined to veganism or just dietary choices; it transcends every social choice we make.

In case I’m not make sense here’s an example – if someone talks about how they’ve started recycling and how it is easy and everyone else should too, there is always that person that points out “Well you use a washing machine which is a huge waste of water resources!” What? Why does one thing cancel out the other? Why must making the decision to recycle suddenly transform someone into an environmentalist responsible for every aspect of their lives having a negative impact on the planet??

This happens when I say I am a vegetarian all the time. “But you eat yogurt. And eggs.” “But you eat tofu made of soybeans which means you kill monkeys living in the rainforest.” “But you use dishwashing liquid so you kill sea life” and the list continues. This kind of thing is so unproductive I almost can’t give a polite reply anymore.

I really care about animals. I mean I really care. I rarely have to justify it to the people I know because it’s obvious. I see those ads on the back of buses protesting against live animal export and I cry on the street like a baby. But I never ever look down on my friends and family for eating meat, or buying leather, or any decisions they make. Why? Because it isn’t my place, and it achieves nothing. It reinforces the stereotype that vegetarians and vegans are extremists and should therefore be silenced or ignored.
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I believe that if the people I care about, and the rest of the world for that matter, properly understood how cruel and self-serving the meat production industry has become, they would give up meat in a heartbeat. Wilful ignorance is probably the most dangerous thing our generation possesses, because it affects all of us on so many levels. I’m guilty of it myself. I know in my heart of hearts that eggs come from chickens, and yes I only eat free-range organic, but there’s still hundreds of male chicks bred each year for laying purposes that are killed.

The only thing that can actively change people’s minds isn’t judgment or criticism, it’s education. When systems of cruelty and oppression are properly exposed, 9 out of 10 times people will find they cannot live with the knowledge that they are an active and thriving part of that process. I don’t eat meat because I am fully aware of the cruelty animals are treated with in the meat industry, and I can’t justify it to myself anymore. Sometimes I wish I could just scream this at people to see what is staring them in the face, but I don’t. They would think I was crazy! Instead I try and educate them – recommend books, movies, explain the truth behind the industries at work. I never pass judgment because it just shuts people out, which is exactly what happened on my Instagram.

I didn’t agree with the comment. I didn’t stop eating eggs, instead I felt insulted and riled. I didn’t think about what that person was trying to say, which is that the egg-laying industry is poorly constructed and impossibly cruel to chickens. Something I identify with! If they had started a discussion and explained why they don’t eat eggs, things could have turned out differently than how they did.

Have a lovely week everyone!! PS I made rice paper rolls inspired by My Darling Lemon Thyme and they are delicious!

One year ago: Mixed Berry and Honey Frozen Yogurt 

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Crispy Chilli Tofu Rice Paper Rolls – inspired from here
1 packet large rice paper roll sheets
2-3 bunches thin vermicelli noodles
250g firm tofu, cut into 1cm by 1cm strips
2 tbsp chilli oil (olive oil with 1/2 tsp chilli flakes)
1 carrot, very finely sliced
2 tbsp white vinegar
1 tbsp caster sugar
large handful of butter or iceberg lettuce, shredded
handful of thai basil
handful of mint
1 avocado, sliced into thin strips

For the Sauce
1 tbsp soy sauce or tamari for gluten free
1 tbsp Chinese black vinegar
1 tsp palm sugar
1/2 a birds eye chilli, finely sliced
1 shallot strip, thinly sliced.
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Mix all the ingredients for the sauce and set aside.
Place the carrots in a small bowl and mix the vinegar and water together. Pour over the carrots and leave to pickle for at least 20 minutes.
Shallow fry the tofu strips in the chilli oil until golden on each side.
Cook the vermicelli according to packet instructions. Have all your filling ingredients at the ready!
Place three plates out in front of you, and all your bowls of filling in front of that. In the plate on the far right, boil a kettle of water and pour enough water in so that the plate isn’t overflowing, but you can submerge a rice paper sheet.
Gently dip the sheet under the water, using your fingers to stop it curling in on itself. Once dunked transfer it onto the second plate. Lay a few sprigs of basil and mint in the centre of the paper, followed by a small tangle of vermicelli. Lay a strip or two of tofu, two pieces of carrot, a piece of avocado and some lettuce on top. Take up the bottom of the circle closest to you and pull half way up over the ingredients. Keeping it in place with a finger, take the top half of the circle and fold down to cover the rest of the ingredients. Peel the left hand side of the circle firmly up and pull tightly to the right, over the ingredients. Now continue to roll the roll towards the right, until the rice paper roll is completely rolled. Place on the plate far on the left and repeat with the remaining ingredients. Makes about ten. enjoy them fresh!
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Brown Rice Hippie Sushi (vegan, gluten free)

Vegan, Gluten Free, Low Fat

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When I eat this sushi I feel like a spiritual nature loving Buddha. It’s so green and crunchy and ‘healthy’ tasting. I know that can be a bad thing (wheat grass shots I’m looking at you) but here it’s a super yummy thing. It’s one of those meals where you feel like you just undid the entire week of bad eating that came before (I’m sorry tub of ice cream for destroying you).

It took me so long to get my sushi making skills up to scratch. The first time I tried my level of failure was actually ridiculous. There was probably an entire cup of rice I was trying to squeeze on the one roll. I ended up just throwing it in a bowl and eating it like a sad sushi salad. I think I’ve got it pretty much perfect now! And you can customise this recipe to make it as fancy or as simple as you want.
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I can’t believe how easy it is to make if you actually know what you’re doing. This morning I was on major struggle street (way waaay too much lolly water last night). I was so wobbly taking an overhead shot I literally almost dropped my camera on the avocado. That would have just been too much to handle. But I still managed! I brought a huge plate of sushi to my friend’s lunch and felt like a sushi superstar.

A few key points I have gathered on the way to perfect sushi status: The rice should be brown. It is so much more flavoursome and textured than white rice. Sorry generations of skilled Japanese chefs, I’m going to have to pull rank on you with this one. My tastebuds would like to officially make brown rice sushi the next big thing.
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When putting the rice on the seaweed, leave a generous gap on either edge so that you can properly seal it. Make sure you push your rice right to the other edges, otherwise you’ll lose filling from either end. It will be so sooo sad when you cut it and end up with a deconstructed seaweed bowl.

Use thinly sliced very fresh veggies like carrot, cucumber, lettuce, radish, shallot, whatever you like eating really. But don’t put too much filling! AND DON’T YOU DARE LEAVE OUT THE AVOCADO. It’s so wrong on so many levels. You don’t need to include the teriyaki tofu, but it adds some protein as well as a sweet flavour. You could always replace it with egg or fish if that is your thing.

And make sure to serve your sushi with lots of wasabi and pickled ginger! I know wasabi is a bit unnecessary with vegetarian sushi, but it makes it so much nicer so once again Lil the Queen of Sushi would like to publicly announce the importance of wasabi and override those that disagree.

One Year Ago: Banana Layer Cake with Maple Icing

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Healthy Brown Rice Sushi Rolls
Makes enough for 6-8 large rolls
1 packet dried nori sheets
3 cups brown rice
pinch of salt
1 tbsp white vinegar
1 carrot, julienned
1 large cucumber, seeded and julienned
1 large handful of lettuce, chopped in strips
1 large ripe avocado
250g (1/2 pound) of firm tofu
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp honey or agave syrup for vegan
1 tsp chopped ginger
1 tsp crushed garlic
1 TBSP chilli oil
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Cook the rice according to packet instructions or using the absorbing method, in a pot with 5 cups of water and the salt, covered, for about half an hour until dry. Take the lid off and stir through the vinegar, then spoon in to a bowl and mix it around to let the heat escape. Chop all the greens and set aside. Chop up the tofu in to matchsticks and pour over the marinade ingredients. Fry in the chilli oil until crispy and set aside.

To roll the sushi, make sure the rice is quite cool otherwise the seaweed will crinkle up around it and make it hard to roll. Place a sheet on the bamboo matt (you can roll it if you want by hand). Spoon about 4 tbsp of brown rice in to the centre of the seaweed and use the spoon to spread it evenly across the middle in a wide strip, leaving a gap on each horizontal edge. On the edge closest to you, lay a strip of each vegetable, a thin strip of avocado and the tofu. Grab the edge of matt closest to you and firmly, with no hesitation, roll the matt over to encompass all the fillings and then continue to roll and tighten with your hands as you go. Chop into 5-6 pieces and repeat. Serve with soy sauce and pickled ginger, as soon as possible.
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