by Alexandra Nicole Nuralam

Vegan Valentine’s Brunch with Lily Khin: 3 Easy Recipes

Feeling uninspired this Valentine’s? Instead of pulling out all the stops for your date, what if making brunch together was the date? It’s a great way to have a romantic day at home and cooking together is its own wonderful love language. After all, the couple that preps together stays together.

Ahead, we check in with Singapore-based digital creator and vegan foodie Lily Khin for her version of a vegan Valentine’s brunch—complete with a guilt-free dessert—that’s packed full with goodness and flavour.

Tell us more about yourself!

I’m the definition of a third culture kid, ask me where I’m from and I have to decide whether to give you the long story or the short one. My parents are Burmese and Sri Lankan, I was born in India and grew up in all three of these countries at different times. I’m a proud alumna of UWC India, after which I graduated from Middlebury College in beautiful Vermont. And then in 2013, I found myself in Singapore with a head full of dreams. I never left. 

I’m an editor at a tech startup, but in addition to my job, I’ve also been sharing my plant-based recipes on Instagram where I’m building a community. I’ve been moving towards a plant-based lifestyle since 2019 because I love animals and this planet that I’m grateful to call home. 

What are some common misconceptions about being vegan?

You tell me! I think what surprises most people is how limitless vegan food can be, especially if you can cook. Folks tend to assume that vegan food is bland and boring. The truth is that when we remove the eurocentric lens through which mainstream veganism tends to be interpreted, you’ll see that people across the world have been cooking plants in interesting ways long before the term “vegan” even was a thing. So anyone who thinks vegan food is boring needs only to broaden their perspective. Indian food, for example, is very vegan-friendly and incredibly diverse. 

Being vegan doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing decision. If you can do a couple of plant-based meals per week to start, that’s still making a difference. If you think you could go vegan but can’t bring yourself to give up eggs or cheese, then, by all means, have your eggs or cheese. Don’t let the label get in the way of trying a plant-based diet! 

What are some of your favourite superfoods that you think people should incorporate into their diet?

I know superfoods are all the rage right now, but I don’t buy into the hype! I think the bigger call is for us to educate ourselves on nutrition, and nutrition specific to our individual lifestyles. That involves reading up about the macro and micronutrients our bodies need, whether your daily diet is providing you with those nutrients in the right quantities, and if not, what kind of supplements you can be taking. 

The term self-care has been co-opted by brands and their marketing, but let’s not forget that learning how to give your body what it needs and tuning into its cues is the ultimate act of self-care. I’ve been massively inspired by Joe Holder’s approach to wellness. He says of wellness “it’s not complex, it’s methodical,” which I’ve taken to mean that nutrition, exercise, mindfulness—none of it is the inaccessible rocket science it’s made out to be. It just needs to be a part of an intentional practice, and that starts with you. You ultimately need to be curious about your own health, be willing to do the work and go about it with some sort of structure and commitment.

After doing research and experimenting with various ingredients, here are the three that have been working for me: dark leafy greens, extra virgin coconut oil, and unfortified nutritional yeast. I eat dark leafy greens with almost every meal, cooking them quickly to make sure they retain all their goodness. I begin the day with a tablespoon of extra virgin coconut oil in my black coffee to regulate my blood sugar levels throughout the day. This is followed by a high-protein, low-carb breakfast, which means I don’t have intense food cravings because my insulin levels are stable. And unfortified nutritional yeast is an underrated gem. It’s a veritable “superfood”—a source of vegan protein, vitamin B, iron, magnesium, zinc, and more. Plus it tastes like cheese, so you can put it into almost any dish for an extra dose of umami. 

What are some of your favourite protein sources and how do you like to cook them? 

Don’t overthink it. Especially if you’re plant-based, the tendency is to worry about not getting enough protein. The key is to incorporate some form of protein into every meal—including snacks. And you don’t have to look too far. 

I’m pretty active, so I do a protein shake in the morning. I choose a raw, organic, soy and dairy-free vegan protein that also includes enzymes for better absorption.  

Nuts are a great source of protein and good fats, perfect for a snack on the go. I stick to raw almonds, cashew, and pistachios. You could also opt for sprouted nuts and seed butter such as sunflower and pumpkin seed butter. I also love (sesame) tahini, which is high in protein, calcium, and good fats. Chia seed puddings made with oat milk and topped with berries are one of my go-to snacks for the midday munchies. 

When it comes to actual meals, beans and lentils are a daily staple—as in most South Asian homes. Most meals I cook tend to include flavourful lentil stews—mung beans, chickpeas, kidney beans, and so on. Thanks to Instagram and the wonderful creators out there who share their recipes freely, there’s never a shortage of ideas and inspiration if I feel like shaking things up. 

And lastly, tempeh. Tempeh is a fermented soy product, which makes it super high in protein but also incredibly good for your gut. Since learning how to make it at home with organic soy, it’s become a convenient and potent form of protein. You can easily find tempeh in your local wet markets or online, and just a quick pan fry with turmeric, salt, and pepper is enough to bring out its nutty, complex flavours.

 Lily’s Vegan Valentine’s Brunch

Sauteed mushrooms with cashew-leek cream and kale on toast

For the leek-cashew cream

  • ½ cup raw cashews, soaked in water overnight
  • ½ cup chopped leeks
  • 1 tsp vegan butter
  • 1 tbsp nutritional yeast
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • ½ cup vegetable stock
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Fry the leeks in vegan butter on high heat with a pinch of salt until soft (about 6 minutes). Add to the rest of the ingredients and blitz to a smooth puree. 

For the sauteed mushrooms

  • 350g mixed mushrooms (you could use oyster, king oyster, shimeji, golden mushrooms, etc) 
  • ½ garlic clove, minced
  • 1 tsp vegan butter/olive oil
  • ½ tsp smoked paprika
  • ½ tsp coriander powder
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • ½ tsp lemon juice

Tear the mushrooms into large pieces with your hands.
Add all the ingredients except butter and lemon juice into a bowl with the mushrooms. Let this marinate for 10-15 minutes at room temperature. 
Add vegan butter/olive oil to a flat pan, and when hot, add the mushrooms. 
Fry for 5-6 minutes, or until the mushrooms are cooked through. Have a taste to make sure the seasoning is right. 

For the kale chips

  • 50g curly kale 
  • 1 tsp olive oil

Wash the kale and pat it dry with a tea towel. Rub with olive oil and place into a hot oven or air fryer at 180C for 2 minutes, or until crisp but not brown. 

To assemble, put a layer of cashew leek cream, top with the mushrooms, and dot with kale chips. Finish with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, and serve with pieces of sourdough toast.

Cheat’s Biscoff Tiramisu

  • 350g tub of plant yoghurt (greek style) 
  • 1 tbsp maple syrup 
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 1/8 tsp baking soda 
  • 1 tsp icing sugar
  • 120ml espresso
  • 12 Biscoff cookies 
  • 2 x 180ml cups for serving
  • 1 tbsp cocoa powder for dusting

Mix the yoghurt, maple syrup, salt, and baking soda together and spoon it into a nut milk bag or some cheesecloth. Tie the top and place it on a colander with a bowl underneath. Let this rest in the fridge overnight (at least 12 hours) 

Put the hung yoghurt into a bowl along with the icing sugar. Use a spatula to incorporate until you have a creamy mix. Your vegan mascarpone is ready!

Break each cookie in half and soak for 2 seconds in the espresso. Place the espresso-soaked cookies into your serving cup. I used 2 full cookies per layer. 

Then spoon over 2-3 tbsp of the vegan mascarpone and smooth this out. Repeat until you’ve filled up the cup (3 layers). 

Refrigerate until you’re ready to serve. This is important, otherwise,, the mascarpone will start to get runny. 

When you’re about to serve, add a final dusting of cocoa powder on top. 

Apfelshorle with a twist 

  • 3 granny smith apples
  • 1 tsp chopped ginger
  • 4 basil leaves
  • 2 tsp lemon juice
  • 300ml soda water
  • Ice cubes to serve
  • Additional basil leaves to garnish

Extract the juice from the apples, ginger, and basil leaves. I use a slow juicer to retain nutrition and flavour, but if you’re using a blender be sure to strain the juice. Stir in the lemon juice. 

Divide into two glasses. Add ice, and top with sparkling water. Garnish with a basil leaf.

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