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Comfort food: plant-based recipes by Leah Itsines

Updated: Mar 25, 2023

Interview and recipe from the self-taught cook and food-blogger!

Leah Itsines with one of the dishes from her latest e-book. (Image: supplied)

Leah Itsines is a self-taught cook and food blogger. She is the author of The Nourishing Cook and founder of the BARE (Balanced And Realistic Eating) Guides.

April: How old were you when you started cooking?

Leah: I’ve been in the kitchen since I was five years old. I've always loved cooking thanks to my amazing mum and yiayia. I learned everything when I was young from these incredible women but now I experiment with new things and learn for myself, which is why I love to teach others all the things I now know.

What advice do you have for university students who might not have much experience cooking for themselves and want to get into it more?

I've endured my fair share of failed or burnt recipes, but you learn as you grow. The more you try, the more confident you'll be, so get in the kitchen and start giving it a go! A great place to start is with my BARE Guides. BARE gives you all the tools you need to enjoy all of your favourite foods and are designed to be quick and easy. You do not need any prior cooking level, our resources will help you throughout your cooking journey. Each week, you will get more and more confident in the kitchen – I promise you that!

When you're creating recipes, what are some of the main things you think about? Do you focus on trying to make recipes simple, or do you just focus on flavour?

BOTH! I love creating healthy meals, but for me, the taste is just as important. I want people to enjoy eating this way, so that they can continue for the rest of their life. All of the recipes I create and that are contained within my BARE Guides are designed to be quick, easy, affordable, nutritious AND delicious. I am a self-taught cook, so I want people with any skill set to be able to cook my recipes and feel comfortable in the kitchen. Not only are the recipes easy, but we have an entire resource section to help you through your cooking journey.

What is your favourite thing to cook? Perhaps your go-to meal or something that has a special memory attached?

My favourite things to cook are those that bring my family together. I express myself through my cooking so knowing that I've created a dish which can be shared and enjoyed with those I love is really important to me. I come from a big Greek family and food has always been an integral part of our lives. I have so many fond memories in my yiayia and pappou's backyard picking their homegrown vegetables and fruits and transforming them into delicious recipes. I guess for me if I had to pick one dish it would be a big slow-cooked roast and stuffed vegetables. It's so wholesome and a must-have at all our gatherings. Although I come pretty close I've admitted I'll never make a stuffed vegetable like yiayia, she hides ingredients I swear!


Leah’s chocolate tart. (Image: supplied)

Recipe: Chocolate tart

  • Serves: 8

  • Prep Time: 10 minutes

  • Fridge Time: 2 hours


  • 1 pastry flan (or 8 mini pastries), baked blind

  • ½ cup coconut cream

  • 200g cooking chocolate or dairy-free chocolate

  • ¼ cup coconut oil

  • 5 medjool dates

  • ½ cup strawberries (extra for topping!)

  • 2 tsp Dijon mustard


  1. Melt the chocolate with the microwave until melted and combined.

  2. In a large blender, add the chocolate mixture, coconut cream, dates, strawberries and mustard. Blend for 1 minute.

  3. Pour the mixture into the pastry flan and place into the fridge to set.

  4. Remove, top with strawberries and serve.

Tip: Choose a dairy-free pastry and dairy-free chocolate for a plant-based dessert.


Recipe: Smashed Maple Pumpkin

  • Serves: 2

  • Prep Time: 10 minutes

  • Cook Time: 35-40 minutes


  • 1 cup kent pumpkin, cut into chunks

  • 2-3 kale leaves, torn

  • 3 mushrooms, sliced

  • Salt and Pepper to taste

  • 1 slice toast

Dressing for pumpkin:

  • Salt and pepper

  • 1 tablespoon honey mustard or Dijon Mustard for a vegan friendly alternative.

  • 1 tsp maple Syrup or honey

  • 1 tbsp olive oil

  • 2 tsp red wine vinegar


  1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius and line a baking tray with baking paper.

  2. Add all ingredients under “dressing” into a bowl and mix well. Reserve 1 tsp of this marinade and coat the pumpkin with the rest.

  3. Place pumpkin onto the baking tray and bake for 30 minutes or until soft.

  4. Meanwhile, in a small pan, heat a small splash of olive oil over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms and season with salt and pepper. Cook for 5 minutes.

  5. Once mushrooms have begun to soften, add kale and leave to lightly wilt. Add the tsp of reserved dressing and stir through.

  6. Serve pumpkin mashed on top of toast and top with the kale and mushroom mix. Sprinkle dukkah on top.


Leah’s latest recipe book, Plant-Based Exploration, is made in collaboration with mustard company Maille and contains 20 plant-based recipes. The e-book can be downloaded for free, here.


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