Behind Closed Doors: Laura Wright

We first fell in love with Laura and her seriously beautiful plant based food over Instagram, and soon became regular readers of her equally genius blog, The First Mess. It was crowned best Special Diet Blog by SAVEUR Magazine and we couldn't agree more! (And we like to think that taking it plant based really IS pretty special.) Read on for a look into her abundant fridge and for her take on a Root Veg Dal.

I eat a lot of fruits and vegetables. I grew up with a family-owned produce store and my diet is 100% plant based. I really just try to feed myself color and vibrancy whenever I can. It’s a gift that I give to myself.

I generally vouch for eating as locally as possible, but I live in a 4 season climate (Ontario, Canada!) with brutal winters. So most of our produce is imported this time of year and I feel totally fine about it! I do what I can with what I have and also take advantage of stored crops like cabbage, carrots and squash.

I develop and photograph recipes for a living for my blog The First Mess, so our refrigerator is pretty much always full to the brim with either straight up whole food ingredients or several recipe test trials in sealed containers. This photo was taken right after a shop and prep session, so it’s quite full and lovely looking.



Here we have our favorite pickles in the entire universe by Grillo’s. They’re crisp and spicy and perfect. Behind those, I have other pickled things like peppers and a few types of sauerkraut from Farmhouse Culture. In the glass containers, there’s some precut vegetables for dipping into hummus and a little mix of roasted vegetables for salads, rice bowls and the like. There’s also some soaked cashews for blending into my coffee and a pre-fab coffee creamer that I bought on a whim but didn’t end up liking very much. Oops!



Here we have some nondairy milk selections. The chocolate Ripple was a first time purchase, but we enjoyed it as a treat quite a bit. I generally prefer to make my own nondairy milk, but when I’m testing recipes, I tend to do so with a store bought carton option for more consistent results that are relatable to my readers. I love the unsweetened coconut milk beverage from So Delicious for that purpose (and just general enjoyment). We also have jars of quinoa cooked up, chickpeas and a batch of root vegetable dal from my cookbook. I freestyle these ingredients all week.

Just over from the main shelf is Anita’s coconut yogurt, which is the best vegan yogurt I’ve tried. So tangy and lush! I love a dollop of it on top of a spicy and creamy soup. There’s also some hummus, dairy-free pesto and chickpea miso from South River. I love using this soy-free miso in salad dressings and sauces or as a flavor boost for soups and broths.



I take these oat based GoodBelly probiotic shots here and there, and they honestly make me feel great. I also really enjoy the taste. The chamomile vanilla one is my favorite. Next to those, there’s more cut vegetables. At this point, I try to reuse any plastic bags, but I’m slowly phasing them out in favor of reusable silicone bags and just more glass containers.

Next to the veg is my favorite salad dressing that I make and keep on hand at all times. Then there’s my La Croix obsession and some kombucha.

The crispers are full of even more fruits and vegetables, obviously!



 I’ve got some very fancy vegan cheeses in here from Treeline, Kite Hill and Miyoko’s. This is also where I keep most of my nuts and seeds. This week I tried my hand at making my own vegan butter (out of cashews and coconut oil), so that’s in here too.

Not shown is my freezer, but it’s mostly frozen bananas, ice, sliced sprouted whole grain bread, 1 litre containers of vegetable stock and bulk quantities of raw nuts. And maybe the odd bag of frozen fries because they’re my weakness ;)



Serves 4 

By Laura Wright

This thin and fragrant lentil stew recipe was quite popular with my recipe testers when I was developing my cookbook. A bunch of them told me they had already started working it into their weeknight dinner rotation. With the “throw it all in the pot” preparation method, I totally understand why. I’m usually skeptical of one pot dinners that don’t coax the flavor out of the aromatics, but in this context it totally works. Whether you serve it over rice or quinoa, or with some warm flatbread, this cozy pot is a perfectly simple and delicious supper for cold days.


1 cup (250 mL) red split lentils, rinsed

1 cup (250 mL) finely diced root vegetables of your choice, such as carrots, celery root and beets

1 small yellow onion, finely diced

1 cup (250 mL) cherry or grape tomatoes, halved

4 cloves garlic, minced

2-inch (5 cm) piece of fresh ginger, peeled and minced

1 teaspoon (5 mL) ground turmeric

Pinch of dried chili flakes

3 1⁄2 cups (875 mL) filtered water

Salt and pepper to taste

2 tablespoons (30 mL) virgin coconut oil

1⁄2 teaspoon (2 mL) cumin seeds

1⁄2 teaspoon (2 mL) coriander seeds

1⁄2 teaspoon (2 mL) mustard seeds

1⁄3 cup (75 mL) chopped fresh cilantro leaves, for garnish

Lemon wedges, for serving


To a medium soup pot, add the rinsed lentils, diced root vegetables, diced onion, tomatoes, garlic, ginger, turmeric and chili flakes. Pour the water into the pot and give everything a little stir.

Place the pot on the stove over medium heat. Bring to a boil and then simmer for about 40 minutes, whisking the dal often. Toward the end, the lentils should be completely broken down. In the last 10 minutes of cooking, whisk the dal vigorously to encourage the breaking down of the lentils. It should appear quite soupy. Season the dal generously with salt and pepper. Keep warm.

Heat the coconut oil in a small sauté pan over medium high heat. Add the cumin seeds, coriander seeds and mustard seeds. Once the seeds are fragrant and popping, remove from the heat.

Gently spoon the toasted spice oil (with the whole spices) on top of the dal. You can lightly stir it in if you like. You can also portion the dal out first and then spoon the spice oil on top if you like. Garnish the dal with the chopped cilantro. Serve the dal hot with lemon wedges.

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