Vegetarian Entertaining in The Holiday Season

 2 rules when entertaining:

  1. Feed delicious food (and drink) to your guests

  2. Enjoy yourself!

The theme for 2018 has been: “Healthy You – Healthy Planet” – and how to sustain a healthy lifestyle without having a negative impact on the environment.

We know that plant-based diets are environmentally better than meat-based diets.                                      

Meat farming (especially beef farming), also cheese, dairy and fish farming impacts enormously on our environment.  This is because meat farming is extremely inefficient in converting natural resources into edible products. Water use, land use, biomass appropriation and greenhouse gas emissions are the main issues, their usage being extremely high per unit of edible product.

We also know that there are countless benefits to being vegetarian / vegan …. Amongst other things it is cheaper to consume a meat-free diet! And of course, all the health benefits of making vegetarian food choices (within the context of a balanced diet) are countless, inter alia vegetarians have: lower blood cholesterol levels, reduced risk of heart disease, lower blood pressure levels and reduced risk of stroke, reduced risk of developing type 2 diabetes, lower BMIs, lower overall cancer rates. This is all because vegetarian diets tend to be: lower in saturated fat and cholesterol, higher in dietary fibre, magnesium, potassium, vitamins C and E, folate, carotenoid, flavonoids and other phytochemicals (which have incredible health benefits!).

And now we approach the Festive Season: in South Africa we love our braai’s and social gatherings… late summer evenings spent with family and friends. So – here are some tips how to do this, the vegetarian way!

What to Braai?

  • Veggies like mielies, peppers, and veggie kebabs: cook over a moderate heat (prevents the veggies from being scorched, but still gives them that smoky flavour that you only get from cooking over a fire).
  • Cook directly over the coals on the grid: mielies, stuffed butternut, stuffed/plain peppers; also garlic bread wrapped in foil, potatoes (also wrapped in foil) on the grid or even done in the coals (for a delicious crispy outer skin).
  • Use a hinged grid over your coals to cook large brown mushrooms, veggie burgers, veggie sausages and aubergine steaks.
  • Use foil roasting trays for butternut and potato bake
  • Why not have a potjie?! Great for vegetarian curries, stews and soups

Below are a few good old South African dishes, ideal for the braai, and made the vegetarian way:

  • Lowveld Country Sausages served with pap and tomato relish
  • Kebabs: roasted cherry tomato and red pepper OR kidney bean kofta
  • Butternut and potato bake done on the coals
  • Aubergine steaks

Lowveld Country Sausages

Ingredients

For the Tomato Relish:

2Tbs oil

1 large onion, peeled and chopped

2 garlic cloves, chopped

4 large tomatoes, chopped

1 small chilli (or to taste), deseeded and chopped

2tsp dried oregano

1Tbs brown sugar

Salt and black pepper to taste

1 cup (250ml) water

Handful of parsley, roughly chopped, to serve

For the Lowveld Country Sausages:

3Tbs Vegetable/Soy Oil

1tsp paprika

8 Fry’s country-style Sausages

8 hot dog rolls

Method (ON THE BRAAI)

Tomato relish:

  • Heat the oil in a heavy-based saucepan over medium coals.
  • Sauté the chopped onion and garlic until golden and softened.
  • Add the chopped tomatoes, chilli, oregano and sugar. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  • Add the water and stir gently. Simmer for 15-20minutes, stirring occasionally, until it thickens. Add a little more water if it starts to catch. Keep warm until required.
  • Add the parsley just before serving – and give it a quick stir.

Lowveld country sausages:

  • Combine the oil and paprika in a small ramekin and baste the sausages.
  • Braai the sausages on a grid over medium heat, turning after 5 minutes. Continue basting and turning the sausages until they are cooked through.
  • Place each sausage into a fresh hot dog roll and tope with a generous serving of relish.

OR serve the sausages with mieliepap/stywe pap and a generous serving of relish!

 

What about the traditional ROAST?

Meat-/poultry-free and done in the oven!

Instead of meat, one can use nuts as a protein source, for something completely different and yet totally delicious. Try this “Nut Roast”, courtesy of Jamie Oliver, and serve this with roast butternut, and some delicious salads including a grain salad (like couscous / quinoa).

NUT ROAST

Ingredients

Olive oil

100g quinoa

500g butternut, peel and deseed, cube

2 onions, peeled and diced

2 sticks celery, chop into chunks

200g chestnuts (available in SA in speciality stores, either fresh or tinned)

2 sprigs fresh rosemary

1tsp paprika

1tsp dried oregano

2 large brown mushrooms, roughly chopped

1 lemon

60g breadcrumbs

120g dried apricots, chopped

150g mixed unsalted nuts

4 large eggs

40g mature cheddar cheese

Method

  • Preheat the oven to 180°
  • Take a large sheet of greaseproof paper, wet it, scrunch it up and then use it to line a greased 1.5l loaf tin, leaving a bit of overhand at the ends to help you lift out your nut roast later.
  • Cook the quinoa, and allow to cool
  • Place the butternut, onion and celery into a large roasting tray; crumble in the chestnuts, strip in the rosemary, add in the paprika, oregano, salt and black pepper, and 2Tbs oil, and toss well. Roast for 40 minutes, adding in the mushrooms for the last 10 minutes.
  • Remove the tray from the oven and tip everything into the quinoa bowl. Finely grate in half the lemon zest, add the bread crumbs and the chopped apricots and nuts. Crack in the eggs and mix well. Transfer to the lined loaf tin, piling it up high. Roast for 40 minutes or until golden and gnarly.
  • With 30minutes to go make the sauce. On the hob heat 1Tbs oil in a roasting tray on medium heat. Leaving them joined at the stalk, halve the chilies lengthways, and then add to the tray with the cinnamon for 5 minutes, stirring regularly. Meanwhile, peel and slice the garlic. Scoop the chilies and cinnamon out of the tray and put aside, then add the garlic, strip in most of the thyme leaves and cook for 5 minutes. Drain, chop and add the peppers, pour in the tinned tomatoes and 1 tin’s worth water, breaking up the tomatoes with a wooden spoon, then add the balsamic and a pinch of salt. Bring to the boil and simmer for 20 minutes, or until thickened and reduced, stirring occasionally.
  • Lift the nut roast out of the tin and sit it in the sauce, discarding the paper. Grate over the cheese, pop a chilli on top with the remaining thyme sprigs and drizzle with a little oil. Return the other chilies and cinnamon to the sauce. Roast for a final 15 minutes, then leave to stand for 5 minutes. Finely chop and stir as much as the chilli as you prefer into the sauce.
  • Slice the nut roast – and ENJOY!

 

Another super vegan celebratory dish, is the Moroccan Vegan M’Hanncha (M’Hanncha means snake): basically a wrap of smashed veggies and grains: crunchy on the outside and soft in the middle: very tasty and full of texture!

For casual, spur of the moment social events, don’t forget delicious pasta dishes like spinach pasta with a sweet squash, nut, sage and ricotta filling OR Lentil Lasagna, OR ravioli with a ricotta-spinach filling and a tasty tomato-based topping.

 

Snacks

That are vegan, totally delicious, and even healthy! Your meat-eating friends will devour them all!

  • Try the platter of crudities: carrots, celery, cherry tomatoes, falafels – and dips such as cream cheese, hummus, sour cream,
  • What about sun-dried tomato and hummus wedges (take 2 wraps, spread with hummus, add chopped sun-dried tomatoes and fresh parsley on top, drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper to taste, cover with 2 more wraps, and cut in quarters to form wedges0
  • Spring rolls with vegetarian fillings: e.g. a mixture of lightly fried onion, garlic, grated carrots and baby marrows sprinkled with a little flour … simmer til soft, and then add lemon juice, coriander, salt and pepper: use 2Tbs/wrapper of this mix, then deep fry til crisp and golden).
  • Spicy bean balls
  • Chick pea cakes/balls

And what about Soy?

Add SOY into your holiday cuisine – the best vegetarian/vegan protein available: here are some tasty soy dishes; it’s time to experiment with 2 new ingredients: TOFU and EDAMAME:

TOFU

(Soy bean curd: prepared by coagulating soy milk and then pressing the resulting curds into soft white blocks. It is traditionally used a lot in East Asian and Southeast Asian dishes. It can be soft, firm or extra firm). It has 76 calories; <5g fat; and 8g protein per 100g.

Try this recipe:

TOFU TIKKA MASALA

Ingredients:

1 x 480g block of firm tofu

2tsp turmeric

3Tbs garam masala

2Tbs red chilli powder (optional)

3Tbs cornstarch

2Tbs soybean oil

1 large onion, sliced

1Tbs ginger, minced

2 x 410g can diced tomatoes

½ cup frozen peas

Salt to taste

1 ½ cup soymilk

 

Method:

  • Remove tofu from package, drain, press wrap it with paper towels, place a heavy can/plate on top and let it stand for half an hour)
  • Heat 1Tbs oil in a non-stick pan: add onion, ginger and garlic. Stir often til onion starts to brown (4-6min), and add 1tsp turmeric, 1Tbs garam masala, and 1Tbs red chilli powder. Cook for 1-2minutes, and then add canned tomatoes.
  • Stir everything together, and cook 5-8minutes.add frozen peas, and simmer for 1-2minutes.The mixture becomes thick once cooked. At this point remove from the heat, and once cooled down, puree it, and set aside.
  • Discard the water from the tofu and cut into cubes. Toss in remaining spices and cornstarch to coat tofu pieces evenly.
  • Heat another pan with 1Tbs oil. Pan fry tofu 2-3 minutes on each side until it is evenly browned on all sides.
  • Simmer the tomato puree over low heat and slowly transfer the pan fried tofu into the skillet until heated through.

EDAMAME

(A preparation of immature soybeans in the pod, also used in Asian dishes)

Summer Garden Paella (vegetarian)

Ingredients:

1 cup brown rice, uncooked

2 ½ cups water

¼ cup chopped onion

2 ½ cups frozen mixed vegetables

1 ½ tsp turmeric

1tsp onion powder

1 ½ tsp cayenne pepper

2tsp garlic powder

½ tsp ginger

1Tbs soya sauce

2Tbs tahini

1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed

½ cup dry-roasted edamame

Greek yoghurt

 

Method:

  • Cook the rice in boiling water on high for 8 minutes.
  • Reduce heat to medium and add onion, mixed vegetables, spices, soy sauce, tahini and chickpeas. Stir thoroughly.
  • Reduce heat to low, cover with lid and cook for 10 minutes.
  • Remove from heat and add dry-roasted edamame.
  • Serve with a dollop of Greek yoghurt.

And for Dessert?

 And lastly – here are a few recipes incorporating soy into SWEET desserts

 

SOY SILKEN DARK CHOCOLATE PUDDING

Ingredients:

340g silken tofu, drained

2/3 cup dark unsweetened cocoa powder

1 cup castor sugar

1tsp vanilla extract

Orly Whip/ Cream (optional)

 

Method:

Blend all ingredients except whipped topping in a food processor, until well pureed and very smooth. Pour into bowls and put in the fridge to set.

 

Variations:

  • Raspberry Chocolate Soy Pudding: layer pudding with fresh raspberries and whipped topping
  • Mexican-style Chocolate Soy Pudding: Stir in a pinch of ground cinnamon and cayenne pepper to taste, layer with whipped topping and top with chocolate shavings
  • Caramel Banana Chocolate Soy Pudding: layer pudding with banana slices and whipped topping; drizzle with caramel sauce.

 

FRESH FRUIT AND BERRY CRUMBLE

(This recipe uses soy oil: refer to article on the health benefits of soy bean oil)

Ingredients:

4 cups mixed fresh berries

1Tbs sugar

1/3 cup Nutty Wheat Flour

1/3 cup rolled oats

1/3 cup brown sugar, packed

3 Tbs Soy Oil

 

Method:

  • Preheat oven to 180°; Grease 20cm pie dish
  • Place berries in baking dish, sprinkle with sugar
  • Combine flour, oats, brown sugar and soy oil in small bowl. Mix with fork or finger tips until crumbly. Sprinkle over berry mixture.
  • Bake for 20-25minutes until topping is light golden brown and fruit mixture is bubbly around the edges.