Restaurant Review: Veganising ‘Kream’

by Anda Mtshemla

Walking though the restaurant-lined aisle of Mall of Africa’s outdoor court area, a row of bold, black and white sculptured chairs with mask-like faces moulded into their backs stopped mine and my sister’s hungry hearts as we stepped in. Completely distracted by the hip decor, we were blissfully unaware that our vegan selves, were walking into a restaurant called called Kream with a “K.”

We were welcomed by a warm hostess who managed to seat us almost immediately despite the buzzing restaurant being near capacity. We were then offered a selection of fresh breads to choose from, served with a quartet of spreads which included a biltong butter, garlic butter and olive tapenade. We enjoyed our ciabatta slices dry.

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Fresh slices of ciabatta with butter, biltong butter, garlic butter and olive tapanede

A quick look through the menu and we quickly realise this stylish, modern atmosphere is matched by equally stylish and modern cuisine; boasting dishes like Foie Gras and Gourmet Sushi as well as an established wine list and specialised drinks menu with a wide variety of cocktails.

After getting to know the menu, we were approached by yet another host, who ran us through that Saturday’s Chef’s Specials, which included a chargrilled steak and other meats, which of course weren’t dishes that suited our taste. Upon asking about what he would recommend for vegans, the host mentioned an array of salads as well as a thai curry which wasn’t on the menu, but could be made as per our request.

After a few minutes, my lunch date and I decided on a poached pear and walnut salad, which we veganised by requesting that they leave out the goat’s cheese; and created a little sushi platter for ourselves from their selection of vegetable sushi rolls. While I’m not big on salad, the salad we ordered was so fresh, luscious and perfectly dressed, my sister and I considered sending compliments to the chef.

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Port-poached pear and Walnut Salad alongside vegetable sushi rolls

While we did ask that our sushi be made with no mayonnaise my sister noticed some oozing out the sides of the fashion sandwiches we ordered. We made our waiter aware, three members of staff came to apologise for the mix up and brand new, mayonnaise-less fashion sandwiches were brought to our table.

We spent a cool R400 (including tip) which I felt was reasonable, considering the fact that this is a fancy-pants kind of spot. While there weren’t a bunch of vegan options on the menu, Kream’s willingness to cater for us, their exceptional service as well as the modern decor and trendy atmosphere, means this restaurant will definitely be getting another visit from me.

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The World’s Best Vegan Pancakes

by Anda Mtshemla

Seeing that it’s been three months since my last post, it was going to take something very special to bring me out of my uninspired state. And it seems that a little weekend away from my fast-paced life as a vegan mogul (lol, what?) did the trick.

I don’t think I can take credit for this recipe as I’m sure I’ve seen many ones like it online. However, I will take credit for putting my family and all of you on to this as the BEST vegan pancake recipe in the world. I mean, how can it not be, with only 4 ingredients used to achieve the perfect mixture of sweet crispness and light fluffiness? Not to mention, I made these while on a weekend away at an Airbnb, so you can imagine my resources were limited but they still came out spectacularly.

As someone with an affinity for pancakes (because dessert for breakfast), I’ve tried many versions vegan pancakes. In an earlier version of this recipe I used sunflower oil instead of bananas as I wanted to achieve a more neutral flavour. I used bananas for the first time a few weeks ago and fell in love with this version. Unless you’re highly allergic to banana, I would strongly urge you to try this recipe– you will not regret it!

You will need:

1 1/2 cups milk alternative

2 ripe bananas

2 cups all purpose flour

1 tsp baking soda

Method:

In a large bowl, mash bananas with a fork until they form an egg-like consistency

To this, add milk and whisk until well combined

Add dry ingredients to wet and mix until just combined (its going to be lumpy, thats okay)

Heat up non-stick pan to medium-low heat

Spoon about a quarter cup’s worth of the mixture into the pan for each pancake

Once bubbles have formed on the surfaces of the pancake and the edges appear dry, flip the pancake and allow about 30seconds for the other side to cook

Serve warm with syrup or whichever toppings you prefer

 

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Vegan Pancakes served with golden syrup

The Sweet Potato Brownies

by Anda Mtshemla

It’s become a bit of an obsession of mine to incorporate fruits and veggies into as many dishes as I possibly can– especially desserts. Adding veggies to a vegan sweet treat makes something that already feels guilt-free (since you’ve eliminated the animal products) actually feel good for you, not that I needed any more reasons to eat dessert!

I add sweet potatoes to every variation of brownies that I make (see here), but I especially love it for this baked version because it creates an unreal, fudgy texture that I love in brownies.

You will need:

1 large sweet potato, peeled and diced

3/4 cup cocoa powder

1/4 cup canola oil

1/2 cup almond milk

1 cup all-purpose flour/almond flour if you’re GF

1 cup brown sugar (add more if you prefer a sweeter brownie)

Method:

Preheat oven to 180°C

Line 20cm square baking tin with baking paper and set aside

Boil sweet potato until tender

Drain and puree sweet potato

Add oil and sugar into sweet potato and blend until well combined

Add flour and milk to mixture and blend until combined

Add cocoa powder and blend mixture until smooth

Pour brownie mixture into baking tin and bake for 30-35mins

Once baked, allow to cool, slice into squares and serve with a light dusting of confectionery sugar

 

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Vegan Sweet Potato Brownies made with almond flour and dusted with icing sugar

 

 

The Stuffed Gem Squash

by Anda Mtshemla

Like most people, I’m still working on improving my relationship with veggies. I could likely count on one hand the number of vegetables I actually eat for enjoyment rather than for nutritional value. Gem squash, I must say, is not on the “eating for enjoyment” list. In fact, I find it a little obscure and kind of an annoying vegetable. Okay, so you’re like, a tiny pumpkin? Congratulations on being the bland, underachieving member of the squash family.

Gem squash, I must say, is not on the “eating for enjoyment” list. In fact, I find it a little obscure and kind of an annoying vegetable. Like, okay, you’re a tiny pumpkin? Congratulations on being the bland, underachieving member of the squash family.

All squash comparisons aside though, even I have found a way to enjoy this veggie that always finds it’s way into my mom’s pantry and stares me in the face, practically daring me to love eating it.

You will need:

3 gem squash, halved

1 cup white quinoa

1 cup mushrooms, sliced

1 red onion, diced

2 cups vegetable stock

salt and pepper to taste

nutritional yeast (optional)

Method:

Scoop out the seeds of each half of gem squash

Season each with salt and pepper

Place each half, face down, onto a baking tray

Place into 180°C oven for 15-20mins

while those bake away…

Over medium heat, cook your onions  in a saucepan until translucent

Add mushrooms and stir until all is cooked

Set the onion and mushrooms aside

Add quinoa to saucepan along with half of the vegetable stock

Stir quinoa until stock is absorbed then add the remainder of the stock, cover and leave to simmer until fully absorbed

Spoon quinoa into gem squash halves and top each one with the onion and mushroom mixture

Sprinkle nutritional yeast over top if desired and serve

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Quinoa stuffed gem squash, which I dared to make delicious

 

 

How To Go Vegan In 6 Easy Steps

by Anda Mtshemla

vegan

noun veg·an \ˈvē-gən 
a strict vegetarian who consumes no food (such as meat, eggs, or dairy products) that comes from animals; also:  one who abstains from using animal products (such as leather)
(Merriam-Webster)

Since going vegan nearly a year ago now, I’ve seen so many positive changes in my life; my skin cleared up, my grades improved, I got a job– all, obviously, direct results of a plant-based diet. Since good health is trending, I figured I’ve done my share of stumbling clumsily through veganism so, I’ve turned my biggest challenges into a list that will help you in starting your vegan journey successfully.

1. DON’T GO COLD TURKEY

Despite this being bad for obvious vegan reasons, jumping straight from consuming animal products regularly to a completely plant-based diet might really shock your body. While I doubt the switch will actually negatively affect your body, it may make it difficult to curb animal product cravings in the future, should they come.

Start slow; a good start is, of course, cutting out all meat products and replacing them with imitations. Next, let go of the cheese and other dairy products. Continue to cut out and replace things from your diet like this until you have fully transitioned.

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via GIPHY

2. GIVE YOUR PANTRY A MAKEOVER

Unless you follow a meat and egg-dense paleo diet, I truly believe that any food cupboard can easily be transformed into a vegan paradise. You will be surprised how much of what you already have is perfectly suitable for vegan consumption so don’t go getting rid of everything in your pantry just yet.

Since we’ve decided on a slow transition into veganism, when say, your mayonnaise finishes, replace it with vegan mayo. Try a different bag of chips instead of the non-vegan variation you usually buy. Swap your honey for agave or maple syrup, opt for soy or almond milk next time you run out of dairy. The possibilities are endless!

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via GIPHY

If you need a little help setting up your pantry, click here.

3. LEARN HOW TO READ “VEGAN”

While there are the obviously vegan food products in stores like fresh produce and the few clearly marked items, there are a plethora of things in the store that aren’t necessarily marketed as vegan or labelled as such but perfectly fine for you to eat.

The best way to go about finding out if a food item is vegan is to turn it over and search the ALLERGENS first. If there is no milk, eggs or any of the obvious non-vegan ingredients, that’s one tick for it. Next, look for the “E numbers.” This one is a little bit trickier but easy to get the hang of since there aren’t that many that are animal derived. E22, for instance, is gelatine and should be avoided. E992 is beeswax which as a vegan, you’ll likely not want to eat. Once you’re clear on those two things, throw it in the basket!

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via GIPHY

Here’s a comprehensive list of all the E numbers that you can keep handy for uncertain moments. If you’re still unclear on whether something is vegan, you can always Google!

4. PLAN YOUR MEALS

Once you’ve got your pantry right, create a meal plan with what you have. This is not in a miserable, dieting kind of way but more a way for you to get into the vegan swing of things. Collect recipes you’d like to try and meals you know you’ll enjoy, and note them so you know what you’ll be preparing for every meal. Trust me, your experience is going to be far more enjoyable if you’re not worrying about what you’re going to make for dinner.

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5. BE CREATIVE WHEN EATING OUT

Food has become extremely social in our modern society; we eat to celebrate, you go out for a meal with friends to catch up and at times, you may even be eating purely to pass time. For this reason, when you become vegan, you may start to feel frustrated in social situations as vegan options are sometimes difficult to come by.

American rapper, Andre 3000 said in Esquire,  “I was a hardcore vegan for fifteen years. I’ve even done raw. But socially it became horrible. I was kind of just sitting at home eating a salad. You become mean. That’s not good for you,” which, I get, but I couldn’t disagree with the man more.

Don’t be afraid to ask what vegan options are available at a restaurant; some restaurants have entire vegan menus that are available on request, so you don’t have to be content with a salad or plate of chips. Alternatively, search Happy Cow for a vegan-friendly restaurant near you and suggest it next time you go out to eat with friends. Take your own snacks along to parties and events etc. Don’t be like Andre.

6. FOLLOW 24KARROTS

Yeah.

No, but on a serious note, the vegan community isn’t very well established, especially in South Africa so it’s important to garner inspiration from all corners of the Internet and align yourself with people that get it. There are a number of groups on Facebook where vegans share experiences, recipes, vegan finds and most importantly, memes.

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A little extra guidance…

Vegan-friendly products and restaurants in South Africa: Click Here
Vegan Society SA Facebook page: Click Here
The video that helped me quit dairy: Click Here
The most important documentary in vegan history: Click Here
Vitamins and deficiencies: Click Here
DISCLAIMER: The statements expressed in this article are not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Readers should seek their own professional counsel for any medical condition before starting or altering any dietary plan.

 

The 3-Ingredient Apple Pie Pockets

by Anda Mtshemla

One of my favourite things about grocery shopping is finding accidentally vegan items. My latest “Not-Made-For-Vegans-But-Perfectly-Suitable-For-Them-To-Eat” discovery is ready-made puff pastry. The stuff famous for being packed with a tonne of butter to produce its flaky texture? Yup, vegan.

While most store-bought variations are vegan, there are some brands that contain animal products so make sure you read the ingredient list.

For this recipe, I’ve used this amazing accidentally vegan find as a shortcut to one of my favourite desserts at the moment and yes, you only need three things!

You will need:

1 cup applesauce

1 roll puff pastry (400g)

splash of soy milk (to be used as egg wash)

Method:

Pre-heat oven to 180°C

Roll and smooth out the puff pastry sheet

Cut the pastry sheet into equal sized rectangles (a sheet this size gets you about 12 rectangles)

Spoon the applesauce into the centre of half of the rectangles, leaving room around the edges

Place the empty pastry rectangles on top of the applesauce filled ones, gently pressing down the edges of each one

Secure the edges of each pie pocket by gently pressing them down with a fork

Lightly score each of the pie pockets and brush generously with soy milk

Place in the pre-heated oven to bake for 12-15mins

Serve warm and enjoy on its own or with a serving of vegan ice cream

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3-Ingredient vegan apple pie pocket

The 3-Ingredient Chocolate Mousse

by Anda Mtshemla

As a vegan, most chocolate products are pretty much out so you’ll find yourself consuming a lot less chocolate. The upside, I’ve found, is that you consume higher quality chocolate because, with the animal products omitted from the chocolate you’re eating, there’s a lot more room for that cocoa to shine.

This is an important thing to remember for this next recipe. Since we’ll be using a little bit of an unconventional ingredient, you need to make sure you find a good quality cocoa powder, or just one you know you enjoy, to use because that’s what’s really going to transform the flavour of this simple dessert.

You will need:

1/4 cup cocoa powder (sub for cacao if raw vegan)

2 tablespoons sweetener of choice (agave, maple syrup, granulated sugar)

SECRET INGREDIENT: 2 ripe avocados

If you prefer a richer, more chocolatey mousse, you can skip the sweetner in the recipe completely!

Method:

Scoop avocados into blender along with your sweetener

Blend until completely smooth

Blend again while gradually adding cocoa powder

Serve as is or refrigerate and serve chilled

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Delicious and Healthy 3-Ingredient Rich Chocolate Mousse

 

The No-Bake Carrot Cake Bites

by Anda Mtshemla

Ever since my month-long raw vegan journey in February, I’ve been loving incorporating more raw foods into my diet. Raw foods are not only said to be better for you, as you avoid cooking away the nutrients in your food, but I’ve personally fallen in love with this diet because it encourages me to eat more whole foods which, even as a vegan, I often struggle to do.

I particularly enjoy creating raw vegan desserts because, I don’t know if you’ve noticed, I have a major sweet tooth. And there is nothing more fulfilling than a dessert that satisfies your sweet tooth without experiencing any guilt!

You will need:

2 large carrots, grated

1 cup coconut flour

1/2 cup dates

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

1 teaspoon ginger, minced

desiccated coconut, for coating

Method:

Puree dates then incorporate coconut flour

Add the carrots, spices, and ginger then stir until mixture is a cookie dough-like texture

Scoop the mixture and roll into bite-size balls

Coat the balls in coconut and refrigerate overnight or until firm

 

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Raw Vegan Carrot Cake Bites– and a great new way to repurpose your old egg tray!

 

 

 

 

 

The Homemade Applesauce

by Anda Mtshemla

Applesauce is one of those versatile ingredients that can be added to a variety of dishes and absolutely make it. Whether you use it as an egg replacer when baking, a sweetener for smoothies or just to add that classic apple-pie flavour to your morning oats, it’s a staple for every vegan pantry.

While most store-bought variations of this smooth, sweet stuff are vegan, they’re packed with sugar and preservatives and I’m of the belief that if you can make something at home healthily, cheaply and easily, you should.

My favourite thing about this recipe is that it’s a great way to put your overripe apples to good use– plus the natural sugars your ripened fruits have developed will make for an even better sauce!

You will need:

(for 1 cup of apple sauce)

6-8 small apples, peeled and cored

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1/2 cup water

sweetener, optional

Method:

Peel and core the apples then place in a large pot over medium-low heat

Add lemon juice and stir until apples are coated (add sweetener now too, if you choose)

Pour in water and give a final stir before covering

Leave to simmer for 20mins or until tender

Drain and allow to cool before pureeing in a food processor or blender

Store in airtight container and refrigerate for up to two weeks

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Homemade applesauce, ready to use

 

 

 

 

The 3-Ingredient Quinoa Risotto

by Anda Mtshemla

I know. You’re probably rolling your eyes wondering what kind of click-bait I’ve led you to now, but this is not a drill. You really do only need three essential ingredients to create this creamy and flavour packed risotto.

We’re using quinoa, so you’re not going to need to slave over the stove as you would with regular risotto, and you get to reap the health benefits of adding quinoa to your diet!

You will need:

1 cup white quinoa

450ml vegetable stock

1 cup chopped mushrooms

Method:

Place a large frying pan over medium-high heat

Pour the quinoa into pan and stir gently for 1 minute

Add a splash of stock and stir until combined

Pour half of the stock in the pan and stir until stock has absorbed

Add the mushrooms and combine well with quinoa

Pour in the remaining stock and allow mixture to simmer for 8-10minutes, or until stock has absorbed

Serve immediately as is, or add fresh thyme to garnish.

 

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Creamy mushroom and quinoa risotto served with fresh thyme