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More and more folk are opting to go vegan and the trend is giving some home chefs headaches. How do you celebrate the festive season without all the yummy traditional treats? Vegetarian is one thing, but now… No dairy? No eggs? No gelatin? Don’t worry, you can turn out a spread that is 100 percent guilt- free and totally delicious at the same time. Put a buffet together that covers the bases: two hot, baked dishes; two grain-based salads; two fresh salads; a platter of luxury items - some delicious spreads with freshly baked rye or sour dough bread; and finish off with a huge fruit and nut salad and a jammy pudding from last month’s recipes, topped with coconut cream. Let’s go:

Hot Baked Dish 1

Use sweet potatoes (red) and butternut for this one. Clean, peel, cut into chunks and place in an oven pan. Add sliced red onion; finely sliced fresh ginger; several cloves of garlic; three whole red chillies, de- seeded if you like; and one or two limes, quartered. Toss with the chopped vegetables. Using your hands, work in a combination of Himalayan salt; cracked black pepper; turmeric powder; jeera powder, cumin powder; smoked paprika powder until everything is well-coated. Now add olive oil. Be generous. These ingredients need to “fry” from above and below to get that special crispy outside and soft tender inside. Place in an oven pre-heated to 200 – 210 o C. Turn regularly. Do not remove until you have exactly the texture you want. Serve hot, hot, hot, straight from the oven, sprinkled with fresh coriander.

Hot Baked Dish 2

You will need lots of big brown mushrooms, chopped very finely, plus some red onion and some garlic also minced. Heat some oil in a big pan, fry the onion and garlic gently until tender, add mushrooms. Let them yield their juice, then keep cooking until all that juice has reduced. Now add two blocks of fresh tofu, mashed, and mix into the mushroom mix. Add two cups of milled nuts - preferably almonds but hazelnuts, walnuts or cashews also work well. Continue to cook, stirring and working the mixture together. You should have quite a stiff paste in the pan. Season well. Turn into a shallow round oven-proof pan, pat down, sprinkle with sesame seeds and bake at 180 o C until sesame seeds are golden. Slice like a cake.

Grain Salad 1

Use buckwheat (for the gluten-free folk at your table). Cook as per instructions. (I soak and steam my buckwheat, but it cooks just as well if cooked like rice.) Set aside to cool. Black beans are the best for this delicious salad, but if you don’t have them, use red pinto beans, completely drained and rinsed. Toss into the buckwheat with two forks, being careful not to break up the beans. Fry some finely chopped red pepper in olive oil along with some garlic and some fresh chillies. Pour this, including the oil, over the grain and pulse mixture. Snip lightly soaked sun-dried tomatoes into small shreds and add. Toast pumpkin seeds and pine nuts and sprinkle on top. Make a dressing from blending fresh lemon juice, tahini paste, olive oil and finely chopped basil. Serve dressing in a bottle.

Grain Salad 2

Cook enough black rice to serve your table. Wait for it to cool and then add grilled baby Roma tomatoes (well-seasoned); any of the vegan protein products available, cut and fried (Linda McCartney’s sausages are fabulous for this); toasted hazelnuts; and de-pitted black olives. Shake some balsamic vinegar and olive oil in a jar along with salt, pepper, minced garlic; and chopped parsley. Pour over the salad. Just before serving, cut avos in quarters and pile on top.

Fresh Salads Choose your favourites, with dressings on the side. On a big platter set out a variety of hummus; guacamole; pestos; spicy bean pastes; olives; pickled artichokes; fresh red pepper slices; lightly steamed asparagus; etc.

Fruit Salad Ditch the old-fashioned pineapple, orange and apple mix. Best made fresh, choose grapes, plums, apricots and nectarines, or go the watermelon route. Make syrups from fresh ginger root or flower teas, to drizzle over them. Serve with coconut cream and almond shavings.


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