Whether it’s for health and wellbeing, caring for animals or the climate crisis, plant-based eating is gaining momentum and popping up everywhere – even at braais.
The shift in global consciousness has seen a huge rise in the plant-based food lifestyle. At the same time, scientific knowledge is showing the effect of our patterns and habits of food consumption, leading to greater thought around food choices.
There are now plant-based alternatives and substitutes for almost all animal-based food products. So while we’re still enjoying the summer here in Mzansi, let’s look at how we can integrate plant-based foods into one of our favourite meals – the braai. Yes, we definitely have a choice now, and we need to be aware of various diet considerations. Here’s what to consider.
Most vegetables are suitable for a braai, but some more so than others. Vegetables with high water content, like leafy greens or cucumbers, do not do well, but there are exceptions, like tomatoes, kale, romaine lettuce and watermelon.
There are two types of grilling, either straight onto the grill or foil-wrapped. If it’s a direct grill, cut your veggies into pieces that will not fall into the coals but are sliced thinly enough not to take long on the fire. Peppers, asparagus, corn, cauliflower, peppers, cabbage, green beans, large mushrooms and baby marrow are some of the veggies best grilled direct. Small veggies can also be put on skewers if cooked direct or you can use foil to bake small vegetables like baby tomatoes, mushrooms, baby carrots and onions. For perfect, crisp and tender braaied veggies, keep an eye on the grill, making sure the heat is even and grilling times cater for various textures.
A homemade marinade is your best bet for added taste when grilling vegetables. It also helps to avoid sticking and gives that chargrilled, smoky flavour. Start by basting with sunflower or olive oil to prevent them from drying out. Balsamic vinegar adds great flavour, along with salt and pepper. Experiment with other seasonings like garlic, ginger, paprika, rosemary and other fresh herbs for added zing. For a great-tasting marinade try to use fresh ingredients. Soft vegetables don’t need as much time in the marinade as hard vegetables.
With all the summer abundance available right now, you’re spoilt for choice when it comes to appetisers. Use legumes like beans and sorghum or grains like red rice in salads for low-carb options and leave out the bread. Think brinjal (eggplant) bruschetta – layer chopped tomatoes, basil and garlic on grilled eggplant or kale leaves sprinkled with oil and salt and pepper to taste. Get creative!
Substitute baked goods with fruits – in this heat who can say no to a sweet juicy watermelon? Fruits have natural sugar, which is slightly better than added or artificial sugars. The simple date ball mixed with cacao has made a comeback – try it for the perfect, healthy option to replace sweets or chocolate. Find a recipe to suit your taste from the hundreds online.
As we continue to strive for health and wellbeing, what is critical in any type of diet is balance and variety. Make sure you get a multitude of nutrients including protein, B12, iron and calcium from your plant-based diet. Let’s consciously make 2020 a year of food revolution!