Plant-powered show helps you locate your inner vegan

Plant-powered show helps you locate your inner vegan
Tofu and vegetable stir fry. (Photo: Supplied)

Whether you’re already a diehard vegan or considering taking the leap towards reducing or cutting out meat from your diet, the Festive Vegan & Plant Powered Show will arm you for the big change ahead.

As concerns for the future of the planet increase, vegans and vegetarians are growing ever more vocal in their campaign for everyone to consider plant-based lifestyles; it’s nothing new, really. The Vegan Society was founded in 1944 in the UK, which initially meant “non-dairy vegetarian”. By the following year, the abstention included eggs, honey, and milk, butter and cheese from animals. 

With carnivores to the left of me, vegans to the right, it often seems the entire world is at war over who eats what, to the point of evangelical fervour. Never mind all the intolerances and allergies that beset the population, once you’ve got around those, your plate still comes under scrutiny.

Vegetarians have become almost mediocre now, when once all they had was Salad Valley at the Spur, or a platter with crumbed mushrooms, creamed spinach and a baked potato. Many restaurants didn’t even understand the concept of vegetarianism, and who can blame them? I had a person/plus one/man for a while, who would dip in and out of being vegetarian. It was hugely annoying in general. When I’d call a restaurant to book, I would ask what vegetarian dishes they had. (This should indicate how long ago it was.)

“Oh yes,” they’d cry. “We have lots of fish and chicken.” This was how the face palm was invented. 

To be fair, there are so many subcategories, who can keep up? And then there are the flexitarians and reducetarians… they make full-on vegans look positively straightforward.

Vegans don’t eat anything animal-based. There’s a slogan that says “nothing with eyelashes” but that’s just silly; I’m not aware of fish with eyelashes. Of course, I had to Google before making such a statement and nearly went down a rabbit hole of whether fish get thirsty or if they have emotions. No, and no, in case you’re also wondering.

Vegans do not, will not, or cannot eat: beef, pork, lamb, and other red meat; chicken, duck, and other poultry; fish or shellfish such as crabs, clams and mussels, eggs, cheese, butter, milk, cream, ice cream and other dairy products; and honey. Don’t forget figs, an easy mistake to make.

Tomato, basil and celery popsicles for a cool summer treat. (Photo: Supplied)

It can be a drastically restrictive lifestyle but as the global trend towards plant-based lifestyles increases, so do the options for vegans, in terms of delicious dishes with substitute ingredients, and restaurants catering more and more for their needs. Next Saturday, 28 November, 2020 the Festive Vegan & Plant Powered Show (FVPPS) intends to bring some revolutionary changes to the traditional food and trade show exhibition format – the biggest of which is that it is an online event, from 11am till 5pm. Real-life shows are planned for Johannesburg and Cape Town in 2021.

Whether you’ve already embraced the vegan lifestyle, or are toying with the idea – and frankly if you’re interested in the movement of food fashions and, by and large, food – this will be the time to tap into the thoughts of international and local chefs including the UK’s Gaz Oakley (aka The Avant-Garde Vegan), MasterChef Australia 2019 finalist Simon Toohey, Luke Dale Roberts, Chris Erasmus, Jenny Morris, Jay Mac, and Chef Cola, as well as health and wellness experts who will be giving talks on the benefits of adopting a vegan lifestyle.

A wide range of plant-based food and lifestyle brands will be featured in a virtual expo area, and visitors will be able to interact with exhibitors and make purchases.

You can expect 3D graphics and entertainment, engagement with celebrity chefs through live webinars and meet-and-greets, a cooking theatre, panel discussions, expert presentations and industry professionals sharing their knowledge on hot topics as well as highlighting key issues audiences might face in the wake of Covid-19.

We chatted to some of the chefs and celebrities who will be participating, as well as some ordinary people who are creating vegan products and dishes as they undertake their journeys towards health and nutrition.

Nicola Kagoro, aka Chef Cola, from Zimbabwe, is at the helm of African Vegan on a Budget, which she founded in 2016 to raise awareness of the vegan lifestyle and its health benefits. Her menu for the show includes African fused mashed potatoes, beet Wellington, and collard greens in peanut butter; and, to drink, a White Christmas mojito.

One of Kagoro’s favourite recipes is her healthy, quick-to-prepare salad.

Nicola Kagoro, aka Chef Cola, is at the helm of African Vegan on a Budget, which she founded in 2016 to raise awareness of the vegan lifestyle and its health benefits. (Photo: Supplied)

“The rule when making salads is to work with the freshest ingredients possible. The power ingredient that stands out in this salad is beetroot, as it adds a nice sweet balance to the dish. Beetroot is also rich in calcium, iron and vitamins A and C and an excellent source of folic acid, fibre, manganese and potassium, so it really is a wonderful ingredient to include in your diet,” she said.

African Vegan on a Budget, or AVOAB, is a private limited company based in Harare and Cape Town, she explained. “We are a plant-based brand with a number of clients and endeavours that range from NGOs to hosting plant-based functions. Founded in 2016, African Vegan on a Budget was developed to showcase plant-based cuisine and culinary development as well as to actively promote the reality that people can thrive on a healthy vegan and plant-based diet on a budget.”

Plant Café in Loop Street, Cape Town, was one of the city’s first vegan restaurants, which opened in 2013. “I applied at Plant for my third-year hospitality attachment as a student at the International Hotel School Cape Town. I finished my attachment and then took on a full-time job as a junior chef being trained by chef Nikki Botha who groomed me,” said Kagoro.

“After a few years when my mentor left, I became one of the senior chefs and one of the first few executive chefs of Plant. I embraced the vegan lifestyle by unlearning a lot of practices I had learnt being raised as a meat eater. This made me become more aware and conscious about what goes into my body.”

The change in eating habits is a positive one, said Kagoro. “It shows the consumers’ preference is now being considered in the food industry. We never used to see as many plant-based products on shelves; now we see whole aisles in the supermarkets. It is nice to see the trend is not just a fad and living a healthier lifestyle is something more people want to be a part of. I feel people are now becoming more self-aware and self-conscious about what we as humans are doing to Mother Nature. Veganism is not just for tree huggers and animal lovers.” 

Kagoro said as a vegan, her mind feels clearer and she is more patient and calm. “Consciously I feel lighter. Eating a vegan diet made me invest in my physical health as well. I started attending more outdoor activities and attending gym. Another benefit is that I am becoming more creative with meal plans and it encourages me to develop recipes.”

Going cold turkey, if you’ll pardon the phrase, is not necessarily the best way to become vegan. However, you can do Meatless Mondays or one plate a day that is strictly plant-based, suggested Kagoro. “I don’t want to use the word ‘challenge’ because going plant-based is not a challenge if done right… but something like that. Be creative in your meal plans – social media platforms such as Facebook, Pinterest and Google have an overflow of ideas on meal plans that do not include meat.”

Kagoro takes her commitment to veganism very seriously; she works with the International Anti-Poaching Foundation (IAPF) and Akashinga Back to Black Roots – a pioneering vegan conservation programme consisting entirely of female rangers. 

“Akashinga is a scalable, community-driven conservation model empowering disadvantaged women to restore and manage a network of wilderness areas as an alternative to trophy hunting. The programme is vegan and is a vehicle for building strong, respected ambassadors to drive a plant-based movement from the community level of rural Africa,” she elaborated. Kagoro is the executive chef and garden manager, preparing entirely vegan meals and ration packs for the female anti-poaching ranger force. 

Simon Toohey was a finalist in the 2019 season of MasterChef Australia. He’s also in the 2020 season which is currently on M-Net 101 on weeknights at 6pm – the first season with the new judges, featuring previous contestants. It’s a pretty clever way to ease viewers into this, by using the familiar faces of the past.

Simon Toohey, MasterChef Australia 2019 finalist, can be seen on M-Net currently in the 2020 season of the show. (Photo: Supplied)

“The global trend for a more plant-based lifestyle is growing faster and faster. It’s like a beautiful wave and people are starting to realise how awesome it is to ride and jump on. That is really what this is,” said Toohey. “This plant-based movement needs to keep growing and people need to keep getting excited about it. As it grows we will see the changes in not only people, but land, sea and soul.”

Toohey feels the benefits lie within the untouched recipes of vegetables. “It excites me to be able to play with new ingredients, new varieties, and new ways to cook them. Being able to create is so exciting.”

As an adventurous cook, Toohey will eat anything, and will try most things at least once, as long as it’s ethical. He no longer eats meat. “The difficulty here in Australia is that we have a huge problem with feral animals. We have the largest wild camel population in the world. Rabbits are decimating everything they touch. Wild boars, deer, feral cats and dogs – all are killing everything that is native and not. As a nation I think we really need to think about what effects we have on the land we live on with the meat we are consuming now.”

Cutting down slowly on the meat is Toohey’s advice as well. “Bring in a meal with no meat a day. Then kick it to two. The difficulty is there is such a lack of great plant-based dishes out there. It is all the same. And for a meat eater, it is very difficult to find something that is hearty, and filling.”

David Attenborough, 93 years old and a lifelong observer of natural habitats, released his 2020 film, A Life On Our Planet, on Netflix at the beginning of October. In it, he expressed concern for the sustainability of Earth and presented some very frightening statistics. I don’t think anyone can deny humans are messing it up. One of vegans’ biggest arguments is that farming animals uses more valuable resources than farming plants. To research that will require more time and space than Daily Maverick has, and there are vociferous arguments from both camps.

Mushroom and pumpkin leaf ramen. (Photo: Supplied)

“This is a huge question,” said Toohey, who believes the latter is better. “I say this because a lot of modern farming practices are decimating the land we live on. Not only this but our sea; fish farming is having catastrophic impacts. We clear land to grow crops, animals which we grow to feed us… deforestation, acidity levels in the ocean, rising temperatures.

“The consumption of animals is one of the key factors causing these issues. So from a sustainability point of view, it is absolutely more sustainable to eat more plants.”

That said, everything we do has an impact on our lives and the lives around us, added Toohey. “We just need to make sure that the impact we are choosing is a positive one.”

The omnivores among us have trouble understanding why vegans insist upon “fake” meat or dairy products. If you’re going to give up sausages, give them up, right? Sure. Tell that to all the Banting enthusiasts who create the demand for low-carb bread. I’ve dabbled in the vegan burger business (okay, I had one burger, once) and it would never fool me into thinking it was meat. Still tasty though.

“I believe we are only touching the surface when it comes to substitute cheeses,” said Toohey by way of example. “I am actually looking forward to the day when we don’t have to call it cheese, that it will have its own category, giving it the freedom to explore new and different styles instead of being stuck with mimicking. I had this amazing bean curd from Taiwan the other day which was soaking in kimchi juice. The texture was AMAZING. Just like a soft feta. But as we keep trying new things, exploring the possibilities of the plant world, the better the products will become.”

Chris Erasmus of Foliage in Franschhoek is a keen gardener and loves cooking from his garden. He thinks people should choose plant-based lifestyles for the right reasons. “I agree we don’t need to eat meat every day. This will reduce animal feedlots and cruel farming. Restaurants should be more creative with plant-based dishes and give them the same attention as protein-based dishes.”

At Foliage, the base of most of Erasmus’s dishes is vegan and then protein is added to some. The dish is complete without the protein and that makes it easier for plant-based eaters and people with dietary requirements, he said.

Luke Dale Roberts – one of South Africa’s most awarded chefs – will be demonstrating an all-green dish at the show, based on spring vegetables, with Jason Kosmas, head chef of the Pot Luck Club restaurant. Dale Roberts is also a judge for the FVPPS and SA Chefs’ Young Chefs vegan competition where the winner will share a virtual stage with some of the best international and local chefs appearing at the show.

Luke Dale Roberts and Jason Kosmas with the dish they will be demonstrating. (Photo: Supplied)

“I always try to find different things to get involved in. Plant-based and vegan food is not something I am an expert in but I decided to participate in the show because it gives me an opportunity to unlock something new within me which I will use on the restaurant menus,” said Dale Roberts, who has noticed the increased demand for vegan or vegetarian dishes at his restaurants.

The story of Naked Leaf patties is one that emerged during lockdown when Cathy Steed launched the range to deliver to families who preferred not to or were not able to visit retail outlets. 

“During the Cape Town restaurant initiative #jobssavelives, we launched our 3kg boxes of individually frozen patties because we wanted to offer restaurants a great plant-based vegetarian patty that was not pretending to be meat and that was both nutritious and delicious,” she said. “We wanted restaurants to have the opportunity to profit from a vegetarian burger that was cost effective and easy to prepare. No mess, no hassle and no wastage, our patties are cooked straight from the freezer in a few minutes.

“We are just about to launch our four-pack so consumers will find Naked Leaf products even more affordable at retail stockists.”

Naked Leaf mushroom and lentil burger. (Photo: Supplied)

For the two variants – mushroom and lentil, and beetroot and bean – the vegetables are sourced directly from local farms. The patties contain no soya, milk, eggs, wheat or genetically modified plants. “It’s a delicate and involved process of preparing the different vegetables, legumes and seasoning, all in separate ways to get the best flavours and textures once combined. They are then hand pressed into patties, vacuum packed and frozen, simple and wholesome,” said Steed.

“Naked Leaf is not trying to be meat. We make them from completely natural plants and ingredients.”

Steed herself is not vegan but is a “conscious eater” and prefers a plant-based diet. “I am also gluten intolerant. I have always listened to my body and give it what is as natural and pure as possible.

“I’m an environmentalist and am very aware of the horrific impact humans and industry have on nature and our planet. I am very conscious of this and do my bit in making sure my lifestyle doesn’t impact on nature negatively.

“It’s a lifestyle choice.”

Based in the Overberg village of McGregor, Mira Weiner is an entrepreneur, foodie and plant-based advocate who is passionate about conscious living, plant-based nourishment and holistic healing. Her particular lifestyle choice of plant-based nourishment and holistic therapies was chosen to embark on a healing journey to combat adrenal fatigue, burnout and anxiety. 

Mira Weiner used a combo of plant-based nourishment and holistic therapies to kick-start her healing journey with adrenal fatigue, burnout and anxiety. (Photo: Supplied)

“Veganism is about more than just a dietary choice, it’s a conscious lifestyle where you aim to live as cruelty-free as possible taking into consideration both animals and the environment,” she said. “I personally like to think of it as living a life that is kind, respectful and mindful of all beings while treading as lightly as possible on the Earth. It relates to all things that you take in, from what you purchase as clothing, decor, beauty and personal care products to cleaning materials, household items and garden supplies (ie fertilisers) as well as the kinds of brands that you support.”

Weiner was vegetarian since the womb, and grew up in a veggie-friendly household with influences of macrobiotics and Ayurveda. “However, the idea of giving up dairy (mostly cheese) was always a struggle for me,” she admitted. “I thought my diet was pretty healthy, being vegetarian, but looking back it was heavy in refined carbohydrates and dairy, a combo of what was on offer to vegetarians and convenience due to my busy lifestyle. 

“I was working myself into a coma (running two businesses from the age of 24), not looking after my physical or mental health and burning the candle at both ends, coupled with some personal and family traumas too. 

“At the young age of 27, I was hospitalised for what I thought was a heart attack at the time. To my horror it turned out to be a panic attack which was not something I was familiar with, not having suffered from severe mental health issues before. 

“I was diagnosed with extreme burnout and severe adrenal fatigue which was causing very intense anxiety and daily panic attacks. Prior to that I already suffered from Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome and a liver condition – so I went through a very dark tunnel and felt like I wasn’t going to be able to come out the other side. 

“I was physically, mentally and emotionally exhausted and broken. This intense challenge of finding my way back to the light led me on an incredible journey of self-discovery, transformational growth, conscious living, healing with plants and most importantly learning to prioritise my own health and wellness. I am a living example of the saying by Hippocrates ‘let food be thy medicine and medicine thy food’.”

Her food philosophy is simple, said Weiner: “Food should be delicious, nutritious and nourishing while helping to fuel and heal your body, mind and spirit. I love recreating my favourite recipes that heal instead of hurt. All my recipes are gluten-free, dairy-free and refined sugar-free. I cook intuitively, which I inherited from my mother who is also a creative cook. 

“On my new foodie website launching in late November 2020 you will find a mixture of delicious wholesome recipes, everything from brownies, flapjacks and cakes to pastas, kombu bowls and all things chickpea inspired. Think creamy wild garden greens-stuffed chickpea flatbreads, kimchi and sweet potato latkes with cashew sour cream to gluten-free cinnamon and ginger pancakes with coconut yoghurt and berry compote as well as cacao, oat and cranberry chickpea brownies with tahini and maple sauce.”

All very delicious, but what about wine? It’s just grapes, after all, right? Not quite. Some vegans might overlook the animal products in most wines, but for the devout, we’ve tracked down a couple of superb producers who are making vegan wine. 

Salóme Buys-Vermeulen, winemaker at Lozärn Wines in Robertson said: “Eco-conscious wine lovers can also rest assured that our range of wines are 100% vegan-friendly. This means that no animal-derived products were used during the winemaking process. Instead, plant-based fining and filtering agents were sourced to coax sulphur levels into balance, clear the wine of pesky proteins and remove other incidental compounds before ageing and maturation. 

Eco-conscious wine lovers can rest assured Lozärn Wines’ range is 100% vegan-friendly. (Photo: Supplied)

“By using pea protein and bentonite clay instead of animal-derived products in these processes, we’re taking another vital step towards sustainability and ensuring that we tread lightly on the earth.”

Constantia Glen, in Constantia as it happens, is famous for its cool-climate wines and here’s a free tip: the latest vintage of the FIVE (2017) has just been released and this Bordeaux blend is something for which I’ll break the bank. The 2015 won the international trophy for world’s best blended red wine at the 2019 International Wine & Spirits Competition (IWSC) held in London. 

“The only (occasional) addition to our wines would ordinarily have been gelatine or egg white in previous years. The last vintage in which we used either of these products was in 2011,” said winemaker Justin Van Wyk.

“Ever since 2012 we have made use of a vegetable protein fining agent, called Vegecoll and this does the same job as the gelatine or egg white. So it has been vegan-friendly since 2012. And this applies to all the Constantia Glen wines.

“We are making the wines vegan-friendly because the demand for this arose from customers, and fortunately a fining agent came onto the market that achieves exactly the same objective, thus enabling one to use a plant-based protein instead of one from animal origin.”

There is no discernible taste difference, and no quarrels about fake substitutes – a win for everyone.

Tickets for the Festive Vegan & Plant Powered Show are available here, more information here.


Chef Cola’s healthy, quick salad


½ head of lettuce, chopped

1 large carrot, grated

3 large tomatoes, chopped

¼ onion, thinly sliced

½ cucumber, julienned

1 cup of beetroot, thinly sliced

1 tsp salt

1 tsp mixed herbs


In a large bowl add the lettuce, carrot, tomatoes, onion and cucumber and toss to mix together.

In a heated pan add a knob of butter and then gently fry the thinly sliced beetroot (about 10 mins), adding the salt and dried mixed herbs before setting aside to cool.

Once cooled, add to the salad bowl and mix all ingredients together.

Serve with dressing of your choice or enjoy as is.


Tomato, Basil and Celery Popsicles


500ml tomato juice

5ml lemon juice

40ml Knorr Roasted Tomato & Basil Soup

6 basil leaves

2 celery sticks, roughly chopped

5ml Worcestershire sauce

7½ ml Tabasco

Pinch of sea salt

Pinch of black pepper


Put all the ingredients in a blender and blitz roughly so it is still chunky. Leave to sit in the fridge for at least 2 hours.

Strain the mixture, discard the bits and season to taste.

Pour into popsicle moulds with sticks.

Place in the freezer and leave overnight until completely frozen.

Serve as a summer snack.


Mushroom and Pumpkin Leaf Ramen


2 litres water

1 packet Knorr Brown Onion Soup

1 small fresh ginger root, finely grated

30g mixed exotic mushrooms

olive oil for frying

400g plain instant noodles

4 cups pumpkin leaves thinly sliced

fresh coriander to garnish

fresh chilli to garnish


Saute the mushrooms in a little olive oil for 5 minutes or until golden.

Mix ¼ cup of water into the Brown Onion Soup to make a smooth paste, then add the rest of the water.

Add the onion soup mix to the sauteed mushrooms and bring to the boil.

Add the noodles, pumpkin leaves (mekopu) and ginger to the broth and cook for 5 minutes or until the noodles are just tender.

Serve the noodles in bowls, topped with the pumpkin leaves (mekopu) and broth.

Garnish with coriander and chilli.


Tofu and Vegetable Stir Fry


30ml canola oil

1kg firm tofu, cut into 2 x 1 x 1cm rectangles

2 red onions, thinly sliced

4 carrots, julienned

2 red peppers, cut into strips

200g mangetout, trimmed

200g baby corn, halved

2cm piece ginger, peeled & grated

1 garlic clove, peeled & grated

125ml soya sauce

1 packet Knorr Curry Vegetable Soup

45ml brown sugar

45ml syrup/honey

30ml sesame seeds, toasted

20g peanuts, toasted

15g coriander


Add the oil to a wok or large pan over a medium-high heat. Once hot, add the tofu and allow to colour on all sides.

Add the onion, carrots, red pepper, mangetout and baby corn and toss through.

Cook for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until vegetables start to soften slightly – you still want some crunch.

In a bowl, whisk together the ginger, garlic, soy sauce, Curry Vegetable Soup, brown sugar and syrup/honey.

Add this mixture to the vegetable and toss to coat. Allow to cook for a further 5 minutes.

Serve the stir fry by itself or with noodles or rice and top with sesame seeds, peanuts and fresh coriander.


Jay Mac’s Scramble Wrap


For the scramble

350g tofu

5ml turmeric

5ml black salt

1.2ml black or white pepper

2.5ml coriander powder

5ml nutritional yeast

For the filling

Handful of grated vegan mozzarella

60ml cashew cream

Handful of chopped baby spinach or kale

1 rasher vegan bacon

5ml tamari or soy sauce

15ml oil

1 butternut wrap

1 sheet tin foil/wax paper about the size of the wrap


In a large bowl, scramble all the scramble ingredients with your hands or a fork then set aside in a sealable container. Place the wrap in a lightly oiled pan and heat on both sides for about 3-5min until slightly golden brown, then remove and place onto tin foil, adding grated cheese. 

Heat pan with oil and add the bacon and slightly crisp it by adding the tamari. Cook on each side for about a minute. Place the bacon over the cheese on the wrap.

Place half the scramble mix into a warm pan and scramble for about 2 minutes until the scramble turns bright yellow. Now add the spinach and saute for another minute.

Reduce heat and add the cashew cream and cook for about 30 seconds. Add scramble to the readymade wrap then fold wrap up with the tinfoil. Cut in half and place the open ends, face down onto a hot pan to allow the cheese to melt and seal the ends.

Serve with a side of avo, cashew cream or jalapeño cream cheese. DM/TGIFood


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