Maverick Life


Frying up the vegan way

Frying up the vegan way
A basic vegan fry-up. Image: Edgar Castrejon / Unsplash

Ask anyone who has ever stumbled into a Wimpy after being out all night… There is nothing like a fry-up.

The classic fry-up is never especially lovely to look at and, decades along, would still be at home in the cookery books of the 1970s that were full of images of food that was brown and beige with some dull yellow or limp green in the (sometimes horrifying) mix. But it can soothe a gurgling hangover stomach, be the perfect brekkie on a road trip that began before the sun had even thought of rising, or make the idea of meeting childhood friends for that must-I-really-go once-a-year get-together a much happier prospect.

It’s also something that is woefully missing from breakfast menus that actually give some thought to catering for vegans. 

While we thank you for your cinnamon quinoa breakfast bowls with berries and stacked banana pancakes made with oat milk and flaxseeds and mixed fruit with coconut yogurt, sometimes what a vegan really wants is a plant-based version of the fry-up. And while we might be vegan for the planet, for the animals and for our health, like anyone else, sometimes the last of these can be chucked out the window in favour of food that is greasy and satisfying on some basic life-feels-good-right-in-this-moment level.

Here’s some good news for anyone wanting to add a vegan fry-up to their restaurant menu or offer it when their vegan friend comes over for brunch: it doesn’t have to be any more difficult than opening a tin of baked beans. 

A basic vegan fry-up can consist of little more than a plate filled with servings of the above-mentioned baked beans, mushrooms fried in vegan butter, tomatoes that have also been given a quick once over in the pan, slices of toast (make sure the bread has no animal ingredients in it – there are several supermarket versions that fit this bill) and a vegan sausage or two. Like any decent fry-up, this can be served with orange juice and followed by freshly brewed coffee.

There are, naturally, ways of upping the ante on your vegan fry-up. 

One of these is to add in scrambled tofu. And not just any scrambled tofu but one made with kala namak. You might also have heard it called Indian black salt or Himalayan black salt, kala namak brings a distinctive umami-rich, eggy flavour to any dish, and it lasts forever: we have had a bag in our house for more than a year and we make this particular breakfast dish frequently. You might also want to add turmeric, garlic powder, onio

Kala namak. Image: Flickr

Kala namak is also known as Indian black salt. Image: Flickr

Kala namak. Image: Flickr

Ground kala namak. Image: Flickr

n powder and paprika, or fancy it up with chilli flakes like in this recipe from Nisha at Rainbow Plant Life (who also urges you to make a breakfast burrito with the scrambled tofu for a “legit fire brunch that will please everyone”, and I can’t argue with that).

In our house, we always add something “potatoey” to our fry-ups. Usually – because we are lazy on late weekend mornings – this comes in the form of ready-made rostis bought at the supermarket and popped in the oven early enough to be crispy on the outside while remaining soft in the middle. But you can easily make your own rosti by par-boiling potatoes in salted water, refreshing them under the cold tap, grating them and adding a dash of oil, salt, freshly ground pepper and chives snipped with scissors directly into your potato mixture. If you are putting in this extra effort you can fry these ahead of making everything else and zap them in the microwave before serving.

Read in Daily Maverick: “Garth Tavares: The perfectly imperfect Cape Town Vegan” 

Actually, it’s not quite right to say that establishments offering breakfast are ignoring the easy offering of a vegan fry-up. 

As I was writing this, I saw Garth Tavares had posted a pic of a fry-up he’d had at Pure Cafe in Greyton. The serving of fried tomato, baked beans, toast, fresh spinach, sausage (a Beyond Sausage) and Just Egg had my mouth watering and dreaming of passing through Greyton. 

In the absence of that possibility, on the weekend we will again make our own fry-up, this time probably also splashing out for vegan bacon, discussing, as we often do, the ridiculousness of the arguments for keeping the names of meat products confined only to meat. But that’s a topic for another column. 

In the meantime, give a vegan fry-up a try. You might find it delicious and it might just make you happy to know that no animals were harmed in the making of it. DM/ML/OBP

Absa OBP

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