Culinary experts dish out tips for developing a plant-based friendly menu

In recent years, there has been a remarkable shift towards plant-based eating, driven by concerns for the environment, personal health, and animal welfare. To shed light on this, we chat to Elisha Madzivadondo, founder of a renowned vegan café, Sunshine Food Sprouting Co, and Jane Nshuti, a distinguished plant-based recipe developer and African food educator, who share valuable insights and tips for incorporating more plant-based options into your menu.

Educate yourself

The first step towards embracing plant-based friendly dishes is to educate yourself about a plant-based diet. Elisha encourages adopting some elements of a plant-based lifestyle as a great place to start. “When it comes to food, you are what you eat – you can’t be anything else. We are created to be the food we’re eating.”

Create an environment that promotes plant-based eating

Jane encourages growing your own food and visiting local food markets and farms as often as you can – not only will you be supporting local farmers, but you’ll also have access to a wide variety of seasonal fruits and vegetables. “I go to food markets and find endless inspiration in the vibrant colours and flavours of the food in their raw form, and I create beautiful meals out of them!”

“I’m big on using what’s there. Where I grew up, we had a garden and whatever is available in the garden is what we ate. Now I don’t have a garden, but whatever is available in the shops and at food markets and is in season, is what I eat,” adds Jane.

Embrace variety

Embracing variety in plant-based cooking is key to creating exciting and flavourful dishes.

Elisha’s vegan café is widely recognised for its delicious bun-less veggie burger that features a delightful veggie patty made from microgreens, sprouts, butternut, sweet potato, coconut flour, flaxseed, sunflower seeds and buckwheat, and topped with a homemade fermented lemon sauce. “By incorporating a diverse range of ingredients at our restaurant, we get to create delicious and satisfying meals that showcase the incredible possibilities of plant-based cuisine.”

Experiment with flavours and spices

Herbs and spices are a plant-based chef’s secret weapon. They can elevate the simplest dish and bring out incredible flavours, so don’t be afraid to think outside the box and try new combinations. Jane advises, “Experiment with a variety of spices and herbs. Herbs and spices are essential because they add flavour, depth and richness to plant-based dishes”.

Get creative in the kitchen

Experiment with new recipes and cooking techniques that showcase the flavours and textures of plant-based ingredients. Explore international cuisines known for their plant-based dishes, such as Mediterranean, Indian and Thai cuisine, for inspiration.

Embrace whole plant foods

Incorporating whole plant foods into your menu, such as whole grains, nuts and seeds, is essential for a well-rounded and nourishing plant-based diet. These foods are packed with essential nutrients and fibre, promoting overall health.

“One of my personal favourites is sorghum, due to its incredible versatility. I’m from Rwanda, and sorghum was a big part of my upbringing. In the morning we had sorghum porridge; for lunch we had sorghum pap; in the evening we had boiled sorghum as a replacement for rice. Sorghum is very versatile, cheap and always available around us.” says Jane.

Incorporating these tips into your culinary repertoire will empower you to celebrate variety, explore new flavours, and create exciting dishes that will please your plant-based guests.

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