If you’re looking to cut back on meat or are already a plant-based eater looking for inspiration, read on.
If baking is a science and cooking is an art, these easy non-recipe meals (with my apologies to art historians) are the Jackson Pollock of cooking. Throw it all in and hope for the best.
Anything goes meals
I like to think of these non-recipe recipes as an “anything goes” bowl. Use up leftovers, mix and match things from the back of your fridge and never eat the same meal twice.
You can work off any basic principles that suit you, like “salt, fat, acid, heat”, or my personal mantra, base, colour, crunch and dressing. Just make sure you get a nice variation of protein, veggies and fat. Carbs usually take care of themselves in the form of legumes or grains – the same ones that give you protein. Otherwise add noodles or rice, or, my personal fave, use a roti or wrap to scoop up your food.
The quinoa bowl non-recipe
Make some quinoa – or any grain you like – and throw literally any veggies into it. Yesterday’s roasted veg, fresh salad stuff, cooked beans, whatever you have. Add seasoning, herbs, a sprinkle of seeds or anything else crunchy and hummus or any kind of dressing. You can eat it warm or cold. Guaranteed to be delish.
The stir-fry non-recipe
I like to add the Woolies plant-based ‘chicken’ strips to this one, but mushrooms or tofu work too. Make a delicious sauce with peanut butter in it and stir-fry fresh or frozen veg into it. Again, a bit of crunch helps – onion sprinkles, nuts, crispy chickpeas, whatever you have.
The cheesy bean nachos non-recipe
This one uses up leftover tomato pasta sauce or lentil spag bol. Reheat it and add whatever beans you have on hand. Throw it over some nacho chips in an oven dish, grate cheese on the top, put it under the grill and wait for the melty, cheesy magic to happen. Add guac, sour cream, yoghurt, coriander or whatever else you like.
Yummy, not-too-unhealthy ingredients to stock up on
It’s always easier to throw quick meals together when you have the ingredients on hand. These are a few of my favourites. They combine flavour and nutrition and can be used in a multitude of ways.
It can be used in salad dressing or drizzled over veggies by itself. You can add it to fruit salad or yoghurt and even bake with it. Or you know, eat it from the jar with a teaspoon. I buy it in a 1kg bucket and store it in the fridge to make it a bit more affordable.
They’re great for crunch on sweet or savoury dishes. They’re also nutrient dense, so they make plant-based meals more filling and satisfying. I used to think they were too expensive for everyday eating, but if you compare the price of beef to lentils and chickpeas, I think plant-based-eating will be more affordable overall, even with some pricier ingredients.
Lots of vegan recipes use this in place of parmesan to add that deep umami flavour. You can sprinkle it over any of your meals, add it to sauces for flavour or mix it into salad dressing.
I haven’t figured out how to make these from scratch yet, and they’re far from healthy (sorry). But sprinkling some of these bad boys over an otherwise healthy salad or grain bowl is still probably better than ordering pizza. At least, that’s what I tell myself.
The main reason I haven’t ventured into the world of veganism just yet? Halloumi. As a recent pescatarian who doesn’t like avo (I know! What kind of millennial am I?) halloumi has filled a lot of gaps that chicken used to fill in my meat-eating life – making a salad more satisfying or going into a roasted veggie wrap for some fat and protein
In my old meat-eating life, I was never a huge fan of mushrooms. I wouldn’t use a big mushroom in place of a burger patty (though you totally can) but I have been using them in place of beef. Strips of mushroom are deliciously ‘meaty’ in a stir-fry or risotto, and if you dice them finely, they can be used they way you’d make a mince burger patty.
The holy grail of food, these guys can be cooked, seasoned and added to salads, grain bowls, curries and almost anything else you can think of. They can also be whizzed in a blender and turned into hummus. And here’s the real kicker: they can be tossed in olive oil, coated in cayenne, salt and any other spices you like and roasted in the oven (or cooked in a pan or popped in the air fryer). Once they’re nice and crispy, you can use them to add crunch to any meal or as a snack on their own.
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Mimi has lived in Cape Town long enough to pick up every cliche possible. She works in advertising by day and has three side hustles: teaching yoga (to help people be less kak towards themselves), volunteering for a women’s organisation (less kak towards each other), and Aurora (less kak to the environment).