Being vegan or vegetarian in South Africa in summer is kind of weird. Braais (BBQs) are such a huge part of our culture and they are about so much more than chucking meat on the fire. A braai is where we make memories with our friends and families and debate endlessly over the politics of our country. It’s an ice breaker where you can bring new friends to meet your old friends, where people from different backgrounds find common ground. It’s a cultural and social event that minimises everything that is wrong and highlights everything that is right in this complicated land. In short, it’s something that every South African understands and enjoys.
The elephant in the room, however – or perhaps I should say the cow – is that a traditional braai involves feasting on generally enormous amounts of meat. I know from personal experience that I am able to consume twice the amount of meat at a braai than I would over a normal dinner. Maybe this is because braaied meat tastes extra fabulous. I’m not going to sugarcoat it and pretend like it doesn’t. Maybe it’s the social aspect of picking at the overflowing tray long into the night as the beers flow. Either way, that cow is something I have always thoroughly enjoyed.
So now that I’m a vegetarian, not yet a vegan (the hit Britney should have made), what becomes of the braai? Because honestly, I feel like I can only eat so many halloumi and veg kebabs, particularly as I’m now gradually cutting out cheese. Mushrooms and onions can only keep one interested for so long. These important South African questions will be answered over the course of this summer as I attend more than my fair share of braais and navigate my way through the minefield that is life without chicken wings.
For today though, I want to share a recipe of what veggies and vegans can make BEFORE the braai. Because any good saffa knows that the starters (garlic bread, pork sausages and roosterkoek) are at least as important as the braai itself and set the tone for the feast.
This recipe is taken step by step from veganbyeden. I don’t usually credit recipes because by the time I am finished chopping, tweaking and messing around with them, they are but shadow of their former selves. This one, however, I didn’t change at all, except to use feta instead of her tofu (this was before my great vegan experiment). So, credit where credit is due. I can’t speak for the tofu version but the feta version is a cracker. I’ll update once I’ve tried the tofu one this summer.
Spinach & Feta Phyllo Pie
- Phyllo pastry
- 375g feta OR tofu
- 400g fresh spinach
- 2 garlic cloves
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 2 tbsp nutritional yeast
- Juice of half a lemon
- Salt & pepper to taste
- Milk of choice (I used almond)
- Wilt spinach in pan on stove then place in mixing bowl. Add all other ingredients except phyllo pastry.
- Spread out first layer of phyllo – you’re going to fill it and roll it up like a sausage. Use two sheets per sausage. Brush inside with milk.
- Place filling along the edge of the longer length of the phyllo layer and roll. Repeat with a second and third layer of phyllo so you end up with 3 sausages (you can use a bigger pan and make more sausages if you want to). See photo below for how it should look.
- Curl sausages into round pie pan until you have a spiral effect and the pan is filled.
- Brush with more milk and bake at 190 degrees for 25-30 minutes or until golden brown and crispy.
- Impress your braai crowd with your mad skills!