6 essentials every vegan should have in their pantry
Sasha Zambetti, executive chef at Kaylee's Eatery, shares advice for those wanting to adopt a vegan or vegetarian lifestyle
Fancy marinated pawpaw slices that look and taste like smoked salmon? Or a vegetarian ’pulled pork’? Visit Kaylee's Eatery in Bedfordview, Joburg, which specialises in vegetarian/vegan food.
Heading up the kitchen is executive chef Sasha Zambetti, who worked in culinary fields from bush catering to fine dining, run her own cookery school and hosted a TV show.
She tells us more about how her vegan journey began, and shares advice for wannabe vegans:
Vegans are vegetarians who don't use any animal products or by-products like eggs, dairy products, and all other animal-derived ingredients.
My vegan journey began back in 2017 when a friend encouraged me to partake in 'Veganuary' (omitting animal products for the month of January - veganuary.com). I was motivated, quite selfishly, to try out a plant-based diet for the health benefits it offers and I haven't look back.
I grew up with a vegetarian mother who prepared the most delicious veggies, and a French/Italian grandmother who grew all of her own, so I have always loved all vegetables, making it a simple transition. That said, a hearty lamb curry, or rich oxtail stew during winter smells really good.
Am I that strict? No, we have two bee hives in our garden, so I rationalise that raw honey is the most natural option for my family.
I allow my two young sons to eat whatever they like as long as they finish the veggies on their plates first. My father is quite a braai expert and sometimes my children enjoy what he has to offer and other times they prefer not to eat meat.
How to get the right amount of protein in your diet? Humans can digest both plant and animal protein. If you are eating enough plants - proper plants - you will not struggle to fulfil your protein quota.
One of the benefits of following a vegan lifestyle is clearer skin. And I don't put on weight despite my large appetite.
What food can't I live without? It has to be the humble lettuce. It is so versatile, sneaking it into most savoury things is easily done.
Advice I'd offer to someone wanting to start a veg lifestyle?
- Make sure you "eat the rainbow", have a variety of different colours on your plate at each sitting.
- Try to eat as organic as possible.
- My biggest tip to staying sane is: "Do what you can, when you can, how you can." Remember each plant-based meal is making a difference to the animals, the planet and your health - if you slip up a few times a week, it's better than not trying at all.
Where do I find inspiration for meals? I'm into a zero-waste lifestyle so I try to use up whatever is available. I've always loved a "mystery basket" of ingredients to prepare a meal from. I also follow international vegan blogs for trending ideas.
What are some of my vegan pantry essentials?
- As much as I try to stay away from manufactured foods, I always have Fry's in my freezer - both my boys know how to work the airfryer and can help themselves to a protein-rich snack.
- Braggs Amino Acid (a soy-based liquid flavouring) adds delicious flavour to any food.
- Ginger and garlic. Packed full ofhealth benefits, both add great flavour to food.
- Nuts - every day I have at least eight almonds (for calcium), four walnuts (omegas), some brazil nuts (hormone balancing) and pecans/hazelnuts for flavour.
- Avocado - I make a delicious chocolate cake icing with avo and melted dark chocolate.
- Non-dairy milk - try oat, almond, soy or coconut milk. Also try different brands as they have different flavours.