If you’re boo’d up with a vegetarian, you’ve probably already starting googling for the perfect Valentine’s Day restaurant. Or, if you’re clever like Paarl foodie Dané Vermeulen, you’ll skip the fine dining for a home cooked plant-based meal.
Vermeulen says it can be really challenging to celebrate special days if you’re sticking to a plant-based diet. However, you do not have to compromise with this Day of Love dinner menu. It is romantic, surprisingly good and you can enjoy it with anyone – whether you’re are cooking for your partner, family, or a group of friends.
Starter for Valentine’s Day
Roasted tomato bruschetta (serves 2)
½ ciabatta loaf
1 punnet cherry tomatoes
½ cup balsamic vinegar
- Preheat the oven to 200⁰C. Place the cherry tomatoes into an oven-proof baking dish and pour the balsamic vinegar over.
- Season with salt and pepper and add some fresh rosemary if you are a fan.
- Place your tomatoes in the oven for 20 mins.
- Slice 4 even slices from your ciabatta loaf.
- When your tomatoes are ready, remove them and place your bread slices on an oven tray.
- Toast them in the oven on the grill setting until golden.
- Alternatively, you can toast the bread in a toaster, just make sure your slices are thin enough.
- Spread a layer of basil pesto on the bread slices before adding the roasted cherry tomatoes. Drizzle the balsamic reduction over your bruschetta and season with some salt and pepper.
Beetroot risotto (serves 4)
2 cups risotto rice
4 cups vegetable stock
4 to 5 beets
2 cups beet water
200 ml coconut milk
1 large onion
1/2 cup white wine
1 stalk lemongrass
1 large garlic clove
1 ½ cup vegetable oil
- Place 5 beets in a pressure cooker and cover with water.
- Cook the beets for 20 mins or until al dente.
- When cooked, remove the beets, peel the outer layer and chop them into bite sized pieces.
- Put the leftover beet water aside.
- In a large pan, brown the diced onions and garlic on high heat.
- Cut the lemon grass stalk in half, crush it lightly with the blade and add it to the pan to fry and release its flavour.
- Add the risotto rice and sauté in the pan.
- Add the wine and bring the heat down to medium.
- When the alcohol has evaporated add the first cup of stock to the rice. It is important to keep stirring the rice because risotto can burn easily.
- When the rice has absorbed the stock, add another cup of stock, and keep stirring.
- After adding the third cup you can also add the beet.
- Mix the beets into the risotto and add the coconut milk.
- Once the rice has absorbed all the moisture, add a cup of leftover beet water.
- After adding the second cup of beet water, you can also add the lemon juice and grate some lemon zest into your dish.
- Remember to keep stirring the rice to prevent it from burning, also keep tasting the rice to check if it is soft. If it needs to cook a little longer, add the last cup of stock and reduce until ready.
- Slice an uncooked beet in thin slices. Heat the vegetable oil in a small pot on the stove and fry the sliced beets into crispy beet chips. Set aside on a paper towel and season with salt.
- Dish your beetroot risotto in a medium size bowl. Top it with the beetroot chips and garnish with freshly topped parsley.
Watermelon sugar crunch (serves 2)
1 cup fresh mint
Juice of 1 lemon
1 ½ cup sugar
2 tablespoons honey
- In a food processor, blend the mint, lemon juice, ginger and honey.
- Cut the watermelon in evenly sized cubes and scoop out a round hole at the top with a small teaspoon.
- Place the watermelon cubes in the fridge to keep fresh.
- For this recipe, we will be making round sugar cages to place over our watermelon. Start by heating your sugar in a small pan or pot.
- Prevent the sugar from burning by continually stirring it with a fork until all the granules are melted. Take it off the stove and continue to stir.
- The key is to let the sugar cool down just enough to make it stringy and not runny. To test this, you can scoop the sugar onto the fork and lift it vertically.
- Wait until a thin sugar strand is formed and sway it back and forth slightly. If the strand stays tacked you can try to shape your cage. I used the bottom of a lightly greased steel cup to wind my sugar strands into a round cage.
- When the sugar has cooled down too much it will be too thick and you will have to reheat it and repeat the process.
- To assemble, place three sugar cages on your plate and drop the watermelon cubes into the cages. Fill the watermelon with the mint blend and garnish with a mint leaf.