Vegan Cabbage Stew (Bredie if you grew up in SA)

Winter in Cape Town is blustery, rainy, gray and mostly cold. It requires comfort food like curries, soups and stews. I grew up eating various stews featuring meat, potatoes and another hero ingredient, e.g. pumpkin, green beans or tomatoes. But the classic winter dish is a savoury cabbage stew, aka cabbage bredie. So I decided to try and make a vegan version of this old staple.

I decided to substitute meat with soya chunks in my vegan cabbage stew.. Soya chunks are easy to work with, tasty, nutritious and super-frugal. They might not be familiar to people who grew up in non-vegan households, so they can be a little intimidating to cook with. They are also sold in dehydrated form, so they can look a little… shall we say… dog-pelletish?

soya chunks
soya chunks

Nevertheless, I have tried a few different dishes with them and they are always delicious if prepared correctly. They have a flavour of their own, but also absorb flavour very well, and they add a real heartiness to stews that other substitutes just dont.

I buy mine at my local Indian spice shop. Its about R20 for a 500g bag. I use a cup at a time, which equals 3-4 servings. There are about 4-5 cups per bag, so you really cant beat this protein source for price. They also come in a light and dark colour, though I dont think there is a difference in flavour between the two.

I am currently on a “minimal ingredient” type of vibe, trying to use as few ingredients as possible (barring spices) so that the flavour of the main ingredient really stands out. So I really only used cabbage and potatoes in this stew, but please feel free to add any extra vegetables you would like to the base recipe.

This recipe requires some soaking time for the soya chunks. I usually put them in to soak in the morning and then cook with them in the evening. You can even leave them soaking overnight or for a few days (I have done this when i forgot about them). But they need to soak at least 1-2 hours to soften.

Ingredients

1 cup soya chunks (dry)

1-2 tsp Vinegar

1 head of cabbage

2 potatoes

Salt

Papper

1/2 tsp Nutmeg

1-2 cloves Garlic

Vegetable stock powder (I use Ina Paarman’s)

1-2 tsp Cajun seasoning

Optional: extra vegetables like onion, carrots or celery


Method

First, prepare your soya chunks. Place them in a bowl and add about 1 cup of boiling water per cup of soya chunks. Add 1-2 teaspoons of vinegar. Cover and set aside for 1-2 hours. I usually do this the morning of, or the night before I plan to cook with them. I have also forgotten about them for 3 days and they were still good to cook with. I have also heard that you can boil them for 5-10 minutes instead of soaking, though I have never tried this. It seems to be a very forgiving ingredient.

When you are ready to cook, finely slice your cabbage and saute in a little oil or stock. Keep stirring so the cabbage doesn’t burn. Cube your potatoes and chuck them in. I added some stock and left it to simmer for about 20 minutes. Its important that the cabbage gets really soft and dark brown. it will cook down a little, but it wont disappear completely like spinach does.

You can also add extra vegetables here, like diced onion, carrots, celery or chopped tomatoes. I didn’t because I am on a minimum ingredient kick, but please go ahead if you want to.

Once the cabbage and potatoes are tender, rinse the soya chunks and add in to the pot along with all your spices, garlic and seasoning. Let it simmer for another 10 minutes or so. Add some more vegetable stock if it looks dry.

You will eventually end up with something that looks like this!. I live alone so I ate it over a few days, serving either on its own, with rice or with bread. Delicious and satisfying every time. If anything, the flavour improved every subsequent day.

Vegan cabbage bredie
Vegan cabbage bredie

That’s it really. Simple and quite frugal. Barring spices, the whole pot cost about R30 to make, and lasted for 4 meals. So factoring in the bread and/or rice, it probably cost about R10 a plate. Who says vegan food needs to be expensive?

Let me know if you tried this, and if you have any suggestions or improvements to add? I plan to experiment with making this in a pressure cooker next time, so will update this post once I do that.

Yours in veggies

Deidre Johnson profile pic

Deidre


For those days when you dont feel like cooking, I manage a Facebook group called Dining out with Vegans. If you live in Cape Town, feel free to join – we meet for dinner about once a month to support local vegan restaurant options.

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