Venturing into veganism with Mariza Ebersohn
Referring to herself as “a girl from the Free State”, Mariza Ebersohn was raised in a small town with three other siblings.
After completing a Bachelor of Consumer Science at the University of Freestate, Ebersohn worked as a Stylist, Image Consultant and party planner before getting married and moving overseas. Now, at 31, she is a wife, mother of soon to be two children and currently resides in the South of France.
When settling into her new life, Ebersohn decided to start a blog to fill her days; “Aside from taking French courses I had a lot of free time on my hands as a newly married 23-year-old.”
With eating healthy having always been a passion of hers, Ebersohn looked to veganism for inspiration. “I couldn't really express myself as freely as I wanted to until I became plant-based.
"My diet seemed very niche compared to how I ate growing up in a household where ‘boerekos’ was the norm, so to me, it was a breath of fresh air to be able to adapt my childhood favourites to my liking,” - and with that, the idea for her blog, Life In The South, began to manifest.
Harnessing her new found passion, as she was never really a foodie before, Ebersohn baked vegan cakes for a cafe, “I absolutely loved it,” she said.
Spurring her on was the fact that it was quite difficult to find healthy alternatives, especially in a foreign country where home comforts in the form of warm malva pudding or bobotie sausage rolls were few and far between.
“I wanted to share the healthier versions of food I was missing from back in SA as I was quite stunned by the French way of eating.” The culture shock of downing an espresso for breakfast, digging into a baguette for lunch and indulging in a full three course meal for dinner was a big change.
“We were brunch lovers and there wasn’t a proper brunch place in sight. So, cooking from home and the occasional three course dinner became our norm.”
As with most young, budding cooks, Ebersohn’s mother was her helpline when it came to navigating the kitchen, “She provided me with all the basic recipes.”
During the period when Ebersohn was still experimenting with a plant-based lifestyle, she found feeding a South African man took its toll after a while. “He was happy with rice, meat and potatoes but my palate was certainly craving the fresher side.
"So sometimes I was cooking double because I was just not into eating meat that day. When we moved to a smaller town about three years ago, where it was more French and a more meat-loving region, I guess I grew accustomed to it, but was not loving how I was feeling.”
After officially quitting eating dairy about four years ago, Ebersohn said she could instantly feel a difference, “I was struggling with an ulcer for years, after cutting out dairy, I no longer had the same problems and my skin was certainly glowing.
"I visited my sister a couple times in Geneva who was properly living a vegan lifestyle for the past few years with her family and I was so motivated to give it a go for real and I was kind of bummed that I did not start sooner. I have been 100% plant-based now for the past year and a half and I am not regretting the decision at all.”
Although her husband (rugby player Robert Ebersohn) and son are not 100% plant-based, Ebersohn said: “His career involves lots of physical contact and therefore, he chooses to eat meat and animal products at this stage while my son enjoys a variety in his diet, just because he is a very picky eater and because I didn’t yet know how to introduce more plant-based meals when he was starting to eat.”
Now, nearing the end of her second pregnancy, Ebersohn said, “I am really going to start from the get go with introducing more plant-based products and meals to get her accustomed to it from a younger age”.
If you’ve recently decided to experiment with veganism by testing the waters this month with Veganuary, Ebersohn’s top tip would be to take baby steps.
“Firstly, try to cut out dairy with a plant-based alternative that you like. Making your own cashew milk is delish and all it takes is soaking cashews in water and blending them until smooth before straining.
"The next step can be switching to one plant-based meal per week and building on that as you go along. Also, do your research on where you need to substitute some products for the taste that you like, if you’re not really that into fruit and veggies, there are so many ways to make it more to your liking.”
As a lover of the unique taste infusions of SA, Ebersohn said she enjoys bringing these flavours to the dishes she cooks. “Apricot jam and chutney is a staple in my house.
"I really want to keep introducing these flavours to my family and through my blog hopefully changing some people’s mindsets about eating traditional dishes in plant-based forms. I mean a lentil Bobotie tastes pretty amazing and I really think people would love it if they give it a try.”
Apple Butterscotch Malva pudding
250g whole wheat or spelt flour
1/3 cup almond flour
1/2 cup coconut sugar
1 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
1/2 cup almond milk
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 flax egg (1 heaped tbsp flax seed meal with added water to thicken)
1 tbsp apricot jam
1/4 cup coconut oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup peeled and sliced apples
200 ml coconut cream or full-fat coconut milk
1/4 cup coconut sugar
1/2 cup vegan caramel
1 tsp vanilla essence
1/2 tsp corn starch or potato protein
Pinch of salt
Mix the flour, almond flour, baking powder, and salt then set aside.
Mix the milk, apple cider vinegar, and vanilla essence.
Let it curdle for a few minutes and then add the apricot jam, flax egg, and the melted coconut oil.
Mix the wet into the dry, add the baking soda and mix well, then smear a round tart base with coconut oil or non-cooking spray.
Pour the batter into the mold and decorate the top with the apples, smear with extra melted coconut oil and sprinkle on some extra coconut sugar.
Bake for 20 minutes until brown on top and then pour over the sauce after the pudding has cooled slightly.
Pour the sauce over little by little until the pudding has soaked it all up, serve the pudding lukewarm with vegan custard and ice cream.
Place all the sauce ingredients in a saucepan and bring to a simmer until the sauce starts to thicken slightly. Keep lukewarm until the pudding has baked and pour the sauce on top.
Set a little bit of the sauce on the side for serving.