Experiments with meat…

…substitutes, that is.
After the yumminess of my “veggie gluten patty” last week I decided to get creative. My friend Sarah told me of a method by which one can make one’s own gluten by washing flour. Intrigued, I did a little research and experimentation, which hasn’t been a complete failure.

Gluten is the insoluble protein in wheat. So in white flour you only have starch and gluten, because the bran has already been removed. All you have to do then is dissolve the starch and you will be left with gluten. I suggest starting with a small amount like two to three cups of flour to start with. Apparently breadmaker’s flour is best because it is higher in gluten, but standard flour worked fine. You add enough water to the flour to make it into a ball, and knead about 60 times. Then you cover it in water and let it stand (anywhere from two hours to overnight; I went with overnight). Next you knead the flour again, underwater. The water should turn white with all the starch coming off the flour! The Japanese save this starch and use it for other stuff like thickening; I chucked it down the sink. Basically after that it’s rinse and repeat until the water is clear and no more starch comes out of the rubbery ball of gluten you will be left with. There doesn’t really seem to exist any authority on water temperature. I used warm because my hands like it more. When you have your gluten you will probably want to play with it for a bit because it’s kind of like playdough! After that, let it rest for about half an hour. This is probably a good time to prepare the broth you will cook it in. The broth will flavour the gluten. You probably don’t want to go all-out with vegetable stock so I suggest the cheat’s method:
finely diced onion
1/4 cup soy sauce
and any or all of the following:
tomato paste
powdered vegetable stock

The Japanese use a combination of tamari, ginger and kombu (scaaary seaweed stuff) and the result is called seitan. Hence the “praise seitan” motto you hear me come out with from time to time.

You will want to roll out your gluten to about 1cm thickness (yes, it’s just like rubber so it’s hard) and cut it into small strips. Cook in barely simmering broth for about 45 minutes. Apparently if the broth is too hot the gluten will go spongy.

After that I fried the strips and they turned out quite yummy. There are apparently a lot of other things you can do with it, like grinding it up into mince and stuff, but I haven’t tried anything else yet. So, I urge everyone to go out and experiment with gluten! It is so fun that me and Marissa were fighting over who got to knead the flour! If anyone thinks of any cool ways of flavouring the gluten or cooking it, let me know.

Oh, there is also a much easier way, and that is to buy pure gluten flour from the supermarket. That way you can flavour it straight away as you do not have to wash it. This method potentially has more applications than the former, but is more expensive and doesn’t really sound as fun. If anyone tries it, let me know.

Veggie soup

1 large onion
3 L soup stock
1 C soup mix (available in bulk bins and contains lentils, barley, split peas and pasta)
1 1/2 C pumpkin
1 1/2 C kumera
1 small leek
2 t ground cumin
1 t ground coriander
black pepper

Chop the onion as finely as desired and saute until clear in a big soup pot. Add the stock and soup mix and cover and simmer while you prepare the other ingredients. Chop the kumera and pumpkin into 1cm cubes and finely slice the leek. Add the vegetables to the stock and simmer until the split peas are tender. Add the spices, adjusting to taste. This soup is best after you have let it stand for a while but that shouldn’t be a problem as there will be enough to last for a week! (my suggestion: freeze some of it)

Veggie lasagne!

This is my favourite! It’s kind of expensive to make though so I save it for special occasions. I like to buy Signature Range fresh lasagne, which comes in one big sheet that you cut up yourself, and Talley’s (?) frozen spinach chunks. Bouton D’or does good ricotta.

1 packet fresh lasagne sheets
1 onion
1-2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 tins whole peeled tomatoes
1 green pepper
1 zuchinni
1 c frozen spinach
1 1/2 c ricotta cheese
1/2 c vegetarian edam, grated
chopped fresh basil or dried italian herb mix
pepper to taste
1 t nutmeg

Preheat oven to 180°. Chop onion and saute with the garlic in a little oil or butter. Add tomatoes and break up with a wooden spoon. Add chopped pepper and sliced zuchinni and cook until tender. Add herbs and pepper to taste. Defrost the spinach and mix in the nutmeg. Spread half of the tomato mixture over the bottom of a lasagne dish. Top with one sheet of lasagne – you may have to trim this to size with scissors or a knife. Top this sheet with the spinach mixture, and cover this with half of the ricotta cheese. Add another sheet of lasagne and top with the rest of the tomato. Add a final sheet of lasgagne and top this with the rest of the ricotta cheese and the edam. Cook for about 45 minutes or until the lasagne is al dente. Serve with crusty bread and a green salad.

Tip: use mushrooms with the tomatoes instead of other vegetables.

5 minute feast for one

So I eventually got around to trying that vegetarian gluten patty. It was a little more meatlike than I expected in texture, although not in flavour. I was seduced by the Japanese aisle in the supermarket today (again) and came home with soba (buckwheat) noodles and yaki soba (sauce for fried soba noodles). Then I discovered some oyster mushrooms at the veggie place, so I made myself a veritable gourmet feast! I also put in some onion, garlic and a bit of leek. It was gooooood.

There is also soup on the stove. With barley. Recipe soon if it is good!

Vegetarian/vegan basil pesto

Basil pesto

1 bunch basil
1/4 C pine nuts (or sunflower seeds if pinenuts are too expensive)
3T grated vegetarian cheese (omit this for vegan)
1/4 C extra virgin olive oil

With a hand blender or in a food processor finely process the pine nuts. Add the basil and process further, then slowly add the olive oil until it has reached the desired consistency. Store in a jar in the refrigerator. Serve with pasta, bruschetta, roast vegetables, sandwiches, or stir a teaspoonful into a bowl of soup before serving. I also make vinaigrette with this when I don’t have any fresh herbs.