Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Making Charlie's Seitan

Readers, as you know, I am always on the look out for a good seitan recipe.  Well, I found a new one on Charlie's Kitchen Blog, and it made a great batch of seitan! I have been using a mix of vital wheat gluten and chick pea flour in my recent batches, but I really liked the density of Charlie's all VWG seitan recipe. It had a pleasant texture--not too chewy! I had to do some substituting based on what I had in my kitchen, so I wrote up a version of the recipe I ended up making.

Marinate it, saute or roast it--it's recipe ready! Try it in Veggie Pho, Reuban Sandwiches, or Hakka Noodles! I have the most amazing recipe coming up for Seitan Tibs, made with berbere!

Based on Charlie's recipe
Takes 1 hour
Makes 8 loaves of seitan

1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup vegetarian mushroom flavored oyster sauce
2 Tablepoons olive oil
2 Tablespoons tomato paste
4 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 cup water
2 cups vital wheat gluten
6 Tablespoons nutritional yeast

In a large measuring cup, mix together the wet ingredients.

In a large bowl, mix together vital wheat gluten and nutritional yeast.  Pour the wet into the dry and stir together to combine.

Turn out onto a lightly floured work surface and knead until the dough is nice and smooth, about 10 minutes.  Shape into a log. Let the dough rest while you heat the water.

Place a steamer basket or wire rack on the bottom of a stock pan, and fill to just below the basket/rack. Heat on medium until steaming and just barely bubbling.

Slice the seitain log into 1-inch thick slices, and knead them a little into obloid shapes.  Place in a single layer (if you can) on the steamer rack.  Cover the pan and turn the heat down to low.

Let seitan steam for 40 minutes, turning them over after the first 10 minutes, and then once more more about 25 minutes into cooking.

Let rest for at least 10 minutes (and preferably overnight), and the seitan is now ready to be used in recipes!

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Pickled Carrots for Tacos (Escabeche!)

This is a hard time of year for local eating in the north.  What's leftover from last year's harvests are limp and tired, and it seems like the new spring vegetables, like asparagus and peas will never get here! I can't complain too much, the greenhouses here are producing lots of greens, and we are eating salad again!

I still depend on vegetables from last year's harvests for most of our meals, though. Thank goodness there are still carrots, garlic and onions, the main ingredients of this quick pickle. Inspired by the escabeches you get at taquerias in California, I made this for a taco party friends were throwing, the highlight of which was some pulled pork!  The pickled carrots were still good on the bean and cheese tacos I was eating!

This pickle is more vinegar-y than brine-y, and I've already eaten it on sandwiches and with Indian food for a tangy spike of flavor! It has lots of garlic plus spices like oregano, bay leaf and black pepper.

It's a very simple recipe, just add the prepped ingredients one at a time to build the flavors. Experiment with your own combinations! Let me know how it turns out!

Carrot Escabeche
Inspired by jacqievw's recipe for Zanahorias Y Ajo Escabeche
Takes 1 hour (plus 1–3 days of maturing)
Makes 1 liter of pickles

2 bay leaves
1 clove
4 black peppercorns
6 cloves of garlic, thickly sliced
1 Tablespoon oregano
6 carrots, thickly sliced on the diagonal
1 chile, sliced lengthwise (jalepeno, serrano, whatever you have, or leave out if you don't want spicy pickles!)
2 cups of water
2 teaspoons salt
1 red onion, thickly sliced
2 cups white vinegar

In a large, wide-bottomed pot on medium-high heat, pour enough oil to cover the bottom of the pot.

When hot, add bay leaves, and toast until just beginning to brown, about a minute.  Add the clove and peppercorns, and toast for another minute or so. Add the garlic, and saute until they become golden.  Add the oregano, carrots, and green chile and saute for 30 seconds more.

Add water and salt.  Bring to a boil, and then reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Don't overcook the carrots!

Remove from heat and add onion slices and vinegar.  Stir to combine, cover pot and let cool.

Transfer the carrots, onions, garlic and spices to a clean 1 liter jar.  When full, pour the brine over the pickles to cover.  Let refrigerate at least overnight.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Hakka in Halifax

I've been enjoying The Hakka Cookbook since I received a copy in the fall from the book's editor, who I am very proud to say is my friend! The recipes are written clearly and with warmth, and everything I've made so far has been delicious! 

The Hakka are a people who have moved over generations from their homeland in southeastern China. The book's author, Linda Lau Anusasananan, traveled to Hakka kitchens around the world to gather recipes for her book. In the places they settled, Hakka cooks incorporated local food cultures into their cooking practices. In India, "Hakka Noodles" are ubiquitous on the menus of Indo-Chinese Restaurants. Indians love Chinese food, and their demand for Chinese dishes like Chilli Paneer, Gobi Manchurian and Chicken 65 are a good reminder that national labels are not always the best descriptors for food or cultures!

I've made Anusasananan's garlic noodles several times, adapting the recipe by replacing the shrimp with tofu, or in this version, with steamed seitan that I made myself. 

I've also been making these noodles with the vegetables that are available here in the winter in Halifax: brussels sprouts, carrots and mushrooms!  The chili is an exotic treat.

This recipe takes a little time, but it's pretty simple.  Just prep the ingredients, and then it comes together really quickly.

I don't have a wok, and my stove isn't great, but I can still make this recipe work. The important thing is to add the ingredients separately in stages so that the pan doesn't lose too much heat.  Start with the mushrooms and get them brown. At the point you think they might begin to burn, add the onions, garlic and chili to cool down the mushrooms.  And keep going with every vegetable. Let me know if you try it out!

Winter Hakka Noodles
Adapted from Linda Lau Anusasananan's Garlic Noodle Recipe in The Hakka Cookbook
Makes 4 servings
Takes 1 hour

2 Tbsp. Shaoxing Chinese Rice wine (great to have on hand in the fridge)
1/2 tsp. ground white pepper (or black)
1/2 tsp. salt
1 loaf seitan, sliced (you could use tofu, or as in the original recipe, shrimp!)
12 oz dried wheat noodles (I used Shanghai noodles) 
about 12 shitake mushroom caps, thinly sliced (save the stems for making stock, or throw them in your next pot of rice)
1 onion, thinly sliced
3 large garlic cloves, minced
1 red chili, sliced in two
2 cups sliced brussels sprouts
1 carrot, julienned
3 Tbsp. soy sauce

Mix the wine with the salt and pepper. Toss with the seitan, and let sit to marinate.

Preheat the oven or toaster oven to 400 degrees.
Cook noodles according to package directions so they are just firm.  Rinse thoroughly in cold water until cool to touch. Lightly toss with vegetable oil and set aside.

Coat the seitan with oil and toast for 10 minutes on each side, to lightly brown. Let cool on paper towels.

Coat the bottom of a wok or large saute pan with vegetable oil. On high heat, brown the mushrooms, about a minute on each side. Add onions, garlic, and red chili, and saute for about a minute. Add brussels sprouts and saute for one minute. Put a lid on the pan and let steam for one to two minutes.  Add carrots and saute another minute. Turn heat down to medium. Add the seitan, noodles and soy sauce. Toss gently to combine--tongs work really well.


Friday, March 1, 2013

Experiments in Seitan

Like so many things, this post started out as an experiment that did not go according to plan. I was wanting to make Terry Hope Romero's red seitan, but since I didn't have all the ingredients on hand, I needed to make some substitutions. I decided to use some of the quick Really Excellent Marinade to replace the tomato paste Romero's recipe called for.  It produced a very wet dough. 

I am not a very confident seitan maker, and I always wonder just what the consistency of the dough should be, how long it should be kneaded, and the size of the loaves for steaming.  I thought this was a good opportunity to test this out.

I divided the dough in two, I left the wet dough to rest, and with the second half, I added more Vital Wheat Gluten to make the dough the usual consistency I get from following a seitan recipe.  This thick dough was inevitably kneaded more than the wet dough and had that elastic feeling you look for when making bread.

Since I had a bit extra VWG left, I added some chick pea flour, and some water to make a dry, very well kneaded dough.

I then packed them in foil and steamed them according to THR's description.

After steaming, you couldn't really tell a difference between the wet dough and the medium dough. I kept one loaf of each to bake, and there was very little difference between the wet and the medium when they were baked.

The next day, I took one loaf wet and one loaf medium and sliced them to put in a marinade.  The medium loaf was a bit chewier, but only a little.

The big surprise was that on slicing the dry little dough ball, it had these nice little holes in it!  That means it is less dense than your average seitan and would probably soak up flavors more. 

I marinated it in some soy sauce, picka peppa sauce and sesame oil and sauteed it for a sort of reuben sandwich.  So good!

The steamed seitan is just the basis for later cooking. Try it in some Winter Hakka Noodles! But here is the result of my experimenting, a very good basic recipe for seitan.

Steamed Seitan
Adapted from Terry Hope Romero's recipe for Red Seitan
Makes 4 loaves of seitan
Takes 1 hour

1 1/2 cups vegetable broth
1 giant clove of garlic grated (about 1 tablespoon grated garlic, maybe more)
3 Tablespoons light soy sauce
2 Tbsp Really Excellent Marinade
2 Tbsp water
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 1/2 cups vital wheat gluten
1/4 cup chick pea flour
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
1 tsp dried oregano

Mix together garlic and wet ingredients in a large liquid cup measure. 

In a large bowl, thoroughly combine dry ingredients.

Pour wet ingredients into the dry, and stir until it begins to leave the sides of the bowl.  It will be very wet. In the bowl, knead for 3 minutes. This will be difficult as the dough will be very loose. Persevere!  Let rest for 10 minutes.  Knead again for 1 minute. Divide into 4 pieces, kneading each into a loaf shape.

Prepare a steamer and basket. I use a large stock pot with a wire cooling rack. Bring water to a boil and then turn down to a steady simmer.

Wrap each loaf into a loose foil packet, allowing room for the seitan to expand. Steam seitan for thirty minutes. Can be used right away, but it's better over time. Let cool and refrigerate. Will keep for 1 week.

Stay tuned for recipes on what to do with your seitan!

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Really Excellent Marinade

This is a simple post for a marinade I've been making for tofu and seitan.  It's tangy and just a little spicy, and can be adjusted accordingly. I've put it on veggie burgers and it's good with roast potatoes too! It's made with items I always have on hand: Pickapeppa Sauce, a great vegan Worcestershire sauce replacement (Worcestershire sauce has anchovies in it, FYI); Cholula Hot Sauce; and Soy Sauce.

I used some of the sauce to marinate baked seitan, and then made a vegetarian Reuben sandwich with the seitan:


I wanted to share this sauce with you because I also discovered that it makes an excellent flavoring for seitan! Some of you might know of my troubles with seitan. I just can't give up on making it right. Well, my latest attempt to make a batch of seitan yielded some unusual results, so this post kicks off a series of posts documenting my experiments with seitan.  Stay tuned for recipes for seitan and one that uses seitan!

Yours in experimentation!

Really Excellent Marinade, Flavoring and Sauce
Makes about 2 Tablespoons of sauce--enough marinade for a block of tofu or a loaf of seitan
Takes 10 minutes

1 1/2 Tablespoons Pickapeppa Sauce
1/2 teaspoon Cholula Hot Sauce
1 teaspoon soy sauce
1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika

Mix Together.  Tastes even better the next day.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Queen Elizabeth Cake

This might be the best vegan dessert I've ever made.

A few weeks ago, a friend mentioned a craving for something called Queen Elizabeth Cake. Her grandmother would make it at Christmas-time. I was intrigued, especially when I heard it was a date cake topped with a broiled coconut icing!

I did some research because of the name of the cake. There are many stories about the cake online. Some say it was a recipe made by Queen Elizabeth (there's debate about whether the younger or the elder), and the only cake she made herself!  Some stories say the recipe came together during the war. The cake contains a very little amount of butter or eggs, which would make sense if ingredients were rationed. Another part of the story is that the recipe was sold as a fundraiser.

I'm not sure what to make of all of these stories. It seems to be a very Canadian cake though as I can't find the recipe in British cook books. It's kind of like sticky toffee pudding in cake form.

When my friend made it, it was so good!  Really moist cake, dotted with dates, not too rich!  And the frosting was so good!  Creamy with lightly toasted coconut!  When I saw the recipe, I knew this cake would be perfect for vegan experimentation. It's a simple recipe, and the flavor comes from the ingredients, dates and coconut, not so much butter and eggs.

The vegan version is dense and moist, I upped the amount of dates from the original recipe, and substituted coconut oil for butter.


Queen Elizabeth Cake
Adapted from Amy Murphy's recipe (Thanks, Nanny Murphy!)
Makes 1 cake
Takes 1.5 hours

For  Cake:
1 1/2 cups baking dates, coarsely chopped
1 cup boiling water
1 tablespoon ground flax seed
1/4 cup water
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup chopped, lightly toasted walnuts (or pecans or hazelnuts or almonds)
1/4 cup coconut oil
1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon white vinegar

For Icing:
5 tbsp brown sugar
3 tbsp Coconut oil
1/2 cup dried coconut (I used unsweetened)
3 tbsp coconut milk (perfect to make alongside a thai curry or kuku paka)

In a heatproof bowl, pour 1 cup boiling water over the dates. Cover and let soak for 1 hour.

Mix the ground flax seed with the 1/4 cup of water.  Mix together thoroughly and let sit for at least 15 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350F. 

Grease a square glass baking dish (make sure yours is broiler proof--mine wasn't, so I used a spring form pan, lined with parchment paper and foil.  I didn't do this on purpose, but I always end up ripping the lining, and thought a double layer to protect against the cake running out the bottom!)

In a large bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and 1/2 cup of nuts.

In another bowl, beat together coconut oil and sugar until well-combined and fluffy.  Add vinegar and the flax seed mixture and beat well. Add the dates and water and combine.

Pour the wet mixture into the dry and stir until it just comes together. Pour into the prepared baking dish and smooth the top.  Bake for 35 to 40 minutes until a tester comes out clean.

When the cake comes out of the oven, place an oven rack on the slot second to the top, and turn the broiler on high. Boil together in a sauce pan on medium high heat the brown sugar, coconut oil, dried coconut, coconut milk, and 1/4 cup of nuts. 

Boil for three minutes and quickly pour over the still warm cake before the mixture becomes hard. Broil for about 5 minutes, watching carefully to make sure the coconut doesn't burn.The frosting will bubble madly!

Take the cake out and let cool. You will have this pretty lacy topping for the cake.

Eat! It's even better the next day.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Stocking Up!

Happy New Year, dear readers!  I hope you had wonderful holidays and wish you the best for 2013. I made a resolution to blog more regularly, and here's my first step towards making that resolution a reality.  After some time away, I'm back in Halifax.  I had to restock the pantry and the freezer, and for me that meant making some vegetable stock.  It's so great to have on hand to make soups or sauces, and it adds just a little oomph to all those winter vegetable dishes when you swear you will never eat cabbage again! (I always do though).

One afternoon of work makes a freezer full of stock, and really, you can use any vegetables you like.  Best of all, nearly everything I used came from the farmers market, the only exception being the spices and celery. I like stronger onion-ish flavors, so I use both leeks and shallots, but you could just throw one onion in. I don't like carrot to be too overpowering in my stock, but if you love carrots, throw more in!  Mushrooms, potato peels, if it's hanging out in your refrigerator and you like the taste, it can go in stock.

I'm planning on making a faux chicken noodle soup soon, stay tuned!

Vegetable Stock
Makes about 14 cups of stock
Takes 1 hour of active cooking, plus simmering and cooling

4 carrots, chopped
4 celery stalks, chopped
5 leeks, sliced
2 shallots, chopped
2 garlic cloves, smashed
10 twigs of thyme
10 peppercorns
2 cloves
2 bay leaves
10 stalks of parsley
16 cups water

In a large stock pot, heat some olive oil on high heat.  Add carrots, celery, leeks, shallots, garlic, thyme, peppercorns, cloves and bay leaves.  Saute for 10 to 15 minutes or until vegetables are beginning to caramelize.  Add parsley and water.  Bring to a boil, and then reduce heat and simmer, covered, for about 30 minutes.  Let cool, and portion into containers.  Will keep in refrigerator for about 3 days, or in the freezer for a couple of months.