30 Day Vegan Challenge – Day 2 – Expand Your Food Repertoire

4bc98b7c9d24d2de8293f3ac731abf98-994cfb48456e223324103b0d6d76f2fe“One of the most common comments I hear from people is that in becoming vegan they find a love of cooking.”

Colleen Patrick-Gaudreau, 30 Day Vegan Challenge

This has definitely been my experience. For a long while, I had become bored and disinterested in the experience of food and cooking. Going vegan reminded me how much I enjoy food.

The ‘vegan’ ingredients Colleen emphasises in this chapter are:

  • mushrooms
  • seitan
  • tempeh
  • tofu
  • eggplant
  • nutritional yeast.

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Mushrooms

Shiitake mushrooms - the  most beautiful of all mushrooms
Shiitake – the most beautiful of all mushrooms

I am a mushroom lover from way back. Unfortunately, we only ever get a handful of mushroom varieties in the local shops – large or small portobellos, small white or brown button mushrooms, or the medium rich-brown ones; oyster mushrooms at the Chinese vegetable shop.

Eggplant

If I had to make a list of my favourite foods, eggplant would be very near the top. There are a lot of amazing things you can do with eggplant. Two of my favourites are baba ganoush made from roasted eggplant and garlic, and dum baingan (Indian).

liquid_smoke__cutI have also discovered something new and delicious to do with eggplant – liquid smoke! The one I have is from Angel Food. They have this recipe for marinated slices of eggplant baked in the oven – fantastic on salad sandwiches.

Tofu

I learned to love tofu when I was living in Japan. The Japanese use different types of tofu in a lot of their cooking like agedashi and hiyayakko (cold tofu). These days I mostly use tofu in a stir fry, but since going vegan I have also started to use it in unusual ways, such as a filling for cannelloni.

Tofu is an amazingly versatile food.  Different varieties have different textures from soft (silken) to firm. You can even get it pickled. The different varieties can be used for different purposes in cooking. More importantly, Tofu itself has almost no flavour, but instead has a magical ability to absorb flavour.  Writing this is making we want to get back into exploring tofu again!

Nutritional Yeast

Savoury yeast flakes, also called nutritional yeast is a deactivated yeast, so don't swap it for active yeast (the kind used in bread making).
Savoury yeast flakes, also called nutritional yeast is a deactivated yeast, so don’t swap it for active yeast (the kind used in bread making).

For me this was a ‘new’ food. I first tried it several months ago in a recipe for vegan mac and cheese. I found the taste a little strange in the beginning, but now I love it. In New Zealand, it is called savoury yeast flakes, and is sold in the supermarket; I had just never noticed it before. It is also a little pricey, but worth it. Vegans like it because it is a little reminiscent of cheese and is the main dietary source of Vitamin B12 (if you don’t eat animals). I don’t use it a lot, but it has become a pantry essential.

Tempeh

Tempeh, another new food for me, is a flat soy bean cake, originally from Indonesia. The first couple of times I tried using it – no luck!  Then I learned that you should usually steam it first.

Here Colleen Patrick-Gaudreau demonstrates how to prepare tempeh.

The thing I like to do with tempeh most is the salty, sweet marinated and then baked version from this salad recipe. The key ingredient is the liquid smoke. I don’t even bother steaming it for this, just slice it super thin.

Seitan

Seitan is an odd food. I couldn’t figure out what it was. Yet, I was determined to make it because it is the first recipe in the 30 Day Vegan Challenge, and my mission is to make every recipe in the book at least once.  The central ingredient is something called vital wheat gluten – wheat flour with all the starch washed out, so all that is left is the gluten.

1240C224_VitalWheatGluten_s_450_UPDATEDIt is just as well it took me all of January to get to the challenge because it took ages to find the gluten. Not even Bin Inn (a bulk food store that stocks a lot of harder to find staples) carried it. Village Organics, the local organic shop, agreed to order it in for me. They sell an American brand called Bob’s Red Mill, who also make vital wheat gluten, so that’s what I got – at $10 dollars a bag!!

Making the seitan itself was super easy and fun. As soon as you add the liquid to the dry ingredients it turns itself in an elastic rubbery stretchy dough. [If I ever need to entertain kids we are going to make seitan.] Then, you just simmer it in a stock. The end result is odd because it has a meat like texture (sort of), but the flavour of whatever you want. After making the seitan, I used it for the second recipe in the book – Waldorf salad, which if I make again, I will use about half the mayonnaise.

You need to make sure both the broth and the dry ingredients are well flavoured, because by itself the seitan wouldn’t taste like anything. Colleen’s recipe uses vegetable broth with  tamari (Japanese soy sauce), and with the dry ingredients garlic powder and nutritional yeast. I would like to experiment some more with different flavour combinations.

I had a left over piece, so a few days later I sliced it very thinly, then pan fried the pieces and added them to a green salad with avocados. It was so similar to a salad you would make with chicken it was creepy. I’m not sure how I feel about food that is this reminiscent of meat?

Here are three very different versions on how to do seitan.V

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