AMBER SEXTON New York City 917-207-2375

Vegan food

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Seitan Bourguignon

image by Amber Sexton

This is my second time making this dish and it was good the first time and fantastic the second time. Here is my take on making the Julia Child classic as a vegan dish. I looked at two recipes for vegan versions of this here and here and I also looked at the traditional recipes. I agree with the idea in the picky vegan, that long cooking times such as 3 hours don’t make sense, and for similarity, more fat and smokey flavors should be added because bacon supplies those things to the beef dish. I also decided to use my pressure cooker for both the seitan making and the final dish instead of a long braise which wouldn’t make sense when using seitan instead of meat. When I first made this dish I followed the first recipe very closely and found it lacking in sweetness. I saw some recipes for traditional beef bourguignon which called for a small amount of cognac, which I decided to try. I also used some fenugreek in the simmering broth because it adds sweetness, of course sugar is a possibility too, but I did not need it.

The vegan recipes start with packaged seitan. I never use it, I find it costly and inflexible in terms of seasoning and always make my own. I use the same basic Joanne Stepaniak recipe that appears all over the web and is in her cookbook Vegan Vittles. I do alter the seasoning depending on the ultimate use of the seitan.

image by Amber Sexton

To make the seitan itself, for this recipe (if using packaged skip this part):

1-1/2 cups of instant gluten flour, aka vital wheat gluten
1/4 cup nutritional yeast, (vegetarian support formulas, such as by Red Star are the best)
1/2 teaspoon granulated garlic
1/2 teaspoon granulated onion
1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika (if I had liquid smoke or smoked salt I would have used that, I love smoked paprika but it can dominate, so I used very little)

stir dry ingredients together and mix together the following liquid ingredients

1 cup COLD vegetable stock (I used packaged but often make my own)
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon olive oil (this is optional in a seitan recipe, but adding fat in a few places is key to this dish)
1 tablespoon Pino Noir wine
1/4 teaspoon salt (these last two are subbing for a the third tablespoon of soy sauce the basic recipe calls for)
1 teaspoon tomato paste
2 shakes Angostura bitters (experimental umami adding move on my part)

Add liquid to the dry all at once and mix together, you will quickly need to use your hands, my dough was too dry, normally when this happens, you may add one or two tablespoons of extra water, I added a similar amount of the wine. Then you knead a bit and you end up with a spongy dough mass called gluten. This is raw and a normal recipe will call for dividing it in three and simmering for an hour. I tore this into small pieces and chose to cook it it in a pressure cooker with a smaller amount of broth than in standard cooking instructions. If not using a pressure cooker double the cooking times here. Whatever you do, always use cold liquid to make the seitan dough, and place the dough for cooking in the pot before it has been turned on and the liquid is cold. The gluten should come up to temperature with the broth, this has a huge influence on the texture of the seitan, and I like a softer, open cell seitan that allows sauces and tastes further within the “meat”

Prepare a pressure cooker with this cooking broth:
6 cups COLD water
1/2 cup soy sauce
1 veggie bouillon cube
fistful of fresh thyme sprigs
tablespoon of dry fenugreek leaves
teaspoon of whole celery seed
bay leaf
3 or more cloves of peeled but unpressed garlic
fistful of fresh parsley sprigs
(these are nearly all flavor elements in the bourguignon dish so you should have them around, the rest is optional but I strongly suggest you not skip celery seed or celery itself for this)

Add the uncooked seitan pieces, place the pressure cooker cover on, lock the seal, use high heat to bring to pressure, and then turn down to medium and set a timer for 20 minutes starting from when the pot is at pressure. About ten minutes in the pressure cooker will start spitting more, and turn it down to low for the remaining cooking. When time is done, turn off the heat and let the pressure release naturally. When done remove the seitan pieces with tongs and place in a bowl, drain out cooking liquid, strain and save for other recipes and such. This yields about two pounds, but I did not weight it this time.
image by Amber Sexton

While that’s cooking prepare the ingredients for the bourguignon which are:
4 small or two large carrots peeled and sliced
1 large shallot diced
10 oz package of pearl onions, peeled (about 18-25 onions)
2 large oyster mushrooms diced
3 cloves garlic coarsely chopped
1/4 cup fresh parsley chopped
2-3 sprigs of thyme, leaves removed from stalks, stalks discarded.
1 bay leaf
1/2 750 mil bottle of Pinot Noir or other red wine from Burgundy region
1 oz cognac
2 cups vegetable stock
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika (if you have smoked salt I would use it instead)
2 tablespoons tomato paste
several healthy shakes of Angostura bitters (optional)
flour for dredging the seitan, salted and peppered, it probably ended up being about 1/2 cup in the end
salt and pepper to taste
Olive oil and Earth Balance butter substitute for browning seitan and cooking veg. I did not measure but amounts were healthy.

image by Amber Sexton
Begin by meausuring out 375ml of wine into a measuring cup, then pour yourself a glass as everything left in the bottle is for you to drink. Peel the pearl onions as follows. Pour boiling water over whole onions in a bowl, soak for 1-2 minutes and then drain and immerse into a bowl of ice water, strain and then squeeze them out of their little skins by pressing them between your fingers, trim ends where needed to speed that along.
image by Amber Sexton

Peel and slice the carrots, dice the shallot, thinly slice and dice the oyster mushroom, chop the garlic and the parsley, set aside.
image by Amber Sexton

Take your seitan pieces and tear them up further if needed, I left some bigger chunks at first but then decided to go smaller. Fill a plastic storage container with a 1/2 inch of flour and add dash of salt and pepper, place 5-8 seitan pieces in, cover the top and shake. Repeat with all the seitan, in batches using more flour and seasonings as it gets absorbed. Brown these in olive oil and Earth Balance, do this in several small batches. Crowding a pan will inhibit the maillard reaction therefore affect brownness and make food less crispy.
image by Amber Sexton

I put the browned pieces on a wire rack but did not put down paper towels to absorb excess oil because this fat becomes a necessary part of the bourguignon dish, as I’m not using bacon rendered into fat or braising cuts of meat for a long time to release fats in the connective tissues.

Clean the pressure cooker, and place the pot only on the stove and turn on medium high, add olive oil and Earth Balance and put in shallots and carrots and saute till shallots begin to brown. Add mushrooms, garlic and pearl onions. Turn down heat and saute a few more minutes till the onions brown lightly and the shallots are quite brown. Add the seitan and all the liquid ingredients and spices, all remaining ingredients, bring to boil.

image by Amber Sexton
(my parsley looks very green because my fridge actually froze it which really pissed me off, and it’s why I garnished with thyme on the finished dish)
Place cover on pressure cooker and bring to pressure, lower flame and set timer for 30 minutes, when pressure starts to spit, turn the flame down very low. When timer ends, release pressure through the rapid method, either with the quick release setting on the valve or by immersing the whole pot under cold running water in the sink.

All the diced veg and even the pearl onions were falling apart soft, the gravy was very thick from the flour from the breading on the seitan, and the seitan was flavored throughout and a nice soft texture. This was so delicious and rich, lightyears ahead of my first try.
I ate it with french bread, and would have had a nice salad had I the energy to make it.
image by Amber Sexton

Posted by Amber Sexton on 02/10 at 04:18 AM
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Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Learning to make Tomato Pappu, or Toor Dal or Andhra Dal

Today I decided to look up toor dal recipes to try. I do a fair amount of Indian recipes at home and I have mostly used toor or tuvor beans to make sambar with. I’ve made sambar a few times and I’m getting better at it but it’s still not as good as I find it in a lot of restaurants I go to. Whereas when I make chana dal, or moong dal, or masoor dal it is more delicious made at home. Also when I make sambar, I often make it when making medu vada which are savory bean donuts that dip into it. Making both is very labor intensive and a big commitment. I wanted to just use up some of the beans, and my curry leaves which would go bad without needing to make two dishes that required a lot of utensils, pots and labor.

So I googled Toor dal. If you are not familiar with the different beans and pulses in Indian cuisine, I don’t blame you. I wasn’t really either and my first ever foray into making dal I used ordinary yellow split peas and a recipe from smitten kitchen here. That recipe is delicious, but even while eating I knew that it was not exactly what I was served in restaurants and so my delving into somewhat more authentic indian cooking began. Anyway Toor dal, unlike some of the other split beans that are used in Indian food may be more familar to you as pigeon peas or gandules. However the difference is that they are not whole, they are split with skins removed. When you look for them in a store that sells ingredients for indian cooking they may be labeled Toor, Tuwar, or Tuvor dal. They have a very specific taste that is mandatory in sambar, when cooked they have a honey-ish aroma, but still obviously a bean and skinless they cook up light yellow.

So what I found was a video on youtube which has audio instructions in Telugu, but written instructions in English, for Tomato Pappu. Then I poked around at other recipes, many of which included garlic and onion not in this recipe and also one or two included fresh ginger. Many indian recipes will omit onion and garlic, because certain Hindu castes do not consume it, and since I’m not in that number I often add them. Asafetida can be a substitute for onion or garlic in a recipe, but I always include a dash of it for it’s unique taste. I chose this original recipe as the base partially because I had the fenugreek seeds and black gram or urad dal which are used in the seasoning that is tempered while the dal is cooking. Urad dal is something I have around because it’s used to make medu vada mentioned above, and it’s intrigued me because just by soaking the split bean, you can grind it, mush it between two fingers, it’s kind of a unique bean that way. I believe it’s properly called a pulse and it is unique to Asia, and it’s often called black gram as in this recipe, because the skins are black, but like the toor dal, it’s mostly used in it’s split and skinned form as is the case here and the inside is white. Only a teaspoon and a half are used, toasted in the oil with fenugreek seeds as part of the seasoning so you could easily skip it you wish and not all recipes called for it at all. This recipe did not specify what type of oil to use. I have taken to using mustard oil in many of my indian dishes and it’s especially good in masoor dal, I’ve no idea if it’s authentic to use in this type of dal but it was delicious.

So I followed this recipe, pretty close, however I put the turmeric and chili powder in after the beans and tomatoes were cooked, the recipe didn’t say how much water to cook the beans in and I added two cups. I also only cooked it for 10 minutes rather than 15 at pressure. I reduced the red chili powder to just 1/4 teaspoon (btw this is mirch or cayenne powder not american chili powder, but you could use red pepper flakes also.) Most of the heat came from 4 dried red chilies that I added to the temper at the second step in seasoning part of the recipe. Some recipes I saw online called for this, and even fresh green chilies cooked with the beans and tomatoes, that would make for a much hotter dish. Anyway the chilies went in to the pan after the urad dal and fenugreek seeds were toasted, right when the cumin and black mustard seeds are added (it’s not specified that they are black mustard seeds but that’s really the only kind used whole in Indian cooking, you do need to get those when picking up your specialty dals at the indian food store.) After this I added 5 small cloves of grated garlic, about a teaspoon grated ginger and about a half a chopped onion, and the rest of the recipe I followed pretty much as indicated. It’s delicious and I will make it again and again, as it was quick and easy with my pressure cooker and I’ve a huge bag of dal to get through.

Posted by Amber Sexton on 12/18 at 10:52 AM
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