Thursday, December 25, 2008
One of those comfort foods I sometimes cooked, and loved, in my pre-vegan days was beef stew.
I was raised in a Hindu household, and my dad - although a meat-eater himself- would have had a fit had I ever served beef in his presence (as many of you know, the cow is revered by Hindus). But in my younger days, I subscribed strongly to the maxim, try everything at least once.
When I started eating beef, encouraged by Desi whose family, ironically, was pure vegetarian, I found I liked it, and I continued to eat it for quite a few years. While I now know that cows are subjected to unbelievable cruelty in slaughterhouses before they end up on our plate, and I often wish I had become a vegan earlier in life, I guess those experiences were part of the journey I had to make to arrive where I am today.
Anyway, beef stew was one of those dishes Desi and I loved and that I sometimes cooked up in our kitchen. As I've said before in this space, when I miss some of those dishes today, I cook them with vegan substitutes. I find the results are almost always as satisfying, if not more.
While I usually use vegetables like mushrooms and eggplant in lieu of the meat, this time I used a more conventional substitute: textured vegetable protein, or TVP.
TVP, which is made with soy, makes a great meat substitute because it has the same chewy texture as meat when cooked. It's also protein-rich, minus the cholesterol, so what's not to love?
I've been buying TVP for a while now, but usually I can only find it in granular form which limits one's options. But then, the other day, I happened to wander into a store in my area run by Seventh-day Adventists who have long preached the importance of vegetarianism, along with some other Christian sects like the Quakers. This store offers a variety of vegan food substitutes and prepared foods that I've never before seen even at my vegetarian-friendly co-op or at Whole Foods.
Since I am all for patronizing businesses that not only support a vegetarian lifestyle but sell only vegetarian foods, this has become my new favorite grocery store.
Now on to today's recipe, my vegan "beef" stew, which is made almost exactly as one would a regular beef stew. The result is just as delicious, if not more, and the whole thing took about a third of the time to cook since the TVP didn't need as much time on the stove as beef would.
This is the perfect dish for a cold, wintry night, the kind we're now having plenty of here in the northeastern United States. Serve it with some warm rice or even some bulghur or couscous, and it makes for a complete meal that's out of this world.
Vegan "Beef" Stew
2 cups TVP chunks (these were about 1/2-inch square). Submerge the chunks in boiling water and let stand around 30 minutes until they've absorbed a good amount of the water. Drain them thoroughly.
Toss the chunks with:
1/4 cup of flour
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried basil
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tbsp ground pepper
Salt to taste
Heat 1 tbsp canola oil in a big pot and when hot, add the TVP chunks in batches. Brown on all sides. This step helps give the chunks a great texture as well as improves the flavor of the final dish, so don't skip it. The flour also helps thicken the stew.
Remove the chunks to a plate and set aside.
Add another tablespoon of oil to the same pot (don't worry about any floury bits stuck to the bottom as these will eventually come off and actually help develop the flavor of the stew).
Add 1 cup of chopped onions, 1 cup of chopped carrots and 3 potatoes, diced, to the oil.
Stir and saute over medium heat, about five minutes, until the onions have softened.
Add 1 tbsp pepper and salt and stir in.
Add 1/2 tsp each of dried basil and oregano, and 1 tsp garlic powder, 1/2 tsp of turmeric (optional) and about 1-2 tablespoons of hot sauce like Sriracha hot chilli sauce.
Return the TVP chunks to the pot and add 1 cup of dry white wine.
Add just enough water to submerge the veggies.
Bring the stew to a boil, lower the heat, cover the pot, and cook over medium-low heat about 30 minutes so all the flavors merge together.
Turn off the heat once the veggies are completely tender.
Add some chopped parsley or coriander and stir in.
This dish tastes even better the next day, when the veggies and TVP have had a chance to sit around and absorb all the flavor of the herbs. I love it so much, I eat it out of the pot with a ladle all day!
Enjoy, everyone, and Happy Holidays!