Although it may seem like a mission impossible, recreating meat like appearance, consistency and even the taste with plant-based ingredients is not all that hard. The basis for many of my meatless recipes are mushrooms. I usually use baby portobello mushrooms, also known as the crimini mushrooms, but white button mushrooms would work just as well. Very often I grind the mushrooms into a paste and this also helps with the final meat-like vibe of a dish. Finally, I cook the dish with the same spices and in the same way as someone would a meat version of the same recipe.
The meatless Shepherd’s Pie I made some time ago nicely illustrates these tips. For that recipe I used mushrooms and lentils, as the key umami components, and combined them with herbs that you would typically use in this pie – thyme and plenty of rosemary. What you see and smell will evoke the right memories and experiences, so by the time you have the first bite your brain is already convinced it’s having meat.
Here I use all those strategies to make koftas, which are sort of flat-ish lamb meatballs placed on a skewer and grilled. Minced mushrooms give the right level of umami and TVP (textured vegetable protein) gives the koftas structure. One note on the TVP – instructions usually say that you need to soak the TVP flakes before using which is true for many applications but not for this one. Use dry TVP and mix it with minced mushrooms and the rest of the ingredients to get to the right consistency for the koftas. After all they will need to go on the skewers and need to be robust enough for broiling on high. I did add some bread crumbs to the mix as well, as an extra binding agent. If you are not a fan of bread crumbs, you could add oats, or some corn meal.
Koftas need to be shaped by hand, and the skewers gently threaded through. Ideally, the skewers you are using are long enough to rest on the edges of your broiler pan (see picture below) so that you can turn them midway through broiling and get all sides well browned. I can’t recommend the bamboo skewers I used here – by the end of the broiling they were all black band falling apart – so metal ones seem like a much better idea.
Broiled Vegan Koftas
What you’ll need:
10 oz (280 g) white button mushrooms
10 oz (280 g) TVP
1 cup bread crumbs, plain, gluten-free
4 cloves garlic
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons coriander powder
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons smoked paprika
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
What you’ll do:
- In a large food processor, mix all the ingredients (except the cooking spray) and pulse to mix and combine. Let this mixture stand for at least 30 minutes and up to one hour.
- Start your broiler on “HI” or use the outdoor grill if you like.
- Line a broiler pan with some foil. You don’t need the top grate part that broiler pans usually have so leave it aside.
- Using your hands take about 1/2 cup worth of koftas’ mix and form an elongated oblong shape about 1 1/2 in (3-4 cm) wide then pierce it with a skewer. These koftas are gentle so handle them with care. You may need to adjust the amount of bread crumbs, or add some flex meal as a blunder. Leaving them in a fridge or freezer to firm up will help them hold their shape. Place the skewers on a broiler pan making sure their ends rest on the pan’s rim and the koftas don’t touch the bottom (see picture above).
- Broil on high for 5-8 minutes than turn over to broil on the other side.
- Let koftas cool just for a moment then serve with some rice, Saffron Cauliflower Rice, or a mild yogurt, like almond or cashew ones.
Copyright © Eat the Vegan Rainbow, 2018