Broiled Vegan Koftas

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Broiled Vegan Koftas, via Eat the Vegan Rainbow

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.

Serve Broiled Vegan Koftas with some Saffron Cauliflower Rice, and with a spoonful of mint chutney, and you will have yourself a great, well-rounded meal.

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

Cooking spray

What you’ll do:

  1. 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.
  2. Start your broiler on “HI” or use the outdoor grill if you like.
  3. Line a broiler pan with some foil. You don’t need the top grate part that broiler pans usually have so leave it aside.
  4. 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).
  5. Broil on high for 5-8 minutes than turn over to broil on the other side.
  6. 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

Homemade Ground Beef Substitute

 

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Homemade Ground Beef Substitute, via Eat the Vegan Rainbow

Without a doubt ground beef is one of the staples of American cuisine. And it is also something that many meat substitutes are trying to recreate. This means that you can now go to most supermarkets and get a meatless ground beef product off the shelf. Some are tried are really good, like the Trader Joe’s one or the Beyond Burger, but it’s the price tag that is a bit troublesome plus I am a bit of a control freak and like to know exactly what goes on my plate.

So, I have been making my own meatless beef. I’ve been fairly happy with my burger experiment, and I’ve been also happy with a tofu based ground beef substitute that was created by Glow Kitchen. That ground beef substitute was very influential in my early days of vegan cooking that I recently included it in my list of 5 Must-Try Recipes for Beginner Vegans. It worked really well in applications like stuffed peppers but I wanted to explore ground mushroom and TVP (textured vegetable protein) based versions. I had such an amazing result when I used ground mushrooms, in combination with lentils, as a filling for Shepherd’s Pie, that I just have to figure out a way to fold them into a ground beef substitute.

As a general rule, if you want to recreate a meat dish without using any meat, stick with spices, texture and consistency that evokes the appearance that you are aiming for. Grounding mushrooms was definitely a breakthrough for me, as well as using TVP without pre-soaking! Plus, adding spices like cumin and paprika, as well as coconut aminos or a dash of soy sauce brings out that meat-like flavor. My final touch is just a little bit of tomato paste, for color as well as flavor. When all the components are in, and well mixed, I let the mixture just rest for at least an hour. Thus helps flavors merge and combine and TVP soften.

At the end, what you have after all this mixing, grinding and resting is a mix that looks very much like ground beef yet tastes so much better and richer. You can use the mix to stuff your peppers, in a sauce like Bolognese, or sautée as us and use in tacos, on pizza, or for any other purpose you can think of. You can definitely make meatballs out of it, or even hamburgers. This homemade ground beef substitute is versatile and very budget friendly so you can definitely afford to make batch after batch especially if you get your TVP from jet.com, the cheapest source of this ingredient I could find.

Homemade Ground Beef Substitute

What you’ll need:

10 oz (283 g) white mushrooms

1 1/3 cups TVP (textured vegetable protein)

1 tablespoon liquid smoke

1/3 cup vegetable oil

2 tablespoon tomato paste

1 tablespoon liquid coconut aminos

1 teaspoon cumin

1 teaspoon paprika

1 teaspoon onion powder

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

Cooking spray (if the idea is to sautée the mix; for other applications just follow the procedure you would normally follow)

What you’ll do:

  1. Wipe the mushrooms with a paper towel to remove any bits of dirt. Put in the food processor and grind to a fine grind. Pour out into a large mixing bowl.
  2. Add the rest of the ingredients, except cooking spay, mix well and let the mixture rest for at least 1 hour.
  3. Once the mix has rested it is ready to use. The mix browns well and makes for a great taco filling or nacho topping. It can also be used to stuff peppers and to make hamburgers or meatless meatballs, in which case you don’t to brown the mix but ma need to form patties and leave them in the fridge to firm up before cooking.

 

Copyright © Eat the Vegan Rainbow, 2017

A Very Beefy Veggie Burger

"Beef" Veggie Burger
“Beef” Veggie Burger, via Eat the Vegan Rainbow
For many researching and investing into meat alternatives, making a plant-based burger that looks, cooks and tastes like real beef has become one of the most important goals. Several years ago, I heard Pat Brown, founder and CEO of Impossible Foods, give a talk and one thing Pat mentioned was how incredibly hard it is to re-create a plant-based hamburger. Burgers are such a huge part of American culture, so offering a meatless alternative is unlikely to convince anyone to go meat-free unless that alternative is spot on, juicy and meaty.

But, lets be honest: veggie burgers are definitely not hitting this mark. For the most part, they are a mix of vegetables thrown together and shaped into a patty that usually falls apart as you are grilling it. I know this sounds mean, but it is what it is. I myself have been down the road of trying to figure out how to keep my veggie burgers together while at the same time make them taste authentic many times before. Some attempts have been a total failure, some, like this Roasted Red Peppers and Chickpea Burger, have been a success.

Don’t get me wrong – I love veggie burgers! They have amazing flavors and textures, and they are fun to eat. Also: I am not a fan of hamburgers, but I live in a land of hamburger lovers so I agree with Pat Brown’s general idea that in order to convince people to give up their meat we need to offer them something incredible to sizzle on the grill and stick inside the bun. And just in case you are wondering whether there is any such thing available in retail stores, you should head out to your local Whole Foods Market and get some Beyond Meat‘s The Beyond Burger. I had it few nights ago and it blew my mind!

So although I am most certainly going to be getting those burgers again, they do come with a relatively unfriendly price tag, which means I am where I started: trying to home brew an impossible, incredible and all-around awesome meat-free burger. This recipe for A Very Beefy Veggie Burger is one step closer to achieving that ideal combination of flavor, texture and grillability and the tip top secret of this recipe is to use TVP (Textured Vegetable Protein) without pre-soaking and letting it absorb all the ground mushroom and mashed beans juices. This batch of burgers was cooked in a grill pan because the weather in New England has been very rainy lately and I just could not wait to make these, but the patties are firm enough to withstand the ultimate test of an outdoor grill.

As for condiments, sky is truly the limit. I paired these burgers with some Vegan Herb Mayo, cucumber and tomato slices, butter lettuce and Roasted Red Beets Hummus, but you can use anything you like. The flavor of these patties is very, very similar to what you can expect from a hamburger, but the texture and juiciness does need more work. Still, I will try, try, try again until I develop the recipe for a mouth-watering, and inexpensive, beef-less burger. As Silicon Valley is now funding these types of efforts, perhaps I can re-write the stereotype of “two guys in a garage” into “one woman in the kitchen” story? That would be fun!!!

Very Beefy Plant-Based Burger
Very Beefy Plant-Based Burger, via Eat the Vegan Rainbow
Note: Just in case you are asking yourself why we should go meatless, Bill Gates offered some well-articulated arguments in the Future of Food post few years ago.

 

A Very Beefy Veggie Burger

What you’ll need:

2 15.5 oz (439 g) cans of Roman (cranberry) beans

1 cup TVP (Textured Vegetable Protein; I used Bob’s Red Mill TVP)

8 oz. (227 g) baby bella mushrooms

2 tablespoons almond butter

2 tablespoons nutritional yeast

1 tablespoon soy sauce, reduced sodium

1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce, vegan

1 teaspoon onion powder

1 teaspoon garlic powder

Cooking spray

 

What you’ll do:

  1. Drain and rinse the beans. Pat dry and place in the large mixing bowl.
  2. Use a food processor to grind the mushrooms. Add the mushroom meat to the mixing bowl.
  3. Add TVP and the rest of the ingredients (except the cooking spray) into the bowl and use the immersion blender to blend everything into a mixture that looks like ground beef, with the same type of texture. You can also do this step in the food processor.
  4. Let the mixture stand for 30 to 60 minutes on the kitchen counter, then shape the burgers and leave them in the refrigerator for about an hour to firm up. This will give TVP time to soak up all the juice from mushrooms and bean and soften just enough to give a nice ground beef texture to the burger without making it too soft and crumbly.
  5. Heat the grill or the grill pan on high and make sure that your grill grate or your pan are generously oiled. Reduce the heat to medium before putting your burgers on. Grill for 4 to 5 minutes on one side, then flip over and grill for additional 4 to 5 minutes.
  6. Put your burger buns on the grill for a minute or two to toast them gently, then top with mayo, burger, cucumber slices, tomatoes, lettuce, roasted beet hummus or whatever floats your boat – and bite in!!!

Correction: the original post said “yeast extract” but that’s not correct. I used nutritional yeast so I made the correction now. Thanks to Mary Dion for flagging this to me on Facebook!!!

Copyright © Eat the Vegan Rainbow, 2017