Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Where's the beef ?

I did not grow up meat such as pork, beef or turkey, only lamb, chicken and fish.  And have to hand on heart say that I have never ever missed any of it.  As a child when I had to eat meat, I used to resent the smell and the stringy sinew texture getting stuck between my teeth, but there was no way of avoiding it.  Meat was part of our family meals that were both compulsory and respectful, not just to my parents - my father for providing for us and my mother for cooking for us, but for the animal too.  We were taught from a young age where our food came from, and I can tell you for sure it wasn't from the supermarket.  At one time, I remember my parents keeping chickens and my father and uncle slaughtering them one day for a feast.  That was one of the first experiences that injected in me a new sense of respect for animals, they were no longer viewed just as a piece a meat.

It was only when I left my parents home that I made the choice to start omitting meat from my diet.  I do not enforce my dietary preferences upon my husband, however he is a demi-vegetarian by association.  There are times when he wishes for a bit of bite, not necessary meaty flavours but texture, so it is with him in mind that I have begun to experiment with mock otherwise known as 'faux meat'.
I've written about seitan previously see here. But in a nutshell, seitan  Setian is wheat gluten. It is made by washing wheat flour dough with water until all the starch dissolves, leaving insoluble gluten as an elastic mass which is then cooked before being eaten. Over the past few years, seitan often described as 'vegetarian wheat meat' has become a much valued ingredient in the West, namely America.  Its even being claimed by some as their culinary invention, but creating faux meat from seitan has had a long tradition in the East, especially in  China - ever heard of mock duck.  I have this amazing book simply called Chinese Vegetarian Cooking by WEI-CHUAN Cultural Education Foundation that has recipes for fish roe, eel, tortoise, goose, partridge, pork, brains and so forth.  Not that I would make any of these (for a start I am not that skillful), but it shows how innovative and creative the Chinese people are, well before faux meat took off in the west as a vegan alternative to meat.

I still have a packet of vital wheat gluten given to me by a good friend reaching its sell by date. Instead of making chorizo sausages and spicy fennel sausages which I have thoroughly enjoyed. I wanted to make something different for our Sunday meal and decided on a recipe for seitan roast that was supposed to mimic roast beef. I thought it would be an interesting change for our roasted vegetables.  I have to admit, the seitan loaf did an excellent job of looking like roast meat, but I am not a convert as I still found it too chewy for my liking.  Therefore the seitan experiments continue.
This seitan roast recipe comes from The Bold Vegetarian Chef by Ken Charney.  This recipe has been on the internet since 2005, so I am reposting it on my blog for convenience so you don't have to jump between blogs.  I am linking some of these meatless 'beef' slices to just another meatless Monday and midnight maniac meatless Mondays#42, as well as Jacqueline from Tinned Tomatoes who is hosting Julys edition of Bookmarked Recipes that was founded by Ruth from Ruth's Kitchen Experiments.

Savoury Seitan Faux-Roast
Ingredients for the basic seitan dough
250g vital wheat gluten
2 tablespoons of nutritional yeast
1 tablespoon of wheat germ
2 teaspoons molasses or black treacle
2 teaspoon salt
400ml water
Method for basic seitan dough
In a large bowl, combine the dry ingredients. Add the water and knead the dough until most of the liquid is absorbed, about five minutes. Knead a little longer to combine the flavours.
Ingredients for the braising liquid
2 tablespoons maple syrup
2 tablespoons red wine
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoons molasses or black treacle
2 teaspoons Tamari or soy sauce
4 garlic cloves, crushed
4 whole cloves
1 tablespoon fennel seeds (Optional) *see note
2 teaspoons paprika
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon caraway seeds
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
Combine all the braising liquid ingredients and set aside
* Include the fennel seed if you want this to be more 'mock duck'; omit it if you wish it to be more 'beefy'.
Ingredients for the glaze
2 tablespoons red wine
2 tablespoons maple syrup
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon Tamari or soy sauce
Method for glaze
Combine all the glaze ingredients in a small bowl.
Preheat the oven to gas mark and generously oil a 9 by 5 by 3 inches loaf pan and set aside.
Add the loaf of seitan to the braising liquid aboveand  knead together for two minutes, until the liquid flavourings are incorporated into the dough.
Put the seasoned dough in the oiled pan and pack down as much as possible to press out any air bubbles.  The dough will expand during cooking, so don't worry about any gaps.  Pour over any remaining braising liquid.  Cover with foil.

Bake for two hours.  During the first hour, baste twice during the first hour with the braising pan juices.
After that time, use the glaze to baste a couple more times during the roasting. Remove the foil in the last 5 minutes of cooking. The finished loaf should be firm but still springy to the touch, and the glaze on top should be crisp and lightly browned. Remove from oven and let it rest for a few minutes before slicing into ½ inch slices. 
Serve with a robust sauce or gravy.

If you have any of the glaze juice left over, this is great slathered over leftovers that can be sliced and warmed for sandwiches or rolls,hence the reason I've called them 'beefy' slices.  This is how we have been eating the remains the past couple of days.  It is also dolloped with a little horseradish.
Recipe from The Bold Vegetarian Chef by Ken Charney.  The original recipe can be found posted here and here.


  1. You left a comment on my blog. I'm fine, enjoying summer. And don't worry about the postcard, it can be touristic, too. Maybe a nature view? I don't know what kind of postcards you have there. For me, they seem so interesting, I love UK!

    Oh and your recipes are just wonderful!!

  2. You're right it certainly looks the part, it's a shame the taste didn't inspire you. Have you ever looked at vegspinz blog? She's done quite a lot of experimenting with seitan roasts, maybe you could get some inspiration there. x

  3. Did you like it? I am a little wary of faux meat, worried that it might taste like an elastic band!

  4. This looks fantastic! Really mock-duck like with that glaze. I've got to branch out of the old chorizo sausage seitan recipe too. Just one question; usually I boil the seitan in the braising liquid but you say to put it in a loaf tin in this recipe. So, did you just put the dough in the tin and pour the liquid over top? A little bit of further explanation would be much appreciated as I'm going to try this asap! Thanks, Adam.

  5. Wow girl! You never cease to amaze me with all your delicious food! The glaze on this looks fantastic!!!!!! I am totally making this one! Thank you so much for the recipe inspiration1 I grew up on very little meat (very sparingly) and I know that it is something people learn and aquire a taste for, because to me, it is just repulsive to even think about putting it in my mouth! No way. I will take my seitan ANYDAY though!!!! Love your blog as always!!! Keep up all the wonderful things you are doing!!!! xoxo

  6. This dish looks amazing, cool how you can create it!

  7. Thanks Lela.
    So good to hear from you.
    I'll have to find you one that is very Scotitsh first, and then maybe later from another part of the UK!
    Enjoy the summer!

    Thanks Elise.
    Vegspinz is a follower, I haven't been to her blog for a while, so must check it out later.

    Hi Ali,
    I preferred it in the bread roll, rather than as part of the roast. It was a little too chewy for me. I think it could do with the addition of a bean or plain flour. My husband liked it very much, so that was good enough for me!

  8. Thanks Adam.
    Maybe its mean't to be mock duck, rather than beef?, whatever it was a new change for roast dinner.

    I've up-dated the recipe, so hopefully it should be clearer. If not - please let me know. But to your question, after kneading most of the braising liquid into the dough, I did pour the remaining liquid over and then used that to baste it.
    Please do let me know how it goes, if you do decide to make it and importntly how you find it.

    Hi there Morgan,
    Always a delight to hear from you.

    Please, please do let me know how you find this savoury seitan loaf if you do get round to making it.

    Thank you Jennifurla.

  9. Thanks for this recipe! The seitan looks delicious!

  10. Hi Shaheen,

    thanks for taking the time to explain the process further to me. I think it was clear, it's just that I've been used to cooking Seitan dough in a broth with every other recipe I've tried. Anyhow, I'm definitely going to try it as it does look like the mock duck I've had at chinese buddhist restaurants and always wondered how they did. Seems like you didn't like it that much though?

  11. Nice recipe. I love Setian, can make many type of dishes from it!

  12. Boy it's like we were separated at birth! I too have a meat eating husband who puts up with living in a meatless household. He really likes faux meat though, so I use it a few times a week. I'm swearing off soy until I hear something good about it. So that leaves seitan and quorn. The seitan seems the most natural option, so I use that most of the time. I made it once (pretty far down my blog) and wasn't in love. The store bought is better for some reason.

  13. Thanks Rose.

    Hi Adam,
    NO problem at all - I want my blog to be user friendly, so anything that helps is good for me.
    I think your right, this is problably mock duck but the author did not describe it that way - hence my beefy reference. I didn't mind the flavours actually, but the texture is something i'm getting used to still.

  14. Thanks Pete.

    Hi e,
    :0) Your comment made me smile!
    I use soya mince now and again, esp for meatballs or shopherds or cottage pie.
    Seitan is still relatively new to me. We have quorn now and again, but I think this will now be replace with seitan that has so much flavour, though I will have to find a recipe where i like the texture better (not too chewy that is).

  15. OK, I'll stay tuned. Hope you have a wonderful summer as well!

  16. Gorgeous dish - but I confess those fennel sausages are probably what I'd do if I had vital wheat gluten around. So I ask you, do you have ANY idea where to buy it in the UK? I've had no luck and had to bring some back with me last time I was in the US.

  17. Thanks Monica.
    I know there is a place in Edinburgh that sells it, but I haven't seen it anywhere else. I know you can buy it online too, but your purchase has to be a bulk order.

  18. my partner and I call vegan recipes "finta carne" (italian for faux meat) too! your roast looks delicious

  19. That's interesting Graziana,
    Thanks for sharing.


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