Prior to what I’ll call the plant-based revolution, and by that I’m referring to this period of time we’re living in right now where new vegan (often meat-like) products are being released onto the market on a seemingly weekly basis, vegans would satisfy their desire for simulated meat by making homemade seitan. There are a couple of ways to do this. The old-fashioned way is to rinse dough in water until you are left with a very glutenous substance from which you can make your desired dish. The other way, the way used here, is to forgo the rinsing by buying vital wheat gluten, which can be bought online in powdered form and used in exactly the same way, minus the soaking.
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The variety of products available in supermarkets now has negated the need, somewhat, for making seitan. You can now find just about everything you want already prepared and neatly packaged, ready for you to pick off the shelf and repurpose into a vegan version of your favourite dish, and you can do this with a minimum of fuss. I’m no different. I pick plenty of this items off the shelf and use them, but for those of us who like to cook, who enjoy the creative process that making a meal from scratch provides, making homemade seitan is a skill worth learning. It is also extremely cost-saving. A pre-prepared vegan product for two people will cost you around £3 plus at the time of writing, but the ingredients in this recipe, though more expensive initially, will cost you about half that (a kilo of vital wheat gluten costs about £7 and less than a third of that is used here to feed 4 people).
Homemade seitan probably isn’t something you’ll want to make all the time, especially with the other choices now available, but I do think it’s worth giving it a go. Think of it in the same way as making your own bread. We don’t have to do it every day anymore, but sometimes we just like to.
As you can see from the picture, this seitan recipe is very mush styled on steak. I personally find it a little overkill to try to eat a chunk of it as if it were a steak. You might like the recipe for that, but it just isn’t for me. I much prefer this recipe for slicing up and putting in things like curries, fajitas or stir-fries. I suggest you try it the same way. It is already full of intense flavour because of the seasoning and the way it is cooked and lends itself perfectly to being sliced and flash-fried in a pan of hot oil.
The recipe calls for the seitan to be fried first, then braised in stock with a lid on until all of the liquid has gone. You can then cook it just a little bit further to brown the sides and really deepen its flavour. After that, all you have to do is adapt it to your favourite dish.
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- For the Dough:
- 300 g vital wheat gluten
- 4 tbsp nutritional yeast
- ½ tsp salt
- 1 ½ tsp garlic granules
- 2 tsp southern-fried seasoning or chicken seasoning
- 450 ml cold water
- 3 tbsp dark soy sauce
- 3 tbsp liquid smoke
- Flour for dusting
- For Cooking:
- 2 tbsp vegetable oil
- 3 tsp smoky BBQ seasoning
- 200 ml veg stock
- 3 tbsp dark soy sauce
- 3 tbsp liquid smoke
- 50 ml tomato ketchup
- To make the dough, put the vital wheat gluten, nutritional yeast, salt, garlic granules and seasoning into a large mixing bowl and combine thoroughly. Now add the water, the soy sauce and the liquid smoke and mix in to form a dough. It will come out a little differently from a bread dough. It might appear that the water isn’t soaking up, but stick with it. Use your hands to knead it in the bowl for a couple of minutes, then cover it and set it aside to rest for 1 hour.
- Once it has rested, divide the dough into 4 pieces and roll each piece out onto a floured surface. You can be quite liberal with the flour here.
- Now its time to twist and knot the dough. This will help give you that meaty texture in the finished dish. To do this, roll the dough into a long sausage shape, then twist it as if you were twisting a towel. Once you have twisted it as far as it will go, gently tie the dough into knots. This is tricky, but you don’t have to get it perfect. Just tie it up a couple of times and tuck the ends in, so that you finish with a reasonably rounded shape. Repeat this will all 4 pieces of seitan.
- To cook it, heat the vegetable oil in a large frying pan (one that either has a lid or that you can make a lid for using tin foil). Dust each seitan piece with the BBQ seasoning and rub it around the surface on both sides. Fry the pieces in the pan, on both sides, for 5-7 minutes, until all sides are browned. Mix the veg stock, soy sauce, liquid smoke and ketchup in a bowl or jug and pour over the frying seitan. Simmer the stock for 8-10 minutes to allow it to reduce slightly.
- Now put a lid on the pan. If you don’t have one then cover with foil. I often put a wooden chopping board on top of the foil to keep it weighed down during cooking. Once covered, simmer the seitan for 35-40 minutes, until most of the liquid has evaporated. Take off the lid and cook for a few minutes more to remove the rest of the stock and brown a little more. Allow the seitan to cool if slicing up for another dish. It’ll keep for 4-5 days in the fridge. You can also slice it once cold and freeze it for another time.
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