Friday, March 14, 2014

Homemade Seitan (Wheat-Meat)

I grew up a vegetarian. I remember the first time my father fed us chicken. He snuck us out to "town" and brought us some chicken soup. When my mother heard that we had been "tainted" with meat she chased my father down the street. Or, at least, that is the story my father used to tell us about our first meat experience. 

As an adult, I have developed a taste for meat, and will usually eat it if offered at a friend's house. I eat most types of meat, but have never been able to stomach straight beef. Beef is just not appetizing to me. However, in general, I prefer most of my meals to be vegetarian.  

My husband and I really like seitan (pronounced SAY-tan, not to be confused with the devil: satan). It is a kind of chewy, meaty, wheat based protein that cooks well, holds it shape, and tastes really good. We have breaded and baked it, fried it, and, my current favorite, put it in a vegetable stew. 

Now I have to warn you, seitan is made from wheat, and not just any wheat but wheat gluten, so if you jumped on the gluten free bandwagon then this is not a meat alternative for you. I am not a gluten free fan myself. I like bread, I like gluten, and I like seitan. I think that bread consumption should be limited for my waistline, but I don't have Celiac disease and I don't plan to go gluten free any time soon. If you are gluten free this recipe is not for you.

The only problem with seitan is that it is expensive. My husband and I can buy a pint container of seitan for $7 in the health-food store. That is one meal for two people. That's fine to pay once in a while, but we can't do that every week. So we decided to make our own. It is actually really easy, and SO MUCH cheaper. My husband (the mathematician) figures it is about one-eighth the price when made at home, and the more you make it the lower the price gets. The hardest part is getting the ingredients.

Without further ado, here is the recipe I use. I have adapted the recipe from 1,000 Vegan Recipes by Robin Robertson (a great book by the way even if you are not vegan).

Homemade Seitan

1 3/4 cups vital wheat gluten (that's 0.6 lbs)
1/4 cup nutritional yeast (which is very different from baking yeast)
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/4 tsp paprika
1 1/2 tablespoon olive oil
3 tbls tamari (gluten free soy sauce, just because it makes us giggle)
1 2/3 cups cold water

*a note on ingredients: Vital wheat gluten is the protein from wheat. I buy it at my local health food store. I usually have to buy sever small packages of it to get enough to make the seitan. Nutritional yeast can also be found at a health food store. It is quite salty. I have seen it used in many vegan recipies, but my favorite way to eat it is on popcorn.

Simmering Liquid
2 quarts water
1/2 cup tamari
4 garlic cloves

1. Make the seitan dough: 

In a food processor mix vital wheat gluten and rest of ingredients through paprika. Blend with a couple of pulses.  

Mix oil, tamari, and water, then add to dry ingredients while processor is running. Process for a full minute until dough is formed. It should look like the image bellow.

Turn onto a lightly floured cutting board and knead until smooth and elastic, about 2 minutes. This part was fun, I like kneading dough. My dough was a bit wet, so I sprinkled a bit of flour on top.

2: Simmering Liquid:
Combine all Simmering Liquid ingredients in large sauce pan. I use a 2 1/2 quart pot and it is a bit tight, but still fine.

3: Cut the seitan dough into four pieces.

Add dough to pot of simmering liquid. Bring to a boil and then lower heat and simmer for one hour turning occasionally. (I had a screaming baby at this point so it boiled a bit more than it should and it only got stirred twice, it was still fine).

Turn off heat and allow to cool in liquid. I just left it right on the stove.

Once it was cool and I had a minute to myself I put the seitan in containers. 

Each quarter of the dough fits in a small plastic pint container (I reuse ones from our local Chinese restaurant). Store the seitan in its simmering liquid. We use one pint per meal, so I save one for the week, and freeze the rest. Then I have seitan for one month. 

Sometimes one piece will be bigger than the rest, that is pretty normal.

I also like to save any remaining simmering liquid for any soups or stocks I might need. There is a lot of flavor in it. 

There you have it, four pints of seitan for a fraction of the price you might pay in stores. This recipe is also quite easy to double, and I will have to do that next time because I promised to bring some homemade seitan to a friend. 

I think the homemade version is so much better. In stores it comes cut up, and I never like how they do it, and the taste is not quite as good either. With our version we can cut up the seitan as we like, depending on the recipe. 

4. Use in your favorite recipe. 
Many chicken and tofu recipes can be made with seitan instead (you just might have to play with the flavors. Seitan does not have a strong flavor on it's own) Try: [Baked!] Chicken Fried Tofu over at Peas and Crayons (I love her) but use seitan instead. So good (but not vegan: be warned). 

I made a vegetarian stew from one of my favorite Mooswood cookbooks, and added cubes of our seitan. It was delicious, easy, and a one pot meal. Maybe I will give you guys that recipe (I adapt it) another time. 

Seitan is a great protein alternative. Sure you can eat beans and rice for protein, but why when you can eat something so much better? I always thought seitan was only something "rich" vegetarians could eat, but now I see that it is quite attainable for anyone. 

Go, make seitan, and embrace a new kind of vegetarian protein, or meat, alternative. And once you have tried it, come back and let me know what you think.

1 comment:

  1. I have learned about something brand new!! I have never heard of this before. Nice tutorial.


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