Nac Mac Vegan: adventures in rabbit food

19/11/2010

Vegan Worcestershire Sauce, and some alternatives

Filed under: Ingredients, Products — Tags: , — Feòrag @ 10:51

Someone in a comment to one of my recipes noted that Worcestershire Sauce is not usually vegan as the canonical recipe includes anchovies. This is something of which I am aware, and is why I specified vegan Worcestershire Sauce in that recipe. I figured anyone who wasn’t already aware of the fish would wonder why I’d been so specific and soon find out. My reply got a bit long, explaining the options available, and as the information might be useful, I’ve turned it into a post.

Worcestershire Sauce has a very distinct flavour, and it would be natural to assume that the anchovies are a significant part of that. But it doesn’t seem to be the case and there are many vegan varieties of Worcestershire sauce out there.

They come in three basic sorts:

* cheap brands that leave out one of the more expensive ingredients (i.e. the anchovies): I’ve had supermarket own brands in the past that were vegan. Check the labels as you might be surprised (this hint probably does not work in Waitrose, but they sell one of the brands mentioned below anyway).

* expensive, usually organic, brands made especially for the veggie market. Examples include Life Free From and Geo Organics in the UK and Annie’s Naturals and The Wizard in North America. Several of these brands are also gluten-free – regular Worcestershire Sauce contains wheat.

* Japanese. This might be surprising, but Worcestershire Sauce is about the only thing that that Japanese don’t put fish in. Ignore what Wikipedia says – the Japanese brands are thin sauces, not thick like tomato ketchup. Some Japanese brands do contain fish – Bulldog, for example – but the other main Japanese brand, Kikkoman ウスター, is entirely free of animal ingredients (it’s in the “Delicious Sauce” range that also includes Tonkatsu sauce and Chuno). For the record, I use a Japanese one bought from a local Chinese supermarket.

An alternative, depending on where you live, is to use one of the other similar sauces. I particularly like Henderson’s Relish (see also), but it’s hard to get outside Yorkshire (though I see they’ll accept orders by post). For a slightly different flavour there’s another traditional British condiment, Mushroom Ketchup, for which recipes abound online, and there’s always the suggestion of the original recipe from which mine evolved: soya sauce.

If all this fails, a quick search reveals some recipes to make it yourself: one from Cooking with Rockstars, and another from Martha Stewart (though her hint for using it seems to be a little daft as, unless you’re allergic to fish or something, a regular Worcestershire Sauce would do perfectly well in that recipe!).

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21/06/2010

At last!

Filed under: Ingredients, Shopping — Tags: , , — Feòrag @ 15:19

I am lucky to live very close to good local health foods shop. My relationship with it has been strained at times, as they often seem to stock everything except what it was I actually wanted. But today I love them deeply and dearly, for they have started selling the one thing I really wanted. Something which has been very difficult to get hold of outside of North America, and which has taken up a couple of kilos of my baggage allowance on many an occasion. Yes, vital wheat gluten is now available in the UK, approximately a minute from my front door! Not as cheap as buying it in the US, but definitely more convenient. They do mail order too.

23/04/2010

Buying sea vegetables

Filed under: Ingredients, Shopping — Tags: , , — Feòrag @ 02:35

Looking at the search terms which bring people to this blog, I’ve noticed a lot them are questions about buying sea vegetables, usually in London.

Now, I don’t live in London, and only visit two or three times a year, but I do know the answer to that question, and it includes general information that can be applied to anywhere.

  • Organic and whole foods stores usually have the Clearspring range, which includes the Japanese staples, plus dulse (one of my favourites). Clearspring products are more expensive than many, but the quality is outstanding. There’s a list of stockists online.
  • The Japan Centre on Regent Street, next to Mitsukoshi, has the Clearspring range, several Japanese brands plus some obscurities. There is a small cluster of Japanese shops nearby on Brewer Street which also sell a range of sea vegetables.
  • Chinese supermarkets are another good source, and there are a number of those in Chinatown. The quality is more variable than in the health food shops or Japanese stores, but there are Chinese supermarkets in many cities.

Finally, last time I was there, there was a stall on Borough Market which sold Welsh laver bread. I can’t find it on their list of traders, but there again, I can’t remember what else they sold.

28/11/2009

Japanese tofu article

Filed under: Ingredients, Japanese, Reading matter — Tags: , , — Feòrag @ 12:14

Kimiko Barber goes In search of traditional Japanese tofu in today’s Financial Times.

11/07/2009

Edinburgh Farmers’ Market

Filed under: Ingredients, Shopping — Tags: , , , , , , , , — Feòrag @ 11:33

The location for the farmers' market is spectacular, especially on a good day like this.

The location for the farmers' market is spectacular, especially on a good day like this.

The Edinburgh Farmers’ Market is a weekly event, which is unfortunately on the wrong side of town for us. The withdrawal of the number 17 bus has made getting there by public transport impossible, and the fact that it’s on top of a car park isn’t an encouragement to use public transport either. So, when we go, unless we’re feeling really fit, we take the Volvo and then buy enough veg to justify it.

At first sight, the market doesn’t have much to offer the vegan, with an excess of meat stalls, and a couple of cheesemakers. They even have leaflets on the market information stall from the Meat Marketing Board promoting industrially-produced meat! But it’s not all unhealthy stuff, don’t worry.

Phantassie organic vegetables

Phantassie organic vegetables

Phantassie is an organic vegetable farm in East Lothian, and they are at the market a couple of times a month. This time round I bought red spring onions, smoked garlic, pea shoots (a green leafy veg), broad beans, white turnips and shiitake. Another regular is East Coast Organics, another East Lothian farm, who are at the market every week. Their stall provided me with a bunch of onions, another of carrots (carrot greens make good soup), one of radishes, a knobbly cucumber (good for Japanese recipes), a red kohlrabi and yellow courgettes. Meanwhile, my partner bought some fantastic plum tomatoes on the vine, and some baby plum tomatoes from the adjacent J & M Craig (one of the last remaining Clyde tomato growers) stall. The aroma from them is fantastic.

A couple of my favourite stalls weren’t there today. Ardnamushrooms grow shiitake and other fungi, and were the source of our organic shiitake block, an experiment in very local food we’d be glad to repeat some time. Carrolls Heritage Potatoes are only there on the first Saturday of the month, when tatties are in season, but they produce potatoes that I like — ones that taste of something. They have blue potatoes, purple potatoes and loads of flavoursome spuds from days of yore. I note they are now selling online, though, and have a stockist in Leith (if I can bear going into a fishmonger — I might have to send himself).

Cheery staff at the Good Soup Group.

Cheery staff at the Good Soup Group.

All that shopping can be hard work, so we had a couple of snacks whilst there. I ignored him having his pig in a bun (which he complained wasn’t very good – ha!) and chose a spicy noodle soup from the Good Soup Group — the noodles were rice noodles, making the soup both vegan and gluten free. Special dietary requirements seem to be a particular concern at the Good Soup Group, and they try to source everything locally wherever possible. And then there’s The Chocolate Tree, lurking ready to ruin all of your healthy eating intentions. They do a massive range of chocolate bars, vegan chocolate hazelnut spread and vegan chocolate sorbet. The cones for the sorbet are not vegan, but they are more than happy to serve it to you in a cup instead. Messy, and delicious, afterwards my face resembled that of a three-year-old after a bath in cocoa. And I don’t care!

03/04/2009

Korean-style spicy tofu

Filed under: Ingredients, Recipes and techniques — Tags: , , , , , , — Feòrag @ 13:46

This is one of my staple recipes, based on a dish you could get at the Korean food stall in the late, lamented Oriental City mall in north London, and a few recipes from around the internet.

2-3 tbl olive oil
At least 5 cloves garlic, sliced.
1 medium carrot, sliced.
1 medium onion, sliced.
1 sweet red pepper, or equivalent other vegetable of your choice.
1 block tofu, 300-400g.
4 spring onions
2 tbl water

For the sauce:
3 tbl kochujang
2 tbl rice syrup or 1½tbl sugar
2 tbl soya sauce

Options:
Fresh red chillies to taste
Up to 1 tbl sesame oil

Mix the sauce ingredients in a small bowl. You’ll have to stir it well to get the kochujang to blend with the soya sauce. Add extra chillies if you want.

Using a wok or a large frying pan, fry the onions, garlic and carrots for a few minutes in the olive oil. You want them to soften, but not to start turning brown. Then add the peppers/other veg, the tofu and spring onions and gently stir in the sauce until all is well-coated. Add the water, stir again, cover and simmer for a few minutes until the vegetables are cooked through. Optionally mix in some sesame oil just before serving. Serve over rice.

Notes:
Kochujang (sometimes transliterated gochujang) is a Korean paste which is basically a hot and spicy dark miso. It comes in bright red plastic tubs and is available from most Chinese supermarkets. A similar, but non-spicy, bean paste comes in tan-coloured tubs, should you not want the heat.

10/03/2009

Odd tomatoes and ersatz roast

Filed under: Ingredients, Products, Recipes and techniques — Tags: , , — Feòrag @ 22:01
A sliced marmande tomato

A sliced marmande tomato

We recently obtained some marmande tomatoes, an unusual looking beastie that is said to taste really good. My other half googled for recipes using them, and found Oven-roasted Marmande Tomatoes, a staple in the south of France, apparently. We had all the ingredients except the fresh herbs (well, technically we have fresh rosemary, growing in the garden, but it was dark) so I decided to give it a go. It was pretty straightforward. I roasted them for longer than specified, but that’s because I have a strong dislike of half-cooked tomatoes. The recipe is highly recommended, and is likely to become a staple in this household whenever we can get hold of interesting tomatoes.

We were at a loss as to what would go with it until I remembered that we’d bought a Redwood Foods Cheatin’ turkey style roast with cranberry and wild rice stuffing when Real Foods had been selling them off after the festive season, and that it was still in our freezer. What’s more, it cooked at close to the same temperature as the tomatoes – result! I tend not to like fake meats (I never liked the real thing), but they make a useful compromise with my meat-eating partner. He declares that it is quite nice, though a little dry. I’d worried that I’d overdone the olive oil in the tomatoes, but he felt that was good with the roast.

But the tomatoes were the stars of this meal. I shall have to see if Waitrose still have them.

06/03/2009

Vegan Dashi

Filed under: Ingredients, Japanese, Products — Tags: , , , , , — Feòrag @ 13:07

Dashi is Japanese for soup stock. It comes in all sorts. Hon dashi (本だし) is never vegan as it’s fish stock. Konbu (こんぶ – kelp) and shiitake dashi are more promising, but they usually contain bonito (also call katsuoboshi), a fish product.

Shimaya konbu dashi

Shimaya konbu dashi

There are at least two brands of Japanese instant konbu dashi which are vegan. The first is made by Shimaya (シマヤ), comes as mid-green sachets (long and thin) in a green plastic bag, and is labelled こんぶだしの素. I have also seen the same product in boxes. You might read that this product contains lactose—it used to, but doesn’t any more. If you want to check, go to the product page and search for 乳糖, which is Japanese for lactose. You’ll find it in the shiitake dashi (which used to be vegan—poo!), but not the konbu dashi at the top. The ingredients translate as: seasonings (amino acid etc), table salt, saccharides (dextrose, sugar), natural flavourings (kelp powder, kelp extract). You can get this from the Japan Centre, or any of the Japanese supermarkets in London.

Ajinomoto konbu dashi

Ajinomoto konbu dashi

The second is a similar product made by Ajinomoto, and is packaged almost identically, with eight long and thin, but light green, sachets per pack. When I first spotted it, I thought it was the Shimaya one with re-vamped packaging. The ingredients for this brand are salt, sugar, mannitol (E421), monosodium glutamate (E621), powdered kelp, kelp extract.

Two brands of dashi which are vegetarian, but not vegan.

Two brands of dashi which are vegetarian, but not vegan.

There are two more brands, which are vegetarian, but unfortunately aren’t vegan, though for one of them you’d never tell from the translated ingredients list. Riken Mutenka (“additive-free”) Konbu Dashi is also GM-free. The importer translates the ingredients as simply “tangle”. The actual list is: flavourings (kelp extract, powdered kelp), starch, lactose, yeast extract. The other is a Dutch macrobiotic brand, Manna, which also contains lactose (I thought macrobiotics discouraged the use of dairy?).

Wel-Pac dashi konbu

Wel-Pac dashi konbu

If you know you will need the dashi a few hours in advance, it’s simple but time-consuming to make your own. Good dashi konbu will be thick and not too wrinkled – I’ve had consistently good results with the Korean Wel-Pac brand, which is stocked by pretty much all Chinese supermarkets and is easy to obtain. To make a litre of stock, take a sheet and break it into three long pieces. Wipe the konbu with a damp cloth and place in a large pan with a litre of water. Put the lid on the pan and bring quickly to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer until you have about ¾ of the original volume of liquid. If your pan lid does not have a hole in it to let steam out, place it ajar whilst simmering. Top up the water back to the original level, using cold water, and simmer for a further 20 minutes or so, then top up again and simmer for another 10 minutes.

By this point you will know if you had good quality konbu as it will have expanded and small blisters will appear on the surface. The more dashi you make, the longer it will take to cook. It will keep for a few days in the refrigerator, and you could consider making a highly concentrated version and freezing it—just use less water or more konbu.

Another trick for simmered dishes is to simply place a piece of dashi konbu at the bottom of the pan before you add the other ingredients and remove it after cooking. Don’t throw the used konbu away, though, as it is still good to eat.

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