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!).

10/07/2010

Review: Trader Joe’s Vegetable Panang Curry with Jasmine Rice

Filed under: Products, Supermarkets and convenience stores — Tags: , , , , — Feòrag @ 22:56

I’m on the road again, this time in Massachusetts, at a science fiction convention in the middle of nowhere near Boston. Despite the best efforts of the convention organisers, the hotel isn’t too good for vegans, but the room does have a microwave oven and a fridge freezer. I also realised food would be a problem here, and rented a car for the duration so I could escape to eat.

I’d brought along some crispbread and hummous and other cold bits but was getting fed up of that. There are two Whole Foods Markets and a Trader Joe’s in the area. I’m unhappy with the way the staff at US branches of Whole Foods Market are treated and I’d heard many good things about Trader Joe’s, so that’s what went into the borrowed satnav.

Trader Joe’s is very, very good about marking stuff up as vegan (and vegetarian, and gluten-free and a number of other things that people might take into account). They’re clueful enough to know that refined cane sugar in the US is not suitable for vegetarians. There wasn’t much of interest in the freezer section, but I decided to give the Vegetable Panang Curry a try. It’s also gluten-free as well as vegan.

It was thoroughly overpackaged, with one more layer than you’d get in a British supermarket ready-meal, and the tray itself was more substantial (a good thing, in my mind). It took about a minute longer to cook that claimed on the box.

But, oh! If you’re used to what you find in the freezer section of a British supermarket, you will be impressed. The meal could have come from my favourite little Malaysian eaterie in Amsterdam (near Nieuwmarkt) — it tasted authentic and full of flavour, with no skimping on the spices. And what’s best? According to the receipt, it cost me $2.49 (about £1.80).

Recommended. I think I’ll go back and get the Vegetable Pad Thai for tomorrow.

07/04/2010

Japan: some additional vegan konbini goodies

As mentioned yesterday, Herwin Walravens’ Japan Vegan Restaurant Pocketguide contains a handy summary of the few vegan items available in Japanese convenience stores. There are a few others too.
Sesame tofu package
Gomadōfu (ごまどうふ) is one of the non-tofu “tofu”s. It’s sesame milk set with kūzu and is rather pleasant if you like sesame. There are a number of similar looking items, some of which are flavoured tofu – shiso (しそ – perilla) is a vegan one of these; others are the aforementioned jellies set with kūzu, including a black sesame version. One warning: if you see a package very similar to the one shown, but yellow, it’s a savoury egg custard thing. The kanji for egg is very distinctive and worth learning to recognise: .
vegan daikon and seaweed salad from Family Mart
The second discovery is a daikon and seaweed salad from Family Mart. I’m afraid I forgot to photograph it until I’d eaten half of it, but the photo is enough to get the picture. The container has a small amount of lettuce at the bottom, then loads of shredded daikon, topped with a variety of seaweeds. There is no salad dressing, so you might want to sprinkle on a bit of soy sauce or something. I have been through the ingredients list with the proverbial fine toothed comb and all it contains is the lettuce, daikon and various kinds of seaweed. They’ve neglected to sneak in any fish whatsoever. Let’s hope no English-reading person at Family Mart notices this post and gets the “error” corrected!

I’ve been eating a lot of inarizushi while I’ve been here. It’s one of my favourite foods, so I’m not at all upset about it. There are many variations, and I have yet to find one that isn’t vegan. You can get it with mushrooms, or sansai (山菜 – mountain vegetables, edamame and many other things. The only non-vegan version of which I am aware is a regional variation which uses thin omelette instead of the tofu pouches. I’ve never actually seen it anywhere.

There are several varieties of small sushi roll which are vegan: the classic cucumber (adding mayo to them seems to be an American trick), yellow pickled daikon, natto and one I’d not seen before – kanpyo dried gourd reconstituted. Note the sachets of soy sauce that come with convenience store and supermarket sushi aren’t – they’re a mixture of soy sauce and fish stock. Buy your own wee bottle of soy sauce.

I am here for three weeks and can’t eat out for every meal or I wouldn’t have money to spend on capsule toys, yaoi, robots and weird Hello Kitty items. I have a kettle in the room, and there is a microwave oven in the hotel, so I plan to expand my horizons a little. I have a nice small miso bowl from Muji and a larger plastic noodle bowl from a 100 yen shop. I brought some sachets of a vegan instant dashi (enough to tide me over till I find a shop that sells it) and a small bottle of soy sauce with me. I have already bought a small bag of sweet white miso, a package containing mixed seaweed and wheat gluten coils, some fried tofu and some vegan instant ramen bought from a macrobiotic shop. The supermarket near Akihabara station sells fresh soba (buckwheat) noodles, so I can easily put together a hot meal in my (pokey) room on the cheap. I’ll try and remember to blog my efforts.

22/07/2009

What I had for lunch

Filed under: Products, Recipes and techniques — Tags: , , , , , — Feòrag @ 16:56
Nut cutlet, roast asparagus and pineapple salsa

Nut cutlet, roast asparagus and pineapple salsa

Today’s lunch was made very quickly using a grill pan. The main protein was a Goodlife Nut Cutlet, which is really best done on a George Foreman-type grill (but you will be horrified when you see what comes out in the oil tray). This takes by far the longest time to cook, and went on first.

Next to that, I placed 8 narrow spears of asparagus. I love asparagus, but like to keep it as a special treat for when it’s in season, but my partner decided I needed a special treat anyway and bought me some regardless. When they were done, I moved them to the lowest part of the pan (our kitchen does not appear to be level) and braised them in a splash of sake before serving.

The pineapple salsa was based on a recipe in the June edition of Waitrose New – a free magazine produced by the supermarket to emphasise seasonal and new products. It uses their Organic Sugar Loaf Pineapple, which contributes to the Waitrose Foundation, a scheme which (according to Waitrose) complements Fairtrade whereby they put a proportion of profits into projects which improve the lives of the producers.

My version of the Spicy Pineapple Salsa (I’m not sure why they call it a salsa) recipe is incredibly simple:

200g pineapple, cut into large chunks
a few tiny chillies, rehydrated and chopped
1 tsp coriander leaf (frozen, in this case)

Grill the pineapple on a high heat in a grill pan, until nicely brown in places. Mix with the chilli and coriander. Serve.

The Waitrose version included palm sugar, but I can’t see why as it comes out more than sweet enough without it.

01/07/2009

A couple of scary links

Filed under: Eating out, Products — Tags: , , — Feòrag @ 08:42

A vegan blogger in LA decided to go completely over-the-top and test food from their local allegedly-vegan eateries, and the results were terrifying. 10 of the restaurants came out okay, with no evidence of contamination with egg, caesin or shellfish in their food. Most of the others showed some contamination, usually egg (which is an especial problem for me), but one of them was a massive FAIL!, with the blogger concluding that it might be deliberate deception rather than accidental cross-contamination.

The main problem seems to lie in fake meats imported from Taiwan, where the labelling rules are less strict than in the US (or Europe) for that matter. The ingredients lists are usually translated directly from those on the packaging for the local market. The good news is that the Taiwanese government is aware of the problem and is in the process of implementing some of the strictest laws in the world regarding the packaging and labelling of vegetarian food. The Taiwanese “meats” might be dodgy right now, but in a few months things will be much better.

The other link is to a site which is the antithesis of vegan, but is still interesting from a general foodie point of view. The author of Fancy Fast Food takes standard meals from fast food places and messes around with the presentation to make them look like haute cuisine. Nothing is added to the meals to achieve this except the occasional simple garnish.

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.

05/03/2009

Ume soba update

Filed under: Japanese, Products — Tags: , , — Feòrag @ 21:00

I got a response from the Japan Centre with respect to yesterday’s delivery. As I suspected, it was a genuine error—they were unaware that cochineal is made from insects, and were apologetic. They let me know that they will not only change the web page for that product, but are going to go through all their pink products just to make sure.

Anyone able to recommend a good (European) list of animal ingredients to which I can refer them?

04/03/2009

Annoyingly not vegan things

Filed under: Japanese, Products — Tags: , , — Feòrag @ 11:44

I had a big box of stuff arrive from the Japan Centre this morning, including the painfully expensive rice and many things containing green tea. One item I got was ume soba—buckwheat noodles flavoured with plum, which the site mentions as being vegetarian. Unfortunately, they’re not, as that pretty pink colour comes from cochineal. I even checked the Japanese ingredient listing in case the importers had got the English language translation wrong (it happens), but コチニール is pretty clear.

Now, it’s hard enough for vegetarians and vegans to keep track of all those little ingredients which aren’t suitable, so I’m not going to have a go at them over the error. They do make more effort than other sites to point out the presence of fish, wheat, egg and all sorts of problematic ingredients. This post is really just to note that it’s there. I have made use of the contact form and politely let them know about it. It would be really helpful, not just for vegetarians and vegans, if they included full ingredients listings, too.

28/02/2009

Odd pasta

Filed under: Products — Tags: , , — Feòrag @ 01:57
IKEA moose pasta

IKEA moose pasta

My latest meal involved an odd purchase from IKEA: organic, wholemeal moose-shaped pasta. It proved to be a good, substantial pasta which went well with a spicy tomato sauce mixed with fried mushrooms and chopped up Redwood Foods sausages. Makes a change from pasta willies!

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