Halloween or having a laugh? When I read this it was time to speak up."Lab created food" in my mind is almost worse than genetically modified crops.
There is so much controversy surrounding dietary choices these days.As a partner of a bed and breakfast offering bespoke dinners, I have to resign myself to cooking for all kinds of dietary requirements.The fact that I have to do it and often enjoy rising to the challenge it is not to say that I agree with, or understand, the many lifestyle choices behind them.Vegan, vegetarians,omnivores carnivores,fish and chippocrytes,lacto vegetarians,ovo vegetarians, pollatarians, pollo pescatarians, fruitarians.A faddist world gone mad? Passing fashion,gastronomic or green politics? Sadly the vegan debate recently lost one prominent British food critic his job as editor of one of the largest selling food tie-in magazines in the United Kingdom,perhaps Europe.
Where did all this nonsense come from? If God had wanted us to have a plant based diet he would not have given us a planet full of livestock.A vegan diet is strictly against animal products,in every form.It is an ethical and humane lifestyle choice.This seems to me to be a way of inflicting punishment on oneself,self inflicted cruelty.To give one example, vegans consider Parmesan cheese to be the anti-christ.
I myself am a sound omnivore,by my definition someone who was brought up to eat everything.Of course there are some foods I dislike and some others that I have intolerances to, but overall I eat most things.It has always vexed me that I will go to a lot of lengths and be more than happy to accomodate vegetarians when they visit my home,but in reverse,why,am I always subjected to having to eat vegetarian food when I visit a plant eating household.Don´t get me wrong here I love vegetarian food and in this way I am a flexitarian.I enjoy cooking it, but why can´t my vegetarian counterparts be more flexible and cook a piece of meat or fish for me when I am invited to their home? I am totally flabbergasted as to why so many vegetarians and vegans have this desire to eat mutations of what carnivores eat.Vegan burgers that bleed,Vegetarian sausages,Quorn bolognese,Quorn Moussaka."The implications of the proliferation of lookalike meats for the global food industry are enormous. The US beef industry has filed a petition to exclude non-animal products from the definition of meat, while in France a law bans vegetarian companies from calling their products sausages, mince or bacon".If you are missing these flavours why change?
‘The terms cheese and steak should be reserved for products of animal origin.’The flexible part of the flexitarian diet means you get the best of both worlds: your favorite carnivore dishes and also inventive vegan creations.Flexitarianism also calls for cutting back on your fish intake, but there's no need to ban it from your diet entirely.I thought I would make an earnest endeavour to take on a plant-based menu for one meal and see how I got on.The meal I chose was lunch, and I decided to make it very simple to both cook and eat.I made a light lunch of vegan leek and potato soup,home baked bread and some home made "fake cheese".The bread and cheese I made with one common ingredient.Who ever would have thought that you could make both bread and cheese from lupins? Amazed? I think you will be.
Tremoço cheese ("fake cheese")
2 teaspoons brewer's yeast powder
1 tremoços with skins on (bottled)
2 tablespoons (coffee) salt
8 teaspoons powdered agar agar*
3 cups water
4 tablespoons olive oil
Beat the tremoços with salt, the beer yeast and half the water in the blender until it turns into a thick paste.Mix the remaining half of the water still cold with the agar agar and dissolve well.Bring this mixture to the boil, stirring constantly, bring to the boil and bubble for about two minutes (it will look viscous, if it does not look like that, it will not solidify properly).Turn on the blender again and add the olive oil and agar agar direct from from the flame (it has to be quick as agar agar hardens even faster at room temperature),Beat until thoroughly mixed.Place in a loaf pan or terrine greased with olive oil and leave in a refrigerator until it hardens (about 30 minutes).
THE VERDICT: The cheese was the closest food could come to cruel and corporal punishment.It tasted like cold, bland ,unflavoured and unseasoned polenta.Why would any vegan want to inflict this hardship on themselves?The humane treatment of animals is the issue here,and to eat "fake cheese" is surely an example of the inhumane treatment of human beings.I suffered such discomfort and indigestion.What I had just eaten was an assault on my stomach.I could think of many ways this recipe might be made moderately acceptable but quite honestly why would I waste the time spent on experimenting.
My thoughts on improvement were the addition of some herbs,thyme or such like and maybe some chilli flakes or dried fruit.I will not however be making this again.In short i will be returning to my trusted bacon and brie sandwich.
* Agar-agar is the vegetarian substitute for animal gelatine, obtained from an algae and composed of 70% soluble fibers. Remember: cheeses are not suitable for vegans and most of the time they are not suitable for vegetarians because they use animal curd (they can also use pepsin and lipase). This alternative is free of lactose, casein, saturated fat and cholesterol.
Pao de tremoço (tremoço bread rolls)
350 gr self raising flour
200 gr Tremoços,drained and mashed in a processor
250ml, 50/50 blend of plain yogurt and water,or vegan alternative
Rinse the tremoços under running water to get the salt out. Then mash with the a stick blender
Put the flour in a bowl. Make a hole in the center and add the blend of yoghurt and water.Knead everything together and add the mashed tremoços.
Knead everything again very well until it is homogeneous.leave for 20 minutes to stand at room temperature.Divide dough into 3 or 4 balls and bake for +/- 40 min at 180c.
THE VERDICT: The tremoço bread rolls were quite palatable and indicative of Irish soda bread,which is not a bad thing at all, but they were a little too worthy for our liking.
Vegan leek and potato soup
2 medium or 1 large leek,trimmed of outer layers and damaged part of the green
25g vegan butter
3 medium potatoes,bakers or reds,peeled and coarsely diced
Generous salt and pepper
1 litre vegetable stock
Slice the leeks finely,put in alarge bowl of warm water,and swirl them about to rinse off any dirt.warm water is pretty vital here as leeks often secrete sand and mud,neither of which is ready soluble in cold water.Using your hands or aspider lift the leeks out of their bath and into a colander.Rinse the bowl out thoroughly and repeat the process.If you simply pour the leeksfrom the bol into the colander,all the caarefully washed out dirt will get back on them.(The Roux brothers insist that washing the leeks in warm water improves the flavour) Having made this soup for 25 years I would agree.
Melt the butter in a large solid-based saucepan and add the drained leeks.Sweat these over a medium flame for 5 minutes or so; the leeks should partially collapse and glisten from their coating of butter, but should not take on any significant amount of colour.Add the diced potatoes and sweat for a further 5 minutes,they will start to stick after this time,a sure sign that their sweating period is over.Season judiciously with salt and pepper and add enough stock to cover the vegetables.Stir to make sure nothing is stuck to the bottom of the pan,turn the heat up high and boil until the potatoes are tender,about 15-20 minutes.Allow to cool a little then liquidise.Adjust the seasononing and reheat if necessary before serving.
THE VERDICT:The soup was delicious. I could not bring myself to pay the exorbitant price for vegan butter, and I am sure that if I had the deepness of flavour would have been lost.