Monday, November 17, 2008

The Mockarena, or: I cook a whole lot of mock meat

I've never really been the biggest cheerleader for mock meat. It's usually a soy-based, chemically attempt to replicate something that I find revolting, and I think it a gives the wrong impression to oblivious omnis - either that all veg*ns really really want to eat meat; that we will do anything to substitute it; or that they'd be better off sticking with the real flesh if that's the alternative.

But that's not to say that I wouldn't give it whirl. I discovered the Fry's range in my Safeway up in the very top left corner of the top shelf in a freezer far far away ... but they did have the sausage rolls (already eaten and blogged by Pip), schnitzels and cottage pie, and also three kinds of Syndian burgers. I got stupidly excited and bought everything except the pie, wanting (natch!) to help Safeway know that there were customers for these products regardless of the Freezer Siberia they were banished to.

All this made for a night full of mock meats and chewy protein.

Buzz and I had one schnitzel, one sausage roll and one country style veggie burger each, with a satay tofu mix that I made up from our pizza leftovers (satay tofu, onion, garlic, capsicum and a dash of lime juice ... God I felt thrifty!). I added some coriander, and just fyi, people who don't like coriander are not my friends.

I found that the sausage rolls cooked a lot quicker than the estimted 40 minutes, which threw my (already poor) timing out. The schnitzels, yay me, came out crispy as intended. The veggie burgers, however, responded poorly to baking. They collapsed and thawed unevenly, and I was forced to put them in a pan with some olive oil to help then fry up a little and bind the outer bits together. Even so, they were still crumbly and I think they'd be better used thawed.

I served them with two sauces - a sweet chilli soy and a mustard/tomato relish. I tried to make the photos below look a little Nigella-organic-ceramic but with my usual slatternly housekeeping there are splatters all over the bowls. Nonetheless, I'm posting it because of my darling little avocado bowls - aren't they fantastic?

The veggie burgers, despite their unauspicious beginnings, tasted very fresh and full of parsnip. I've just noticed on the Syndian website that their formal name is 'Country Whispers', which does nothing to make me do anything but snigger, but I was touched by this little statement:

Original products with true flavors: we do our best to bring out the original flavors of the ingredients and do not attempt to imitate another ingredient, for that reason we have no meat or cheese like products, or imitation to those flavor. Given all possible ingredients we will continue to produce our products the way we are producing them now. Enjoy what is real, not what is make believe!
Awww! And that's all (sic).

Of the Fry's range, I could tell that the sausage roll was my favourite because I found myself leaving it until last. Like Pip points out, they're more in the pig-in-a-blanket mold than Four'n'Twenty. The pastry was flaky and light whilst the filling was lightly spiced and nicely chewy without ickily bringing to mind tendons and ligaments.

My grandma was Viennese, and as an omnivorous child I loved to get dressed up in my little red dirndl and go with her to the Austrian Club where I would get to order schnizel and chips off the kids' menu. Although I don't particularly recall the taste of schnitzel it's one of those childhood dishes that is inextricably bound up with love and family and excitement. Schnitzel has always occupied a little warm place in my heart for the link it provides with my grandma and the family before her that we never knew.

This Fry's schnitzel, however, had crispiness as its main virtue (and I was pretty darn proud that I got that first go, which sadly illustrates the extent of my cookering skills). The texture was thick and rather realistic I think, but was thin enough not to overwhelm. The taste was a bit forgettable, but not at all objectionable and I think I might even have a go at a parma with the leftovers (a meat parma being one of my many uneaten meaty meals ... when you ditch the flesh at 10 you don't really get to get into those pub meals).

So, after the mock-meat feast, the sausages will definitely be making a repeat appearance, although I suspect that that the recipe in Tempting Tempeh could give them a run for their money. Perhaps that's where I can next put my pastry to use...


a vegan about town said...

It's usually a soy-based, chemically attempt to replicate something that I find revolting, and I think it a gives the wrong impression to oblivious omnis - either that all veg*ns really really want to eat meat; that we will do anything to substitute it; or that they'd be better off sticking with the real flesh if that's the alternative.

I love that I can use mock meat to do the old things I used to do, simmer curries and blanch steamboats, the things I do that have a lot of cultural importance to me and a lot of emotional attachment. Making a kapitan from vegies doesn't work, for example, because it usually doesn't have any vegies in it, it's just chicken and spices and a couple of tomatoes. So I love being able to use mock meat for that (and that is one of the reasons why mock meat was originally invented, for these Chinese traditions we can't escape).

I feel embarrassed to eat it in public, though. I mean, not in a restaurant but in the work lunch room or something. I don't want people who don't know that I'm vegan to think that I eat meat, and I don't want people who do know to start making faces and talking about how crap it is (as happened today in the lunchroom). I feel like a faker when people who don't know me (ie, coworkers) can see the fake meat.

a vegan about town said...

ps, the schnitzel looks great!

I'm Philippa O said...

the schnitzels are so good, and kick the schit out of the crap ones they serve at the east.

Lisa Dempster said...

I like the schnitzels at the east! And, MAN, I gotta try me some of those sausage rolls (loving the internal pic). Though I don't think I can squeeze any more mock meat in this week.

Miss T said...

AVAT, good point with the cultural/emotional traditions, which is what I was trying to get at with my emotional perceptions of schnitzel. But with the chemically stuff I was referring to, I really meant the highly processed & flavoured frozen/chilled pre-packed boxes, and how I don't like to use it as a simple substitute for meant'n'three veg/spag bol/snags and other 'standard' meals. I think I can make those dishes better without the fake stuff, and would want anyone seeing my food to realise that there are ways of cooking it that don't involve meat, fake or otherwise. Having people ask how you make pasta sauce without mince is a huge shock!

Mandee said...

I've been eating Syndian products for a while now but still haven't found the burgers, I might call them.

I liked the Fry's schnitzels, alot. But I don't think my digestive system did. They were really nice w/ potatoes and onion conserve. I also tried their burgers which were pretty good also.

I don't know if I'm brave enough to try Redwood's Cheatin' products like pepperoni & bacon though!