I did not blog about the vegan yum cha/bike ride at Vegie Hut, Box Hill. I did not take any photos either. I did however kick myself very hard under the table because I forgot to put the battery back in my camera, so I am obliged to leave recording of the day in the hands of Michael & Cindy, Lisa, and Kristy & Toby who were not so stupid. Suffice it to say, the food was varied, the company grand, and the ordering prowess exhibited by the experienced Kristy and Toby more than fit the bill (which ended up ridiculously cheap).
After the lunch we had a wander around Box Hill, visiting a vegetarian bakery (vegan items indicated with two - not one, but two! - blue Winne the Pooh stamps) and a vegetarian grocery, the name of which escapes me.
I made a number of mockery purchases there, in line with my recent exploration of mock meat, lugging home some items which will be the subject of a future Mockumentary post and also a very large, very cheap bag of Textured Vegetable Protein.
The TVP, defatted soybean for those who read labels, has to be reconstituted with boiling water before being added to cookering. To begin the experimentation I thought it safest and most palatable to add it to dishes that I was already confident making, so I whacked it in a pea and mushroom rogan josh curry, and a pasta (oh! What a surprise! Miss T eating pasta!).
My first mistake was overestimating. The packet said X cups TVP to Y cups water; I decided that (2 x X) would require (2 x Y). Duh-doooowwww! I ended up with an enormous, enormous, humungo-plus, super-size me bowl of wet and sloppy this:
To make the curry I used about 3/4 of a jar of Patak's Rogan Josh sauce. Quelle surprise! I used a pre-prepared sauce! I am a shopper not a cooker. My forte is purchasing. Anyway, it's relatively cheap, tastes good, is low in calories and fat, and requires a whole lot less effort and mess to prepare. Moving on!
Usually the sauce and a tin of minced tomatoes, combined with mushroom and pea, is red and sloppy enough. The addition of the TVP resulted in:
Aha! The addition of more tomatoes resulted in:
... and finally, joined by the love of my herby life coriander, this:
The curry was very good, but I was unnerved by the chewy minceyness of the TVP. It was interesting but, as I should have expected when cooking a dish that I cook often and happily enough, I didn't feel that the TVP made my curry so-extra-fantabulous-I'll-never-make-it-any-other-way-again. I will make it again, just not exclusively. TVP and I will have an open relationship.
With a ridiculous amount of TVP left in the fridge, I knocked up my neverfail can't-be-arsed dinner, generally comprising pasta, tinned tomatoes, whatever veggies are in the fridge but preferably eggplant, and two-day-tongue-burning quantities of fresh garlic. Buzz assisted me in his capacity of general helperer, photographer and passer-of-things-to-me/substitute-pot-stirrer-when-I-need-to-leave-the room guy. I like to think that when cooking I look serious, professional and tidy. This photograph should surely disabuse anyone else of that notion too. Note green sparkly glasses (with non-prescription lenses as I had just bought the frames and hadn't been to the optometrist, but wanted to wear them around anyway); peachypinky t-shirt; hot pink kitchen accessories and nasty kitchen tiles. Nigella I am Not!
As with the curry I needed to add a considerable amount more of tomatoeyness to compensate for the physical bulk and lack of distinct flavour of the TVP. Here I added a tin of minced tomatoes, a tin of cherry tomatoes and a good few dollops of tomato paste.
I can't really remember what meaty spag bol tastes like, but the texture of the TVP in this sauce was eerily familiar. There were a considerable number of veggies in the sauce which offset the mince-like texture and added more familiar flavours, but the TVP added a certain creaminess which reminded me of the cashew cream pasta from Vegan YumYum that Buzz and I made a while ago.
Again, I really enjoyed this pasta but didn't really feel that it added much to what I normally make. I suppose that in general this is my position on meat alternatives/substitutes/replacers - having not eaten it in so long, I really have no need for it. It is more like one of a number of different kinds of artillery in my cookering arsenal rather than my secret weapon. It's something I use sometimes like I use basil or pastry or sugar, not something I rely upon to recreate a dish I only know how to make with the real thing. With that in mind, in the future I think I'll use the rest of the dried TVP sitting in my fridge to make something new, rather than use it to augment dishes that I already think taste just fine without it.