Yes, I Can

2 Aug

This month’s Don’t Call Me Chef challenge put me in a real tizzy: cooking with canned food. I  admit that I always have some canned food stocked in my pantry. Usually it’s a can or two of green peas (my all-time favourite can food which I featured in the column),  a can of Campbell’s soup (a quick sauce/casserole solution), a can of chickpeas (when cravings leave you no time to soak dry beans overnight) and a few cans of pureed tomatoes – Italian variety tomatoes, cut and sometimes herbed are such a wonderful shortcut.

My, it does seem like I use canned food quite a bit. Anyhow, looking at my stock, I realised that nothing I had was quite exciting enough to be featured. Except the green pea because nothing compared to canned green peas. Yes, I will stand by this.

I usually feature recipes that I am inspired by but this time I decided to use this space to report on my first encounter with a canned food I am unfamiliar with. For that, I had to go grocery shopping. Oh Joy. I decided to scout around: visiting small sundry shops as well as big-chain grocery shops — just so that I could suss out the selection.

Like a kid in a candy store (or a dude in a tool shop) I spent hours looking at canned food. The kind of food Michael Pollan would balk at. Canned beets, spinach, sliced potatoes, refried beans, sauerkraut, canned raspberries, pineapple, mandarin oranges … the choices were endless and, mind you, that’s only the vegetarian options. For meat eaters, there’s more to play with: anchovies, corned beef, luncheon meat and spam.

I really wanted to buy the canned chestnuts and artichoke hearts but at RM15 a can (a small one at that) I was hesitant. Well, actually I turned around and walked the other way, down the next aisle.

I found what I wanted in my neighbourhood shop: Kedai Runcit Peng Soon. My choice was a can of fake meat or “mock chicken”. Made wholly out of gluten, this was a challenge indeed. Firstly, the texture of the canned gluten is rubbery. Next, the taste is salty because of the brine in which it sits.  The canned gluten is  actually pre-cooked but you will not want to eat it as is. Salty with a tinge of chemical is not really appetizing. On the plus side,  the canned meat was visually interesting because the fake meat actually had fake chicken skin.

Anyway, to cut a long story short, I decided to make a curry with the mock chicken. While I couldn’t alter the rubbery texture of the gluten, I discovered that sugar and spice can make anything nice. Cinnamon, star anise, curry powder, ginger, garlic, shallots and lemon grass and a little coconut milk made this gluten curry a tasty side dish which I ate with plain white bread.

The verdict: Would I used canned gluten again? Probably not but it isn’t because the dish wasn’t tasty; rather, why used a canned alternative when using fresh ingredients are not only tastier but easier?

Cereal killer

26 Jul

I was inspired by crack (pie). Haven’t heard of crack pie? Well neither had I until my colleague and fellow blogger Marty brought a deliciously sinful plate of pie to work and declared that it was called Crack Pie.

A Momofuku creation, Crack Pie is essentially all butter and sugar on a homemade oatmeal crust (read more here). Oh Marty, how you tempt me. She  made the pie to collaborate with another colleague and fellow blogger, The Hungry Caterpillar who was doing a review of the Momofuku cookbook. This is beginning to sound all too confusing isn’t it? Simply put, I jumped on the Momofuku bandwagon minutes after perusing the book and corresponding website. You will too, if you dare to check it out.

So anyway, I was attracted to the Cereal milk panna cotta recipe. Why did I find it so appealing? Firstly, the idea of using cereal milk — not the cereal itself mind you, just the milk you steep them in — was intriguing.  The pana cotta itself uses very little sugar — less than a tbsp — so the flavour is really from the cereal.  A breakfast dessert if you will.

Now the other attraction to this recipe is the garnishes: caramelised corn flakes and a slab of home-modified chocolate dubbed, the Chocolate Hazelnut Thing (chocolate with hazelnut praline and caramelised cornflakes in it — oh yum).

I have to apologise for my picture which barely does any justice to the recipe. To see a more aestheically pleasing version of the dessert, click HERE.

The panna cotta is also served with an avocado puree but I prefered mine without it.

Here’s how you do it. Be warned, there are more than a couple of steps to the recipe but they’re really easy to follow and pretty quick to execute.

Cereal panna cotta

First, toast  4 cups of corn flakes lightly in the oven (150C) for about 10 to 15 mins. Then, mix 2 cups of milk with 2 cups of heavy cream in a bowl. Add the cups of cereal to the milk + cream mixture and steep for 45 mins. Now, strain the milk from the cereal (get as much of the milk out). Now, add 3/4 tbsp  sugar and a pinch of salt to the milk heat the milk+cream mixture slowly until the sugar dissolves. Keep stirring.

Set aside 1 tbsp agar agar flakes or 1/2 tbsp agar agar powder in a bowl. As the milk+cream+sugar heats up, ladle some of it into the bowl with the agar-agar and let it dissolve. Once done, whisk soaked gelatin back into remaining milk + cream mixture. Strain the mixture so that any undissolved bits of agar agar or sugar are containes and pour the liquid into wither ramekins or wine/cocktail glasses. Refrigerate until set (at least 2 hours).

Chocolate hazelnut thing

Part A: Caramelised corn flakes

Mix 1 cup of corn flakes + 2 tbsp sugar + 2 tbsp millk powder. Spread the coated flakes out on a tray and bake (120C) for about 15 mins or until it’s a deep golden colour. Set aside.

Part B: Hazelnut Praline

Roast 1/2 cup skinned hazelnuts till they’re nice and toasty. Set aside.  Heat 3/4 cup sugar on the stove (low heat) until it melts and becomes a syrup. Add the nuts and stir the mix so the nuts are nicely coated. Turn off and let the sugar+nuts cool.

Blend or pound the mixture  to a paste/powder. Set aside.

Part 3: Melting the chocolate and assembling all parts

Choose a choclate of your choice: plain or one with a nutty flavour would be good. Melt the chocolate in a stainless steel bowl over simmering water. Once melted, add the praline and caramelised corn flakes and spread the mixture on a tray. (I kept aside some of the praline  powder to sprinkle on the panna cotta seperately). Freeze till it sets and break it up into pieces.

Once the panna cotta and the chocolate are set, it’s time to put the sum of all parts together and enjoy the fruit of your labour 🙂

Guarding my cuppa (corn)

19 Jul

Corn is one of my all-time  favourite comfort food. Simple steamed sweet corn, seasoned with salt, pepper and a sprinkling of herbs and eaten out of a cup in front of the TV.  It has to be that way, only then is it my perfect comfort indulgence.

Strangely, I haven’t much eaten steamed corn in a while. It’s not that everything’s all hunky dory with my life; more like I’ve been too spoilt for choice these days and consumed by my newfound hobby: baking.

Still, you never can forget true love and it took very little to jog my taste buds into attention. Last Friday, after watching the almost unbearable new Predators flick starrting Adrien Brody (this is totally my opinion, of course), I was feeling completely unfulfilled. Wish Arnie would stop mucking about and get back to Hollywood already. Anyways, as I was walking petulantly down to the carpark, I spotted a food stall selling steamed sweet corn. Now, steamed sweet corn as a “fast food” snack emerged sometime in the late 1980s. Back then, a cup was only RM1. This little stall was selling a really small cup for RM3.5o. Sure, there were many flavours (compared to thos days when the choice of seasoning was only salt and pepper. This exhorbitant corn had several choices of flavours: original (salt), lemon and pepper, cheese and lemon and chilli.

I stuck to the original. Not because I lack a sense of adventure but rather, I’ve learnt that when it comes to corn, it doesn’t pay to be adventurous. A couple of years ago while traveling in India, I tried a local version of steamed corn: masala (mixed spice) corn. It wasn’t vile but I vowed never to try exotic flavoured corn. The masala spices overpowered the natural flavour of the sweet corn and I tasted all spice and no corn.

From then, corn went only with salt and pepper … and melted butter, of course. Last night, I decided to throw caution to the wind (am exagerating, come on!) and added some fresh thyme to the corn once it had steamed. Lovely. So for now, subtle hints of herbs are an accepted extra to my cuppa sweet corn.

A case for mushrooms

19 Jul

I have way too many cookbooks. Some of these cookbooks I inherited but most of them I bought. I have so many that there are some I haven’t used — sure, I’ve browsed through them but haven’t tested the recipes.

Since we started reviewing cookbooks for Don’t Call Me Chef column in StarTwo (together with Marty Thyme and The Hungry Caterpillar), I’ve accumulated even more cookbooks. Yowza!

So, for today’s review, I decided to unearth a cookbook I bought about six months ago at a book sale dubbed the Big Bad Wolf sale: the Good Housekeeping Step-By-Step Cookbook. The 460-odd paged book is an essential for beginner cooks as it has step-by-step instructions on basic but fundamental cooking techniques with recipes to accompany.

But it is also a keeper for those of us who know a little about cooking and are  learning: especially Asian cooks who need to know the fundamentals of western cooking styles using Western flavouring.

From jams to pot roasts, chocolate brownies to paella, the cook book is replete with recipes to try out. For the column in the newspaper, I tested two recipes, one for herbed butter and another for a basic lemon cheesecake. Read the full review and get the recipes HERE.

Having tried the two recipes, I wasn’t quite done with the book. There were several other recipes I wanted to try: tomato sauce, chilli sauce, the sweet mocha bread (which looked divine), the chocolate chip cookies (if this book could guide me to baking great cookies, it’s definitely gold-star worthy as I am hopeless at cookies) and many more.

I started with the recipe for Mushroom Baskets simply because I love mushrooms and had some on hand.  They’re really tasty (you can’t really go wrong with mushrooms) and though the baskets in the recipe are individual meal-sized portions, they’d make really good canapés if you make downsize them to tartlets.

There are just two steps to these baskets: Step 1 is making and pre- baking the pastry and Step 2 is making the mushroom filling.


250 g plain flour

150g chilled butter, cubed

1 large egg

Crumble the butter in the flour till it resembles fine breadcrumbs. Add egg and mix (by hand or pulse in a food processor) till the mixture comes together. Knead lightly on a floured surface and shape into six balls. Wrap and chill for 30 mins. Once chilled, roll the pastry out on a floured work surface (big enough to fully line the tart tins) and line the tins (loose based tart tins are recommended) . Prick the base with a fork and chill for 20mins. Heat the oven to 200C. Line the base of the cases with parchment paper and fill with beans. Blind bake for 10 mins. Remove the beans and bake for a further 5 mins or till cooked. reduce oven temp to 180C.

Making the filling

15g dried mushroom

50g butter

2 onions, finely chopped

450g mixed mushrooms, sliced

1 clove garlic, cruched

300 ml med-dry sherry (I used red wine)

250 gm double cream

salt and ground black pepper

fresh thyme to garnish

Soak the dried mushrooms in boiling water for 10 mins. Heat the butter in a pan and add the onions. Cook for 10 mins. Add the fresh mushrooms and garlic and cook for 5 mins. Remove from pan and set aside.

Put the dried mushrooms and the liquid (about a cup) in a pan with the sherry. Bring to a boil, bubble for 10 mins and add the cream. Cook till it becomes syrupy.

To serve

Put the pastry cases in the oven to heat them up, about 5 mins. Add the cooked fresh mushrooms to the sauce  and season on low heat. Pour into cases and garnish with thyme.

Do you roll with bananas?

11 Jul

It’s strange. I don’t quite like eating bananas but give me banana cake or bread and I’d gladly gobble it up. But, being a fussy eater, even with banana breads and cakes I prefer it when the taste of the fruit is not all empowering and is instead tempered  with spices like cinnamon or nutmeg. I’ve made banana bread before but I wasn’t quite satisfied because though tasty, it tasted suspiciously like cake. I have been on the lookout  for an alternate recipe. So, when I spotted a recipe for a yeasted banana bread on My Diverse Kitchen, one that seemed more bread than cake — i.e very little sugar and a moderate measure of banana, my curiosity was piqued. Actually, more like my greed. My hopes and expectation were high as the picture of the rolls depicted  on My Diverse Kitchen was tantalising.

So, I actually made it a point to get up real early on Saturday (to beat the traffic at the morning market — believe it or not, it gets insane after 730am!) and got myself a bunch of ripe bananas: I chose the small, sweet pisang mas because I think they cook  well.  I had all the other ingredients in my pantry already: all purpose flour, cardamom, butter, salt, sugar and yeast so I was all set.

I followed the recipe to a T, with one exception: I used instant yeast instead of active dry yeast —  a small inconsequential adjustment. The recipe was easy enough to follow but let me caution you: it takes about 3 hours to make these rolls. You need to allow the dough to rise twice and the first rise is for 2 hours. Yes, 2 hours. Anyhow, it was worth the time. The rolls turned out well. They were soft and fluffy and just a little moist. And, it looked like a football/soccer ball! How apt that the World Cup final starts in less than 6 hours!

The only problem was that I could hardly taste the banana; they tasted too much like dinner rolls. Delicious dinner rolls, no doubt,  but where’d the taste of the cup full of mashed banana go? Perhaps the bananas I bought weren’t sweet enough…

Told you I was fussy. No  matter, I finished the eight rolls the recipe yielded with the help of a couple of  friends and guess what I did? I  decided to give it another go, adding more banana this time around. After all,  I reasoned, I wasn’t going to eat the remaining fruit in a hurry …

Instead of 1 cup of mashed bananas, I used close to 2 cups. I added a bit more cardamom and a little nutmeg too. This time, it was just  perfect.

Here’s the recipe.

31/4 cups all purpose flour

1/2 cup lukewarm water (plus a bit more, in case)
½ cup buttermilk
1 1/2 tsp instant yeast
3/4 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
2 tbsp butter, at room temperature
1 cup banana, mashed
1/2 tsp  cardamom powder
1/2 tsp nutmeg powder
Melted butter for brushing on rolls once they’re out of the oven

Whisk together the banana, water, buttermilk, yeast, salt, sugar, cardamom,  nutmeg and butter in the bowl of your stand mixer till all the ingredients are well incorporated. Fix the dough hook attachment  and,  adding the  flour in two batches, mix  the wet and dry ingredients till a dough forms, about 5 mins. The dough should be sticky and moist.

Remover the bowl from the mixer and cover with a damp cloth. Let it sit in a warm spot, allowing the dough to rise for about 2 hours. It should double it’s size and deflate. If it hasn’t deflated, de-gas it gently after the two hours are up.

Flouring your hands, gently form balls (the size is up to you; mine were half the size of a tennis ball) and arrange them (touching each other) in an 8-inch round cake tin.The balls need to be the same size: they look prettier and will cook more evenly.  Cover and let the dough balls rise again for about 30 -45 mins. Bake at 180C for 30 to 40 mins or till the tops are golden.

For soft rolls, brush the top with melted butter once you’ve taken them out of the oven. Set aside to cool. Best eaten warm.

Thermodynamics rocks

8 Jul

Wanna make homemade frozen yoghurt but you don’t have a ice cream machine? No problem, just turn to science!

Would you believe that making a batch of frozen yoghurt (or ice cream if you like) is faster if you do it by hand, the old fashioned way, than with an ice cream maker? Seriously!

Ice and salt. That’s your Ice cream maker right there! Here’s how it works:

When you use ice to cool the ingredients for ice cream, the energy is absorbed from the ingredients and from the outside environment. By adding salt to the ice, it lowers the freezing point of the ice, so even more energy has to be absorbed from the environment in order for the ice to melt. This makes the ice colder and that is how your ice cream freezes. Using rock salt is better as it takes longer to dissolve in the water, allowing more time for your yoghurt to freeze. Read more about this HERE.

I could not believe how easy it was. I had to try it.

First, you have to use greek yoghurt simply because it’s nice and thick and rich. It costs a bomb: about RM14 to 18 a small tub. What? Well, make some yourself. How? Pour a tub of regular yoghurt (about RM4 for 150g) onto a cheese cloth; wrap it into a ball and allow to drip, in the fridge (you need a tall container to collect the whey) for about 6 hours.

Done? Unwrap the cheese cloth and you will see a wonderful smooth ball of rich yoghurt. Oh my. The texture is slightly cheesy and the consistency is thick. Oh my.

Next. Mix sugar or honey or as I did, maple syrup to the yoghurt: to your taste. And, if you like, vanilla extract (just a drop).

Transfer the yoghurt into a ziploc bag and seal tight. Put the bag in another ziploc bag and seal tight.

Put enough ice to fill a huge saucepan. Cover the ice with salt (about 1/2 cup). Place the bag of bagged yoghurt in the ice (surround it with salted ice as much as possible) and cover the container. Shake, shake and shake so the yoghurt is kneaded by the ice. Shake for about 10 mins and leave the yoghurt to sit in the ice a further 15 mins or so. More if you like it really frozen solid. I liked mine frozen but not hard (kinda like how I like my martinis shaken, and not stirred) so I didn’t let it sit longer. NOTE: It took me some time to get this shot — I shot it outdoors under the morning sun so the yoghurt melted a wee bit 🙂

REMEMBER your zip lock bag has to be really sealed tight so the salt does not seap through.

Is that it? You betcha. Scoop out your yoghurt and eat it immediately. You will, like me, probably wanna lick the zip lock bag … not one bit should be wasted! Only hitch is you can’t make a huge batch at one go. Unless you have gallon-sized zipper bags and a huge stock pot. You can make enough for a party of four or five. Or four or five servings just for you 🙂

Isn’t science just delicious?

Veggie Chick

Mushroom magic

7 Jul

I learnt my lesson the hard way. About six years ago, I was lunching with  some buds in a deli-styled eatery in KL and I ordered a mushroom burger thinking it would be a vegetarian burger made of mushrooms. The menu didn’t offer a description of the burger so I assumed…

Imagine my embarrassment when the burger arrived: a huge chunk of beef patty with a generous mushroom topping and some white sauce, some variation of mayonnaise I assume. I protested, but to no avail of course. The waiter thought I was being ridiculous: who would order a burger made of mushrooms (he didn’t say it but his expression shouted it!).

I pushed my plate aside, dejected, an sipped on my smoothie. Oh bother, these all-meat eateries.

Mushroom burgers are not something I conjured up, in case you are wondering. Portobello mushroom burgers are quite popular, perhaps not in our cafes. I’ve had them (they serve them at The Daily Grind in Bangsar Village) and I love them. You can’t go wrong with mushrooms, really. Especially not the Portobello, surely a royal mushroom.

At home, I make mushroom burgers/sandwiches all the time. I either incorporate them in vege burger patties or, like the one above, I make sandwiches with a variety of mushroom fillings. The one above is made from sautéed mushrooms in a creamy cheese sauce, served with roasted tomatoes on sprouts. I usually use lettuce or salad but I had some sprouts at home and used them instead.

Cheesy Mushroom chompers

1 cups mushrooms (swiss brown, button white and fresh shiitake), separate the stems from the caps.

1/4 cup cheddar

1/4 cup parmesan (you can add blue cheese too if you feel extravagant)

4 tbsp butter

1/4 cup chopped walnuts

2 sprigs thyme

1 med onion, chopped

2 garlic cloves, minced

Chop the mushroom stems; quarter the caps.

Heat 2 tbsp butter and saute the caps with thyme, season with salt and pepper, remove and set aside.

Heat  butter. Add onions and then garlic and saute till soft. Add chopped stems and cook till soft, about 5 mins. Stir in cheese and nuts. Cook for a couple of mins.

Lay sautéed caps on baking sheet and pour half the cheesy sauce over. Bake in 180C oven for about 15 mins. Remove. Pour remaining sauce over.

Assemble the chomper: Layers of sprouts, mustard, cheesy mushrooms and roasted tomato in between sesame burger buns.

Give (homemade) vegannaise a shot

7 Jul

Ever wake up and find that you no longer like the things you used to obsess over? Well, it happens to me quite a lot. I used to love mayo, for example. I’d slather on a thick layer of mayo in all my sandwiches. So much that my Egg Mayo sandwiches looked more like Mayo cream sandwiches with egg. I’d even use Mayo to dress a salad or to spread on crackers for a snack. Mayo madness, if you will.

Then one day I woke up from a pretty unspectacular sleep and found myself turned off mayo completely. Suddenly the thought of eating raw eggs (emulsified with oil and vinegar/lemon juice) was just such a turn off and I was put off forever. Wierd, huh?

So, I substituted Mayo for mustard and home-made relishes and spreads. But sometimes there can be no substitute for mayo. An Egg Mayo sandwich needs to be an Egg Mayo sandwich. How now?

A vegan mayo, of course — vegannaise! I remember my sister whipped up a vegan mayonaise made with tofu many years back, while I was yet a giddy teenager. It tasted good but I pooh-poohed it, opting for the original instead.  Funny how things come full circle, eh?

So I decided to make my own vegan mayo and, having tried making regular mayo before (you whisk egg yolks, dry mustard, salt and pepper and gradually add oil and watch as the mixture emulsifies in the blender) I can attest to how much easier it is to make a vegan version. It sometimes takes me a few tries before I  make  one successful batch; with the vegan version you will be guaranteed success immediately. It’s that simple.

The vegan mayo is tofu-based. Hold on all you tofu haters. I guarantee, it won’t be like you’re spreading tofu paste on your sarnies. Nope. Mixed with mustard, lemon juice, salt and pepper (you can try variations like a curry vegan mayo with curry powder or a basil mayo) the tofu is well masked.

If tofu really is a turn off, try THIS RECIPE for almond mayo, also vegan and also tasty.

The texture of the vegan mayo is lighter than the regular mayo.

What you will need

250 gm silken tofu

1 tbsp mustard

1 tbsp sugar or honey

1 tbsp lemon juice or cider vinegar

salt and pepper

1/4 cup oil

Blend all the ingredients except the oil. Once smooth, gradually add the oil and blend till they emulsify. Voila, you have your creamy vegan mustard. You can add/reduce the sugar/sat and pepper to your taste, of course. You can add seasonings too like herbs or nuts, spices like curry powder is great too. Or tomatoes.

I wanna jam it wid you …

5 Jul

I’ve been going jam crazy over the last couple of weeks. Mango, apricot, apple, blueberry … I have more jam in my fridge than I know what to do with. It’s easy to get carried away because it’s really so easy to make jam and, trust me, homemade jams taste undescribably better than store bought ones. Check out the recipe for the mango jam I made HERE. The picture above is an apricot jam I made using organic apricots: an indulgence surely, but organic fruit (or food for that matter) is much tastier and better and I was in the mood for some superior goodness.  I used just 4 smallish apricots which yielded slightly more jam to filla 30 ml jar with. I included the recipe for the apricot Jam in this month’s Don’t Call Me Chef column which focused on preserved food. Click HERE for the article/recipe.

Over the course of the last couple of weeks, I’ve found numerous sites on jam making online that are quite  interesting. My next jam project is with tomatoes. I haven’t quite completed my research on tomato jam (I kinda go crazy with “research”) yet but  you could check out THIS link for a Tomato Jam which looks quite fun to make.

For simple, basic tips on making your own jam check THIS site which gives you ten tips for making the perfect jam, jelly or marmalade. It’s really all you need to know if you aren’t keen on trawling the net for 100 different ways to make a simple bottle of jam.

If you too, like me, have gone J-amok and have too much jam on your hands, you may want to consider baking with Jam.  I made some PEANUT BUTTER AND JAM COOKIES last week and they were an easy and tasty alternative to your standard PBJ sandwich. HERE’s another pretty cookie I want to try sometime soon: Almond Linzer star cookies, they’re called.

Pies and tarts are also a wonderful way of utilising your jam. I like this recipe for Italian Jam tart on The Fresh Loaf:  just click here.

If you’ve got any ideas, I’d love to hear them and try them too. Let’s all jam together, shall we?

The Cinderella of soy

2 Jul

Textured vegetarian protein or soy meal or soy meat is a forgotten delight. When I first became a vegetarian in 1989, textured soy chunks were the meat replacement staple for vegetarians: they were rich in protein and low in fat and were able to ably compensate vegetarians for the sudden loss of protein from meat.

These chunks are  made from defatted soy flour, made by extracting soybean oil. It contains no fat which is good but, on its own the chunks were quite tasteless as they contained no MSG or other artificial flavouring. My mum used to cook them in curries, seasoning the chunks with curry powder and other spices. You could still taste the strong protein of the soy, though.  Simply put, we ate them because they were good for us not because they tasted amazing or were deceptively like meat.

The popularity of soy meal took a dramatic nose dive when other, tastier meat analogues came into the forefront in the early 1990s. The alternative? Wheat gluten or seitan that is flavoured to taste like meat. Definitely a tastier option as you could replicate any meat dish using seitan. Curry Fish, Beef rendang, pork chops, vegetarian ham, butter chicken, spare ribs … you name it, you can have it. The texture of the wheat gluten products were also more refined. If the soy meal was a little springy, the wheat gluten products were smooth and, for want of a better word, meaty.

For a while, I too was taken up by the possibilities that wheat gluten brought to the table. And, for a while, I too forgot about the humble soy meat.  Just for a while though for while gluten is tasty, eating too much gluten made me feel bloated and uncomfortable. So I began reading up on gluten and found that the protein from gluten comes from hard-to-digest protein that can cause indigestion. Check this out. While I still use  gluten-based vegetarian produce from time to time,  it’s no more than once a month.

Instead, I decided to go back to soy meal and try and make it more appetising. Playing around with seasoning and cooking techniques, I admit I may have brushed off the flavour of soy meal too easily.

This soy meal burger was my first successful soy meal experiment and I do want to share my joy. Try it, you’d be surprised too.

Soy meal burger

1 cup soy meal

4 cups water

5 fresh mushrooms (shitake/swiss brown is fine)

1 clove garlic, chopped

Mixed spices *

1/2 cup cheddar cheese

1 cup breadcrumbs

salt and pepper

* I used a spice mix that Marty got me from Morocco but you can use cayenne, cumin, chilli (or curry), coriander powders or experiment with any other spice you fancy.

Boil the water in a saucepan. When it’s bubbling, add the soy meal chunks and cook for a minute. Turn off the heat and let them soak in the hot water for about 5 mins. They should be soft and spongy. Drain the water, squeezing as much water from the soy chunks as you can.

Rub your spices and black pepper all over the chunks and transfer them into your food processor/blender. Pulse a couple of times till their  chunks are broken up but DO NOT  blend till smooth.

Tranfer to a bowl. Mix in the cheese and breadcrumbs and season with salt and pepper. Don’t use all the breadcrumbs at a go. Use a half cup and add more if its necessary to bind the mixture together.

Form patties from the mixture, make sure you compress them tight. Place them on a lightly greased baking sheet and bake for 20-30 mins or till they’re nice and golden and have firmed up. Let them cool. They may be a little soft when out of the oven but will firm up as they cool. If they’re still soft after 10 mins or so, let them rest in the switched-off (this isn’t a word, I know) oven for about 5-7 mins.

I assembled my burger using lettuce, apple and raisin chutney and mustard.