Brisket, traditionally made from beef (indeed brisket is a particular cut of meat), is a popular slow-cooked Jewish festival dish. This vegetarian version is a great alternative as it uses seitan (a soft ‘meaty’ food made from wheat gluten) which soaks up the flavours and juices of the seasoning and gravy. While some people might question why a vegetarian would want to re-create a traditional meat dish – surely vegetarians would want to stay well away from the stuff? – some vegetarians would respond by saying their reason for going vegetarian was not because they didn’t like the taste of meat – they DID like the taste – but they gave it up because of the cruelty, or for environmental or health reasons. In fact, many vegetarians still very much enjoy ‘meaty’ foods, but at the same time, they want to see a kinder world. This is a three-part recipe. First there’s the preparation of the seitan (unless you use ready-made, found in some health food shops), then there’s the cooking of the seitan along with vegetables and seasoning, and finally there’s the gravy. The whole thing takes about 3 hours but much of this is oven-cooking time so it isn’t hard work!
INGREDIENTS TO MAKE THE SEITAN (APPROX 440 g – THE AMOUNT REQUIRED FOR THE BRISKET)
- 120 g wheat gluten aka gluten flour (this can be hard to come by in the UK but online store Flourbin.com stocks it as do some health food shops)
- 180 ml water (mix with a little vegetable stock for extra flavour)
- 4 tablespoons soy sauce
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 litre vegetable stock
- 3–4 slices of onion
- INGREDIENTS FOR THE BRISKET AND SEASONING
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1/2 tablespoon tamari
- 2 medium carrots, cut into rounds, 1/4 inch thick
- 2 celery stalks, chopped roughly
- 2 medium onions, halved and sliced
- 440 g seitan
- 2 small bay leaves
- 11/2 tablespoons brown sugar
- 320 ml vegetable stock
- 200 ml red wine (or grape juice)
- lots of freshly ground black pepper
INGREDIENTS FOR THE GRAVY
- 3 tablespoons vegan margarine (e.g. Tomor)
- 2 heaped tablespoons (15 g) plain flour
- 2 cloves garlic, crushed
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- 1 1/2 tablespoons miso paste
- SEITAN METHOD: (To cut out 1 1/4 hours of preparation time for the brisket, you can make the seitan in advance and freeze it.)
- Combine the gluten flour and garlic powder in a medium-sized bowl.
- In a separate bowl, mix 2 tablespoons soy sauce with 180 ml water/vegetable stock.
- Add the liquid to the dry ingredients and stir gently to combine. After a few initial stirs you may well need to use your hands as the mixture will thicken quickly. Do not use an electrical mixer. Gluten has a rubbery texture.
- Add more water, a tablespoon at a time – only if required.
- Once the mixture is well mixed, knead the seitan approximately 15 times. Then allow it to sit for 5 minutes before kneading a few more times.
- Separate the ball of seitan into about four smaller chunks and gently stretch each one into a flat cutlet, about 2 cm thick. Seitan expands when cooking, so starting with small, thin cutlets is best. Some holes may form but this is normal.
- Add the four seitan cutlets to a large saucepan containing 1 litre of vegetable stock, and heat to a slow simmer. Add the onion pieces as two more tablespoons of soy sauce and any other favourite spices, to give added flavour.
- Cover the pan and allow the seitan to cook for about an hour. The seitan is ready once it has firmed up and expanded.
- Remove the seitan from the broth, allow to cool and use this to make Vegetarian Brisket. Seitan can also be used in a varity of other ‘meaty’ recipes.
- Seitan keeps well in the freezer in either a sealed plastic box or bag so doubling the recipe is advisable. Allow frozen seitan to defrost for about two hours before use.
- BRISKET AND SEASONING METHOD: Preheat the oven to 190°C/375°F/gas mark 5.
- Add the oil, tamari, onions, carrots, celery and bay leaves to a heavy baking dish and mix these around so the vegetables are coated with oil and tamari.
- Roast for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, combine the vegetable stock, wine (or grape juice) and brown sugar.
- Remove the dish from oven and lay out the seitan on top of the vegetables.
- Pour the stock mix over the seitan and vegetables and grind lots of black pepper on top (make sure each piece of seitan is dotted with pepper).
- Cover the dish with a lid, or tight-fitting aluminum foil, and return it to the oven for 40 minutes.
- GRAVY METHOD: Remove the brisket dish from the oven, uncover, and pour out as much of the cooking broth as possible into a bowl.
- Heat the margarine in a small saucepan over a medium heat.
- Add the flour and whisk constantly for 2-3 minutes.
- Add the reserved cooking broth, the soy sauce, miso paste and garlic and stir until smooth and thick, (a further 2-3 minutes). Add salt to taste. If there is not sufficient cooking broth left, add some more stock.
- Put the gravy onto the seitan, stirring to cover all.
- Raise the oven temperature to its max.
- Return the dish to the oven and cook, uncovered, until browned and bubbling (approximately 10 minutes).
- Grind lots more pepper on top, serve hot and enjoy.