This week we finally oh finally get our garden paved! As I may have mentioned, due to the massive oak tree there is very little sun in our 20 or so square metres of garden, and thus precious little grass other than the tufts that come up to taunt us. Gatsby munches those down anyway so that he can come throw up on our carpets later like the little monster he is. My dad, wonderful creature that he is, offered to have it paved for us as a general end-of-year present, so now we’ve cleared the pot plants and chairs and are prepared for a week of mud and dirt and all sorts of wonders. Naturally, my biggest crises since I heard the news was what I was going to feed the two workers.
South Africa is rather strange in that the majority of South Africans are paid so little that eating fully-rounded meals (as I would consider it) is usually out of their budgets, so oftentimes one will see workers at lunchtime in the shops with a 2 litre bottle of Coke and a loaf of bread, or a package of pre-made maize meal and some meaty sauce. Although we went and bought bread and peanut butter yesterday, just in case, I figured I’d spend the week making them hearty but relatively inexpensive lunches packed with protein and hidden veggies. Gardening is one of those things that masquerade at different levels as light hobbies for pensioners to gruelling labour for workmen. I used to have a whole parliament of pot plants, and that is the extent of my ability to engage in gardening, considering I’m something of a spoiled house-cat. Speaking of which:
I finally found some Nature’s Choice soya chunks in the store, after being taunted with their less appetizing soya mince for the longest time. Since my local store has seen it fit to deprive me of tofu for the past week or two (and since I can’t stock up due to a fridge full of other veggies and a freezer stuffed with frozen soup and delicious chocolate cashew bites) I’ve been a bit lean on my protein intake, because generally I prefer natural sources of protein rather than relying completely on Fry’s sausages and the like (though they are delicious). So, textured vegetable protein may not be a step higher than the sausages, but for emergency rations they’ll do, especially since I hope they’ll be sufficiently “normal” for the workers to munch on. As much as I love my beans, nuts and all the other good stuff, sometimes one wants a bit of variety, and I’ve been salivating over the idea of a soya stew ever since I read up on Vegan Mother Hubbard’s version from the other day. Alas, a slow-cooker I do not possess, so this is the quicker (but still pretty flippin tasty) version, based loosely on this recipe I found over at Feastie. I also have a huge bag of green peppers (which I’ve learnt is also known as capsicum (this clears up so much confusion!)) so this stew was one way to use up some of my farmers market goodies. 😀
Ingredients (makes 6 normal servings, or enough for 3 famished men plus me :p):
- 2 cups soy chunks
- 5 cups water
- 1-2 cups vegetable broth
- 1 onion, diced
- 2 capsicum/green peppers, diced
- 2-3 radishes, diced
- 1 small nub ginger, peeled and grated
- handful of celery leaves (waste not!)
- 1/4 cup/ 60 ml tikka cooking sauce
- 1/2 cup organic carrot juice
- 1 TBSP curry powder
- 1 TBSP lite soy sauce
- 1 TBSP apple cider vinegar
- 1 TBSP tomato sauce
- 1/2 cup tomato puree
- Boil your broth/stock water and then switch off the heat – add the soy chunks and let them soak for 15-20 minutes with the lid on. Be careful that the water doesn’t bubble over inside – keep the lid tilted for the first few minutes if this happens, then lid it back up again.
- Once done, drain the soy chunks. The recipes I looked at recommend you reserve the water, but I wasn’t really up for soy-flavoured liquid, so I used 2 cups of vegetable broth/stock instead. Press out as much of the water as you can from the soy nuggets by layering them on paper towels (or dish towels, if you like) and squishing down. There is a lot of liquid that comes out, but doing this opens up room for delicious sauce to seep in.
- In a large pot water sauté the onion, garlic, radishes and capsicum on medium heat until soft. Add in the soy chunks and mix it up, adding some water or liquid to prevent it from sticking (I used the peppermint tea I was drinking at the time :p) – stir every few minutes for about 10 or so, so that the excess liquid from the soy chunks can be “steamed” out.
- Make a sauce of the tikka, tomato puree, soy sauce, and vinegar and pour it into the pot, stirring some more and leaving it to fry for a few minutes, again adding water to prevent it sticking.
- Add in the carrot juice and spices and let it simmer for about half an hour (or less, depending on time constraints/patience), stirring occasionally and slowly adding in the veggie broth/stock when the mixture becomes too thick and sticky on the bottom of the pot. Add in the celery fluff in the last fifteen minutes, tasting and adding more spices where needed.
- Ta ra!
To add to it I decided on polenta. Usually maize meal is the staple of choice in South Africa, but I don’t really keep it in the home since when hot it’s rather high on the GI scale and I’ve been warned off it (even though it is SO delicious made all creamy as a porridge with soy milk and date sweetner…mmmmm). A tasty alternative is of course polenta, which acts pretty much in the same way and is rather health-ful. It can be a tricky thing to infuse with flavour, since it’s so stocky and thick, which is why I usually cook it in vegetable stock/broth and let it simmer in that for a while, adding more as needed. I had wanted to make and bake or fry stacks, but I couldn’t figure it out so I sort of mushed it into balls :p I also blended 4 or so sundried tomatoes and a handful of basil, splashing around tumeric and paprika liberally. So delicious!
The guys seemed rather pleased (well, they cleaned up an entire heaping dinner plate each), but then again I suppose men doing manual labour don’t really care much what they eat as long as it’s filling and marginally tasty. Or, at least, that’s what Man-thing tells me, which is why I’ve been talked out of making bean and salsa “blinis” tomorrow for everyone and will only be making it for myself and you, fair internets, whilst serving up some roasted sweet potato and pumpkin-carrot soy mince for them. Man-thing has not stopped blathering about how much he enjoyed the soy mince innards of the cabbage rolls he got when he was ill, and the fact that he can fondly recall food in a bout of a stomach bug is sign enough that it was rather delicious, I guess, in a disturbing way. :p