Tempeh Tempations

I can’t believe another week has gone by so quickly. I have been counting down the days to my graduation. On Tuesday night I will finally be graduation (after I don’t even want to think about how many years) from university. I will be finishing with a Dual degree in Business and Arts, majoring in Marketing, Italian Language and History & Cultural Heritage. I have also just received an award for Academic Excellence for 2012-13. I am sad that my university days are finally coming to an end, but its nice to get the awards to finally show something for all these years. Not sure how long I will be able to stay away from studying though. I have been spending all my free time at work looking up Honors courses I want to take in the ‘future’ and have been reading anything I can get my hands on.

Will all this free time you would think I would have time to be creative in the kitchen, but actually I am usually very tire after work and have been making a lot of meals that get eaten over days for dinners and lunches. Marco doesn’t like having the same thing more then twice, but the days of having a different meal every night are over. Well at least for the moment. I have been cooking a fair bit with tempeh lately. I really like the chewy texture and the trying different ways to use it. Something I didn’t post recently was a vegan massamam curry with tempeh and potatoes. I wasn’t so sure about that combination. But for making sausages, meatballs, steaks or just to add to a chew texture to a pasta sauce it works really well.

If you don’t know what tempeh is don’t feel silly, I only discovered it a couple of years back when I read about it in my first vegan cookbook. After I while I finally got the courage to use it and now I love it. “Tempeh is a traditional soy product that is originally from Indonesia. It is made by a natural culturing and controlled fermentation process that binds soybeans into a cake form, similar to a very firm vegetarian burger patty. It originated in Indonesia, and is especially popular on the island of Java, where it is a staple source of protein. Like tofu, tempeh is made from soybeans, but it is a whole soybean product with different nutritional characteristics and textural qualities. Tempeh’s fermentation process and its retention of the whole bean give it a higher content of protein, dietary fiber, and vitamins. It has a firm texture and an earthy flavor which becomes more pronounced as it ages. Because of its nutritional value, tempeh is used worldwide in vegetarian cuisine, where it is used as a meat analogue”. It tastes and looks completely different to tofu. There are also many differences, which you can see below (source).

tempeh

My Shiitake mushrooms have been doing really well. I finally have a few that I could try out. I though they would have a really strong taste like the dried variety, but they are actually quite mellow. They are more flavorsome then the regular white mushrooms and have a kind of meaty chewy texture.

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Last night we had the kids over. They all wanted to have pasta so I made them a delicious tomato sauce with red onion and capsicum. For Marco and I wanted to make something a little more interesting. So I decided to make a pasta dish with tempeh, shiitake mushrooms and french lentils. I thought that it would be like a vegetarian bolognese. It didn’t really turn out like I thought, but it was really tasty. I felt a bit bad that the kids was so simple, but that’s what they wanted and I was too scared they wouldn’t like ours. Marco was a bit envious of the kids, until he tried ours. On the side I made some Frys Meat Free Pops. Everyone loved them and they were a good incentive for everyone to finish their dinner. Not that they needed much, all the kids had seconds of the pasta.

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The kids pasta dish

Frys Meat Free Pops

Frys Meat Free Pops

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For this pasta I used an Italian brand of finely diced tomatoes, Mutti from Parma. I am pretty sure this is the same one that we were cooking with when we lived in Italy. I asked my Aunty in Milan what her secret was to her delicious pasta sauce and she told me it was the quality of the diced tomatoes. She showed me this brand that she used and I finally found it in Coles of all places.

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Pasta Shells with Tempeh, Shiitake Mushrooms and French Lentil in a Tomato Sauce (vegan, gluten free option, nut free)

Ingredients:

4 serves pasta shells (use gluten free pasta shells if you prefer)

2 tablespoons olive oil

1/2 red onion, diced

3 garlic cloves, diced

1/2 red capsicum, diced

3/4 cooked french lentils

100g tempeh

3-4 shiitake mushrooms

1 can good quality finely diced tomatoes

1/2 teaspoon raw sugar or more to taste

2 tablespoons fresh oregano leaves

sea salt & black pepper to taste

Method:

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1. Heat olive oil then saute red onion and garlic for 5 mins on medium heat. Then add capsicum and saute for another few minutes till all is caramelized.

2. Add tempeh and shiitake mushrooms and saute for a few more minutes.

3. Add the french lentils,  a can of finely diced tomatoes and oregano. Season with sugar, salt and pepper and cook for 30-40 mins (the longer the better).

4. Cook the pasta until al dente and then serve with the pasta sauce.

*Serves 4

After dinner we made New York-Style Crumb Cake from Chloe’s Vegan Desserts. This was amazing! I will be definitely making this again. It tastes store bought but completely vegan. If you don’t have the book, you can see the recipe here.

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During the week I made Baked Rigatoni with Tempeh Sausage. I made a similar combination to the Tempeh Sausages from Sweet Mixed Tomato and Tempeh Sausage Casserole. However I didn’t add any oil or flour to the sausages and just form the mixture into balls. The tempeh gave that meaty texture that I really miss from my mums baked pasta with sausage.

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Baked Rigatoni with Tempeh Sausage (vegan, gluten free option, nut free)

Ingredients Italian Tempeh Sausages:

300g  tempeh

3 tablespoons Italian seasoning

1/4 cup tamari or light soy sauce (more to taste)

Ingredients for Italian seasoning (makes 1/2 cup):

1 tablespoon dried basil

1 tablespoon dried oregano

1 tablespoon garlic powder

1 tablespoon onion flakes or powder

1 tablespoon ground fennel (grinded fennel seeds)

1/2 tablespoon dried thyme

1/2 tablespoon crushed red pepper flakes

1/4 tablespoon ground black pepper

Rest of Ingredients:

500g rigatoni (use gluten free rigatoni if you prefer)

1 tablespoon olive oil

700 ml passata sauce

1 red onion

3 garlic cloves

1 red capsicum

2 tablespoons fresh oregano leaves

sea salt, black pepper and raw sugar to taste

vegan mozarella, grated (I used Notzarella)???????????????????????????????

Method:

1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees.

2. To make the Tempeh Sausages, cut the tempeh into cubes and steam for 15 mins. Then allow it to cool or if your impatient rinse with cold water. Then break up into crumbs and place into a mixing bowl.DSC06246

3. Add the Italian Seasoning and tamari, add more to make more salty.

4. In the meantime, take a pot and saute red onion, garlic and capsicum with olive oil till caramelized.  Then add passata sauce, oregano leaves sea salt, black pepper and raw sugar. Bring to the boil then leave to simmer for 20-30 mins.

5. While the sauce is cooking bring a pot to the boil and cook the pasta according to the directions on the packet.

6. Take a baking tray and put some sauce on the bottom. Then add the pasta and some more sauce and toss though, so the pasta is coated in sauce.

7. Form balls with the tempeh mixture and place them on top and between the pasta.

8. Lastly top with more pasta sauce and grated notzarella. Bake for 30-40 mins.

*Serves 8

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For more Tempeh recipes check out my Sweet Mixed Tomato and Tempeh Sausage CasseroleLoaded Sweet Potatoes with Spinach and Tempeh ‘Bacon’, Tempeh Pine nut ‘Meatballs’ with Red Wine Tomato SauceFettuccine alla bolognese and Mock Tuna Salad.

Last thing I want to share is the amazing Cherry Pita that I had at Pitstop Pastries and Pizza over the weekend in West End. Best part was that it was completely vegan! I think I am going to have to order some more to keep for mid week morning teas.

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