The Odd Blog

And when our cubs grow / We'll show you what war is good for

Day Eight

Posted by That Other Mike on 08/09/2008

I’ve said here before that I’m having a hard time with not eating cheese. Milk is also something I miss; while soy milk fulfills part of the desire, there’s nothing quite like a nice big glass of cold skimmed milk.

Coffee is not quite the same without it, but I’m getting used to that, and I’m certainly not about to try using soy milk in it anymore: soy milk is actually what is known technically as an emulsion, or immiscible liquids in a stable blend. Basically, it’s oil, water and small particles. Unfortunately, soy milk is not quite so stable an emulsion as dairy, meaning that unless stirred vigorously every minute or so, it separates into what looks like curds. Not terribly nice, and something of a pain to keep going at. You can get it to not do that by adding it when the liquid has cooled down, but who wants to drink lukewarm coffee? I’ll stick with black and one sugar for now, I think.

One thing which I’ve been trying to think of cooking somehow is macaroni (and) cheese, name dependent upon where you live. Unfortunately, the means to do it seemed to have eluded me, until I happened to land upon the site called Vegan Village, which maintains a list of vegan recipes.

Oddly enough, they have a recipe for white sauce, which is simply a vegan version of the standard variety, literally: the ingredients are identical. Vegan margarine, soy milk and flour. It recommends using yeast flakes for a cheesy flavour, and I may well give it a try during the week.

That’s not what’s on the menu today, though.

Two of my favourite styles of cookery are Mexican and Tex-Mex, which are distinct forms of cuisine, despite what most people think. Unfortunately for me right now, both of them are kind of heavy on the meat, particularly beef when it comes to Tex-Mex.

Two of the other staple ingredients of these two related cookery styles are rice and beans, and this is indeed a classic form of both, not to mention being widely used throughout Latin America and the Caribbean. Variations of the theme include the Brazilian feijoada, a hearty stew of black turtle beans with salted pork; Platillos Moros y Cristianos, a Cuban dish of black beans and white rice which translates as Moors and Christians, named for the colours; and of course, the New Orleans Creole classic of red beans and rice.

Protein is an important part of every diet, as it aids in cell formation and regeneration, and is a necessity for life. Indeed, the name is Greek for primary. The most complete and easily used forms of protein come from meat, which leaves vegans in something of a pinch; this may also be related to the source of the common stereotype of the vegan as weak and skinny.

Plant proteins often are incomplete, meaning that they lack all of the essential amino acids necessary for the maintenance of life. This is relatively easily solved, however, using the fact that different plants supply different protein formations, and combining them in different ways can resolve the issue of protein. Coincidentally, the combination of rice and beans supplies all the proteins necessary to sustain life, as well as carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals and fibre. It should be noted, though, that the proteins need not be combined in a single meal, despite popular misconceptions to the contrary.

Plus, of course, there is the fact that beans and rice together are generally very cheap, and can provide a nutritious meal for several people (or for one over several days) at very low cost and effort.

While I like rice and beans, and would probably kill wound someone for a good plate of red beans and rice, I’m after something a little more interesting than simply adding them together. This experiment isn’t just about surviving as a vegan, after all, but seeing the whole picture together. That means I get to cook stuff which I actually enjoy eating too.

Crazy idea, I know.

So, my idea for tonight is to cook Spanish rice and bean burgers. To add a certain Tex-Mex flavour, I’ll be using pinto beans for the burgers.

The bean burgers will be more or less along the same lines as the felafel I made before, albeit with a few minor differences. I’ll be using chipotle paste instead of harissa, for example, and corn meal instead of white flour. Otherwise, the basic ingredients – onions, beans and spices are more or less the same.

The Spanish rice is a little different. I struggled with this dish for quite a while, I have to admit. It used to come out soggy and bright red, sticky and clumped together. Then I hit upon the idea of cooking the rice and the tomato base separately. Aha! I tried it, and it came out perfect, so every time since I’ve done it that way. The sauce base is chopped tomatoes, onions and peppers, garlic, salt, pepper, herbs, tomato puree/paste and some chilli if I feel like spicing things up. After last night’s curry, I’ll leave it out. It’s all gently fried and simmered together until it results in a thick sauce, to which you add the rice and stir it in. It comes out a beautiful orange colour, non-sticky and delicious.

Right, that’s it for today. I’m off to cook!

Crossposted at Thirty Day Experiment

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2 Responses to “Day Eight”

  1. Juliet said

    I’m into blog hopping and your post made me hungry:) So you’re into cooking too? Hmmm, well your food is very different from ours though so I dont know if I can share some of my favorite meatless recipe to you:)

  2. Mike said

    I’m always up for trying new things, Juliet. Please go ahead and post something, I’d really like to see. 🙂

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