Sonntag, 10. November 2013

Vegan Kitchen Staples

Since my friend Joni (who is new to exclusively plant-based cooking) asked for some explanation of the things that appear to be more exotic to those who cook conventionally, I decided to collect a few things that I find in my pantry to explain them.

Firstly, I would like to mention that you can easily cook awesome vegan food without using soy, seitan, and all these other things. The main ingredient in my kitchen will alwaysdesc be vegetables, fruits, legumes, nuts, etc. There is nothing wrong with tofu etc., but in my kitchen vegan cooking does not have to mean that I copy conventional recipes and replace meat with tofu. I do that sometimes, because I used to enjoy eating meat. I do not think that there is anything wrong with the taste of it, I just no longer see the necessity to use meat/dairy/eggs in order to get a great meal.

So. The main ingredient that should be available anywhere near you is this:

I want to be healthy and live a long life, so choosing veggies appears to be the sane choice. That being said, it doesn't mean that I do not enjoy a bit of junk food and tasty cold beer every now and then. :) It's about keeping the balance:

This blog features the following products/things:

  • Tofu (plain, smoked, with herbs, silken tofu)
  • Dried soy variations
  • Seitan/Gluten (Mock Duck)
  • Legumes
  • Dairy-free milk and cream
  • Kala Namak salt
  • Yeast Extract and Flakes
  • Seeds and Nuts
  • Chocolate
  • Agar Agar
  • Spices and Herbs
  • How to replace eggs in conventional recipes


Taifun smoked tofu <3
There's good tofu, bad tofu and tofu that's in between. There's tofu that needs to be refridgerated and there's tofu that doesn't. There are different levels of firmness. There's plain tofu, silken tofu, smoked tofu, tofu with herbs... So much to chose from!

What type of tofu you want to use really depends on the dish you are planning to make. My boyfriend likes to make tofu scramble (like scrambled eggs... without the eggs) and has tried regular firm tofu and softer tofu (still not as soft as silken tofu). He ended up preferring the softer type.

When it comes to plain tofu, you have to remember: If you don't season it, it's going to taste like soggy cardboard. You can marinade it, fry it, bake it, throw it into sauce, just don't eat plain tofu without any seasoning. That's the type of food that will prove the terrible reputation tofu has been enjoying in many places.
The boyfriend also uses plain tofu when he makes vegan sausages.

We use firm tofu for dishes in which we would have usually used ground meat like pasta sauces etc.

If you find a good brand of smoked tofu, you're lucky! I have tasted different brands and only love one so far. (The one that's pictured above: Taifun tofu) I eat it sliced up on sandwiches (or just by itself), cut in cubes on salads, cut in smaller cubes and fried in pasta sauces or in tofu scramble. We have also used it in dishes that would have usually asked for bacon. It doesn't taste like bacon, but it sure tastes great!

Silken tofu is so versatile! You can use it for a vegan mousse au chocolat or instead of eggs in a quiche!

Tofu with herbs, spices etc. can be used in a great variety, too. My favorite brand Taifun produces really amazing basil tofu which we love on bread, in soups or salads. It's really about trying new things and finding out what you like.

Generally, my experience has been that the fresh tofu that needs to be refridgerated is better than the stuff with a long unrefriderated shelflife. This is mostly relevant for the tofu that you eat without processing it too much, for example for the tofu you eat in a sandwich. I don't really mind the "not so great" tofu in my bolognese sauce, but I do mind it in my salad.

More Soy Variations!

Easily storable
Dried soy is a wonderful thing to keep in your pantry. (I use cereal containers!) It stores well and can be used for tons of awesome dishes. Obviously, this is not for you, if you're sensitive to soy (and the same applies to tofu). If you're not sensitive to soy (yay!) you're good to go! And for those who start telling me about how harmful soy is for my hormones: I believe it's all about moderation. Anything you eat without moderation can be harmful to you.

There are two things that I pay attention to when buy this type of soy is that it's GMO free and has no other shady ingredients

This translates to: "Ingredients: Soy flour, water" and "GMO free".

The first picture shows the different shapes soy comes in ... for different purposes.

The smallest type is great in dishes that would conventionally call for ground meat. I just toss the dried soy into my bolognese sauce (unless I use fresh tofu) while cooking so they can soak up some of the sauce. The boyfriend makes excellent burger patties and "meat" balls from it. Recipes will follow (eventually).

The next bigger size (about the size of hazelnut) are great additions to stews and curries. It wouldn't recommend just throwing them into the dish as they might take too long to just soak up enough sauce to get nice, soft and tasty. Cook them in veggie stock or salt water for a while, press out the excess liquid and then add them to your stew. 

This size of dried soy is great if you want to make "nuggets." We also make great "chick'n wings" from it. This might look and feel too close to meat for some people to enjoy, but it does not bother me if something looks and tastes like meat if no animals were harmed in the process. It should be soaked and cooked in veggie stock or salt water (maybe with some soy sauce or yeast extract in it for a richer taste) before being processed further.

These patties seem to be the biggest type of dried soy that I've seen so far. After going through the cooking in veggie stock routine, you can use to make "schnitzel" or "roulades"


Asian supermarket
mock duck
Seitan sounds like Satan and gluten seems to have been crowned the new Satan of the food aisle. Yes, if you're sensitive or allergic to gluten, you shouldn't eat this. If your body is ok with it: Enjoy!

You can buy seitan that's ready to eat and the main ingredient it is made from gluten. Gluten is a protein that is found in wheat (and other grains).

Mock duck with salt potatoes, red
cabbage and mushroom cream sauce
The cheapest way to get your hands on seitan is probably mock duck. Or mock chicken. Or mock anything. I usually get mine in Asian supermarkets. It's pretty affordable, I usually pay less than 2€ for a small can that makes a nice protein component for a dinner for two. As with many products from Asian supermarkets, it may contain MSG of which I'm not really a big fan. But meh. I guess it's not going to kill me if I only have it every now and then. 
Vantastic Food's
mock duck
Mock duck with red cabbage,
peas and leftover spring rolls

My favorite type of mock duck is produced by Vantastic Food, a German vegan company. It tastes amazing and is made without MSG! 

Mock duck may put some people off because... it looks like duck meat. Apparently it's made in some sort of mold that imitates the duck skin. I enjoy mock duck either with traditional dishes that would usually involve actual duck, or in Asian inspired dishes. 

Broccoli cream soup with sautéd
mushrooms, mock duck on a stick
and tomato bread
Since mock duck usually comes in cans, it's a great type of protein to keep in your pantry for lazier days or dishes that it would go well with. 

You don't have to rely on canned stuff if you don't want to. We usually have some mock duck in the pantry, but most importantly we always keep a big bag of gluten in there as well. 

Gluten is white, powdery stuff that makes you look like drug lord. You're not. Unless you know how to turn it into tasty, tasty food!

The benefit of making your own seitan from gluten is the same as it is with any food you make: You can always control what's in it! Another benefit: It's cheaper than mock duck! Yes, some health stores may sell it at horrendous prices, but if you find a good supplier, you can get a decent deal. We usually get 2.5kg bags for around €7.50.

Some people will wash the gluten out of regular flour... but I find pure gluten much more useful. Why would that be? If I have to wash the gluten out of the flour, the gluten will already be a big chewy blob. It's hard to get some decent flavors into this at that point. It's easier to just mix spices into the powdered gluten to then add liquid and turn it into the big chewy (and now tasty) blob to then put it to further use. 

100% pure gluten

Gluten can be used in many different dishes. I use a table spoon or two in my bread to make it a bit fluffier, but it can also be used to make an excellent protein component. 

Awesome seitan "meat" kebab
We love to make our own seitan kebab. Since kebab meat mostly tastes of the different spices that are used in its marinade, it's very easy to make a plantbased version that tastes just as well. Omnomnom! Definitely among our favorite dishes. It was such a relief to find out that I didn't have to give up kebabs. I do like my falafel sandwiches, but the occasional kebab is awesome, too!

One thing that always makes my day is getting a great kebab sandwich at an open air music festival when our friends from Untervegs are around with their vegan food truck! Always a treat! 


Oh yeah, chickpeas!
Talking about falafel sandwiches... I do love my legumes, especially chickpeas/garbanzo beans. They're rich in protein and taste amazing! Other legumes would be any type of beans, peanuts, peas, and lentils

I usually have dried raw chickpeas and cooked canned chickpeas at home. If you really don't have time to cook, you can just run cooked chickpeas through your blender or food processor with some spices and get awesome homemade hummus! 

I make my own falafel from the raw chickpeas or from chickpea flour. 
Fresh parsley hummus
on bell peppers.
Falafel bento with smoked paprika hummus,
brussel sprouts and a raw red cabbage salad

Dairy-free Deliciousness - Milk and Cream


The easiest thing to do when you want to minimize your consumption of animal products is to replace cow milk with plant milk. There is a great variety available, including milk based on almonds, soy, oats, spelt, rice, hemp... and probably many more. 

Good news for those who don't have a place that sells vegan milk around the corner: You can stock up and keep them in the pantry. Unrefridgerated. This applies to the milks and the creams. 

Of course, all of these plant-based milks are lactose free, because you only get lactose from cow milk... Depending on what the milk is made from it may contain gluten (oat milk does, for example, because oat contains gluten). 

Plant milk comes in many different flavors. Chocolate, banana, vanilla, strawberry, you name it! This shows vegan cuisine is not about abstinence from food at all! 

We usually drink our coffee with oat milk (the ever amazing Kölln Smelk Hafer drink), but we also always keep a liter of soy milk in the pantry because that's what I use for baking. 

One thing that I like about the Kölln oat milk in particular is that they use oats that were grown in Germany. Their production facilities are in Germany as well. No, I don't mean to talk down on other country's oat producting companies... but I like my things as local as possible. And working with locally produced grains ensures that things don't have to be transported around the globe in order to be grown, made, and consumed.

How to make your own hazelnut milk? Here's my super easy (and cheap!) recipe!


When you cook a lot, you may need some type of cream at some point. There is a variety almost as rich as it is in the "milk" aisle available when it comes to plant based creams. My picture only shows different soy cream brands, but there are plenty of soy-free versions made from rice or grains available. 

The main thing you need to watch out for here is: Do you want to whip the cream or do you just want to use it in a sauce/soup. My experience is that if it isn't pointed out on the packaging specifically, you can't whip the cream. Most non-whippable creams will even specify that they are indeed non-whippable. 

Don't worry, you can still get your whipped cream! There are some types available, like the Soyatoo! "soya topping cream" pictured on the left which can be whipped and taste awesome. These whippable types of cream usually contain added sugar - just a heads up so you don't top your tomato soup with it! 

Coconut milk is awesome! 
It tastes great in curries and soups! 
Personally, I'm not too big of a fan of the coconut taste that you'll find in coconut flavored candy etc. I am just not into the taste of dried coconut flakes, but the taste of the coconut milk is much more subtle and good in my opinon. 

Other things that I always have in my pantry

Kala Namak salt

Kala Namak - sounds odd tastes great if you like the taste of eggs, but don't want to eat them any longer.

Kala Namak is a dark salt (from India) that contains sulfur. Just like eggs do! If you sprinkle it on your tofu scramble or some avocado, you get a great creamy product with an egg-like taste.

Yeast Flakes and Extract

Yeast flakes and yeast extract are awesome. They're rich in natural glutamate (just like ripe tomatoes, cheese, soy sauce...) which gives them the "umami" (savory) taste. 

Oh, yeast extract! <3
I use yeast flakes to give food a cheesy flavor. If I crave a cheese sauce on my pasta, I'll simply make a roux sauce and in the end add some yeast flakes. Hmmmm. Cheeeeesy.

I use yeast extract (a brown paste usually stored in a little jar) for example to add additional flavor the veggie stock in which I soak and cook my dried soy chunks to give them a "meatier" flavor. Omnomnom. 

Yes, yeast is the type of ingredient that enhances flavor. So is salt. Again, it's a matter of moderation. I do not use yeast in every meal.

Nuts and seeds!

Get the good kind of fat plus vitamins and protein!

I always have a nice little selection of nuts and seeds at home, for example:
- sunflower seeds
- almonds
- hazelnuts
- cashews
- pumpkin seeds
- flax seeds
- walnuts

They are great additions to cereals, bread, stews etc. Or you can just munch away on a few.

I always have some extra cashew nuts in my pantry because I use them to make a vegan version of feta cheese!

Fair trade products are only a little more expensive
than regular products and make sure that products
are produced sustainably, people are paid for their work
and children go to school instead of working
What would life be without chocolate? Yeah, let's not talk about that.
I always keep some dark chocolate and cocoa powder for baking and eating. Of course from fair trade companies. 
In Germany most chocolate that contain 70% of cocoa or more are vegan. It never hurts to check for concentrated butter, though. It sneaks in way too easily. 
Chocolate makes a great addition to many dishes in which you wouldn't expect it! I love my chili sin carne with some dark chocolate and coffee!

Agar Agar
Agar agar is a plant based gellant that can be used instead of gelatine, which is made from the collagen in animal bones, skin and connective tissues. Agar agar is made from algae instead!
I keep two different types of agar agar: The pure version that contains nothing but agar agar and a product by the name of "Agartine". It contains agar agar and maltodextrin (sugar). The reason I keep the "agartine" although it's just sugar with regular agar agar is that it's easier to use as a substitute when I veganize a conventional recipe. I am not 100% sure how much pure agar I'd need to replace gelatin in a conventional recipe, so I just stick to the suggested measurements in the original recipe.

Spices and Herbs
Good food comes with good spices! Spices can elevate the flavor of a dish so much! So don't be afraid to try new things! Get a curry paste instead of curry powder, try fresh mint leaves with a savory dish, find out the difference between cilantro leaves and seeds! Ever tried cardamon?

Pepper always tastes best when you get it fresh from the pepper mill instead of using ground pepper. Black pepper has essential oils that are released when you grind it. 

If you can, get some fresh herbs. It shouldn't be too hard to get a basil plant that you can keep in your kitchen. Fresh herbs taste really good and certainly much better than the dried version. If you are not obnoxiously rich, it might be hard to have fresh herbs with each meal (unless you can grow them yourself), but treating yourself to some fresh herbs every now and then is great!

How to replace eggs in conventional recipes

Soy Flour

Soy flour is my go-to product when I veganize a conventional recipe. It's a great replacement when you just add eggs to a cake batter etc. Soy flour will not replace egg wash, beaten egg whites, or anything else that requires you to seperate egg yolk and white in a conventional recipe. It does not work for quiches etc either. But if a recipe, for example a cake recipe, just asks you to drop eggs into the batter, there's an easy formula on how to replace those eggs:
1 egg = 1 teaspoon of soy flour + 2 table spoons of water/plant milk

Silken Tofu

Silken tofu is great when it comes to creams, dips and quiches. Perfect for mousse au chocolat!
If you make a quiche and want to replace the eggs, try 80g of silken tofu per egg that you replace. Make sure you blend that tofu until it's all nice and smooth. Then proceed to use it as the recipe suggests for the eggs!

"No Egg"/*any other egg replacer*

Let's put it this way. Officially, this stuff is meant to replace beaten egg white. We have not yet managed to get it to work. Either we're a little stupid or this stuff just sucks. :)

This blog is still incomplete, but I'll try to add new things that seem relevant. If you think something is missing, let me know and I'll try to add it to the blog!