I have to admit I am a bit of a mark for veggie 'meat' products. So, when I saw this product my imagination went a little crazy with the possibilities and I quickly got to work. I had to figure out the best way to try the product, as it was a product that was designed to be cooked much like it's meat counter product and in many ways it behaves like meat hack, so what to do?
At first, I took some of the veggie hack and added a bit of salt and pepper and fried it in a bit of oil and tried it. The amazing thing about these products is that it tastes like I remember meat tasting like; though, I have to admit it has been some time since I have eaten meat but exactly. So feeling a bit of confusion on exactly how I feel, I thought about what I really wanted to eat and what I missed eating. With the power of seitan, i can make burgers and most other related products that I want but I had a craving for some stuffed veggie balls. Which are like meat balls stuffed with cheese; however, these would would be made with veggie hack but having tasted the fried and lightly seasoned bit I was confident that this was going to work perfectly.
First the look of it....
As you can see, the look is much as you would expect to see from hack that you might find in the grocery store and I found it both interesting and disturbing on so many different layers, like an onion peel and to be truthful I couldn't tell you even in this moment if it was a curiosity and excitement or morbid fascination that I got me so wrapped up into this project. The reason it brought so many different feelings for me is that it so tasted like the real product, I had to ask why make it? And do I really want to eat something that behaves like this? I can tell you that my wife was a no. She was clear from the very first bite that she was not at all interested in eating something that reminded her so clearly of meat. For me it was more of a question of possibilites. Some of the reasons that meat eaters say is the reason for them to continue to eat meat is the dishes themselves. Historical and cultural dishes are meant to connect a person to something that is beyond where they are in that moment. If you have roots in the Ukraine for instance, making great Pierogies would bring a connection to your ancestors and the land that they lived or if you are French there are so many dishes that not only are the cultural but have great historical meanings and this is true of practically ever country and cultural around the world. So to find a way that people can still continue to cook the foods that connect them to this world, this history and culture and yet not harm animals and not do as much damage to the environment is an exciting idea for me. So two heads of coin.
With all the veggie propaganda out of the way, I continued on to making the stuffed veggieballs.
Important note, is that I normally don't follow a recipe and there are a couple of reason for this. One, is because I have been doing this for so long that most dishes are just second nature and two, I like the freedom of just following the flow of what I have and what do I feel like. But you need a binder and in my case, I used oats and flax seeds as an egg replacer. The spices I used well it was an assortment of mostly Italian herbs, oregano, thyme, garlic, savory and marjoram but you can use what ever you want. Now, I did add spices like cumin and smoked paprika just to make it a bit more like the real product. After forming the balls, I flattened them out and placed some shredded cheese in the middle before rolling it into a ball and giving it a bit of a fry.
I also thought that by treating this particular veggie hack as I would have treated meat hack some years ago, I would get a true sense of how adaptable it would be, since a large portion of the appeal of the product wasn't in the taste but in the functionality of it. I have to admit that I used flax seeds in place of eggs, as I find it generally a good idea to do this and I didn't have any eggs in the house.
After the fry and the product browning, I added some tomatoes and continued on making a fresh tomato sauce all the while simmering the product just as I had been taught (almost) in Chef's school.
And the result...
So I decided the parameters to measure if this was a good product or not couldn't be on whether I thought it was a good idea for a product to taste like meat, it had to be on whether or not the manufacturer succeed in the product that they wanted and promised to us the consumer.
The consistency was perfect and was how it acted and tasted. There was actually no flaw at all in the product. The only flaw possible is actually from the me the cook. Would I buy it again, yes I would (not for a meal with my wife but for watching a hockey game with some guy friends). I have some more ideas what I could do with this veggie hack including one of my favorite all time dishes Moussaka!!