Time. Most of us don't have enough or at least that's what we tell ourselves as we flip on the television and begin to binge watch the latest programs. And while it is often true that we always seem to run out of time, often if we are telling the truth, we are just too tired from the day. Fighting crowds, cars, co-workers and sometimes life itself often after a day like that we just want to lay down, turn on the TV and eat something tasty but more importantly easy.
Yesterday, I made a pizza (click here for more) and while I was making the sauce, I simply made more then I needed for the pizza because I new that today was going to be a bit more exhausting. So, with a tiny bit of planning here are some simply things you can do with a little extra vegan "meat" sauce.
My wife works, she works hard and has a tough job and more times then not, she never gets to eat the things that I make. It's really a timing issue. But today, she wasn't working and so I wanted to do something that was quick (a busy day....) and a little bit nicer and with a hint of romance.
So I started with some basics.
If you have never made a "meat" sauce before, it is really simple and quite quick.
Take your TVP, TSP, Soya granulate or whatever they maybe called in your country, re-hydrate with some stock (don't simply use water, trust me not good) or just throw in some veggie base and hot water. Just enough hot water to cover but I like texture, if you prefer a more mushy product simply add a bit more water. Most packages will tell you once hydrated, squeeze out the extra water, this is important for some dishes but not for a meat sauce. Re-hydration takes about 10ish minutes. Maybe a bit less but when the granules are small, no more.
Next, add your garlic and onion to a stock pot, set to a medium temp and with a bit of olive oil in it. You simply want to "sweat" the onion and garlic, which means no color. So, if your onion and garlic are cooking too fast and a bit of carmelization is forming, don't despair and throw it out, just add a bit of water and cook until all the water is gone.
Next add some herbs. I use oregano and thyme (you can use what ever you like but these are most common and the more herbs and spices you add the more specialized your dish is, the less "other" dishes you can make with it)
Give it a moment in the pot with the garlic and onions, then add crushed tomato (or real tomatoes if you want to be a bit more hardcore). Add some veggie stock (if you add 3 cups of crushed tomato add about 1 cup of veggie stock) and your hydrated soya granulate and a bay leaf and gently simmer for about 1/2 hour to an hour. The longer you simmer the more the flavors will blend together. Add more stock or crushed tomato if it starts to dry and stir every so often so not to burn it.
The last part is option but for me, I like to thicken it a bit, so I use arrowroot and water combo but if you don't have arrowroot use cornstarch. Just a bit too much is gross, so I use about a tablespoon of arrowroot for a liter of sauce. I do this for two reasons. 1. It blends the flavors even more and 2. It takes away any of the watery-ness of the product, which is really important.
It really doesn't take too much time, by the time you have listened to your favorite Josh Ritter album or watched your favorite TV show, the "meat" sauce is finished.
Next, I boiled the Cannolloni noodles. Now this isn't required if you plan and have the time to bake the dish. But if you are going to bake it completely, you have to give yourself about an hour of baking time and lots of liquid to cook the product, I didn't have the time and I like to be able to control the end product, so don't like the gamble of finding the right amount of liquid to cook the product.
While the noodles were cooking, I heated up the "meat" sauce and made a fresh tomato and basil "bruschetta" it wasn't really a bruschetta, I finely chopped the tomato, added olive oil, squeeze of lemon and fresh basil then seasoned with salt and pepper. Because, I find that with Cannolloni, the sauce is the only thing you actually taste, I use the fresh tomato "bruschetta" in place of some other, heavier sauce.
I also started to boil the almond cream, when using a cream that is veg based, it is important that you know, that when reduced the flavor of the cream will become more intense. So, almond cream will taste more like almonds and a soy cream will be a stronger soy flavor. Pick yours by preference. I like almond cream, hence the cream. With cows milk cream, you can reduce it almost as far as you want, with almond cream and soy cream reduce on a low simmer for 5 minutes or so, others the flavor is just to overpowering. I squeezed a little lemon juice into the almond cream when it was reducing and seasoned with salt and pepper just to give it some more flavor.
When the noodles where done, I stuffed them with the meat sauce and plated the final dish.
And the second dish that I made, was as a "little" snack before we start watching a movie. I took the remaining "meat" sauce and heated it up, I added (this is where not over spicing the food is important) some chili powder and extra cumin. Then I took beans and corn and added them to the hot "meat" sauce.
Once hot, I put the sauce into a bowl and surrounded the bowl with taco chips, simple and quick but crazy good.