How do you add bite to mushy vegan food? | Food

How can I add texture to vegan bean, pasta and rice dishes so my non-vegan family can’t complain just porridge?
Sign, Brighton

“It’s a drizzle, a spoonful and a crackle,” explains Bettina Campolucci-Bordi, author of Celebrate: herbal recipes for all occasions. “I add at least two to each meal, and it instantly creates different textures.” A drizzle can be something as simple as good quality olive or flavored oil (chili, garlic, basil) or date syrup, while a spoonful is basically something creamy:. As for the crunch, it’s’ chopped toasted nuts, a dukkah or a za’atar in pieces, pomegranate, sunflower or pumpkin seeds, roasted chickpeas flavored with things like tandoori spices. Signs would be wise to adopt Campolucci-Bordi’s mantra of “more is better”.

Another tactic for avoiding the mush factor is to consider how you chop your vegetables. “With vegetables that need more cooking, like potatoes, cut them into small pieces, while if you add zucchini to the same dish, cut them larger, otherwise they will become soft and mushy. ”

For more punch on the texture front, Craig and Shaun McAnuff, whose latest book, Natural Flava: Quick & Easy Caribbean Herbal Recipes, coming out this month, prefer roasting their vegetables (“for an incredible crust on the outside and melting on the inside”) or the grills (“it gives that crispy texture and that smoky flavor”). Vivek SinghTexture tips, meanwhile, include frying mustard seeds and urid lentils with curry leaves and spices in oil, then pouring it all into a lentil broth. Another option, says executive chef and founder of The Cinnamon Collection group of restaurants, is to garnish lentil and bean dishes with raw vegetables, pickled or lightly sautéed (think chopped broccoli or cauliflower). “You can also experiment with adding chopped nuts, fried shallots, and puffed or grilled rice flakes to the top of large hearty bowls of lentils and rice for added substance. Spicy scrambled tofu wouldn’t hurt either.

Singh also recommends khichdi to keep the objections of the Signe family at bay. “It’s a traditional dish of rice and homemade lentils tempered with cumin, turmeric and vegetables. [cauliflower, peas, carrots, chopped tomatoes]. He sets up the setting by serving it with a roasted eggplant relish: “Stuff two eggplant halves with garlic cloves and rub them with mustard oil. Char the eggplant over an open flame, turning frequently, until it blackens evenly on all sides. When cool, remove and discard the skin and garlic, chop the flesh and mix with the sea salt, red onion, chili peppers, cilantro and mustard oil.

Finally, when all routes point to pasta, Shaun McAnuff prefers a “creamy and crunchy” vegan mac and cheese. It caramelizes the onion, garlic and chili, mixes them with cooked pasta and a vegan “cheese” sauce, and season. “Pour into an ovenproof dish, garnish with vegan mozzarella and breadcrumbs [you could even use broken crackers], and cook. His brother Craig, meanwhile, is all about pesto made from callaloo, a leafy green from the Caribbean. “All you do is caramelize the garlic and mustard seeds, then blitz with callaloo [or spinach], nuts, avocado, scotch bonnet and spices. Toss it into cooked pasta and sprinkle with nuts (walnuts, almonds, cashews) for that essential crunch.

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Tanya S. Norvell