Hail Seitan!

As a household we took the decision some months ago to reduce the amount of animal products in our diet (2 vegetarians and one omnivore). We haven’t gone vegan, but have changed the overall balance, so I suspect that puts us in the rare position of being able to offend everyone with a strong opinion on diets!

The primary motivator for us was the environmental impact of animal based food. Animal welfare is also a major consideration. As cheese is rising in price apace, that’s also been a factor. So has boredom – we wanted to eat more interestingly, and for that matter, have more good stuff.

When we look at taking up a more ecological way of doing things, one of the household rules is ‘no hair shirt’. If it feels like we’re being noble and suffering, we’re doing it wrong, and we won’t be able to sustain it. Getting it right means a sense of improved quality of life. We try to do this without it costing vast amounts more money.

Seitan has been good to us (and we insist on pronouncing it ‘Satan’). Seitan is a vegan protein – vital wheat gluton and can be bought as a flour-like substance. Health food shops may have it, the internet certainly does, and if you buy in bulk it works out cheaper than Quorn. The internet abounds with recipes, but basically you can make up a dough, flavour it with whatever you like, braise it in the slow cooker and then give it a second outing, and it is a wonderful, endlessly variable thing. Not that hard to make, and the omnivore in the household is happy to accept it as a substitute.

My latest venture is into the realm of shneese. Which isn’t cheese. The attraction of dairy products, I eventually worked out, is as much the fat content as the protein. Vegan proteins can be short of oil, and thus the idea of shneese was born. There are (I have since discovered) lots of recipes out there for home made vegan cheese substitutes, but the key thing is to use a gelatine substitute so it will set. Some kind of nut or seed to provide the protein – I’ve used sunflower and cashew to good effect thus far. Some kind of oil. And something else – thus far olives, avocado and mushroom have been employed to good effect at different times. Their role is to give the oil something to make friends with. Nutritional yeast is also a good idea. A blender is required, to make the whole array of things into a single, settable gloop.

Last night we put shneese on pizza. Now, I’ve seen vegans with grated carrot as a pizza topping, and it looks the part… and even though I like grated carrot, I’ve never been able to face this as a prospect. The whole point of a pizza is that sense of indulgence. A mushroom and sunflower shneese, tomato, olive, artichoke hearts… it didn’t feel like a downgrade.

I like knowing that I can throw together really good food for vegan guests, should I need to. I like having the increased diversity of diet. I love that this is working out cheaper than buying dairy products. I like the idea of having cheese as an occasional luxury, not a staple, and only using eggs when I want them as eggs, not as an ingredient. Also, I’m enjoying the names. Notzorella, anyone?

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About Nimue Brown

Druid, author, dreamer, folk enthusiast, parent, wife to the most amazing artist -Tom Brown. Drinker of coffee, maker of puddings. Exploring life as a Pagan, seeking good and meaningful ways to be, struggling with mental health issues and worried about many things. View all posts by Nimue Brown

8 responses to “Hail Seitan!

  • Sheila North

    Notzerella? What kind of zella is it, then?

    I don’t have a blender, so can’t see me making shneese. It also makes me want to say “gods bless you!”

    Does eating and making shneese facilitate schmozing? Or sheleep?

    • Nimue Brown

      I don’t have a blender as such, I have a small hand held whizzy thing, which does the job. The Notzorella was sunflower seeds and mushrooms, amongst other things, and it went well on the pizza.

  • David

    Auto-correct was (amusingly) a little off here: It’s vital wheat *gluten*, although someone who eats a lot of seitan may very well be a glutton for gluten. 🙂

    This reminds me of a sign for a “glutton free” buffet. Perhaps they were keeping costs down by only allowing you at the table if you didn’t eat too much…

  • Christopher Blackwell

    I use a somewhat different approach but in my case my only animal protein is cheese, and I just refuse to worry about what it costs. Otherwise my diet is made up of Corn tortillas, rice, beans, nuts m raisins, ad what ever material that makes up the sauce in my ranch style beans.

    Meat is not possible, one for cost, and two the lack of hot water for clean up, lack of a kitchen for proper processing and preparing meat and the lack of a regular stove. Microwave ovens is not very good for most cooking of meat.

    I have a half dozen table spoons, a half dozen knives, one two quart cooking glass bowl and paper plates, to avoid using water that has to be hauled in, as I do not have a well any more. Anything requiring much water, like my weekly shower, or washing clothes, is done in town.

  • karenenneagram

    B12! You MUST make sure you all get enough B12, and vegetarians and vegans are more likely than not to be deficient. The effects can be horrid and irreversible. Cognitive and physical. Anyone, but particularly a growing lad (who clearly is not cognitively impaired! I am vicariously proud) can suffer permanent damage from a lack. Google or ask me to put you in touch with Simon (he doesn’t like me handing out his contact details without his say-so).

    I can’t handle pulses or legumes at all, and brown grains mostly upset me. I’m an obligate carnivore. Such a shame – I love em…. as for the environmental impact, in my view there is much danger to the environment and animal life from pure vegetarian farming… and that’s a different conversation!

    • Nimue Brown

      thank you! the lad is mostly eating omnivorously, it’s a much smaller percentage of his diet, so he’s probably fine. Nutritional yeast is my friend (lots of Bs there) and because I have had so much trouble with iron, I’ve been on a multi vit and mineral thing for a while now. In terms of the farming, I’m actually deeply in favour of mixed farms, but on the whole a different balance in the diet is called for to make that go 🙂

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