Monday, October 17, 2011

What do you do with leftover roast?

I've been planning on cooking out of Robin Robertson's Vegan Planet since I bought it a week or two ago. I figured I couldn't let MoFo go by without purchasing at least one cookbook. Flipping through, a few things caught my eye, among them Belgian-Style Seitan Stew with Dark Beer. Perfect! I've got about a pound of seitan leftover from last week's Thanksgiving dinner.

First things first, of course. Dark beer. Normally my husband drinks Guinness, which isn't vegan, so I had the task of finding one that is vegan. Fortunately for me, for his most recent birthday our friends gave Ian 30 different beers (30 beers for 30 years!), so this task was no more difficult than venturing to the basement and happening upon a German dark beer still residing in the beer fridge.

Checked the trusty internet, and yes, this dude is vegan! Sadly, it's not a beer I could actually sit down and drink. It's super bitter and kind of terrible. I'm sure someone who's really into dark beers might enjoy it, but it's not for me.

Next, I had to worry about feeding Dash, who was wandering around, yelling at random stuff, and pulling measuring spoons and cups out of the kitchen drawers. One of his favorite things? Toast with avocado.

What can I say, he's an easy kid to please when it comes to food. Thank goodness!

Then, Dash's appetite sated and the correct beer found, I was free to make the stew. The recipe comes together pretty easily and quickly, though it calls for quite a bit of oil which I cut down on drastically. It also caramelizes the onions by adding brown sugar, which I did this time, but if (when) I make this recipe again, I will definitely caramelize the onions myself without the sugar. It's unnecessary and barely any quicker, on top of which caramelized onions have so much depth of flavour without added sugar that it seems foolish to try to replace them in this fashion.

The finished dish is pretty tasty, I must say, caramelized onions aside. The consistency is great as well, just the perfect thickness. I threw in a handful of baby carrots when things were simmering, too, just to get some veg in there; plus, what's stew without carrots? Not stew. Not. Stew.

I wish stew was more photogenic, but alas, it's ugly. I'll be serving it over mashed potatoes possibly with some sort of green vegetable (or, who knows, roasted endive, since it's Belgian).

On a semi unrelated note, I read an awesome thing about food photography during the very beginning of MoFo and then couldn't find it. While I was searching for it, I came across a different, yet equally awesome blog post about it. Vegan YumYum's post is lovely and gives lots of fun info without getting crazily complex. The most important thing she says is this

Using natural light is probably the number one thing you can do to improve your photos. Turning off the flash, since you’re using lovely natural light, is the second best thing.
One thing I can't stress enough is how awful photos taken with a flash look. I know Vegan MoFo isn't all about how good people are at photography, and yes I have loads to learn myself, but I guarantee that 90% of the photos I shudder at could be improved about 90% by having been taken in natural light. Yes, this can't always be done. However, by and large I think people just don't realize how easy it would be to make more awesome photos. You don't need to have fancy equipment or turn pro; you could take perfectly passable photos just by putting the food on a surface near a source of natural light!

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