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Vegetarian main dish

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Unbeef or Unchicken gluten/ seitan steaks

You can buy pre-made seitan in flavors at some natural foods stores; however, for convenience and economy just make your own. It's relatively simple (don't let the spices and herbs fool you) and the finished steaks freeze very well for future use, so make lots!

Unbeefy steaks

    Brown boiling broth

    1/3 cup soy sauce
    2 T vinegar
    1/3 cup maple syrup, unrefined brown sugar or molasses
    1/4 tsp asfoetida (the Hindi substitute for 2 c onion and 2 cloves garlic)
    2 cups chopped celery leaves, or mixed celery, parsley, cabbage and beet
    8 cups water
    1 tbsp dried sage
    1 tsp cayenne pepper or dried ginger
    2 inch piece of kombu

Basic gluten mixture

    1 cup water or a drop more (non-vegans can use milk for better protein combining)
    1 tsp tamari or soy sauce
    2-3 tbsp lentil, chickpea or other bean flour or flaxseed or sesame seed meal (No bean flour? You can soak the water and a few tablespoons dried beans, let it sit overnight and whiz it in the blender)
    2 tbsp nutritional yeast
    1/2 tbsp dried mushroom powder, or to taste
    1 cup vital gluten flour


    Combine broth ingredients in a very large soup pot. The seitan is going to expand - x2 or 3- when cooking so you'll want lots of room for it. Bring the broth to a rolling boil, cover and simmer at an easy boil.

    While broth is heating, make the gluten mixture. Place the water in a bowl and sprinkle the vital gluten flour over it. With a fork or with your hands, quickly mix the two together until it forms a very rubbery mass. Knead it for 1 or 2 minutes, then break it into 3 or 4 chunks. Squeeze each chunk over the sink to get out excess water, then set aside. When most of the excess water has been squeezed out, knead and press the chunks back together.

Form it into a log-shape, about five or six inches long and two or three inches across. Slice this into 10-12 pieces, and press and flatten each piece to about 1/4 inch thick. May be cooked right away, but for best texture, let rest about 35 minutes.

Drop these "steaks" into the boiling broth one at a time, stir, cover and reduce the heat to medium-low.

Simmer small pieces covered for about 35 minutes, stirring at the beginning to prevent sticking to the bottom, then stirring occasionally. A large single piece might make 2- 3 hours. If you take the lid off and all these huge things pop up at's supposed to do that.

When they are finished cooking, drain. Reserve broth to cook additional cutlets. Save and refrigerate (10 days)or freeze (3 months)the broth for future gravies or the next batch of steaks.

You can now use the seitan "steaks" in any recipe you like, or you can let them cool and freeze them for future use. To freeze them, wrap each steak first in waxed paper, then in plastic freezer bags.

Unchicken seitan

Follow the procedure as above, but omit mushroom powder and tamari and substitute these ingredients for the broth instead:

    Golden unchicken simmering broth

    8 cups water
    4 tbsp nutritional yeast flakes
    1 tsp sea salt or vegetarian chicken broth cubes
    1 tsp celery seed
    1 tsp sage
    1/2 tsp thyme
    1/2 tsp ground cumin
    1/4 tsp coriander powder
    1/4 tsp tarragon
    1/4 tsp rosemary
    1 tsp tumeric
    2 tbsp sesame or vegetable oil
Improving Gluten Texture

Hints for a firmer texture more like chicken breast

  • if you make the gluten from scratch, do the last mixing wash in cold water
  • you have to really knead it/ stretch it (once you have reformed the logs) into layers and fold, knead, stretch and fold, until it is dryer and firm. If it gets resistant, you just let it rest till the gluten relaxes, about 10-30 minutes, then continue. Have you ever made filo dough or puff pastry? It is the same sort of process.
  • start the cutlets cooking in cold, not hot/warm broth (preboil and cool the broth). Time from when it begins to simmer.
  • cook at a low simmer, not a boil to avoid puffing it so much.
  • sauteing the cutlets in vegetable oil BEFORE you simmer them gives a tighter, firmer texture.
  • baking the cutlets in a breading AFTER they are simmered, also gives a drier texture, but it doesn't tighten the grain as much as the sauteing before.
  • try using half soymilk, half water for the liquid.
  • add a little oil as part of the mixing liquid
  • include up to a couple of tablespoons whole wheat, millet, or teff flour, or glutinous/sticky rice flour in each cup of the vital wheat gluten.

Alternative cooking methods

Cooking gluten steaks covered in the broth in a crockpot on high for about six hours, covered in broth in the oven at 325 for about 4 hours, or steaming for about an hour for very thin pieces is good too.

If you boil the fury out of the cooking gluten, it will go toward a tougher, rubbery texture. This is undesirable in your unchicken or cutlets, but can be desirable for a chunk you are going to turn into future ground unbeef.

For oven simmering, place the cutlets or steaks in a single layer in a roasting pan with a cover large enough to allow the cutlets to rise double in size. Preheat the oven to 350 F. Prepare enough cooking broth to completely cover the cutlets, , and pour the hot broth over the gluten cutlets, and bake uncovered for 1/2 hour. Prick them all over with a fork, and turn over. Lower the heat to 300 F, cover, and bake for 1 more hour, turning once or twice after the first half hour.