This is very tasty. It's also cheap to make but takes a wee while so it's worth doubling up the quantities to make a large batch - it freezes for up to 3 months so go for it. It isn't difficult but it's a bit faffy so get out all the ingredients and equipment first - it will streamline the operation nicely!
This recipe uses some niche ingredients but these are working their way gradually into the mainstream...
- Vital gluten flour (see below)
- Liquid smoke (available online or Harvey Nichols stores)
- Nutritional yeast flakes (Engevita): Holland & Barrett, health food shops and Ocado
- Red miso paste - look for genmai or a medium brown/reddish type miso. Sold in larger supermarkets, eg Sanchi or Clearspring brands, Oriental stores, health food shops, Ocado and other online stores. Also makes a wonderful stock base for soups, casseroles etc and keeps well in the fridge for ages, in an airtight container
But what IS seitan anyway, you cry? Read on...
Seitan - or gluten - is the original meat alternative. This tasty dish originates in China from the 6th century and was often eaten by vegetarian Buddhist monks, amongst others. It has since percolated round the Far East, eg Japan and Vietnam and is used in contemporary Western veggie and vegan food.
It is made by washing wheat flour dough with water until all the starch granules have been removed. Buying vital gluten flour means the work has been done for you! High in protein, low in fat, and dense in texture, it lends itself to all sorts of dishes, including stir fries, 'steaks', rashers, deli slices for sandwiches, meat balls/chunks and more.
While it is an excellent source of protein, it is pure gluten so best not eaten more than once a week - it's always good to include as wide a variety of foods as possible, eg pulses, tofu, nuts, wholegrains, vegetables, fruit and the like. Obviously, seitan is unsuitable for the gluten or wheat intolerant.
Where can I buy it?
Ready-prepared gluten flour (also known as vital gluten or vital wheat gluten flour) is available from some health food shops or else online from stores such as Veggie Stuff; Vegan X; Honest to Goodness and Realfoods (who sell an organic version). As you'll see, it's worth shopping around to get the best deal. It can be a very economical dish to make.
PIcture of (not yet fried) rashers courtesy of Cookin' From a Bitchin' Kitchen with thanks (her recipe is different from ours but very nice!)
- There are several steps to this recipe; however, don’t be intimated because it’s actually very easy to prepare and the results are well worth the effort. For this recipe, two batches of dough are made to create the bacun. Dough 1 is for the darker marble layer and Dough 2 is for the lighter marble layer.
- *Onion and garlic powder? If you don’t have these or prefer to use fresh, replace them as following:
- Dough 1: use ½ medium onion, roughly chopped, any type. Cook it in a little oil until softened then blend it with the Dough 1 Liquid.
- Dough 2: use 2-3 medium cloves of garlic. Cook in a little oil then blend with the Dough 2 Liquid
- DOUGH 1
- Dry ingredients
- 120g/1 cup vital wheat gluten
- 4 tbsp nutritional yeast flakes
- 2 tsp onion powder*
- 1½ tsp smoked paprika
- ¼ tsp ground white pepper
- Liquid ingredients
- 120ml/½ cup water
- 3 tbsp tamari, soy sauce or Bragg Liquid Aminos
- 2 tbsp liquid smoke (see above)
- 1 tbsp red miso paste (medium brown or reddish variety, not the black type) If you can’t get it, use 1 tbsp tomato puree
- 1 tbsp vegan Worcestershire Sauce (Life brand)
- 1 tbsp olive oil or other vegetable oil
- DOUGH 2
- Dry ingredients
- 40g/⅓ cup vital wheat gluten
- 1 tbsp chickpea flour (also sold as gram or besan flour)
- 1 tsp garlic powder*
- Liquid ingredients
- ⅓ cup water
- ½ tsp fine sea salt or ¾ tsp regular salt
- 1 tbsp olive oil or other vegetable oil
- PLUS... extra oil and soya sauce to fry up the rashers
ALL KITTED OUT
- Scales or measuring cups
- Measuring spoons and jug
- Assorted small bowls or plastic boxes
- Saucepan and spatula if using fresh onion/garlic alternative (plus extra oil/oil spray for frying)
- Mixing bowl and spoon
- Wide tinfoil, preferably heavy type
- Oven tray and a kettle of boiling water for roasting the bacon
Method: Dough 1
- Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4. Whisk together the dry ingredients for Dough 1 in a large mixing bowl. Stir together the liquid ingredients for Dough 1 in a separate bowl or measuring cup until the miso dissolves.
- Add the liquid ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix well to incorporate. Divide the dough into 3 pieces. Set aside.
Method: Dough 2
- Whisk together the dry ingredients for Dough 2 in a small mixing bowl. Stir together the liquid ingredients for Dough 2 in a separate bowl or measuring cup until the salt dissolves.
- Add the liquid ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix well to incorporate. Divide the dough in half.
Method: Makin’ the Bacon!
Now you will begin the layering process which will create the marbling effect for the bacon.
1. First, tear off a large sheet of 18-inch wide heavy-duty aluminium foil and place it on your work surface.
2. Take a piece of Dough 1 and flatten and spread the dough on the foil until it is about ¼-inch thick. You don’t need to worry about the shape.
3. Next, using your fingers spread ½ of Dough 2 over the dark layer of dough. Flatten and spread another piece of Dough 1 over the light marble layer. Spread the remaining portion of Dough 2 over the dark marble layer. Finally, flatten and spread the last piece of Dough 1 over the top. You need it to look uneven, not too precise, or it will look machine-made!
4. Shape the dough into a rectangular “slab” about 1-inch thick. Once again, don’t worry about being too precise; the dough will expand during baking to conform to the shape of the foil package. Sprinkle the bacon with some coarse ground black pepper or smoked black pepper, if desired.
5. Wrap the slab of bacon in the foil (don’t roll), creating a flat package. Fold in the sides of the foil (like wrapping a gift), pinching to seal the foil as you fold. Do the same again with another sheet of foil - but make sure the pinched long edge is on the other side of the package to ensure a better seal. You don't want water leaking into the bacon, basically! Fill the roasting tray with about 2cm/generous 1 inch boiling water. Place the packet of seitan bacon in the tray and bake for 60 minutes, turning once halfway through.
6. Cool the bacon in the foil until the package can be handled comfortably before opening. If it feels a bit damp, unwrap completely and place it on a cooling rack or an oven shelf propped up a bit. Slice thick for chewy bacon or thin for crispy. The rashers can be stored in the fridge for up to 10 days or in the freezer for up to three months.
7. Fry the rashers in a hot frying pan with a generous coating of cooking oil until lightly browned and crisp around the edges and drizzle a bit of shoyu or tamari over it just before removing from the pan. Avoid overcooking or the bacon will be dry and hard. Transfer to a plate lined with paper towels to blot any excess oil. Serve warm. It can also be chopped, diced or crumbled in recipes or layered in a sandwich.
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