Seitan- another of my roadblocks to becoming vegan. I had it confused with tempeh, which I hate. Recipes for seitan consist mainly of "vital wheat gluten"...gluten being about as popular in the vaguely-informed public mind as herpes, and "vital wheat gluten" itself being one of those whacky ingredients that are blithely listed in vegan cookbooks- but are simply not seen in what passed for "whole foods stores" in my part of the world.
Then I found cans of faux meat in the Chinese grocery- and lo, they were seitan!
Like George Costanza's mother, I will try and like almost anything as long as I think it's Chinese. Really, this canned stuff is not half bad. Flavour is somewhat meatish, certainly not that horrid dogfood taste of Sanitarium fake-meat-in-a-can. Texture a bit chewy, not at all bad! At a couple of bucks a can, it's certainly a useful item to have in the pantry, but homemade would surely be better and cheaper, right?
The only remaining roadblock was finding the sinsiter-sounding and elusive Vital Wheat Gluten. My usual sources didn't carry it (probably because everything on there is gluten FREE, my search just didn't find it) but I found it at the unfortunately named "Fundies" whole foods online store, and they were great to shop with, I will be back!
All ingredients gathered- I set about making my own seitan. It was EASY. This isn't the exact recipe I used- I used the one from Veganomicon. [ oh look- Isa Chandra has a pretty similar recipe posted here. Use this one!] However having made it I can say that any simple recipe, like this one will do.
If the recipe you find calls for using normal flour and washing it until everything but the gluten fraction is gone- forget it. Spend the money on the gluten flour and whip the stuff up in minutes.
I made it easier by cheating a bit and throwing the dough into my bread machine for a kneading. 2 or 3 minutes in the machine is fine! This stuff is TOUGH. I am not strong enough to knead it sufficiently by hand. In fact the bread machine was making mechanical "slipping" noises, like even its motor wasn't up to the task.
What comes out is an incredibly tough, stringy bread dough. That's what seitan is- essentially a dumpling! If I had known that I wouldn't have been so intimidated! After kneading, you divide it into little loaves which then you simmer in a flavourful, salty broth of your own preference.
I wrapped each cooked little loaf (each about the size and heft of a chicken breast?) in plastic and froze most of them. I gave one to K who made a fab looking stir-fry from it. I made another into the seitan pot pie in Veganomicon. My freezer is stocked with quite a few meals' worth of seitan- for the price of an $8.50 bag of expensive flour. Pretty good eh?
Obviously not for the gluten-intolerant, but if you are okay with wheat, seitan is not the scary weird stuff that it may seem before you meet it in person.