I have to admit that there is something to be said for serving up a thick, meaty stew on a cold winter evening. Though I have been a non-meat eater for most of my life (partly because I do not enjoy the hands-on raw meat experience) I can appreciate that meat lends itself to cooking in a way that vegetables cannot when it comes to the flavor and texture of certain dishes. One such dish is stew. Though not all dictionaries define stew as containing meat, almost all do describe the dish as something that is cooked or simmered for a long time. As us cooking-folk know, if you simmer vegetables alone, for too long, you get mush (or a semi-tasty sludge, commonly referred to as “vegetable curry” at most Indian restaurants in the United States).
This is where seitan enters the picture. Not a year-round staple on our table, seitan — the product of kneading flour, water and vital wheat gluten until you get a tough, dense product that can be baked, boiled, stewed or sauteed for hours without disintegrating — does make a few appearances during the colder months because of it’s beefy qualities.
This recipe, which was inspired by an Irish stew from Gourmet Today, suffers very little from the substituion of seitan for beef, and becomes irresistable with the addition of Guinness both in the stew and along-side the meal. Enjoy.
Ari’s Irish Stew
Although I have made seitan from scratch in the past (it’s not difficult, just a bit of a process), store bough seitan is perfectly fine – The Bridge brand available at Whole Foods, is particularly tasty.
16 oz seitan, cut into 1-inch cubes, moisture squeezed out
2 Tbs flour
salt and pepper
1 large onion, coarsely chopped
3 carrots, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbs tomato paste
1/4 cup water
1 1/2 Tbs worcestire sauce (there is a vegetarian version avaible at some markets)
1 cup Guinness or other stout
1 cup vegetable broth
2 tsp green peppercorns in brine (drained)
2 sprigs fresh thyme
Toss the seitain with the flour and a couple pinches of salt and pepper in a large bowl, unitl seitain is well coated.
In a large (oven-safe) sautee pan, heat olive oil on medium heat and add seitan. Brown the seitan on all sides, them remove from pan and set aside.
Add a bit more oil to the pan and gently sautee the onion, carrots and garlic until onions begin to soften.
Add tomato paste, mixing it into the vegetables. Add seitan to the pan along with water, scraping up browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Add the beer, broth, worcestire, peppercrons, and thyme and bring to a simmer, covered.
Serve with crusty bread, a simple salad, and more Guinness!