Wednesday, 2 February 2011

Sugar snap peas with soya chunks

Terrible name, great product... Textured Vegetable Protein or TVP makes me feel like I've just picked up my dinner from Pets R Us. It needs a rebrand desperately and I'll be more than happy to help if the manufacturers fancy giving me a call.

When I first went veggie at 17, the market for meat free goods hadn't moved on that much from the days when tins of wheat gluten and 'nut meats' were given out as part of post-war vegetarian rations; it was all pretty bleak to be honest. One of the products that I tried, and misused terribly, was the appallingly named 'Textured Vegetable Protein'. The forerunner of Quorn and vegemince, these chunks of compressed soya flour appeared dry, tasteless and tantamount to punishment for those who had decided animals weren't on the menu.

Of course – like other meat 'analogues' - I just wasn't cooking it properly. Hurling dusty TVP into an insipid tomato sauce is guaranteed to disappoint, and there is a much better way. So tonight's dinner is, to my mind, how you do it and come up with something fabulous. Yes, it is 'pretending' to be meat, but as I've said before, unless you went veggie because of some strange aesthetic objection to the mouthfeel of meat, I don't see why this is a problem.

So tonight's dinner is TVP chunks with sugar snap peas and kale in a rich bouillon, served with basmati rice. A yummy, quick and filling tea.


200g large chunks TVP
4 tbsp vegetable bouillon powder
400 ml boiling water
1 small onion
2 cloves garlic
100g sugar snap peas, chopped
100g curly kale, chopped
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tbsp cornflour
1 tbsp soy sauce
Sea salt and fresh black pepper to serve


Make up half the vegetable bouillon (2 tbsp) with 200ml of boiling water and then soak the TVP in the vegetable bouillon (or you can use vegetable stock) for a good half hour or so. This for me is critical and makes the whole dish work. We'll drain the chunks later. In a wok, fry the onion and garlic in the vegetable oil until the onion becomes transparent. Drain the TVP, and then add to the wok and toss until it starts to brown. Then add the sugar snap peas and kale and cook for 4-5 minutes until the vegetables are cooked through.

In a mixing jug, add the other 2 tbsp of vegetable bouillon to the cornflour and the soy sauce and mix through, then add 200ml of boiling water to make a rich sauce, add this to the TVP mix in the wok, and you're read to go.

To serve:

This mix - super savoury - is great with mashed potatoes but tonight I served it up with some basmati ice, pressed into a ramekin so that it made a cool little mound on the plate; gives a bit of height and structure to the dish. Add sea salt or black pepper to taste.

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