Well, adding fish to my veggie soup boosted the protein content nicely, and tasted very good, too. The downside, pretty obviously, being that the result wasn’t vegetarian.
Not a major problem for me as I’m not really a conviction veggie, it’s more my way of avoiding a dodgy, and contaminated, food chain, meat often being deeply suspect both in terms of quality and, even, species. I do feel, however, that if I’m going to be a veggie, I should adhere to veggie principles if I can, so I set about looking for good sources of veggie protein.
Quorn is out as I simply don’t like the stuff. In fact I don’t like most meat analogues, nor do I really see the point of them, but when I ate meat I’d often add a pack of Toulouse sausages to a pot of soup, and I knew I had a pack of veggie sausages in the freezer, so I dug them out and, hey, they’re 16.8% protein. That’s useful.
Sadly, they’re Linda McCartney Italian Sausages, so are likely to have a dismal texture not unlike deep-fried loft insulation,** but fried, sliced, and hidden in a pot of veg and bean-heavy, Harissa-spiced soup, along with some black olives, just for their texture and taste – for my purpose, nutritionally, black olives suck being a mere 0.8% protein but high in salt (they’re brined), so if using olives in any hot dish, never adjust the seasoning until the following day, as salt will leach out of the olives.
**In fact, the texture is pretty good, and they stayed quite firm in the soup**. Just a shame they taste of very little. However, in the soup they’ll absorb flavour and that should no longer be a problem but – an ongoing moan with this brand – where the hell is the seasoning? They smell great, taste of almost nothing and, today, my sense of taste is just fine.
**Almost meaty, in fact, which some veggies might find off-putting
Interesting to see a change in Google – I typed in the name of the food + protein content and it gave me a whole raft of nutritional information. Obviously – it’s still Google – some sources are less reliable than others, but anyone who has spent time on Google will know this – newbies, beware – always check and double or triple check your information, and don’t ever rely on sites where the info is provided by the public – the public might actually know less than you!
I’ve long since stopped contributing to such sites after I found out that my carefully-researched, accurate, answers could be overwritten by any clueless tosser with the intellect of a slime mould.
The Chinese, I’m told, have a saying, that one should “Enquire three times upon everything.” Never was that more apposite than when on Google.
And oh, look, I’ve digressed again. There’s a surprise!
So, back on topic, mushrooms are also high in protein, very high in some cases, up to 30%. But always check whether the declared protein content is for dried or fresh mushrooms, as fungi are largely water (up to 90%), so the dried protein figure will look much higher than the fresh. And fungi have the correct proportions of amino acids, too, meaning that their protein is meat-equivalent.
Tofu is often cited as being high in protein (about 10% for firm tofu, half that for silken – which makes it moderate to low in my view). Soya beans, from which tofu is made, have the correct amino acid balance, too.
But I have no mushrooms right now, and my tofu is frozen solid and takes ages to defrost, being high in water, so sausages it is. As it often is, the base will be a variant of my favourite bean and vegetable soup and, no, that’s not as boring as it sounds as it’s a bloody good soup and the variants all taste different.
Today’s, as well as having the veggie sausages and black olives already mentioned, it will have a healthy dose of Harissa and sweet paprika and, I think, it might get a handful of grated Cheddar when served (more protein and some calcium, which I also need).
And now I’m off to the kitchen, with my workbook, to write up the recipe as I go, starting with tossing the sausages in the fryer. Am I good to you or what?
By the way, I used Aunt Bessie’s Carrot and Swede Mash. I’ve been in terrible pain for a couple of weeks, and getting worse – my right leg has gone to hell, I’ve barely slept for about a month and I’m pretty sure I’m going to wind up back in hospital – so I wanted to keep the time on my feet to a minimum. With hindsight, cooking while feeling so lousy was probably a mistake.
3 large Echalion shallots, finely chopped
1 medium cooking onion, ditto (or use all shallots or all onions)
250g Aunt Bessie’s Carrot and Swede Mash (frozen)
1 ½ tablespoons Sweet paprika
1/2 teaspoon Celery salt (my own)
1 teaspoon Garlic granules
3 Kallo organic veg stock cubes
150g Black olives ( well rinsed and chopped roughly or left whole – your call – I left them whole as it’s a seriously chunky soup anyway, with the sausages and the beans)
1 Red pepper (long, pointed, Romano type, not a bell pepper), deseeded and finely chopped
1 pack Linda McCartney Italian Sausages (vegetarian)
2 tablespoons Tomato purée
½ tablespoon Harissa (my own blend)
3 cans of Napolina cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
Good knob of butter, clarified if possible
A splash of olive oil
2 tablespoons Coriander leaf (optional)
Much the same as usual. Melt the butter with the oil, and sweat off the shallots and/or onions over a low heat until soft. Stir in the paprika, adding a little more oil if it seems dry, and cook off for a few minutes and, while doing that, dissolve the stock cubes in a little boiling water.
Add everything else down to and including the red pepper, add just enough boiling water to barely cover, stir well, bring to the boil, reduce the heat and simmer for about 20 minutes. Or longer if, like me, you forget it! Don’t reduce the heat too soon – the carrot and swede are frozen, remember.
While that’s cooking, toss the sausages in the deep fryer for five minutes to brown and also defrost if still frozen, then set aside to cool. You can do that in a frying pan should you feel like it, but the fryer is quicker and easier.
After 20 minutes (or, as it might be, an hour!), slice the sausages about as thick as a pound coin or a little more, and add to the pot (I found the breadknife, which has a scalloped edge, was best for this), along with the purée, the Harissa and the beans, stir and leave to heat through on a low heat for about 15 minutes, then remove from the heat, stir in the coriander, if using, and set aside to cool.
The olives, despite being rinsed, will leach some salt into the pot, so don’t check the seasoning until the following day. When cold, refrigerate overnight, to give the flavours a chance to snuggle up in the dark and really get to know each other – all soups and stews will repay this consideration.
Next day, reheat gently, check and adjust the seasoning, and serves, as ever, with good bread. And if you feel like it, stir in a small handful of grated Cheddar, too. Or a crumbly Lancashire, which will melt nicely.
Cheese will add a little salt, so you might want to allow for that.
And before publishing this, I did exactly that – adding a couple of ounces of grated Cheddar to an already very tasty soup was a good move, but it was let down by the sausages. They absorbed moisture OK, but not flavour, a problem I’ve always had with soya protein chunks, studding the soup with nuggets of blah. Not actually offensive, but disappointing. Next time I’ll try slicing them raw, and frying the slices – that should make them tastier. I’ll also dice the veg properly too. The Aunt Bessie’s stuff is OK, but diced is way better in terms of both taste and texture.
I must get into the habit of cooking my own beans too. They’re far better than canned, and they also give me lots of stock. Simmered overnight in the slow cooker, with a chopped carrot and an onion, they require no effort at all.
A note about Harissa. I always use less in soups than in stews as soups turn out hotter – I’ve no idea why. Possibly the flour I use to thicken stews acts as a buffering agent – I tend not to thicken soup. Anyway, you can always add more if you want to – but you can’t take it out if you overdo it.
And finally, a tip: To type words like purée and get the accent without furtling about with ASCII codes or Character Map, simply type purée – correcting the spelling will insert the accent, as the pic below shows.