Zero-Waste Seitan and Gravy

By on January 10, 2020

A confluence of events led me to start making my own veggie broth. It started when a friend invited us to come to dinner at the last minute. “I’ll make split pea soup,” she teased – one of Gary’s favorites.

I remember eating a lot of split pea soup as a kid, but first we soaked split peas, hard as gravel, for a week, it seemed. How did she propose to have split pea soup on the table in the 30 minutes it would take us to go 11 miles in L.A. traffic?

A pressure cooker, that’s how. And then a pal’s boyfriend confirmed that he regularly used a pressure cooker to turn dried, unsoaked beans into a meal for two hungry teenage boys in about 40 minutes. And then a chef I follow, Christy Morgan, devoted an entire month on her blog to pressure cooker recipes. So I bought a stovetop PC for about $25 and went to town. (After six years, I upgraded that to an Instant Pot.)

One of the things I started making on the reg is veggie scrap broth. I was more or less winging it, and then another chef I follow, JL Fields, shared her basic instructions, which you can find here so I won’t be redundant. Bookmark or pin that or whatever it is you do, but I have a few notes:

  • Skip oil
  • Dump everything in at once
  • Don’t waste time thawing or chopping scraps, it’ll take longer to cook but that’s okay
  • Cook under pressure for 30 minutes, yielding a stronger broth

The usual question I get about veggie scrap broth is “what do you mean by scraps?” The better question is “what do you not mean by scraps?” JL gives plenty of examples of scraps, and for not-scraps I suggest avoiding:

  • Anything in the crucifer family (broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, kale) since these tend to give off an unpleasant stink when cooked, and you don’t want it lingering in whatever you make with your broth
  • Potato and sweet potato. These will add starchiness that may throw off a recipe, and make a cloudier broth you might not like the look of in your soups.
  • Finally don’t use stems or leaves from nightshades (tomatoes, peppers, eggplants) because they’re possibly poisonous.

But just about anything else goes, and even the not-scraps are okay in small amounts.

So you make your veggies, save the inedible odds and ends in a bag in the freezer, and once the bag is full, it goes into your PC. You end up with vegetable broth made from garbage. It’s so ridiculously economical. I freeze the broth in three-cup containers. If a recipe needs two cups, I’ve got one left to use for something the next day. If I need four cups, I use three cups of broth plus a cup of water, because it’s generally rich enough to get away with that. And I keep a lot of broth in the freezer, sometimes so much I give it away.

I also learned how fab the PC is for homemade seitan. I already covered the ultra-fancy Roulade, but that’s not for daily life. There are quite a few ways to make everyday-style seitan in the PC. The one I’ve been using is based on JL’s in her book Vegan Pressure Cooking (skip the cumin because ew) which you can conveniently find in the “look inside” preview on page 174. That’s a simple recipe for individual portions, AKA cutlets, and a chewy but tender texture. On the other hand in Christy’s famous recipe you wrap the dough in cheesecloth so it doesn’t expand much, and the result is a dense, sliceable firmness. I prefer the former. It’s easy to dice for tacos or stir-fry, or keep the cutlet whole for a single serving.

Even though it’s been around for 1500 years surprisingly few people make their own seitan. Maybe one reason is that most recipes require six, eight, nine cups of broth, which is crazy talk, even if you make it out of your garbage and have a lot in your freezer like me. (You shouldn’t use plain water, because the gluten needs to absorb the flavors of the broth.) But the PC requires far less liquid because virtually none boils off.

Once you’ve made your seitan, and one batch will serve a sextet or octet, maybe more, you store the unused portion submerged in the cooking broth. When you’re down to the last of the batch you’ll have two to three cups of broth left, loaded with flavor and gluten-y goodness, and that’s perfect for…

Vegan Gravy

2-3 cups leftover broth
2-3 tablespoons vegan butter (use one per cup of broth)
2-3 tablespoons flour (ditto)
2-3 tablespoons cornstarch or arrowroot starch/powder (tritto)
1 teaspoon dried thyme or parsley or both
Dash of soy sauce, Bragg’s Liquid Aminos, or vegan Worcestershire
Lots of ground black pepper

Melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Sprinkle in the flour and whisk well for a few minutes, until the raw flour smell goes away and the roux turns golden.

If using cornstarch, set aside about a half a cup of broth (which should be cool to cold) and slowly pour the rest of the broth into the pan, whisking all the while. Whisk the cornstarch into the reserved broth and add that next. Whisk it. Whisk it good.

If using arrowroot, no need to hold out any broth first, it thickens fine even in warm liquids. Whisk the arrowroot into the broth then pour slowly into the pan. Whisk it.

Let it come to a full boil. If at this point your gravy is lumpy from the thickeners (you didn’t whisk it good), take it off the heat and quickly run it through a blender, then return to the pan. Otherwise add the other seasonings and turn the heat down a touch so it simmers and thickens further. Taste it and add salt, pepper, dash of onion powder, whatever it needs.

Serve the gravy with seitan, and you’ve closed the loop on the whole cycle of dinner. By the time you’re finished, you’ve cooked that same vegetable scrap broth three times, without squandering a drop. That’s zero-waste seitan and gravy.

Hey, here’s a new thing: if you’d like to be part of this magic, come visit us at the new FB group Thinking Vegan Recipes: 

Posted in: Make us food, Recipes


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