Veganized Vlaamse Stoofkarbonaden (Belgian “Beef” Stew)

On to day 4 of Vegan Mofo….Belgian “beef” stew.

Last weekend, my wife and I harvested the first batch of Brussels sprouts from our community garden plot. In a very corny way, we felt somewhat proud carrying the stalk of sprouts back to our house. It was essentially the vegan version of bagging a buck. Seriously, look at this beauty!

When we got our prize back to the kitchen, we immediately got to work “dressing” it, removing all of the leaves (de-stemmed, chopped, and stored in the freezer to be used like collard greens) and pulling the little sprouts from the stalk.

Like most people, I grew up thinking Brussels sprouts were the most disgusting thing ever created. Later in life I gave them another chance, as a vegetable among others being roasted. I was pleasantly surprised to find that I thoroughly enjoyed them and, having learned a bit more about proper preparation, have come to like them in many forms.

Appropriately I wanted to make something Belgian with these sprouts of Brussels. In the past, I’ve made a few attempts at a veganized Flemish beef stew called Vlaamse Stoofkarbonaden. Wikipedia describes this as “a Flemish beef stew, similar to the French Beef Bourguignon, but made with beer instead of red wine.” I’ve tried to veganize a few recipes I’ve found online, subbing beef with seitan. They’ve come out OK, but the traditional recipes aren’t much more than broth and meat. I decided I’d make a new, modified version that had a healthy dose of hearty root vegetables and, of course, Brussels sprouts. To bring out the rich flavors of the vegetables, I roasted them before adding to the stew. Before preparing the vegetables, however, you’ll want to get started on the “beef.”

Beefy Seitan Roast:

Wet ingredients:

1 c water
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 T olive oil
1 T tomato paste
1 T Wan Ja Shan oyster mushroom sauce
1 T vegan Worcestershire sauce
1 T almond butter
1/2 t Organic Better than Bouillon Vegetable Base
1/4 t liquid smoke

Dry ingredients:

1 1/2 c vital wheat gluten
1/4 c nutritional yeast
1 T smoked paprika

Cooking broth

1 large white onion, coarsely chopped
1 large carrot, coarsely chopped
2 c vegetarian “beef” broth (I used about 2 T of dried broth in 2 cups of water)
2 T balsamic vinegar ( I think an acidic Flemish red like Monk’s would work nicely for this too)
2 T tomato paste
1 T Bragg’s Liquid Aminos
1 T dried thyme
1 T dried marjoram
1/2 t liquid smoke
1 bay leaf

Mix all of the wet ingredients for the seitan together and blend until smooth. Mix together the dry ingredients, then add the wet to form a ball. It should be firm, but not too firm. A little mushy, but not sticking to your hands. Heat a little oil in a cast iron Dutch oven, then cook the seitan a few minutes on each side, just enough to lightly brown. Set aside.

To make the cooking broth, heat a little more oil in the Dutch oven, then saute the onion for about 15 minutes. Add the carrots and cook for 5 more minutes. Add the remaining ingredients for the cooking broth and bring to a boil. Transfer the seitan back into the broth, reduce heat to the point where the broth is barely bubbling. Partially cover the Dutch oven. Cook for 1.5 hours, flipping the seitan every 30 minutes.

While the seitan is cooking, start roasting some vegetables. I used beets, rutabaga, turnips, carrots, sweet potatoes, Brussels sprouts and a head of garlic. Feel free to changes this, based on your preferences. Chop the roots into chunks, place everything into an oiled baking pan, toss with some more olive oil, lots of black pepper and a few dashes of smoked paprika. Place in the oven at 450 for about 45 minutes, or until the roots are soft. Be careful not to burn the sprouts!

Stew sauce:

2 c dark Belgian beer (I used Ommegang Abbey Ale)
2 t molasses
2 t apple cider vinegar
2 t dried mustard powder
1 t salt
1 t black pepper

Once the seitan is ready, remove from the Dutch oven and let it cool. Meanwhile, mix together the ingredients from the stew sauce, add to the remaining broth, onions and carrots in the Dutch oven and blend until liquefied. Bring the stew sauce to a boil and cook for about 10 minutes. As it cooks, the alcohol will cook off and the aroma will become more pleasant. Cut the beef into large chunks (about 1″) and add to the stew sauce, along with about 2-3 cups of the roasted vegetables. Cook for a few more minutes, then serve with a nice Belgian strong dark ale.

I paired this dish with a 2.5 year-old bottle of Delirium Nocturnum from my cellar, which complimented the meal perfectly. A very rich and hearty stew, with a sweet dark fruit and burnt sugar flavor.  Lots of earthy, slightly bitter flavors came through with the roasted vegetables, that went nicely with the sweetness of the molasses and beer.

I should point out that the recipes you will find for this stew often say to add a slice of bread with mustard on it to the meat (odd I know). Anyway, with all of the starchy vegetables, I didn’t feel it needed the bread as a binder. I did add some mustard powder to the stew sauce to get those flavors, though.

I think the modified version came out great, with much more going on than the others I’ve made. Give I try – it’s worth the effort.

Harvest Ale Beer Brats

Inspired by the amazing Tofurky Beer Brats, I have been on a quest to create a good homemade brat using Isa’s method for making sausages. It took a few attempts to get the spices right, but I think the recipe that follows is pretty solid. I’ve even had a few meat eaters tell me the brats are tasty. Previous attempts were  over spiced (particularly with caraway) or too fluffy from over carbonated beer. It’s best to use small amounts of the stronger spices and flat or lightly carbonated beer. Also, in the process I learned fat is key. Although I don’t have any desire to replicate meat grossness, a meat analogue recipe without lots of fat  would be like a cake recipe without sugar. What’s the point? Don’t be afraid of the oil and Earth Balance. I actually think this recipe could be improved with a little more of each.

It’s hop harvest time, so I went with a beer brewed with wet hops – fresh from the vine, no drying, right into the kettle. There are several good wet hopped beers out there, but I went with one I find to be exceptionally tasty, Southern Tier Harvest. As a wet-hopped ESB the “grassy” freshness of the hops are front and center, without the harsher bitterness of an IPA. This works well when cooking with beer.  More about wet hop beers soon, as I have one of my own fermenting right now.

It’s worth noting, I’ve also found German weizen beers (e.g., Pinkus Hefeweizen) and hoppy beers that aren’t very bitter  (e.g., Troegs Pale Ale) work well.  Just be sure to let the beer sit out for a while to flatten. Anyway, onto the recipe.


1/2 cup cooked brown/green lentils
1 cup wet hop beer, flat (optional: reserve a few ounces of the bottle to braise greens)
3 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons Bragg’s Liquid Aminos (or tamari)
1/4 teaspoon liquid smoke
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon mustard powder
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/4 teaspoon caraway seeds
1 1/4 cup vital wheat gluten
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
2 tablespoon melted Earth Balance

Blend the lentils, beer, oil, Bragg’s, liquid smoke and spices together until the lentils are near liquefied. In a separate bowl, mix together the gluten and the nutritional yeast. Mix the wet and the dry ingredients together to form a firm ball. Tear into 6 even pieces, mold into about 4″ long sausages and wrap each in aluminum foil, tightly twisting the ends. Steam for 40 minutes. When the sausages have finished steaming, unwrap and coat in the melted Earth Balance, then grill for a few minutes on each side.

I served this batch with some kale harvested from our garden (braised with a few ounces of the beer) and some grilled corn from our CSA. Also, poured a Dijon mustard-nutritional yeast sauce over the brats (B-12 Tamari Dijon sauce from the Candle Cafe cookbook). Everything paired wonderfully with the beer. Hearty, yet full of flavor from the recently-harvested ingredients. It was Labor Day when I made this meal and it felt appropriate for the unofficial end of summer.

Hickory Smoked Seitan Steaks in a Porter-Bourbon Demi-glace

One day, I hope to come up with a way to extract the gluten left in spent grain and turn it into “steak.” A lot of breweries give their spent grain to farmers to feed cattle. Why not skip the middle man? For now, however, I use store bought vital wheat gluten and a kick-ass recipe Kevin developed using bits and pieces of other recipes floating around the interwebs. Last night, I made some seitan and served it in a slightly modified version of Tim Shafer’s Stout-and-Whiskey Laced Demi-glace that was featured in the July 2007 issue of Beer Advocate magazine. I made some roasted potatoes & garlic and sauted collard greens for sides and paired with Stone Smoked Porter.

I only made minor modifications to the sauce recipe, using Jim Beam bourbon instead of scotch and my uncarbonated smoked porter instead of Irish stout. Also, I switched out the Kosher salt with smoked salt and used Earth Balance instead of butter. Here is the recipe with these modifications:

1/2 TSP. olive oil
1 white onion, diced large
10 organic whole peppercorns
2 oz Jim Beam bourbon
4 oz smoked porter
2 cups brown stock (I used Organic Better than Bouillon Vegetable Base)
1/4 TSP. smoked salt
1 TSP herbs (I used dried rosemary, parsley and thyme)
1 TBSP. Earth Balance

In a sauce pan, heat the oil and add onions and peppercorns. Cook for 5 minutes over medium heat until the onions have become tender and golden in color. Remove the pan from the stove and add bourbon. Carefully return the pan to the flame – the ALCOHOL WILL IGNITE! (since I use electric, I had to light mine with a match) Stir in the beer and cook 4-5 minutes until half of the liquid has evaporated. Add the stock and continue to simmer for 15 minutes. There should be about 1o oz remaining. Finish by straining out the onion and peppercorn, then season with herbs (note: I also strained out the herbs after infusing the sauce for about 15 minutes). Whisk in Earth Balance and set aside.

The steaks:

Dry ingredients:

1 cup vital wheat gluten
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
2 TBSP. corn meal
1 TSP. onion powder
1/2 TSP. adobo

Wet ingredients:

1/4 cup rehydrated porcini mushrooms (I usually use shiitake mushroom stems, but didn’t have any on hand)
3/4 cup water
2 TBSP.  Wan Ja Shan oyster mushroom sauce
1 TBSP.  olive oil
1 TBSP. tahini
1/2 TSP. Dijon mustard
1/2 TSP. truffle oil (optional)
1/4 TSP. smoked salt (optional)

Mix together the dry ingredients. Blend the mushrooms into the liquid ingredients (I use a hand blender), then mix the liquid ingredients into the dry. Form a ball, then pull off pieces and flatten into rounds.

Normally, the seitan is baked for about 10 minutes in an oven at 350 degrees, flipped and basted, then returned to the oven for another 15 minutes or so. I wanted to give the steaks a smokey flavor, so I decided to cook the seitan in my smoker for the first 10 minutes, setting the grill to low heat.  I used about 1/2 cup of the demi-glace as the basting sauce and returned the steaks to the grill in a baking dish on low heat for another 15 minutes or so, until most of the liquid was gone and the steaks were firm.

For the sides, I sliced about about 6 medium sized organic red potatoes and about 6-8 cloves of garlic, placed them in an oiled baking dish with 1/2 cup of light stock, black pepper and a pinch of smoked salt. Baked at 350 for about an hour. I sauted the greens in olive oil with a little pepper.

Everything came out great. The bourbon and porter gave the sauce a sweet toasty flavor, wihtout the boozy character you might expect. The texture of the steaks was perfect. I feared they would come out too doughy, which has happened in past efforts to grill seitan. The mushrooms give the seitan an earthy flavor, which removes the grainy gluten taste you get in most seitan recipes. It has a smooth smokey flavor, but it’s not an overpowering bacon-like taste. My wife Jaime, who does not care for bourbon or smoked beer, found the sauce to be really tasty. In fact, she even had some smoked porter with the meal, as it  complimented the sweet smokey flavors of the food nicely. The only complaint we both had was it was a touch too salty. I probably could have left out some of the smoked salt and adobo and maybe reduced the amount of Better than Bouillion I used to make the broth. Overall, a great steak and potatoes meal.