I’ve always been a little surprised at the popularity of faux meats—veggie bacon, veggie sausages, and the like. These products were never a regular part of my own diet, due to their high soy content and highly processed ingredient list. Besides, the notion of something “meaty” is infinitely more appealing to me than actual “meat.” What I used to enjoy about eating meat in my youth had more to do with the food’s density and protein-rich nutritional value (and perhaps the smoky suggestions of grilling or roasting) than anything else.
Vegans eschew eating meat for a variety of reasons, from moral or ethical concerns to health issues or ecological concerns; but it doesn’t necessarily follow that they also simultaneously stop enjoying the taste of meat. And those of us (like me) who live with an omnivorous partner often seek out meat substitutes so we can still enjoy a meal together without compromising our values–or our partner’s taste preferences.
Last year, I began to experiment with faux meats that were truly veggie-based: no tofu, no tempeh, no seitan, but made from whole vegetables, nuts and seeds. I sought to create versatile, delicious alternatives to the store-bought processed soy products.
This faux “ground beef” (or “meaty crumbles,” as one of my blog readers called it) fits the bill perfectly. The mixture conveys the idea of meat without using any artificial ingredients or soy.
You can use this “meat” as a base for lasagna or as the main ingredient in a wonderful tortière (meat pie) that’s impressive served as the main dish at a holiday meal. Alternatively, simply sprinkle some over your spaghetti and marinara sauce (I wouldn’t recommend cooking it in the sauce, as it will simply dissolve right in—though the flavors will still be delicious!). I’ve also used this “meat” as a topper over pizza, added it to wraps and sprinkled my chili with it.
Smoky, meaty, all natural, a good source of protein—and entirely plant-based. What better reason do you need to give up that meat?
Meaty Veg-Based Ground “Meat” (Easily Soy-Free)
- 1 medium head cauliflower, trimmed and washed, broken into florets (about 1 pound/450 g after trimming)
- 2 cups (250 g) raw walnut halves
- 2 Tbsp (30 ml) extra virgin olive oil, preferably organic
- 2 cloves garlic, minced, or 1tsp (5 ml) garlic powder
- 1/4 tsp (1 ml) dried sage
- 1/2 tsp (2.5 ml) smoked paprika
- 1 tsp (5 ml) liquid smoke
- 1/2-3/4 tsp (2.5-3.5 ml) fine sea salt, to taste
- 2 Tbsp (30 ml) Bragg’s liquid aminos, soy sauce, or tamari (omit for an entirely soy-free “meat”)
- Preheat oven to 350 F (180C). Line a large rimmed cookie sheet or rectangular pan with parchment, or spray with nonstick spray.
- In a food processor, blend the cauliflower and nuts to a fine meal. Depending on how grainy you like your “meat,” it can be more or less fine; I made mine like a coarse cornmeal.
- Transfer the mixture to a large bowl and add remaining ingredients.
- Using your (clean) hands, knead everything together thoroughly, until the grounds are uniformly coated.
- Turn the mixture into the pan and spread out evenly. Bake for 45 minutes and up to 1 hour 15 minutes (it will depend on the size of the pan and how thick the mixture is when you first begin to bake it), stirring after 30 minutes and then every 15 minutes after that, until the meat is dry and brown (if the layer underneath comes up looking wet and white–as cauliflower tends to do–then you need to keep baking). The grounds will begin to separate and intensify in color as they roast.
- Once the meat is cooked, you can cool, package, and freeze it for later use, or use it right away. Will keep, up to 3 days, covered in the refrigerator. May be frozen.