Thursday, September 03, 2009

August 31-September 1, 2009: Knit-night stew

As if my part-time officemate L hadn't already been generous enough, she has recently been teaching me to knit. Giving me a specially chosen ball of wool ("to suit your skin tone!") and numerous patient and encouraging tutorials, I am now the proud owner of a pretty, if slightly wonky, fringed scarf. Some of this knitting has been played out in the lab, revealing a number of other secret knitters and soon enough, initiating a couple of knit nights. As the first host, Jos set the perfect tone with quiet music, vegetable soup bubbling on the stove, wine and Sugardough bread. When my turn to host rolled around, I baked some ginger drop biscuits and picked out SusanV's recently posted Iraqi-inspired seitan and eggplant stew for dinner.

This stew recipe was my first foray into making my own seitan. It's actually pretty easy if you can get your hands on some gluten flour, and with this seasoning of yeast flakes, tahini and liquid smoke it smells and tastes lovely. (Unfortunately I didn't have enough gluten flour to make the full quantity, so I supplemented the seitan with some tempeh chunks.) I figured this was the ideal kind of slow cooking recipe I could make the night before and reheat as my guests arrived. And boy, is it slow cooking. Susan warns that cooking the split peas down will take more than an hour in a regular pot; I cooked mine for 3 hours and they still hadn't disintegrated! At this point, growing tired of my mutterings and wanting to go to bed, Michael took the pot from me and started mashing the now-tender split peas. It's probably not necessary, but it would have contributed to the thick sauciness of the final stew.

Otherwise, the stew has a terrific list of ingredients - eggplant and that DIY seitan, chilli, pomegranate molasses and a gorgeous spice mix; I threw in some cauliflower too. The flavour didn't end up being as complex as I'd hoped, but it's still a most pleasant and comforting meal in a bowl.

P.S. Can any of your craftsters (or other observant folk) recommend any pubs or cafes with sufficient lighting to stitch and bitch? We're up for some public displays of knitting but aren't all clever enough to go at it with our eyes (as good as) shut.

Knit-night stew
(based on SusanV's Iraqi-inspired seitan and eggplant stew at Fatfree Vegan Kitchen)

1 large onion, chopped
1 1/2 teaspoons smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons ground coriander
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
1 1/2 cups yellow split peas, rinsed
9 cups water
3 dried red chillies
1/2 cup gluten flour
1 tablespoon nutritional yeast flakes
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
a few cracks of black pepper
2 teaspoons tahini
two shakes of liquid smoke
3/8 cup water
3 teaspoons salt
3 tablespoons pomegranate molasses
1 large eggplant, diced
1 small head of cauliflower, chopped into florets
200g tempeh, chopped into chunks

Heat a large pot and add the chopped onion, stirring frequently and cooking it for 10 minutes or until it's light brown. Add a little water along the way to stop it from sticking. Meanwhile, stir together the paprika, nutmeg, cloves, cinnamon, coriander, cumin, pepper and cardamom in a small bowl.

When the onion is cooked, add the split peas, water, dried chillies and mixed spices. Cover and cook this mixture until the split peas begin dissolving - this could take several hours if you don't have a pressure cooker. The split peas should be very watery, so add more water if they look like they're drying out.

Make the seitan while the split peas are cooking. In a medium bowl, stir together the gluten flour, yeast flakes, onion powder and salt. Mix in the tahini, liquid smoke and water to make a dough. Turn the dough out onto a clean bench and give it a bit of a knead, before flattening it out and chopping it into small chunks. This is a good time to chop the eggplant, cauliflower and tempeh, too.

When the split peas are ready, add the salt, pomegranate molasses, seitan, eggplant, cauliflower and tempeh to the pot. Half-cover the pot and simmer it slowly for about half an hour, until the vegetables are tender - give it regular stirs to stop it from sticking to the bottom of the pot. Remove the whole chillies, if you can find them, and serve the stew with rice or pita bread.


  1. sounds good to me - I'd like to try my own seitan some time - as for well lit places - they must be about because I know E whinges about them but I can't think of any off hand

  2. Hey Cindy
    A friend of mine is part of this group Knitta Litta. They have a group on facebook you can join- they have regualr knitting meet-ups at pubs and they message you to let you know about it.
    I've wanted to go for a while but my knitting skills are questionably "skills" at all.
    I was eyeing off that stew myself- it sounds like a lot of work though...hmmm

  3. Johanna - now that gluten flour's available, seitan is really not too difficult to knead together!

    Hi Bella! Thanks for the Knitta Litta info. I just tracked down their facebook page and it looks like they often meet up at the Empress Hotel. It's a convenient location for me but I have oddly specific memories of it being dimly and redly lit!