Demuths reveals more about the versatile ingredient everybody is talking about.
What is seitan?
Seitan is also know as vital wheat protein, textured wheat protein, wheat gluten, vital wheat gluten. Wheat gluten as a protein source is popular in China and is called ‘mock meat’ for its comparison in texture. The Chinese also like wheat gluten as it has a flavour similar to MSG. The Japanese name for wheat gluten is seitan pronounced ‘say-tan’ and was introduced in the 60s as part of the macrobiotic diet.
You can buy seitan in tins or jars, cooked and marinated and ready to eat, or you can easily make your own. Seitan as a meat substitute means eating concentrated gluten extract. Read on to discover more about gluten…
What is gluten?
Gluten is comprised of proteins found only in wheat and related cereal grains (wheat, barley, rye). There are many other proteins in these grains. The common proteins include the water-soluble protein groups – albumin, globulin and proteoses plus two water-insoluble protein groups, glutenin and gliadin, which together are known as gluten.
Gluten is not the only protein in the wheats. In fact, gluten accounts for only about 75-85% of the total protein in the wheat berry.
Is seitan good for you?
Gluten is high in protein and eaten in moderation for most people causes no adverse effect.
Gluten and health
Gluten is responsible for several health problems and is a stomach irritant. Coeliac disease is a permanent intolerance to gluten, which is an immunological disease. There are allergies to gluten and degrees of sensitivity, all of which cause abdominal disturbances, such as bloating, pain and diarrhoea. Coeliacs must have a gluten-free diet and the others may benefit to varying degrees with gluten exclusion.
Gluten from additives or wheat contamination in food processing and manufacture can be a major problem to identify or avoid.
Many sufferers with a mild intolerance can benefit from sourdough bread. The long fermentation times used in sourdough baking break down the gliadin fraction of gluten and sufferers often find sourdough bread easier to digest. But labels can be misleading so make your own sourdough or check with the baker.
There appears to be an increased reporting in gluten sensitivity. This may be due to a general increase in the protein content of bread wheat over the years or an increase in the addition of gluten additive (vital gluten).
How to make seitan
Seitan can be made by creating a salt-free dough made with wholewheat flour and water. The dough is then washed under a running tap to remove the wheat starch, bran and other water-soluble proteins. You are then left with a piece of pliable insoluble gluten. The shortcut is to buy vital wheat gluten flour and mix with water.
What to make with seitan
You can make dishes such as crispy seitan Chinese pancakes, Seitan chorizo, BBQ seitan strips or a Seitan and mushroom puff pie.
It’s easy to make seitan at home using the ingredients from your storecupboard. Use it to make many meals including barbecued ‘ribs’ and delicious ‘chorizo’ dishes to tasty stir-fries and curry bowls.
For the seitan:
- 140 g vital wheat gluten flour
- 3 tbsp nutritional yeast flakes
- 125 ml cold vegetable stock
- 3 tbsp soy sauce/shoyu
- 2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 2 garlic cloves (made into a paste or grated using a small grater or microplane )
For the broth:
- 1 litre vegetable stock
- 1 litre water
- 3 tbsp soy sauce/shoyu
Fill a pot with the water, stock and soy sauce. Cover and bring to a boil.
In the meantime, in a large bowl mix together gluten and yeast. In a smaller bowl mix together stock, soy sauce, lemon juice, olive oil and garlic. Pour the wet into the dry and combine with a wooden spoon until most of the moisture has absorbed and partially clumped up with the dry ingredients.
Use your hands and knead for about 3 minutes, until it’s an elastic dough, longer if you want a chewier texture. Let rest for 5 minutes. Divide into three equal pieces with a knife and then knead those pieces in your hand just to stretch them out a bit.
Once the broth is boiling, lower the heat to a simmer. Add the gluten pieces and partially cover the pot so that steam can escape. It is important not to boil the broth at this point. You want a gentle simmer with a few bubbles coming to the surface at a time. Let simmer for 45 minutes, turning occasionally. If the broth turns to a boil, remove the lid for a bit. Turn the heat off and take the lid off, let sit for 15 minutes.
Remove from the broth and place in a strainer until it is cool enough to handle. Slice and use as desired.
Recipe from Erin Baker of The Natural Cookery School.
Erin teaches the Seitan courses at Demuths Cookery School www.demuths.co.uk