‘Fishy’ Tasty Vegan… Chowder?

Seeing as I had fresh walnut cream to test and some potatoes and carrots that seemed to think shrivelling was the way forward in life, I figured I’ld try to make chowder. My partner raved about this dish when it was finished. And no, he doesn’t do that often. He’s one of the most critical people I know. I had never made chowder before but always wanted to try it and it seemed like a pretty straight-forward dish. Throwing some crackers, potato, onion, cream, fish and pork in a pot sounded easy enough. Except for the fact that I don’t eat fish or meat of course. So instead of using fish and pork, I made the whole dish ‘fishy’, and the garnish ‘meaty’ enough to give it some contrast. I didn’t have any crackers but if you follow my tip about the chickpeas in the oven, you can have that kind of texture too. Or you can of course make life easier for yourself and just buy some crackers. But why make life easier for yourself? That’s just boring. This is my interpretation of a chowder, so it’s probably not very traditional. But hey, it’s pretty damn tasty 🙂

Ingredients (makes 2 portions, to be eaten with bread or crackers):

Salty Bean Bits (optional, but highly recommended!)

  • 1 teaspoon of smoked paprika powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon of garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon of marmite (you can sub this with vegemite)
  • 1 tablespoon of soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon of mild olive oil (or another type of mild tasting vegetable oil)
  • A 400 gram can of chickpeas (about 1.5 cup if you boiled them yourself)

Chowder

  • 2 cups of vegetarian dashi, which is basically just 2 cups of filtered water and about 1/3 of a sheet of kombu or kelp (you can sub this with any edible seaweed, that was my original plan but I couldn’t find seaweed to save my life)
  • A glug of mild olive oil
  • 1 big onion, chopped into biggish pieces
  • 2 medium sized carrots, sliced
  • 2 medium sized waxy potatoes, chopped into smallish pieces (they need to be waxy otherwise they turn to mush!)
  • 1/2 cup white cooking wine (I honestly just use the cheapest boxed wine I can find)
  • 1 cup of frozen, sliced mushrooms (you can use fresh ones instead of course)
  • 1/2 teaspoon of marjoram (you can sub this with oregano but because it’s much stronger I would use less)
  • 1/2 cube of mushroom stock
  • Optional: pinch of sage
  • 3 tablespoons of walnut cream (it works with this, but I think it would be even better with cashew cream!)
  • Black pepper and salt to taste

Method:

Salty Bean Bits

  • Whisk the paprika and garlic powder, marmite, soy sauce and oil together. Let the chickpeas marinate in this mixture while you prepare the rest of the dish.
  • A few minutes before the chowder is finished, you can either pan fry the chickpeas in some extra oil or roast them in the oven. It’s too hot to use an oven right now so I pan fried them and that works, it just doesn’t get crunchy. In the oven you would have better luck with that.

Chowder

  • Make the dashi. Wipe any dirt off the kombu with a wet cloth and put the kombu in the filtered water. Leave it there for at least an hour. Then heat up the water slowly until it is barely simmering. Take out the kombu before the water gets hotter because otherwise the dashi will become bitter and slimy. Set aside.
  • Fry the onion in the olive oil over medium heat in a large pot. Then add the carrot and after a while the potato. Cook until the veggies start to soften.
  • Add the cooking wine to the pot and let simmer for a few minutes to get rid of some of the alcohol.
  • Add the mushrooms and cook until defrosted (if frozen).
  • Add the dashi, marjoram, mushroom stock and sage. Let simmer on low-medium heat for about 30 minutes with the lid on or until veggies are completely soft.
  • A few minutes before serving add the cream, pepper and salt. Let the mixture thicken a little.
  • Sprinkle the Salty Bean Bits over the chowder. They are very salty so if you are watching your salt intake, you might want to take it easy.

Storage and tip of the day:

This dish should last for 3-4 days in the fridge and about 4-6 months in the freezer.

One thing I learned when I was backpacking in Australia (of all things!), is to work with layers of flavour. In this recipe I did this by not making the whole chowder ‘fishy’ and ‘meaty’, but by adding some ‘meaty’ crouton-like chickpeas to the dish. It really works, and gives the dish some interesting differences in texture too!

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