Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Vegan Swedish Meatballs in Gravy

Last night, Rachel and I made a meal that I had been looking forward to for quite some time: Vegan Swedish Meatballs in Gravy, Mashed Potatoes, and steamed peas--a "deconstructed shepherd's pie," as Simon put it.

Vegan Swedish Meatballs in Gravy with Mashed Potatoes and Peas

The meatball recipe came from my recent Christmas present, The Vegan Table: 200 Unforgettable Recipes for Entertaining Every Guest at Every Occasion.  (Thanks again, Mom and Dad.)  I have to say that the final product wasn't as great as I was expecting/hoping it would be, but the mashed potatoes and peas made up for the meatballs' shortcomings.  I'll record the Swedish Meatball recipe here, and then I'll post separately about my mashed potato recipe.

Recipe:
Vegan Swedish Meatballs

Meatballs
  •  1 cup seasoned vegan bread crumbs
  • 1 cup organic plain soymilk
  • 1 package vegan sausage (I use LightLife Gimme Lean)
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
Gravy
  • 2 tablespoons vegan butter
  • 1 cup vegetable broth
  • 1.5 cups organic plain soymilk
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
First, form the meatballs.  Soak the bread crumbs in the soymilk for 5 minutes.  Meanwhile, combine the sausage, onion, garlic, salt, and spices in a large bowl, using your hands.  Add the soaked bread crumbs to the bowl and mix well, again by hand.  Next, shape the mixture into small meatballs (about 1 inch in diameter) and set aside.

Next, brown the meatballs.  It's easiest to do this in batches.  Heat half of the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Once it's hot, add half of the meatballs to the pan and brown them on each side.  Set those aside on a plate, add the remaining oil and meatballs, and brown them.

Finally, make the gravy.  Heat the vegan butter, vegetable broth, and soymilk in a medium-sized saucepan over medium heat.  Meanwhile, in a small bowl, whisk together the flour and water until the flour dissolves completely.  Add this mixture to the saucepan, season with salt, and bring to a boil.  Simmer until the mixture thickens.  (Note: this took at least 15 minutes for Rachel and me!)

Once the gravy has thickened, add the meatballs and gravy to the skillet and cook until just heated through.  Serve hot with mashed potatoes and peas.

Comments:
Unfortunately, this recipe took a long time to make and wasn't as good as I expected it to be. 

Taste:   
The general consensus among Rachel, Simon, and I was that the meatballs tasted weird.  Rachel was disappointed with the flavor of the dish overall: she didn't like the gravy's flavor, though she thought the meatballs were "fine."  In contrast, Simon liked the gravy while I had the biggest problem with the texture of the meatballs.  Though they weren't awful and I'm ambivalent about eating them again for dinner tonight, I don't think I'll be making these meatballs any time soon.
Accessibility:   
I didn't have any trouble finding the ingredients in this recipe, though the vegan sausage might be difficult to locate for some.  Note that many bread crumbs have milk products in them, so be sure to check the ingredients list on the package (or make your own).    
Ease of Preparation: 
 This recipe wasn't difficult to make, but it did take a long time.  I think Rachel and I were so disappointed by the end result because of the effort that went into the dish.  We spent at least an hour on these meatballs from start to finish.
Non-vegan friendliness: 
As my brother David says, vegan foods that emulate non-vegan foods can be problematic.  Though these meatballs claim to be the non-vegan equivalent to traditional Swedish meatballs, they surely don't measure up as far as taste and texture are concerned.  For that reason, I generally prefer grain and vegetable-based dishes rather than dishes based around vegan meat or cheese substitutes, and this dish was no exception. 

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