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It is easier than it may seem to make homemade seitan. After all, just a few ingredients are needed to prepare this protein-rich food widely used in vegetarian cuisine and in vegan cuisine as a meat substitute: flour, water and a simple vegetable stock. What you really need, if you want try your hand at making your own seitan, are patience and manual skills: so here is an easy homemade seitan recipe, explained step by step, together with some useful hints to prevent you from going wrong.
1. HOW TO MAKE SEITAN DOUGH
The basic recipe for seitan is nothing but a mixture of flour and water, similar to the biga used to make bread: the ideal flour to use is manitoba (a soft protein-rich wheat flour of excellent quality, widely sold in supermarkets), but any type of wheat flour is suitable. For one kilo of seitan, you need two kilos of flour, to which about 1.2 litres of water must be added gradually until the mixture is smooth and even. At this point, the dough must be kneaded in the same way as bread or pizza dough until it becomes soft and elastic (but not sticky): the final result will depend on this kneading process which must be carried out vigorously, if necessary by literally punching the dough for about twenty minutes.
Then let the resulting dough rest in a fresh place for 15 minutes and, in the meantime, make a vegetable stock: for this, you will require roughly 2 litres of water, half a cup of soy sauce (or alternatively a vegetable stock cube, to give the seitan its characteristic umami taste), mixed vegetables (onion, celery, carrot, etc) and herbs and spices to taste, alga kombu and any other ingredient you feel like adding to your stock.
2. WASHING HOMEMADE SEITAN
That of rinsing is a fundamental step in the making of seitan: by washing the dough well under running water, it releases its starch whilst preserving the protein content which is insoluble in water. The length of this operation depends on the strength of whoever is handling the dough, wringing it and “beating” it under the running water, but it should not in any case take less than twenty minutes: initially, the rinsing water will be white and cloudy, being rich in starch, and will gradually become clearer as you work. The dough consistency will also change, from very elastic and firm, it will become spongy and porous as it gradually releases starch, decreasing visibly in size and weight.
Once the dough has been well washed, let it drain in a pasta strainer, then season it to taste: the most commonly used ingredient is soy sauce but such ingredients as mushrooms or spices may be added to the resulting mixture. This is an important step in the preparation of seitan because this is what gives it its flavour. Now the dough can be placed on a clean cloth and wrapped up tightly; shape it and handle it so that it becomes cylindrical. If necessary tie the ends with a piece of kitchen string.
The final step in the preparation of home-made seitan is that of cooking it: while still tightly wrapped in its cloth, the seitan must cook for at least 50/60 minutes in the vegetable stock prepared previously (30 minutes if done in a pressure cooker). When the cooking time is up, remove the seitan from the cloth and cut it into thick slices, cubes or strips (according to the recipe you intend to make): if eaten immediately, the flavour will be delicate, otherwise it can be left to marinate in the stock for a few hours so that it absorbs more flavour and aroma.
4. SEITAN RECIPES AND STORAGE
The seitan you have prepared may be grilled, fried or pan-tossed. It may be cut up into strips and tossed with other ingredients, baked in the oven with potatoes as if it were a piece of roast meat, made into stew or even minced to make tasty vegan ragout sauces: there are plenty of recipes for home-made seitan, you just need to use a bit of imagination! Seitan can be stored in the fridge for about one week in its cooking liquid or frozen.
5. SOME ADDITIONAL ADVICE
The first water obtained from washing seitan is white and cloudy and may be used for preparing crepes: if you let it rest for a few hours, the starch contained in the rinsing liquid will deposit on the bottom and may be cooked in a well greased pan. - Even the vegetable stock used for cooking seitan may be used up to prepare a tasty risotto.