**Post Factum:**This is one of a series of posts for Vegan MoFo 2010; my theme was a 'Virtual Random Road Trip', where I used random.org's random geographic location generator to select locations around the globe, I then attempted to cook a few dishes from the traditional cuisine of that place. I didn't have a lot of time between generating the locations and coming up with recipes (~ 1 day). So, lacking time to do proper research, I can't vouch for the authenticity of anything I came up with. However, they are what they are, and it was a fun theme.
The first day of the road trip has landed us in Bolivia, where this spicy dish would be more typically known as picante de pollo. It is a hearty dish full of flavor and very satisfying. The base of the sauce is a paste made from cumin, ground chili powder, and garlic, a combo which seems to be a prevalent flavor profile.
In perusing a few recipes, common ingredients I've come across in Bolivian cuisine include potatoes, onion, and ají peppers ( I gather there are several varieties of these peppers available in Bolivia and throughout South America. See the bottom of the post for more links/info). Some other veggies I noticed popping up regularly are turnip, celery and tomato...not necessarily all together.
Not surprisingly, I couldn't find any ají peppers in my local shop, so I used a combination of serrano peppers and sweet long peppers. I used this recipe as a guide and came up with the following:
Picante de Seitan (Serves 4)
8 - 10 large pieces of chicken-style seitan of choice (recipe I used is below)
4 medium-sized potatoes (basically 1 potato per person), cut into 2-inch chunks
3 large carrots, cut into 2-inch chunks
1 large or 2-3 medium-sized turnips (I used 1 large rutabaga instead), cut into 2-inch chunks
1 medium onion, finely diced (~ 1 generous cup finely diced)
2 - 4 cups no-chicken broth or regular veggie broth
1 - 2 serrano peppers (depending on how spicy you want it) deseeded and chopped fine
10 small, long peppers, or 2 bell peppers of choice, cut into strips
1 cup garden peas
3 cloves of garlic
2 tablespoons ground cumin
2 tablespoons cayenne pepper or hot paprika (to make it less spicy, use sweet paprika)
salt to taste (the original recipe called for MSG, but I skipped that part)
oil for sauteeing (or whatever you like to saute with)
parsley for garnish
Liquify the cumin, ground chili pepper, and garlic with about 1/8 cup water or broth in a blender. The end consistency should be a loose paste. In a large pan, heat a little oil and add the cumin/chili paste to aromatize it, allow to cook for 1-2 minutes, stirring frequently.
spices and garlic
paste aromatizing in oil
After the paste has sauteed for a couple of minutes, add in the broth, stirring it well to incorporate the paste. Then toss in the potato, carrot, and turnip chunks, bring to a simmer and allow to cook until the veggies are tender and the broth has reduced and thickened a little, ~ 30-35 minutes. Add more broth as necessary to keep veggies covered.
The potatoes should thicken the broth as it cooks, but if it gets towards the end and the broth is not thick enough for your preferences, you could always sprinkle in some arrowroot powder to get the desired consistency.
(Note: The original recipe called for cooking the carrots and turnip with the chicken, so alternately, if you're braising your own seitan, you could toss them in with that. I chose to cook them in the spicy broth because the seitan takes longer to cook than the veggies, and the veggies take up loads of spicy flavor cooking in the broth.)
While the veggies are simmering, saute the peppers and seitan over medium high in a separate pan until they begin to turn golden brown. Toss in the onion and saute for another 2-3 minutes.
When the veggies are tender, toss in the browned seitan, peppers, onions, and the peas and continue to simmer for another 5 minutes.
Serve with rice (if desired) and garnish with freshly chopped parsley.
veggies simmering in spicy broth
seitan and peppers saute-ing
picante de seitan
I decided to make this post extra long (feel free to tune out if you're feeling weary) and provide the chicken-style seitan recipe I used. After a long hiatus, I have been returning to braised seitan lately. For a while, I had turned exclusively to the baked variety, which I continue to like a lot. But, I find that each type has its strengths and lends itself to specific recipes. I thought the braised variety lent itself nicely in this recipe.
Chicken-style Braised Seitan (makes 1 large piece, enough for 8 - 10 slices)
For the braising broth:
6 cups no-chicken style broth or veggie broth ( I used a combo of Edwards & Sons Not Chickn' broth and Seitenbacher's veggie broth)
1 large leek, sliced into 1-inch rounds
1 large handful of parsley
2 teaspoon celery seed
2 teaspoons garlic powder
2 bay leaves
Combine all ingredients in a large pot and bring to a simmer.
veggie broth mixes
seitan simmering in broth (looks kinda gnarly)
For the seitan:
1 cup vital wheat gluten
1 cup low-sodium no-chicken broth, or regular low-sodium veggie broth
2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
1 teaspoon Old Bay Seasoning
1 teaspoon soy sauce or tamari (you may want to adjust this depending on how much salt is in the veggie broth you use)
1 tablespoon prepared mustard
Mix the wheat gluten, nutritional yeast, and Old Bay in a mixing bowl. Whisk together the broth, soy sauce, and mustard and add to the wheat gluten. Mix together, adding in small amounts of wheat gluten to get a consistency that you can mold into a shape and is not too wet. Form the seitan into whatever shape/s you like and drop into the simmering braising broth. Allow to simmer for 1 hour... it can simmer for longer if you like.
pre-cooked seitan (looks kind of like a brain)
If you're interested, here a few links to more info about ají peppers:
Seed buyer's page, includes photos of different varieties
Online catalog that sells bottled ají peppers and other chili powder products
History of ají peppers
Tomorrow, more Bolivian eats.