Ask any vegetarian or vegan what they miss most, and more often than not they will admit to having cravings for bacon. Interestingly, it’s not the pork that they want, but the smokey flavour that is so enticing and addictive. Fortunately, there is a wonderful product called Liquid Smoke that can give a variety of dishes that authentically delicious smokiness. You can find it in the braai section of better supermarkets, and as a little goes a long way, the investment is well worth it. Cheaper, but also tasty, is smoked paprika, available from Indian grocery stores, and some spice racks include smoked chipotle seasoning or smoked chilli flakes. If you don’t like chilli, then stick with the Liquid Smoke. The intensity of Liquid Smoke means that just a few drops can make a huge difference to a dish. You can either add a few drops to a casserole or baked dish or use as a part of a liquid seasoning before roasting, frying or grilling, and you can also add it to a sauce that you are using to season whatever you fancy. Certain foods are really enhanced by smokiness, so here are some ideas to play around with.
Hearty dishes involving vegetables and beans with rich tomato-based sauces do particularly well with a touch of smoke. Ring the changes by varying the vegetables, pulses and seasonings. My favourites are:
Prepare your sauce by frying onions, garlic, chilli and ginger. Add either canned diced tomatoes or fresh ripe tomatoes (skinned). Add tomato puree or paste to thicken and intensify the flavour. Add a little sugar and salt to season and a few drops of Liquid Smoke. Drain the canned or home-cooked pulse and stir into the rich tomato sauce. Cut and steam (or grill, fry or roast) any veggies you want to add - keep them slightly underdone. Now add to your casserole and allow to simmer gently for 10 minutes. Leave the lid on and turn off the heat. Prepare the rice, cous cous, quinoa, barley, or whatever grain you like. Serve hot with lots of fresh coriander and a nice hot pickle on the side.
The best combo includes tamari sauce (Japanese Soy Sauce), maple syrup or brown sugar, Liquid Smoke, smoked paprika and sesame or olive oil. The mix can be painted with a pastry brush onto strips of prepared vegetables – carrots, brinjal, sweet potato, cauliflower etc. Prepare the seasoning (equal quantities of tamari, oil and Liquid Smoke, whisked with smoked paprika and a syrup to taste.) You can also toss the prepared veggies in a bowl with the seasoning in it, working quickly to try and get it on all the surfaces. Then place the veggies on a very lightly oiled baking tray and roast at 200 o C for 30 minutes. These smokey veggies can be stored in a jar and eaten in sandwiches, in wraps, in roti rolls, with grain salads, leafy salads or as a snack dipped in mayo. Hot or cold - simply yummy!
Smokey Nuts and Seeds
Choose a combination of almonds, cashews, pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds and spread onto an oven sheet. Place a tablespoon of olive or coconut oil in a bowl and shake in a few drops of Liquid Smoke. Sprinkle sea salt lightly over the nuts and seeds, then rub them with the flavoured oil. Pop into a preheated oven (160 o C) and turn after 15 minutes. The nuts start to turn golden brown, then they are done. Cool and then bottle. These are simply fabulous when tossed into a salad, served on roasted veggies, added to cream cheese dips, sprinkled on pasta and grain dishes or simply served as a snack.
Hot ‘n Smokey
Make a little homemade smokey chutney to add to your (vegan) burgers or hot dogs along with mustard and mayo. Fry two or three de-seeded green chillies, finely chopped, in a little oil. Now add crushed garlic and ginger and stir around. Add two or three finely chopped red or white onions. When wilted, add a kilo of ripe jam tomatoes, skinned, chopped, with most of the seeds removed. (To remove the seeds, cut a lid off the tomato and scoop out the seeds with a teaspoon, then chop the flesh.) Add bay leaves, salt, black pepper, a tablespoon of wine vinegar, two tablespoons of brown sugar and a few drops of Liquid Smoke. Cook on a gentle heat until the mix is quite thick. Place in a sterilised glass jar while still hot. Spread on anything that needs a kick and a lift!