Sunday, June 14, 2009

On Tempeh Meatballs

First off, let me thank all of those who offered their congratulations on the birth of Vegan Daughter. Vegan Mom is recovering well (or as well as can be expected) but we both feel like we will never sleep again. I have not been doing any cooking at all since our friends and neighbours have been bringing over meals. I can't say enough about how great that is! But, now that Vegan Sons 1-3 are in bed and Vegan Daughter is snoozing away in her bassinet, I thought I would try to squeak in a quick post.

Back in October of 2008 I posted on Italian Tempeh Meatballs, and more recently I posted a recipe for Maple Garlic Tempeh Balls. Not everyone enjoys tempeh, and tempeh balls can be a bit tricky since they need to have the right taste and texture, and not fall apart in the sauce. After a few readers posted about that very problem, I decided to experiment a bit. Here are my thoughts.

1. You can remove some of the "special taste" from tempeh by boiling it for 10 mins before putting it into a recipe. However, I find that it makes the tempeh rather watery and keeps the balls from remaining cohesive. I would suggest just using the tempeh straight up. Or, if you must boil, use more gluten (see 3).
2. You can season and spice the heck out of these. Don't be afraid to go crazy.
3. How much vital wheat gluten is too much? The gluten really is essential here (sorry to the wheat intolerant), and I have used anywhere from 1/3 to 1/2 cup, along with 1/3 to 1/2 cup of instant oatmeal to help bind thing together. While I like the texture of the 1/3 cup, 1/2 cup makes for a very durable ball.
4. Go easy on the liquids. I have the best result when I have a firm yet malleable mixture that I can bring together with wet hands to form the perfect ball.
5. Make sure the balls are well sauteed and have a nice golden brown outside. Most of the cooking is done in this step, so don't skimp out. A well-cooked ball is less likely to fall apart later. See how nice these look?
6. Your sauce must be relatively thick. Too thin a sauce and it will penetrate the ball and result in disaster. In this pic we see a quick and easy sauce: 1 can chopped tomatoes, 1 jar spaghetti sauce, and 1 can tomato paste.
7. If the ball is well-cooked, and the sauce thick enough, you can simmer the balls in the sauce. This completes the cooking and adds flavour.

11 comments:

beckiwithani said...

[This has nothing to do with your recipe, but...] Ever since the birth of my daughter, I've said I really understand why sleep deprivation is on Amnesty International's list of torture techniques. It's insanity-inducing at its worst. The only good thing about it is that it goes by in a blur...

I'm a teacher, and I tell this to my teenage students every chance I get. It's great birth control. :) Hope your blurry no-sleep weeks go by quickly.

dreaminitvegan said...

These look great! I have tried Tempeh Meatballs before and they were way to moist and soggy. I'm going to take your advice and not steam the tempeh before hand. Thanks.

VeganCowGirl said...

Thanks for the tip re: the vwg. I think that the few attempts I made with these I didn't include enough of the vwg and admitted defeat a little too early. Worth another try.

Again - more wishes of wellness and recovery to vegan mom and sweet dreams to the kidlets!

Mary said...

Thanks for those tips. I love tempeh, special taste and all, so I'll have to try your meatballs.

Bianca said...

Oh, thanks for the tips! I still haven't tried your meatball recipe, and I'm glad you posted about this because it reminds me that I need to get around to that.

Glad to know the Vegan Family is doing well!!

ARTISANNE said...

Oh my, I'm starving now!!

Congratulations on vegan daughter and very best wishes you all :0)

Oraphan said...

Your tempeh balls look so good!!! I'll give it a try very soon. Thanks so much for the tips, it was very kind of you. =D

Anonymous said...

on the subject of tempeh balls and gluten, Isa, postpunkkitchen, has a great recipe for tofu balls which is much like tofu scramble but adjusted just right to make an incredible ball of goodness; for those intolerante to wheat...

Ali said...

Thanks for the tip! My tempeh balls did fall apart in my sauce the last time, and now I see that my sauce was too thin. Excellent! I'll give it another shot. Thanks!

Steffi McKnight said...

Hi VeganDad,
I found steaming the tempeh for ten minutes gets rid of the "special taste" and still keeps the meatballs cohesive.

Rose said...

This is going to be my next endeavour. Thanks for the recipe!