So what the heck is jackfruit? It’s a large (up to 80 lbs!), somewhat-obscure Asian fruit that shows up in Thai cooking. When green and unripe, it has a firm, stringy, chicken-like texture, earning it the nickname “vegetable meat”. It’s not fruit-like at all, and definitely not sweet. It’s what I would call “neutral”. In its ripened state, it does become sweet, and can be used in custards and cakes.
We’re going to use the green, unripe variety, which is available in cans at some Asian grocery stores. We’re lucky enough to have quite a few of them around Champaign-Urbana. My favorite is World Harvest Foods.
If you’re looking for a whole, natural food with a (disturbingly?) chicken-like texture… this is it. I first encountered jackfruit in a recipe for BBQ pulled jackfruit on the Chow Vegan blog. I was intrigued, since not many veggies or vegetarian meats lend themselves to being “pulled”. A few weeks ago, I had the chance to try some jackfruit at a Seventh-day Adventist Vegetarian Food Fair, where it was included in a dish with french lentils. The cubes of jackfruit brought to mind a pot pie, but a simple biscuit topping was easier to make on a weeknight.
The biscuits are once again from the Veganomicon Leek and Bean Cassoulet, and remain the easiest and best biscuits EVER. You could use any combination of vegetables in this dish, but I think carrots, celery, and onions are essential. The purple cauliflower is just something I had in my fridge, and it looks beautiful in the dish. I love purple, and purple foods.
Jackfruit and Biscuits
1 10-oz can unripe green jackfruit in brine (NOT in syrup) – chopped
1 tbsp olive oil
1 medium white onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, pressed
3 ribs celery, diced
1 large carrot, diced
1 cup water
3 tsp Better Than Bouillon, No-Chicken Flavor
1/4 tsp thyme leaves
1 bay leaf
1/2 cup green peas, frozen or fresh
1/2 cup purple cauliflower, chopped
3 tbsp Earth Balance Buttery Sticks
4 tbsp flour
2 cups unsweetened soy milk or rice milk
1 tbsp nutritional yeast
1/2 tsp black pepper, or to taste
salt, to taste
3/4 cup plain soy milk
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (I used King Arthur White Whole Wheat, my favorite)
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup vegan shortening (I used Earth Balance Buttery Sticks)
Heat oven to 425 degrees F.
In a small cup, mix plain soy milk and apple cider vinegar. Set aside to curdle while you saute the vegetable mixture.
In a deep skillet, heat olive oil. Add onion and saute briefly, then add garlic and saute until fragrant. Add celery, carrots, cauliflower, and jackfruit. Season with salt and a little freshly-ground black pepper. Stir in 1 cup water, Better Than Bouillon, and thyme. Add bay leaf. Cover and simmer over medium heat until vegetables are tender.
Meanwhile, mix up the biscuits. In a large bowl, combine flour, baking powder, and salt. Stir to combine. Cut in shortening with a pastry blender until it resembles coarse crumbs. Then stir soymilk mixture into the dry ingredients and mix gently with a fork until blended. Add a little more flour over the dough so it doesn’t stick to your hands, and knead briefly right in the bowl, folding the dough over about ten times. Set aside.
After carrots and celery become tender, remove the mixture from the heat and stir in the peas. Pour into a 9 x 9 baking dish, which you will later use to bake the whole thing. Fewer dishes to wash!
Now you can use the skillet to make the gravy. Heat the skillet up again and add 3 tbsp Earth Balance spread. When it’s melted, whisk in the flour. Let the mixture bubble for about 3 minutes, until the flour is no longer raw. Be careful not the burn it.
Whisk in the soy or rice milk and nutritional yeast. Simmer gently until mixture thickens, about 8 minutes.
Pour thickened gravy into baking dish, over vegetables. Stir carefully to combine. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.
Divide biscuit dough into about 8-9 equal pieces. Arrange biscuits on top of gravy mixture. Bake in preheated oven for about 15 minutes, or until biscuits are lightly golden brown.