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Jackfruit and Biscuits

jackfruit and biscuits

Vegan MoFo 2011 - Vegan Month of FoodSo 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.

young green jackfruit in brineIf 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

Serves 4-6.

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

For biscuits:
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.


Vegan Sausage Gravy and Biscuits

vegan biscuits and sausage gravy

The phrase “stick to your ribs” comes to mind here. If you like hearty, peppery cream gravy (without the cream), this is a breakfast (or lunch or dinner) for you. Feel free to add as much pepper as you like.

The flaky, buttery biscuits come from the Veganomicon recipe for Leek and Bean Cassoulet with Biscuits (pg. 172) and they’re so easy to make. Just make the biscuits as directed, cut them into circles, and bake on a cookie sheet in a 425 degree F oven for about 10 minutes. Everyone in my house loves these biscuits. And I love Veganomicon! Everything from this book has been fantastic.

The sausage gravy recipe makes enough for a crowd. You can half the recipe, or refrigerate or freeze the leftovers. Add a little more soy milk when reheating to thin the gravy to a consistency appropriate for serving.

Vegan Sausage Gravy

Makes about 8 cups, so I hope you’re hungry!

1 tbsp canola oil
1 pound LightLife Smart Ground sausage
1/2 tsp coarsely ground black pepper
1/2 cup Earth Balance Buttery Sticks (2 sticks)
3/4 cup unbleached flour
1/4 tsp ground sage
1 1/2 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/8 tsp white pepper
dash of nutmeg
1-2 shakes Tabasco
2 tsp vegetable bouillon concentrate (I like Better Than Bouillon)
7 cups unsweetened soy milk

Heat a large saucepan over medium heat. Add olive oil. Crumble in Smart Ground sausage and fry until golden, breaking up into small crumbles. Season with coarsely ground black pepper. Remove sausage from pan and set aside. *

Melt Earth Balance sticks in the saucepan. When fully melted, add flour and whisk until fully incorporated. Add sage, onion powder, garlic powder, nutmeg, Tabasco, and bouillon concentrate. Cook over medium low heat (mixture should be bubbly), stirring frequently, for about 5 minutes or until flour is toasted.

Add soy milk and whisk mixture until flour incorporates with milk. Bring to a simmer, and stir frequently until mixture thickens, about 15-20 minutes. Add a little more soymilk if mixture becomes too thick. Just before serving, add sausage back to mixture, and season to taste with salt and more freshly-ground black pepper. (We like it peppery!)

* Tip: I have tried making the roux right in with the sausage, as I have done for non-vegan sausage gravy, but it doesn’t work with Smart Ground, which absorbs liquid and becomes rather flabby when simmered in sauce. If you want a really close texture to actual sausage, add the Smart Ground back to the gravy right before serving.

buttery flaky vegan biscuitsHere are the biscuits flying solo. So light, flaky, and fluffy.

vegan biscuits

This biscuit looks a little worried! He’s about to be eaten with homemade blueberry jam. (Another one of Lance’s creations.) These babies are also great with a little amber agave nectar.