Lots of people are looking for ways to cut back on the grocery bill, and boy do I ever have plenty of experience in that area! Before we discovered that half the family has celiac disease and is therefore gluten intolerant, one of our favorite cheap meals was homemade gluten steaks.
If you aren't gluten sensitive gluten steaks are tender, juicy, absolutely delicious, completely vegetarian and inexpensive to make. I'm trying to think what a batch might cost to make up, maybe $1.50-2.00, and it makes enough for three or four meals. Hard to beat that for price. It can be eaten when freshly-made, or it can be frozen to use at a moment's notice.
2 cups whole wheat flour
cold water sufficient for mixing
6 cups water
1 TBS olive oil
1 large onion - chopped
4 cloves garlic
2 bay leaves
1/2 tsp rosemary
2 stalks celery
1 carrot sliced
2 TBS nutritional yeast (NOT baker's yeast)
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 packet onion soup mix or beef or chicken seasoning if desired
1) Mix enough cold water into flour to make a stiff dough. Knead for 15 minutes by hand or 5 minutes in a mixer with bread hook.
2) Cover the kneaded dough with cold water and put it in the refrigerator overnight.
3) With dough in bowl, "wash" it in the water, pouring off water as it becomes thick with starch and adding new cold water. (Save the first couple of cycle of wash water in a large bowl to use later to make noodles) If you use warm water the gluten will wash away, so the water must be cold. Work the gluten as if you were kneading it. Within a few minutes you will begin to see what appears to be very elastic "threads" in the dough. This is the gluten, the protein part of the grain, and your goal is to wash the starch away and leave the gluten. The "threads" will accrete as you wash, until you are left with an elastic ball of gluten. It will stretch like a rubber band. The starch will be gone, though some flecks of bran will remain and are desirable, both nutritionally and for tenderness in the final product.
4) Let the ball rest while you prepare your broth and bring it to a boil. Shape the ball of gluten into a roll, slice 1/4" thick slices off the roll, dropping the slices into the boiling broth as you go. The slices will sink to the bottom. Stir with a wooden spoon to keep the slices from sticking together. As they begin to cook the slices will expand in volume from 3 - 4 times and rise to the top of the broth. Stir frequently to keep them from sticking together.
5) Boil for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Turn off heat, cover pan and allow the gluten to cool. It's now ready to use in recipes. It can be diced and added to stews and soups, ground (like burger) seasoned and made into patties or a "meatloaf" with egg as a binder, dredged in a seasoned flour and pan-fried as "steaks" in a small amount of oil. It is fork-tender and delicious when cut into strips and used in stir fries.
Unused gluten can be stored in the broth in the fridge for several days, or it can be drained and frozen. Freezing makes it slightly chewier, and some prefer it after it been frozen.
Now I have made myself hungry for a nice bit of gluten, which is a foolish thing to have done, considering that Tony can't even eat it. But maybe if I make a batch I can eat it and feed him beef... hmmmmmm.... back later...