Salubrious Soy: Lamb Curry
My wife, Carol,and I began to carry textured vegetable protein, a dehydrated soy product, aboard our schooner, Taio, because of its value as an inexpensive meat substitute that keeps almost indefinitely without refrigeration. Over the past 11 years, we've cruised about 25,000 miles in North America, the Caribbean, and Europe. We spend most of our in-port time at anchor, sometimes in remote locations with little access to fresh meat. For us, TVP is a godsend.
Over the years, we devised a number of recipes using TVP, and we grew to appreciate its versatility. At the same time, medical science was making interesting discoveries about products such as TVP that contain whole soy proteins; the most important is that eaten regularly, these foods significantly lower blood levels of "bad" cholesterol, thereby decreasing the risk of heart attack. What more could you ask for than a tasty ingredient that actually lowers heart-attack risk?
The lowly soybean has been eaten in many forms in Asia for millennia, but it's a relative newcomer to the western world. Among soy's many virtues is that it's a complete protein -it provides all the essential amino acids needed by the human body, just as meat does. TVP, available in dry chunks or granules in almost any supermarket or health-food store, is very high in protein and low in fat. It can replace meat in virtually any recipe, and it's a natural in spaghetti sauce and chili in lieu of ground beef, with one caveat: If you follow the frequently found instruction to rehydrate dry TVP in water before using it, it ends up as a tasteless and unappetizing mass in the final dish. This may be why many people who've had one meal with TVP swear it off for life.
The trick is to rehydrate the TVP in the seasoned dish itself. It then absorbs the flavor and is almost indistinguishable from meat. I fed "lamb" curry to a party of hungry cruisers, and until I confessed, not one realized that they had been eating TVP.
TVP is an ideal food for cruising boats. In sealed plastic bags kept in a dark, dry place, it keeps pretty well indefinitely. (Vacuum bagging is an excellent way to pack TVP for onboard storage.)
Aside from its value in day-to-day cooking, a good stock of TVP is a very useful emergency source of protein should the winds grow light and the fish grow stubborn on that long, seemingly endless passage.
Stealth "Lamb" Curry
3 medium onions, chopped
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 green pepper, chopped finely
2 tablespoons curry powder or Indian
curry paste, or
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 teaspoon ground coriander seed
Pinch of ground clove
Pinch of ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
Pinch of salt, if desired
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
2 medium garlic cloves, minced
1 cup dry TVP chunks or granules
1/2 cup water, more as needed
1 14-ounce can crushed tomatoes
1 teaspoon sugar
Sauté onions in oil for a few minutes. Add green pepper. When onions begin to become translucent, add seasonings and garlic. Stir-fry for a few minutes. Add TVP. Stir-fry until TVP is coated. Add water and continue to stir from time to time as the TVP absorbs the liquid. Add tomatoes and sugar; stir and simmer gently for at least 30 minutes. Add more water if needed; be careful not to scorch the curry. As with most food of this type, the flavor improves with time. This curry can be prepared the day before and refrigerated overnight. Even preparing a curry a few hours beforehand and rewarming it before serving vastly improves the flavor. In this dish, if you serve it immediately, the meat has the look and texture of chicken. Served after a few hours, it looks and taste more like lamb. Serve over basmati rice. Garnish with fresh coriander or mint if you have some and serve chutney on the side, if available. Serves four.