Monday, 14 March 2011

SOS Facon (vegetarian bacon)

Before I became a vegetarian, one of the last meats I used to eat was bacon. I liked the flavour, though I found it strong as I ate less and less meat, but I also liked it because it was a garnish rather than a lump of meat. After trialing home made and shop bought vegetarian bacon (fondly known as facon in my house), I have finally found a facon to love.

It's not that I miss bacon terribly. I gradually learnt that bacon wasn't the only source of that seductive smoky flavour. Smoked tofu, smoked cheese, smoked paprika all make their way into my cooking. In fact I now often find myself needing a shake of smoked paprika in many savoury dishes. I suspect liquid smoke would be in my pantry too if it was easier to find here.

Yet occasionally I also want the crispy, chewy texture of bacon - without the fleshiness. I've tried tofu and tempeh bacon (or facon) since becoming vegetarian but they were never crisp and chewy enough. I've tried the fluorescent pink slices of facon from a packet and they seem packed with lots of nasty flavourings and just taste too like bacon.

Last year I discovered a new facon recipe, thanks to Sarah from The Ordinary Vegetarian. It is a matter of soaking buckwheat groats and adzuki beans, adding lots of flavour and grinding them into a paste that is baked into "rashers". The recipe is one of those that initially seems impossible. It seems the mixture will never become a paste and then that it will never spread into the tin or hold together but it does. It is surprisingly easy to make. And it lasts for many meals.

I first tried this recipe in December with my friend Yaz. It seemed to take ages to blend and Yaz added some extra spices because he thought it too bland. But the result was outstanding. It was just amazing to encounter such a tasty version of vegetarian bacon that held its shape so well. I vowed to make it again soon.

It can take some time to get around to even my most favourite recipes. With a new food processor and Sylvia's birthday coming up, I finally made it again a few weeks back. Making it seemed like an exercise in kitchen archeology. I really wanted to add sage and liquid smoke. I know they were there. The liquid smoke was last seen in Sylvia's hands and could be anywhere. I can't think where the sage went. I looked. I founds a lime that had turned to black powder right at the bottom of my fruit bowl, a tube of baby food that we bought for Sylvia in Scotland in 2009, and was surprised to count the number of bags of sesame seeds I have inadvertently bought. All I could do was add more smoked paprika and find a few dried out sage leaves in the bottom of the fridge. Maybe next time I will be better prepared.

E commented on the pleasing cooking smells while I baked the facon. He is a meat eater who loves a rasher of bacon so that was promising. The result is a rasher that stays together but needs to be fried to really hold its shape and give the right texture. The texture can be a wee bit nubbly but gets more chewy when fried. It even burns just like bacon! More importantly, it is also full of protein and flavour.

One advantage over true bacon is that there is very little fat in the actual facon. I have found that vegetarian faux meats don't release lots of oil like meats of the flesh. This means that you have control over how much fat you want to add when cooking. A mere spray is enough but a generous slurp is lovely.

Once I had my facon, the challenge was to think about how to use it. I had already successfully added it to pasta and to cheese and tomato sandwiches when I made it the first time (NB Sarah's facon, tomato and avocado sounds equally good). You may have noticed it popping up in a couple of recent recipes. It went very well in my Artichoke Muffins and on the Fast Track Pizza.

I was surprised that it took a bit of digging through memories and recipes to find ideas on what to make with facon. It seems I am so used to not using it that I have wiped it from my culinary thoughts. But I do have fond memories of my mum making meals with bacon or ham. Split pea soup, baked potatoes, potato salad, zucchini slice, in fried potatoes or fried cabbage, and in a quiche. In fact one of my most nostalgic moments recently was frying onions and facon while making the lentil and potato filling for pancakes. The smell from my childhood was just amazing. And yet it was different. It was full of the right flavour without also smelling of flesh.

I saw a recipe for fried rice with bacon in the Saturday Age newspaper (5 March 2011) and made my own version, which was fantastic. I am now considering the other recipes I have passed by because they include bacon. I am planning to try maple syrup and facon on pancakes, scrambled tofu and facon, and maybe add some facon to a cassoulet or baked beans. The possibilities are endless.

In my new-found enthusiasm for facon, I have searched for ideas for my next batch and listed them below. I have divided them into vegetarian recipes and non-vegetarian recipes because I need to be aware of the issue I mentioned above of how much extra fat is needed depending on if a recipe uses bacon or facon. I have also included some recipes that I have blogged.

In my searches I have also found that others have successfully made facon out of coconut, eggplant, mushrooms and gluten flour. It seems we vegetarians and vegans have a healthy thirst for a good smoky crispy chewy facon recipe!

Facon recipes from my blog:
Facon recipes from around the web:
Bacon Recipes (that I would like to make vegetarian):
I am sending this to Ricki and Kim for their SoS Challenge, their event to encourage savoury and sweet dishes made with a featured ingredient each month. The theme for march is adzuki beans. I was pleased to see Kim's list of alternative names for the bean as mine came by the name of "seda beans" but still seemed to do the trick.

Facon (a.k.a. Amazing Homemade Vegan Bacon)
adapted from No Meat Athlete via The Ordinary Vegetarian
  • 1/2 cup dried adzuki beans, or other small red beans
  • 1/3 cup whole grain buckwheat groats (not buckwheat flour)
  • 2 tsp onion granules
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp rubbed sage
  • 1 tsp fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 tsp mixed herbs
  • 1 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp liquid smoke (I had none and used an extra 1/2 tsp smoked parika)
  • 3 tbsp maple syrup
  • 1-1/2 tbsp tamari
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 tbsp nutritional yeast (optional - I used this)
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp beetroot powder (optional for colour)
Soak the beans and groats overnight in the same bowl. Drain and place in the food processor. Blend roughly and add remaining ingredients. Blend to make a paste. This takes a while and a bit of scrapping down the sides. A little texture is fine (see my photo towards the top).

Preheat the oven to 200 C or 400 F. Line a lamington tin (30 x 20 cm or 13 x 9 inch) with baking paper - making sure the paper overhangs the sides to help you get it out - and then oil the baking paper. Spread the mixture into the tin. It will seem very thin but that is good - it is meant to be. Bake for 10 minutes. The top will be dry and slightly browned but not crisp.

Cool for 10 minutes. Remove from tin using the baking paper overhang like handles and lay on a flat surface where you can chop. Cut into 24 pieces (see mine in photo towards the top of the post) or any size you desire. At this point it is a little fragile. Store in an airtight container in the fridge for 2-3 weeks or store in the freezer. It can be cooked straight from fridge or freezer. To eat, fry in a little oil spray or oil or spray and crisp up under the grill (broiler).

On the Stereo:
Paranoia in Hi-Fi: Nurse with Wound

25 comments:

  1. Sounds interesting, will give this a try!

    My favorite vegan bacon is tofu bacon, have you tried it?

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  2. Interesting how we all seem to miss bacon. I never even ate much bacon before I became a full on vegetarian but there is something about it. Luckily, a slice of fried tempeh does it for me - not that I have that very often either.

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  3. You make it sound so easy, and it looks so good!
    I am lazy and usually buy the quorn bacon for the husband, maybe I should give this one a go!

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  4. Ah, so happy to see you enter this in the SoS challenge! I thought of it immediately and wished I hadn't already had it posted or I would submit it myself. This recipe is by far my favorite use for the adzuki bean. I am still trying to come up with an entry, and hopefully it can double up for NCR as well since it is for the same ingredient this month!

    What a great idea to add the beetroot powder for color. I should mention I recently had 2 batches in a row not turn out, the beans were not processing down enough the resulting facon had extremely crunchy bits that were not too appealing. I figured out that my best results were when I soaked for a full 24 hours, and out on the counter instead of the fridge. No more problems! The buckwheat starts to sprout a bit but that doesn't seem to hurt anything.

    I'm planning on a bacon-y dinner tonight actually! Bacon over pasta with broccoli and my favorite cheezy sauce (the one you tried!). yum!!

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  5. What a clever invention! Most vegetarians I know say the only things that tempts them to turn non-veggie is bacon. I think it has magical powers! But this is a great substitute!

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  6. I have had Sarah's recipe bookmarked for a while but haven't gotten around to trying it yet. Must give this a go...

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  7. Wow - this is really intriguing!!!

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  8. I think I'm similarly more excited about that salty-smoky flavour than actual bacon itself - this recipe looks like it delivers that in spades!

    Not having tried it (yet!), my current favourite bacon sub is smoky marinated tempeh.

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  9. Thanks for sharing your recipe with us, it looks great and interesting!

    I also love the cat widget on the side of your blog, adorable!

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  10. Gotta love the honorary degrees in kitchen archaeology that we all pick up ;) I'm super impressed with your ingenuity with this recipe! Even though I gave up bacon years ago and am still not technically vegetarian!

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  11. I know most people swear that bacon is the meat they could never give up...but I could totally take it or leave it. Although this veg version sounds pretty darn tasty!

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  12. I always think that if I had to turn vegetarian I would have trouble giving up bacon. But now this facon sounds intriguing (although it is quite lengthy a recipe for ingredients but I suppose it is necessary to replicate bacon). Thankyou for the shoutout!

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  13. Fascinating... I don't think you could persuade me to give up the real thing, but I'm impressed at the lengths you've gone to in order to find something that will give you that kind of fix! Very enterprising!

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  14. It looks interesting, and I like your suggestions for using it.

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  15. Thanks K - I feel silly saying I am not sure if I have tried tofu - must try it because if I have it was a long time ago

    Thanks Choclette - I don't miss bacon much but I have been having fun with having facon - I have tried tempeh a few times and been disappointed - always seems like the texture should be right but it doesn't crisp up

    Thanks Nic - it isn't that hard - just need a little bit of planning - I've never got into quorn and I have never seen quorn bacon - maybe would try it if I saw it

    Thanks Sarah - yes I thought the SOS challenge readers would appreciate the facon - I don't think the beetroot powder made much difference to the colour but will try again with more - interesting to hear your beans have not always served you well as I have had problems with the beans I have - just posted about soup I almost threw out because beans didn't seem to cook well - but they seemed ok in the facon - just don't understand the beans - but don't mind a bit of nubbly texture in the facon - your pasta sounds excellent - thanks again for the inspiring recipe

    Thanks Hazel - the more I explore the world of smokiness I think it is smoky flavour that has the magical powers - but it seems as a new vegetarian that you will no longer have such smokiness! (I'd probably miss bacon more if I didn't remember dodgy rashers with bone and hair in them - ugh!)

    Thanks Mel - yes do try it - you can use it so many ways

    Thanks Lisa - indeed!

    Thanks Cindy - your tempeh looks great but I just have never managed to get it the right texture when I have tried it

    Thanks Mandee - the cat widget (which I can't get to fit properly) is there for my little 2 year old who loves to ask to see the pussy cat

    Thanks Hannah - it is a genius recipe but I don't take the credit - I would never have thought this would work but have been interested in finding a good facon recipe and willing to try any crazy idea (have wondered how this would appeal to other non-vegetarians like those with a kosher diet!!)

    Thanks Joanne - the texture of this facon is far superior to bacon - well for me anyway - it really is my answer to those who say they can't go veg because of bacon

    Thanks Lorraine - I looked at lots of recipes and some bacon ones didn't seem to translate into this facon (esp your bacon lasagna) but generally it seemed to be a good substitute for most places where I would have used bacon - and while the list looks long most ingredients are fairly standard and easy to buy in the supermarket

    Thanks A Forkful - I don't think I would persuade E to give up his bacon and eggs either but I would quite happily sit beside him with my facon and scrambled tofu

    Thanks Cakelaw - it is a funny recipe because it seems like an ingredient rather than a dish so I felt I needed a little reflection on how to use it - glad it is interesting

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  16. When I discovered your artichoke muffins, I was intrigued by the facon, guessing what it was, but having no idea of what it could be made of... I must say, that is a very interesting recipe, it sounds really good :-)

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  17. What a neat idea! Back when I was a veg*n I loved fake bacon. Now I eat the real thing - but this would be a fun thing to try sometime. Thanks for sharing it for this month's challenge! xo

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  18. Thanks Vanessa - the facon gave a bit of extra texture to the muffins and I think it added to the flavour too - would love to try it in more baking

    Thanks Kim - the ingredients make this worth making - a great way to get some beans into your diet - but I wouldn't try to convince a meat eater it is just the same as bacon

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  19. Hooray for facon made with adzuki beans! I wanted to try your other bean-based facon poted a while back and haven't had a chance yet, so now I must really get to it and try this one. What a great SOS entry--thanks so much! :D

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  20. since going glutenfree and no longer able to eat wheat gluten fakinbacons i have become addicted to smoked paprika--use it in sooo much! i will definitely give this a try!

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  21. Thanks Ricki - I think this is the same facon as I posted a while back but you must try this - I am sure you will love it

    Thanks gfveg - happy to find another smoked paprika devotee - I think I share your addiction - there are few savoury foods it doesn't improve :-)

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  22. This has been on my list of things to make for a while since I saw you post about it before!!

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  23. What a different way to make bacon...definitely more wholesome than the typical soy version. I must give this a try. Btw, thanks for the link!

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  24. I tried this yesterday, following the recipe pretty much exactly (rare for me!), but instead of olive oil I used toasted sesame oil for flavour.

    Well, my bacon turned out quite thick and I realized it's because I used a 20x30 cm pan - which is quite a bit smaller than the 9x13 inch pan. Had I realized this I would have used a bigger pan, or at least baked a bit longer. With my super knife skillz I was able to slice most of the slices in two, creating very thin, more bacon-like slices, though not without some breakage.

    Anyway, I fried the slices and found they actually got more fragile (perhaps because they were overly thin, or perhaps because they were underbaked). I found them a bit bland and not particularly tasty - but they are very good on bread if you also put other stuff on it.

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  25. Thanks Maija - I posted this after making it the second time - the first time I made it with a friend and we used a lot more seasoning than the recipe but I don't think I added too much when I made it alone - as for the thickness of it - I think that thinner is better as I love the crispiness of it - glad you found a way to enjoy it

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