Further vegan adventures with Victoria

My pictures are almost liberated from the camera that was simply too smart for my poor desktop.  Never again shall I shoot in RAW files.  Unless someone wants to buy me a state of the art computer for the sole reason of taking ridiculously giant photos of food…Yeah, not even I would do that.  JPEG, you are my partner in crime, for now.  What this means to you all is that in a few weeks, I will post a holiday baking bonanza while we take a stroll on the vegan side of life with one of my best friends, Victoria.

I enjoy cooking with Victoria not only because she’s great company in the kitchen, but because she’s willing to try pretty much anything to see if it will work, which comes in handy for her because she’s been vegan for over a year.  Therefore experimentation with the chemistry of cooking is useful in expanding her vegan-legal repetoire.  For me it’s more a mental exercise as I happily tear into red meat, but I definitely appreciate seeing the inventive ways Victoria works vegetables and the rather exotic vegan substitutes into her meals.

Usually she just cooks out of several good vegan cookbooks she owns, like Vegan Brunch and Veganomicon.  But sometimes there is just a recipe that is too good to not try to adapt, and one of those is Gypsy Goulash.  This is one of my favorite meals ever in wintertime (it’s so filling and heavy that it’s not incredibly appetizing in summer), but until last week, I only got to eat it every other year or so, when my roommate Gabrielle would throw her holiday party.  Usually the day before or after my cookie party (post to come later), we go to Zoo Lights and pile into her living room to be fed by her father, Andy, who is an excellent cook.  Then we loll on the couch in front of a holiday movie, too stuffed to move, imitating the nurse sharks we had gawked at hours earlier.

Unfortunately, Gypsy Goulash is cubed beef stewed in red wine and sour cream.  Victoria enjoyed a green salad and some steamed cauliflower while I gave myself over to a short period of gluttony.  Feeling guilty for my out and out food lust, she and I began to chat about how we would go about adapting the goulash and if we thought it would still be tasty.  Victoria suggested mushrooms instead of beef and soy yogurt instead of sour cream.  This sounded acceptable to me, even though I am not particularly pro-soy; I don’t like the powdery aftertaste.  But what to serve with it?  The traditional goulash is served with spaetzle, a kind of cross between a dumpling and an egg noodle – not vegan.  I served up some cauliflower to my own plate to feel a little more healthy and discovered that the goulash gravy actually went fabulously with it.  Our plan was born.  Everyone else at the party gave us the skeptical eyebrow and in the case of Gabrielle, stalwart insistence that to tamper with the goulash was to upset the course of nature, but Victoria and I charged ahead, subverting the establishment…And enjoying our overdramatization.

Victoria’s Vegan Goulash

So very, very tasty. So very, very filling.

We’ve reduced this down to serve two to three.

1 lb mushrooms

1-2 Tbsp olive oil

1/2 medium onion

1/2 tsp salt

1 Tbsp flour

1 1/2 tsp paprika

1 c red wine (preferably Burgundy)

1/2 c soy yogurt, plus extra for topping

1/2 head of cauliflower

Ready to rock.

Quarter your mushrooms and chop the onion rather finely.   We used sliced mushrooms because that’s what we happened to have on hand (along with the creepy catch phrase off the box: Sliced is soooooooo nice), but I think larger chunks would better simulated the mouthfeel of meat. If you have a dutch oven or other cast iron cookware, use this, as something that goes from stovetop to the oven will reduce your dishes to clear up afterwards.   Saute the onion and mushrooms in the olive oil until the mushrooms begin to brown and give off their liquid.  At that point, add the salt, paprika, and flour and stir.  The flour will form a kind of roux with the liquid from the mushrooms and act as a thickener for our gravy.

Sauteeing is such a fun word to say.

Cook the flour into the mixture for a minute or so before adding the wine and yogurt.  We actually used half soy yogurt, half cashew cream because the yogurt added the acid flavor integral to the dish while the cashew cream gave…well, creaminess.  It’s almost flavorless, but the texture was deliciously silky and rich, giving the goulash a surprising amount of depth.  Give the pot a good stir and then bake the goulash covered for an hour at 375.  By baking it, the paprika loses its harsh edge and gives all the flavors a mellow chuck on the shoulder, the wine loses its alcoholic overtone and lets its more subtler attractions waft out, and the soy yogurt actually loses all that I’m-so-healthy-substitute flavor that I dislike.  How can you not like magic like this?

Go play Cooking Mama on Wii.  Lament your inability to process squid or crack eggs.  Return to the real kitchen.

When the goulash has about five minutes left, cut the cauliflower into small florets and steam until just tender – the cauliflower will be gaining a lovely translucence when it’s finished.  To double check, stick a fork in one – it should enter easily but not mush up the cauliflower.  Nobody likes mushy cauliflower.  Or at least I don’t.

I wish I had a steamer pot like this...

Spoon the goulash over the cauliflower and add a dollop of soy yogurt on top.  Eat and be shocked about how ridiculously full you are.  Serve with a glass of the wine you were cooking with, of course, and discuss your success with such posh words as umami.

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3 Responses to “Further vegan adventures with Victoria”


  1. 1 Lissie December 30, 2009 at 8:47 pm

    Hi Desa! I’m so happy you have your blog up and running–I’m just waiting for those “special” videos to come up.

    I have never, ever in my life tried a vegan dish, but this sounds pretty tasty. Maybe I’ll have to give it a try!

    Good cooking, mateys!

    • 2 desasdishes January 4, 2010 at 7:16 pm

      Haha, thanks Lissie. Unfortunately posting video costs money, so that day may never come. I’ll try to keep the content interesting as best I can, though.

  2. 3 Michelle January 16, 2010 at 8:01 pm

    This looks really good. I have to say I was definitely one of the skeptics as I was shoving my face full of the original goulash, but this looks like it is a fantastic substitute.

    Also, side note, you could call it “ghoulash” and serve it for Halloween.


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Hey, I'm Desa. I've been bouncing between the Pacific Northwest and Sevilla, Spain in the last few years and from tiny apartment to tiny apartment. I cook mainly for one, which means some potentially boring meals, but here I'll be sharing the food that excites me. Feel free to offer suggestions, commiseration, or desires. And thanks for coming by!

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