How to make seitan

SEITAN is the protein extracted from wheat or spelt and is sometimes called “wheat meat”.  In the Far East, seitan has been used as a source of vegetarian protein for centuries.  It is rich, nourishing and creates strength and vitality.  Seitan may be used instead of meat in a wide range of dishes, for example, spaghetti Bolognese, lasagne, cottage pie, stir-fries, spring rolls and casseroles.  It is not recommended for those who are gluten intolerant or who suffer from coeliac disease.

Broccoli with vegan seitan as a meat substitute

Broccoli and seitan stir fry

Seitan can be bought ready-made in jars from health food stores but it is very easy to make at home.

yakso seitan

Here are the instructions for making your own seitan:

1.  Choosing the flour

It is only possible to make seitan from strong wheat or spelt flour typically used to make bread.  Other flours do not have sufficient quantities of protein of the right structure to stay bound together.  Wheat flour makes a harder, more firm seitan than spelt flour.

2.  Ingredients

  • 6 cups whole wheat or spelt bread flour or high-gluten unbleached white flour
  • 3 cups water
  • 1/2 cup tamari or soy sauce
  • 12 slices fresh ginger, each 1/8 inch thick,
  • 1 piece of kombu, about 3 inches long.

3.  Method

Mix the flour and slowly add the water to make a medium-stiff but not sticky dough.

Knead the dough by hand on a breadboard or tabletop, until it feels a bit like an earlobe, for about 10-15 minutes.   Add a little more water if needed to get the right consistency.

Allow the dough to rest in a bowl of cold water for about 30 minutes.

While the dough is resting, prepare the stock.

In a large pot, bring to boil 2.5 litres of water.  Add the tamari or soy, ginger, and kombu, and simmer for 15 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool.  This stock must be cold before it is used.  The cool liquid causes the gluten to contract and prevents the seitan from acquiring a bread-like texture.  The stock will be used to cook the seitan later.

Meanwhile, it is time to start washing the dough; use warm water to start with. Warm water loosens the dough and makes the task easier. Some people knead the dough while it is immersed in water in a bowl.  Alternatively, it can be rinsed under running water, with the flow stream about as thick as a pencil. The dough can be held in/over a colander to catch any pieces of dough that fall off.

The water will look very milky at first and then gradually becomes more ‘transparent’.  In the final rinses, use cold water to tighten the gluten.  After about 10 to 15 minutes, you will begin to feel the dough become firmer and more elastic.  The water will no longer become cloudy as you knead it.  To make sure you have kneaded and rinsed it enough, lift the dough out of the water and squeeze it.  The liquid oozing out should be clear, not milky.  The size of the ball will be considerably smaller than when you began.

Place the rinsed seitan in an empty bowl and let it rest for 15 minutes until the dough relaxes. After the dough has been rinsed for the last time in cold water, the gluten will have tightened and the dough will be tense, tough, and resistant to taking on any other shape.

Put the seitan in the cold tamari stock.  Bring the stock to a boil, lower the temperature, and simmer in the stock for 1 1/2 to 2 hours (45 minutes if the seitan is cut into small pieces).  This second step may also be done in a pressure cooker, in which case it would take between 30-45 minutes.

To store seitan, keep it refrigerated, immersed in the stock.  Use it within 1 week of preparation.

seitan-sweet-and-sour

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Obesity in children

Overweight and obesity among children is widely regarded as being even more serious than it is among adults, with a very rapid rise in prevalence in the last two decades. Child obesity is likely to continue into adulthood, and many of the problems linked to obesity are more severe if the obesity has been present for a long period. Adults with the highest risk of diabetes, cardiovascular disorders, liver malfunction and orthopaedic dysfunction, are likely to have the most extreme levels of obesity and to have been obese since childhood[i].

fat_kid

Projections of child obesity based on trends from the 1980s and 1990s indicate that the annual increase in child obesity prevalence is itself increasing[ii]. By the year 2010, some 26 million school children in the EU are expected to be overweight, of which 6 million will be obese. The numbers of overweight children will rise by some 1.3 million per year, of which the numbers of obese children will rise by over 0.3 million per year.

At a conservative estimate, over a million obese children in the EU are likely to show a range of indicators for cardiovascular disease, including high blood pressure and raised blood cholesterol levels, and to have three or more indicators of the metabolic syndrome[iii]. Over 1.4 million children could have early stages of liver disorder.

The costs of childhood obesity have not been estimated but should include lost educational opportunity. A study of children’s quality of life found the psychological effects of severe obesity to be equivalent to a diagnosis of cancer[iv].

Behaviour, learning and mental health problems in children are rising as fast as rates of obesity and diabetes. Food affects brains as well as bodies, and early malnourishment can have devastating effects on both. Conversely, improving nutrition can help reduce antisocial behaviour as well as symptoms of ADHD, dyslexia, depression and related conditions[v].

The only pan-European estimates of children’s food consumption patterns are from self-reported surveys of health behaviours of children aged 11-15 years[vi]. The most recent (for 2001-2002) found:

  • In virtually all countries fewer than 50 per cent of children ate vegetables every day. On average, 30 per cent of children said they ate vegetables daily, but the children in countries once famous for their Mediterranean diets reported lower than average levels, especially Spain, where vegetables were typically eaten daily by only 12 per cent of children.
  • In virtually all countries fewer than 50 per cent of children ate fruit every day. On average, 30 per cent of boys and 37 per cent of girls reported eating fruit daily, but in sixteen countries only 25 per cent of children were eating fruit more than once a week. Lowest levels of consumption were reported among children in Northern European countries.
  • Soft drinks and confectionery were consumed daily by about 30 per cent of children (over 40 per cent in some countries).

According to the last National Diet and Nutrition Survey in the UK[vii]:

  • 92 per cent of children consume more saturated fat than is recommended
  • 86 per cent consume too much sugar
  • 72 per cent consume too much salt
  • 96 per cent do not consume enough fruit and vegetables

Governments are trying to improve children’s diets, but young people’s exposure to marketing pressures in our time-poor, anxiety-ridden, media-driven society is at an all-time high.

Widespread action is needed to reverse current trends – and we all need to take responsibility for what we are feeding young bodies and minds.

In a Cooking for Health class focused on Healthy Cooking for Your Children, we look at:

  • The best and the worst food for children
  • Easy steps to free your child from food traps
  • Simple, child-friendly recipes
  • Practical tips to help your child make the best food choices

The class involves 100% hands-on practical cooking in a small, supervised group, combined with teaching of up-to-date information and research findings on the effects of diet on health. Clear, easy-to-follow presentations and handouts are provided with plenty of opportunity for questions and discussion.

References

[i] Policy options for responding to obesity. Summary report of the EC-funded project to map the view of stakeholders involved in tackling obesity – the PorGrow project. Dr Tim Lobstein and Professor Erik Millstone. http://www.sussex.ac.uk/spru/porgrow

[ii] Jackson-Leach R, Lobstein T. Estimated burden of paediatric obesity and co-morbidities in Europe. Part 1. The increase in the prevalence of child obesity in Europe is itself increasing. Int J Pediatric Obesit 2006;1:26-32.

[iii] Lobstein T, Jackson-Leach R. Estimated burden of paediatric obesity and co-morbidities in Europe. Part 2. Numbers of children with indicators of obesity-related disease. Int J Pediatric Obesity 2006;1:33-41.

[iv] Schwimmer JB, Burwinkle TM, Varni JW. Health-related quality of life of severely obese children and adolescents. J Am Med Ass 2003;289:1813-9.

[v] Richardson, A. They Are What You Feed Them. Harper Thorsons (5 Jun 2006)

[vi] HBSC. Young people’s health in context: Health Behaviour in School-aged Children 2001/2002. Health Policy for Children and Adolescents 4. C Currie et al (eds) Copenhagen: WHO Regional Office for Europe, 2004.

[vii] Gregory, J. et al. National Diet and Nutrition Survey: Young People Aged 4-18 years (The Stationery Office, 2000)