Sunday, October 11, 2009

Chickpea Schnitzel (On a Bun)

As I mentioned a couple posts ago, this weekend marked the start of our city's annual Oktoberfest celebrations. The opening ceremonies were held in the pouring rain on Friday afternoon, where city officials and Onkel Hans tapped the big keg and started the weeklong party. The crowd was thinner than usual because of the rain and we got completely drenched but it just doesn't feel like Oktoberfest to us unless we go to the keg tapping.

We didn't have tickets for any festhalls on opening night, but we still wanted to mark the start of Oktoberfest with something and so I attempted to veganize the traditional Oktoberfest meal of schnitzel-on-a-bun. Oktoberfest Sausages are the main staple, but my favourite was always the schnitzel.

Schnitzel can be made with a variety of meats; the most popular version at the festhalls here is chicken. It's basically a very thin cutlet of meat that's breaded and fried, when they then serve on a fluffy bun with Oktoberfest mustard and sauerkraut. For the last month I've been contemplating how to make a vegan version.

And then it hit me...Veganomicon's famous chickpea cutlets. Made with chickpeas, wheat gluten and various spices and flavourings, they have a texture that is very chicken-like. So, I baked them like I usually do (just for a little less time) and instead of serving them that way I breaded and fried them for a couple minutes.

Now, I don't condone frying. It's usually completely unnecessary to be so unhealthy however this rule gets excepted for Oktoberfest. Most people say calories don't count at Christmas...but Okt is my version of Christmas and so I fried them to make them extra authentic.

After I had already baked them it occurred to me that I should have fried them first and then baked them to ensure they were baked through. The breadcrumbs would have stuck more easily if I had fried them first, as the dough is far more moist than the baked cutlets - I know this for next time!

To bread schnitzel you typically dip the cutlets in flour, egg and then breadcrumbs. I used arrowroot mixed in with a bit of rice milk and skipped the flour. Admittedly, without the egg the breadcrumbs had trouble sticking once the cutlets were frying in oil and so I am going to hone this process and see what I can come up with to solve this pickle...but honestly, I think frying them first will make a world of difference in this department.

Regardless of some of the breadcrumbs jumping ship, this chickpea schnitzel was amazing. AMAZING. Makes me wish that frying wasn't such a terrible means of cooking. What a wonderful world it would be if frying was the healthiest way to cook! Sigh.

Nostalgic eating is a huge thing for some vegans, including me. It's not so much the food we eat and whether or not we like it, it's what we associate it with. I think that is one of the reasons vegan struggle with holidays so becomes part of the tradition and by changing your diet you also have to change how you participate in traditions. I think this scares a lot of people away from veganism; however, it is possible to combat. There are ways to connect with your past; you just have to get a bit creative. And after a couple of years, veganism becomes part of the tradition and it will feel like you have been eating that tofurky, that schnitzel, that tofu pumpkin pie your whole life.

Us, on the dance floor of the big tent at Concordia Club, in our pin-covered hats, celebrating a really awesome time of year.


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