In this electronic age, word of mouth can spread fast. Online feedback is immortalized. While I like to consult reviews, too, I didn’t know authors like to gauge their own success through these reviews. I was surprised (but I guess I shouldn’t have been) when I saw Dreena Burton, author of Eat Drink and Be Vegan, really upset by a recent review on amazon. The primary complaint was that her recipes were criticized for using too many unusual ingredients (tempeh, artichoke hearts, pine nuts, lemongrass, agave nectar, etc).
I am so glad my blog doesn’t get judged as harshly – the blogging community is actually VERY supportive. Heck, we actively encourage our readers to try new and unusual ingredients that we have discovered ourselves. I certainly do not purport to be solely cooking from kitchen staples. When I went home over the holidays, I had to figure out what I could still cook in my parents’ kitchen without having to run to the grocery store too often. I know that my armamentarium of ingredients has ballooned since I’ve moved to Toronto and discovered ethnic grocery stores. My favourite ingredients right now include pomegranate molasses, bulgur, lentils du Puy, cardamom, tamarind, and tempeh. Personally, I love it when I find new recipes that use these unique ingredients!
I remember flipping through Veganomicon before I moved to Toronto and the recipes didn’t really appeal to me. I agree, all the new ingredients can be intimidating. However, when I returned to it recently, my curiosity was caught by many recipes. My favourites so far have been the chickpeas romesco and the tamarind lentils.
I recently bought Appetite for Reduction by Isa Chandra Moskowitz, a Veganomicon co-author. When I saw a recipe for tempeh and sweet potatoes marinaded in a tamarind-based barbecue sauce, I knew I had to try it first. I also had all the ingredients. :)
The recipe is also posted here and I modified it by decreasing the tempeh. Who wants to use one and half packages of tempeh for a recipe? The recipe didn’t mention it, but I used Terry’s tip in Viva Vegan to steam the tempeh with half a cup of water in the microwave. Apparently it removes its bitter taste. However, whenever Rob has prepared tempeh, I have not noticed a bitter taste.
I cut the tempeh into small triangles and used around 600 g of sweet potatoes with the same amount of marinade. I started making this dish in the morning, allowing everything to marinade until I threw it into the oven for an easy, late lunch.
I was skeptical the sauce would thicken but it was perfect right out of the oven. It was a smokey barbecue sauce with a strong tangy tamarind flavour. It worked well with the meaty, chewy tempeh and the sweet potatoes. My only complaint, and we’ve had this problem before with tempeh, is that it slurps up the marinade once cooled as leftovers. It still tasted fine for leftovers, but the sauciness was lost. Therefore, it was best the day it was prepared, but still conferred reasonable leftovers. Next time, I may throw in a leafy green like kale, as Susan did here.
Tamarind BBQ Tempeh and Sweet Potatoes
1 1/2 lbs sweet potatoes, peeled and sliced in 3/4 inch chunks (I chose to keep the peel!)
250g tempeh, cubed or in mini triangles
-consider adding in 4-8 cups of kale, spinach, chard, etc
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon minced ginger
3/4 cup vegetable broth
2 teaspoons arrowroot or cornstarch, dissolved in 1/4 cup water (I used cornstarch)
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 tablespoon tamarind concentrate (if using tamarind pulp, dissolve in 2 tbsp in boiling water for 10 minutes, then drain through a fine-mesh strainer)
3 tablespoons maple syrup
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 teaspoon liquid smoke
1/4 tsp Aleppo chili flakes
1.Place the tempeh in a microwave-safe dish with half a cup of water. Cover it with a lid and microwave on high for 5-6 minutes. Drain any excess water.
2. Spray an 9×13 casserole pan with cooking spray. If using glass (Isa doesn’t recommend glass but I am not sure why – it was fine for me!), then line the bottom with parchment (or a silpat which is what I did) to prevent sticking.
3. In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together all the sauce ingredients. Make sure to get the tamarind dissolved. Pour over the tempeh and sweet potatoes and use your hands to coat well. You can bake immediately or let marinate for at least an hour to get more flavor into the tempeh (I marinaded mine for at least 4 hours).
4. When ready to bake, preheat oven to 400F. Cover with tinfoil and place in the oven for about 25 minutes. Remove from oven and toss out the tin foil. Flip tempeh and sweet potatoes, making sure to scrape the bottom with a spatula in case anything is sticking. Bake for another half hour, flipping once. Sweet potatoes should be tender, but not mushy, and the sauce should be thickened and coating everything. Serve with rice.