Tempeh – A controlled fermentation process that binds hulled, cooked soybeans into a cake form makes tempeh, which originated in Indonesia and is still a staple there. The beans are mixed with a mould spore starter and incubated for two days. The white mycelium of the Rhizopus vegetable mould keeps the soybean packed together to form a sliceable cake. As a result of the fermentation process, the soy protein in tempeh becomes more digestible. Tempeh is fibre rich and a healthy source of vegetable protein, minerals and soy isoflavones and saponins, a class of phytochemical compounds found abundantly in plant sources.
Tempeh is low in saturated fat and contains a generous source of B Vitamins, Iron, Calcium and Lecithin, plus essential polyunsaturates such as Linoleic acids. These acids are important because they help emulsify, disperse and eliminate cholesterol deposits and other fatty acids that frequently accumulate in and around vital organs and throughout the bloodstream. Tempeh is always cooked before eating; you can steam, boil, bake, or sauté it.
You can enjoy tempeh with a wide variety of grains, vegetables, or noodles, or use it in soups, salads and sandwiches. You can also serve tempeh as a delicious main course in place of meat. For many, tempeh has become a protein backbone of vegetarian diets. Here is one of my favourite creations, a delicious warming tempeh stew for the cooler days of Autumn. Experiment with the ingredients to suit your taste and make this dish your own.
1 tbsp vegetable oil
2 cups fresh shitake mushrooms, thinly sliced
1 tbsp shoyu
2 cloves garlic crushed
1 large onion thinly sliced
1 carrot finely diced
1 celery stalk finely diced
1 200g pack of tempeh cut into ½ inch cubes
1 tsp dried tarragon
1 sachet of miso bouillon stock or 1 vegetable stock cube dissolved in 4 cups water
1 tbsp kuzu dissolved in 2 tbsp water
Warm a heavy based pan, heat the oil and add the mushrooms and shoyu. Cook for 5 minutes on low heat then add the garlic and onion. Stir well, pop on the lid and let the vegetables sweat for 5 minutes to allow the mushrooms and onions to release their juices. Add the carrot, celery, tempeh, tarragon and stock. Cover and cook on a very low heat for 45 minutes. Stir in the kuzu to thicken and season to taste with a little more shoyu. Serve over hot rice or grain of your choice and top with some of my tasty onion butter