Vegetables are my meat

Meat is my vegetable used to be – today, vegetable is my meat. It has long since been recognized in Germany that a meal can be tasty and wholesome without meat and, conversely, can also be bland and one-sided with meat.

Vegetable jerky knife stuck in watermelon
Surely this won’t be meat juice….

Flesh fruit instead of pulp

We’ve already experimented a bit with vegetables, and while we’re not necessarily convinced that all meat products need to be replicated with vegetables, it can definitely lead to some interesting suggestions. You can, of course, imitate vegetable dishes with meat, and it has been done. For example, Heston Blumenthal’s Meat Fruit, which is based on a historical recipe, is well-known.

Fruit pulp, vegetable pulp, vegan meat

It’s not all that unusual. Some chefs have already ventured into such experiments and besides vegan burger patties or carpaccio of beet, there are some recipes that do not simply imitate meat dishes with vegetables, but create something inimitable of their own. Some chefs have attracted attention with such dishes not only in culinary circles. Examples include a carrot tartare from Eleven Madison Park, a celery shawarma from Noma or a watermelon carpaccio from Mugaritz.

Whether meat or vegetables: it’s sausage

Recipes for sausages made from vegetables were already mentioned in cookbooks of the 17th century, at that time it was about substitute products for Lent. We want to venture into beef jerky – marinated, dried beef – and prepare this snack without meat, which is less known in our country, in contrast to the USA or South America. Instead, we use carrots and watermelon. In addition, the red algae dulse is used again, which provides additional depth of flavor.

A dried dulse leaf is deep fried
Dulse before and after frying

We heat a pot of oil to just before the smoke point and use tweezers to dip the dry seaweed leaves into the oil for a few seconds. In the process, the color changes from a deep dark red to a gray-green in seconds, resulting in a bacony note in terms of taste. It is much more intense than when we first experimented with dulse for our stock cube. We put the seaweed leaves in the blender with salt and brown sugar. This creates an intense marinade.

Carrots vacuum packed with dulse
Vacuum packed carrots with dulse

In addition to “normal” carrots, we use a primitive carrot. We peel them, cut them into 1.5 cm thick slices and put the pieces with our rub into vacuum bags. The carrots are cooked at 90° C for 45 minutes and the melons also at 90° C but only for 15 minutes. The pieces are then dried in the drying oven and – to ensure optimal air circulation – hung on small hooks. Reduce the broth from the bags, we puree and strain. In it we vacuum the vegetable jerky again, but this time in the reduced broth.

Vegetable Jerky - watermelon jerky that is smoked.
Watermelon jerks in smoke

After a day, we skewer the jerks back on the hooks and hang them in a glass box for smoking with a smoke gun, here they rest for about an hour in light smoke from apple wood chips. This way we emphasize the bacony flavors of the dulse algae.

Neither fish nor meat

We then hang the jerks back in the dehydrator oven. There they dry for 13 hours at 36 ° C.

The vegetable jerky through the various processes inside acquire an almost creamy consistency and have quite a meaty texture. The carrots turned out slightly sweet, and the melon took the smoke flavor well. The bacon flavor of the fried dulse, very strong at first, did not come to the fore in any of the three varieties, but it is present in nuances. In addition to a bacony note, a “sea-fishy” aroma also came in with the algae. This irritated our little test round a bit. However, one of the team was really excited because this snack reminded him of dried fish from his home country. This shows once again how elementary cultural imprints are for taste. Whether fish or meat, vegetables are simply incredibly versatile. Especially regarding the textures, there is still a lot to discover here. We will therefore continue to prepare vegetables with special attention.

Vegetable jerks in stand-up pouch
Vegetable jerky in bag