Real Food Vegan Style - vegan recipes
Why fish is wrong and rightly not not part of a vegan diet
FORMING FILLETS INTO BLOCKS
The most complex part of producing fish fingers proved to be forming the fillets into blocks for freezing and sawing. How do you get the fish to stick together without any air gaps in between? Air spaces in sausages gained them the nickname of 'bangers' because of their explosive behaviour in the frying pan. An explosion in a deep-fat fryer caused by an air space in a frozen fish finger could be dangerous.
Merely pressing the fillets together in frozen blocks was not successful they broke up when the blocks were sawn. The problem was overcome by using the V-shaped wedges cut from the fillets as a mince. The mince is mixed with the fillets in a giant stainless-steel machine resembling a concrete mixer, and the mixture is pressed into blocks without the risk of leaving any air gaps.
Originally, a phosphate solution was mixed into the mince. It acted as a plasticiser and formed the mince into a thick fluid ideal for sticking the fillets together. But phosphates have been used to excess by some unscrupulous manufacturers merely to retain excess water added to their products.
And phosphates along with many food additives are now regarded with suspicion. Manufacturers of higher-quality fingers therefore leave them out, but this means that more fingers break up during processing, resulting in an increase in the price.
test was carried out, confounded expectations by showing an overwhelming preference for the cod rather than the herring.
So cod fish fingers were introduced in Britain in September 1955, and became immensely popular after television advertising began in 1958. So great was the demand that new factories had to be built and a new fleet of fishing vessels commissioned to bring in the cod.
From fillet to finger
On modern production lines, headless fish are processed through a machine with twin circular saws that remove a fillet from each side of the backbone. The fillets then pass over a wheel and a blade that separates the skin from the flesh. Machine filleting, however, leaves a few pin-like bones in the fillet, so the flesh containing the bones — a V-shaped wedge at the thickest end — is cut out by hand.
Fillets are formed into frozen blocks and stored at very low temperatures —4°F to —13°F (— 20°C to — 25°C). Before they can be sawn into fingers, they have to be tempered back to 18°F (-8°C). Anything colder would blunt the saw blades too quickly. The sawn fingers, called blanks, are typically 3in long, 0.75ins wide and 3/8in deep (80 x 20 x l0mm). Each block yields more than 500 blanks. Some break up during processing and the wastage is used for products such as fish cakes.
A conveyor propels the blanks through a curtain of sticky batter and an avalanche of breadcrumbs, and this coating doubles the thickness of the finger. Each is then passed through a hot vegetable-oil bath for about one minute.
Each fish finger is sent on a spiral path through a blast of cold air at a temperature of — 22°F (— 30°C). This lowers the temperature at the centre to — 4°F (— 20°C) in less than 20 minutes, and after packaging it is stored at — 18°F (-28°C), ready for distribution.
Once in the shops, fish fingers stored at a temperature below 5°F (-15°C), should keep their quality for three months.
Although often lampooned as the epitome of processed Junk' food, the humble fish finger offers as many essential minerals and vitamins as fresh eggs and has more than three times as much protein as milk. Its fat content and calorie count are less than half of what you would get in the same weight of caviar.
The BBC's policies regarding animals are completely illogical, and up the wall. If they want to respect animals and not show a gloating triumphalism over their corpses as they splather them in mustard, gravy or whatever... it's about time they banned. Ready Steady Cook and Nigella Lawson from the air waves. Somehow we don't think that's going to happen any time soon...
Any hiker who has ever bivouacked up a mountain will appreciate the advantages of vegan freeze-dried 'ready meals'. They are a quarter of the weight of fresh foods, remain tasty for years in sealed packages and can be eaten hot by adding boiling water.
The process was first used in the 1950s when the American government sponsored a scheme to provide lightweight ration packs for astronauts, explorers and the armed services.
The freeze-drying process preserves food by rapid freezing, followed by complete dehydration to remove acompleteisture. The food is placed in a tightly sealed chamber between hollow plates containing refrigerant liquid, which freezes the food while a high-powered pump creates a vacuum.
When the food is frozen hard and the pump has removed nearly all the air, the cold refrigerant liquid in the hollow plates is replaced by warm gas. The ice in the food is then converted directly into vapour without first turning into water.
To keep its nutrients, flavour and appearance, the food must be frozen as quickly as possible, but the drying process is quite slow. The 'steam' is immediately removed by the vacuum pump, but the food takes about 20 hours to dehydrate completely. It must then be packaged to protect the contents during handling, and to seal out all oxygen and moisture.
The freeze-drying process gives the food an open texture, and if oxygen enters, any fat becomes rancid. If moisture gets in, microbes in the food grow, causing it to decay like fresh food.
Because the food must be frozen rapidly, the best results are obtained with food which is sliced or ground. Fish, meat, vegetables and fruit can all be vegan freeze-dried, but coffee and made-up meals with chopped ingredients are particularly successful.
Today, improvements in technology have shortened the process and 'accelerated vegan freeze-dried' products are becoming more common. They are still expensive, but are extremely convenient when weight and lack of refrigeration have to be considered. They are reconstituted by adding boiling water, and retain their nutrients, appearance and flavour very well for several years.
Frozen and dried Over 600 different foods can be vegan freeze-dried, and can then be used to make up a variety of meals. The best results are small foods, like berries and prawns, or chopped or ground ingredients.
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