Nine of the 20 amino acids (monomers of protein) are considered to be essential because the human body is unable to synthesise them from the breakdown of other amino acids and, for this reason, these nine amino acids have to be consumed in the diet. Complete protein sources such as meat and eggs contain all nine of the essential amino acids but other sources (e.g. soy beans) may be limited by one or more particular essential amino acids. This is where complementary protein pairing - combining in meals foods that have different limiting amino acids - and the tutorial exercise came in: plan a vegan diet for one day using data on limiting amino acids provided for certain foods.
It was with great pride and confidence that I suggested "tofu quiche" as part of my dinner menu, which was something that had featured on mine not two days beforehand. Unfortunately there was some other girl who completely outdid me by conjuring up a ridiculously gourmet salad. I must admit that I joined my classmates in inadvertently licking my lips when she read it out of her tute book. Damn her.
I can't for the life of me remember what the salad contained either, which just makes it that much more frustrating. However I'm pretty certain that it contained Brazil nuts because they contain plenty of methionine, the amino acid lacking in soy protein.
Hmm but maybe you could serve her salad with my quiche? The quiche is extremely light so it definitely does need a side dish to make it a complete meal. However, I reckon that if you kept your mouth shut, no-one would ever know it doesn't contain cream, milk, eggs or any of the other traditional quiche ingredients... they won't even be able to tell it's tofu. Promise.
Crustless Tofu Quiche (adapted from Fatfree Vegan)
1 teaspoon minced garlic
½ cup capsicum
1 cup chopped mushrooms
1 green onion
Black pepper to taste
350g firm silken tofu, drained of water
¼ cup plain soy milk
2 Tbsp nutritional yeast
1 Tbsp cornstarch
1 tsp tahini
¼ tsp onion powder
¼ tsp turmeric
½ tsp salt
1. Preheat the oven to 190˚C and prepare a 6” round cake pan or quiche dish (or 12 regular sized muffin cups for mini quiches).
2. Heat some oil in a frypan and sauté the onion over medium heat until just soft. Add the garlic, capsicums and mushrooms and continue to sauté over medium heat until the mushrooms just begin to exude their juices. Stir in black pepper and remove from the heat.
3. Place the remaining ingredients into a food processor and process until completely smooth. Add the tofu mixture to the vegetables and stir to combine. Spoon it into the pan and level out the top (it should come up about half way)
4. Place the pan into the oven and bake for 30minutes or until the tops are golden (I probably got a bit excited with the 'golden' part) and a skewer/knife inserted into the middle comes out clean.
5. Remove the pan from the oven and allow the quiche to cool for about 10 minutes before being a glutton and devouring the whole lot - alone - in one go.
One of the girls who lives in the house at the garden is vegan and some of the conversations I've had with her have been extremely stimulating, forcing me to think about my own family's food intake. Documents such as the Australian Guide to Healthy Eating are great reference points but I think that eventually, we all have to become aware of what it is that our body needs and eat accordingly. Personally, I don't think I could ever be vegan because I love my eggs, fish and poultry and they contribute to my satiety levels - something that I know that non-animal proteins can't do most of the time.
I suppose it's all part of the journey of growing, preparing, eating and appreciating food, as well as the people we eat it with. On that note, I’ll finish up with a quote from Greek philosopher Epicurus. I happened across it in a magazine the other day and thought it was quite beautiful, as well as fitting for what my family tries to practice:
“We should look for someone to eat and drink with before looking for something to eat and drink, for dining alone is leading the life of a lion or wolf.”