O comfort food, comfort food, where art thou, comfort food? HERE you are! Mmmm. A big stodgy pile of spaghetti with 'meaty' vegan beanballs is just what the carb doctor ordered for these still-chilly nights. And a glass of cheap plonk will wash it down perfectly, too.
I find aduki beans are one of the best types to create vegan versions of traditional 'meaty' type dishes which used to involve ground up animal flesh - meatballs, meatloaf, cottage pie and so on. These beans have a great, chewy texture and deep flavour, and hold well in recipes where they are minced and then reformed. They are also highly nutritious and protein-dense, too! In this recipe, the wheat gluten flour helps give an additional 'meaty' texture.
The beanballs, or vegan 'meatballs' (whatever you wish to call them!) are really easy to actually make. The main time involved is waiting for the beans to soak and then cook, but it's not like you have to do anything while they're doing that. You just need to be prepared by soaking the beans the night before, or in the morning before you go to work, to cook when you come home.
After the beanball mixture has been made, which is mostly done with the aid of a food processor, the formed balls are baked in the oven and then turned out onto your spaghetti, with some sauce ladled on top. Yummy! It's a meal you can really get your teeth into, and is very satisfying.
What's more, you can get away with using a ready-made tomato sauce, if you so desire, as I have done here. My local Aldi have vegan and gluten free tomato pasta sauces for only 75p a jar, so it seems rude not to take advantage of them on occasion.
I do of course love my own, home-made marinara sauce also, and it's not rocket science to whizz one up, but I like to show vegan cooking can be quick and convenient, as well (and yeah, I have my lazy moments, like everyone else).
Baked Aduki Beanballs with Spaghetti & Sauce
Serves 4 (16 balls)
1 cup (dry) aduki beans (need overnight soaking)
1 medium onion, chopped
¼ cup oat bran
¼ cup wheat gluten flour
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons tomato purée
2 tablespoons Henderson's Relish or vegan Worcestershire Sauce
2 tablespoons water or vegetable broth
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon sage
1 teaspoon sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Approx 100-125g spaghetti per person
500g / 18oz jar tomato pasta sauce (or your own recipe)
1. Cook your aduki beans that have been soaking overnight by placing in a large pan of water, bringing to the boil then turning down to a rumbling simmer, for about 45-55 minutes. When cooked, drain and leave to cool.
2. Preheat the oven to 200 C / 390 F. In a frying pan, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil and sauté the onion for about 5 minutes on a low-medium heat until softened. Add the garlic and cook for 1-2 minutes more. Turn off the heat and transfer the onions and garlic to a food processor.
3. In the food processor, add the drained aduki beans, 1 tablespoon olive oil, thyme, sage, salt, some black pepper, tomato purée and the Henderson's Relish (or vegan Worcestershire sauce). Blend until the beans are mostly processed, then add the gluten flour, oat bran and water or vegetable broth. You will need to turn off your processor and mix/scrape down with a spatula occasionally.
4. Once the beanball mixture has been fully processed, divide and form into 16 balls, approximately golf-ball size. Lay the balls onto a baking sheet and place in the pre-heated oven on the top shelf. After about 10 minutes of cooking, turn the balls over, and cook further for another 10 minutes (so 20 minutes in all).
5. While the balls are cooking (with about 15 minutes to go), cook your spaghetti as per the instructions on the packet, and drain when ready. Heat your pasta sauce in pan. Remove the beanballs from the oven.
6. Dish the spaghetti onto plates. Take each beanball, drop into the pan of tomato sauce to cover with sauce, then ladle 4 per person onto the top of spaghetti on each plate. Serve whatever remaining sauce there is onto the top. Enjoy with a green salad!