In my pre-vegetarian, pre-FODMAP days, I was particularly partial to a good mince bolognese. So much so that I was always willing to be the person to painstakingly crush the mince into little pieces. I couldn’t allow someone else to cook/ruin my beloved mince, the only form of meat I would eat. These days, however, crushing mince is a thing of the past. Because, my friends, this FODMAP friendly bolognese is vegan, and it’s made with tofu.
Before you say ‘don’t tell me tofu is a decent replacement for mince’ – allow me to explain your newest tofu trick. Freezing tofu. Freezing tofu dramatically alters the texture of the tofu when you allow it to drain. No longer is it a solid block, but more of a textural, crumbly form of protein. Somewhat like, I dunno, mince.
This FODMAP friendly bolognese is very easy to make, provided you have remembered to freeze the tofu, and subsequently thaw it. After that, the process of making the mince is as straightforward as it would be with any other mince. Caramelise the fennel, deglaze the pan, add the tofu and tomatoes, and cook. A simple, easy, gluten free, FODMAP friendly and vegan weeknight dinner.
FODMAP FRIENDLY BOLOGNESE: NOTES
Firstly, you need to ensure that the tofu you are freezing is firm tofu. No silken (which is not FODMAP friendly) and no semi firm. The firmest you can find. I haven’t frozen the former varieties, but I can’t imagine it would transform their texture in the same way firm tofu is transformed.
Secondly, freezing the tofu is a step not to be missed. You can tear apart regular tofu to the best of your ability, but the texture won’t quite be the same, and it will also have a much higher water content than frozen and defrosted tofu.
Fennel is used in place of the onion, to replace the texture that onion generally provides, and to provide flavour. Fennel is considered FODMAP friendly in 1/2 cup (or 48g) servings. Because only one fennel bulb is used, this is totally acceptable.
Onto the Worcestershire sauce. A quick google informs me that it is not vegan and it contains garlic. I have a bottle that I bought from a health food store by a brand called Melrose Organics which is nice, but does contain applesauce and molasses. So, I’ve gone ahead and made a quick lil homemade vegan version for you. Find the recipe here.
In terms of all the other ingredients, it’s smooth sailing. None of them should be a bother, although make sure you use gluten free Tamari and gluten free pasta, if you need to.
FREEZING TOFU: A QUICK HOW-TO
I’ve discussed a little bit about making crispy tofu before. My research for writing that article was catalyst to me discovering the method of freezing tofu. Freezing tofu, the internet tells us, rids it of excess moisture and changes it’s structure, so it basically becomes meat like. It is textural, chewy, and perfect for mince. In addition, it is better able to absorb flavours, because of it’s lower water content. A win win.
A lot of websites will tell you to unpack the tofu, blot it, slice and it and then freeze it. Which is obviously an efficient way to do things. However, I find shredding tofu a lot easier when I can simply pull apart a block with my hands, so I freeze mine whole.
I have tested a number of different methods of defrosting the tofu. Firstly, I let it sit in a sieve. Secondly, I put in a saucepan over a low heat, and tipped the moisture out in regular-ish intervals. Thirdly, I boiled it in super salty water, which is supposed to help flavour it and make it crispy. I also refroze some torn up tofu because I ran out of time, so there’s another option.
All of the above worked, but I don’t think I would boil it in salty water again. It seemed to defeat the purpose of freezing it to expel moisture. As for the superior texture, I think I preferred the double freeze, but it’s a lot of faff for the sake of chewy tofu mince.
CHEWY TOFU: THE TIMELINE
- The night before: put the tofu in the freezer. It can be whole or sliced, and it can be drained or not drained.
- The next morning: remove the tofu from the freezer and allow to thaw. You can leave it in a sieve over the sink or put it in the fridge. If you put it in the fridge, you can cook it over a low heat to expel the remaining moisture when you’re ready to use it.
- To cook, simply use as you would regular mince. You can be even more relaxed with it, because tofu can be eaten raw.
FODMAP Friendly Vegan Bolognese
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 fennel bulb (or 2 medium carrots for a lower FODMAP option) reasonably finely chopped
- 4 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce (see intro)
- 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- 1-2 tablespoons tamari
- 1 tablespoon miso paste make sure it’s gluten free
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste make sure it’s not flavoured
- 1/2 cup red wine you could probably substitute water, although the sauce won’t be as rich
- Generous freshly cracked pepper
- 2 tins (800g) unflavoured tinned tomatoes
- 250-400 g Frozen tofu depending how ‘meaty’ you like your sauce
- 1/2 teaspoon allspice optional
- Add the olive oil to a large heavy bottomed saucepan over a medium heat. Once warmed, add the chopped fennel, and cook for about 15 minutes, or until it begins to shrivel and is starting to brown.
- Add the Worcestershire sauce, balsamic vinegar and Tamari, and stir to combine. Once the liquid volume has decreased, add the tomato paste and miso paste, and stir to combine.
- Add the red wine to the pan, and stir well, collecting all the little browned bits at the bottom.
- 4.Next, add the tinned tomatoes, and stir thoroughly. Season with generous freshly cracked pepper, and follow with the tofu and allspice.
- Adjust the seasonings if necessary, and continue cooking for 10-15 minutes, until the tofu takes on some of the redness of the sauce, and looks like mince. You can add a bit of water to thin the sauce out, if necessary.
- You can serve as is, or on a bowl of gluten free pasta. To keep it vegan, sprinkle nutritional yeast or vegan parmesan on top. Personally, I like mine with some freshly grated dairy parmesan.