Vegan Dobrada (Bean Stew)

Dobrada is the signature dish of Porto, Portugal.  Legend has it that Prince Henry the Navigator took all the meat in town before embarking on a long sea voyage leaving the city leaving only the tripe behind.  The resourceful people of Porto came up with this delicious dish of beans, carrots, spices and tripe.  I love the tripe version and make it as often as I can, but I had an idea to make it vegetarian. 

You will recall that I wrote a blog entry a few months ago about how difficult it is for vegetarians to enjoy Portuguese food.  Our culinary delights are mostly made with meat and fish making it difficult to cater to our vegetarian friends.  During a recent visit to my doctor I was inspired to develop a vegetarian Portuguese dish.  My doctor is a vegetarian and when I told her about my blog and Facebook group she was intrigued.  The only problem is that her dietary needs rendered all the recipes useless.  Not to be deterred she said she was adept at substituting ingredients to make any dish vegetarian and would visit the blog.  I pondered this dilemma on the way home.  There simply wasn’t any wriggle room in the recipes I have on the site.  For instance, you could replace tofu for octopus in my octopus rice, but the main flavor comes from the octopus’s broth itself.  I felt bad because my doctor has successfully treated me for a condition that would otherwise make me an invalide.  I wanted to come up with a dish that she could enjoy without having to make substitutions.  I settled on dobrada because the main flavor comes from the spices and chouriço since the tripe is added at the end and doesn’t really impart much flavor. 

Much like tofu or mushrooms the tripe sucks up the flavor from the cooking liquid.  The only challenge was the chouriço.  I knew that smoked vegetarian sausages existed, but I needed a flavor profile closely matching Portuguese sausage.  That is where our Spanish cousins saved the day.  I Googled vegetarian chorizo since no Portuguese version is available and found soyrizo.  It is made from soybeans and has the spices and smokiness that is a close match to the meat version.  The only drawback is that it doesn’t hold its shape while cooking.  It comes in a clear plastic casing resembling a sausage but when it is removed from its enclosure it crumbles like ground meat.  While it imparts the flavor, you don’t really see it in the finished dish.  So, I used one to make little soyrizo meat balls and gently fried them in olive oil. Iadd it at the end as a sort of garnish.  What you get is a richly flavored bean stew with plenty of meatiness from the mushrooms and soyrizo.  I was really impressed by how closely it resembled the original.  I didn’t really miss the tripe because the mushrooms and tofu really soaked up the flavors in the dish.  The only drawback was that although the soyrizo imparted the right flavor notes it just isn’t the same as biting into the real thing.  This minor detractor is more than overcome by the overall richness and health benefits.  Just like Prince Henry I took away all the meat, including the tripe, and resourcefully came up with a dish that rivals the original.

 

 

Vegan Dobrada (Bean Stew)
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Vegan Dobrada (Bean Stew)

Ingredients

  • 1 lb dried northern beans
  • 4 large cloves of garlic minced
  • 3 onions diced
  • 3 carrots sliced
  • ¼ cup Portuguese olive oil
  • 1 14 oz. can of petite diced tomatoes
  • 1 ½ cup of white wine
  • 2 tablespoons paprika
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • ½ teaspoon back pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon crushed cloves
  • 1 bunch fresh marjoram
  • 1 bunch fresh thyme
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 bunch fresh parsley chopped
  • 2 soyrizo vegetarian sausages casing removed (or other vegetarian smoked sausage)
  • 1 lb shitake mushrooms stemmed and halved
  • 1 package of firm tofu cubed and drained
  • 32 oz. Vegetable Broth
  • Salt to taste

Instructions

  • Soak the beans in about 2 quarts of water overnight. The next day pour the beans and water into a pot and cook them until they are al-dente. Drain but reserve the cooking liquid. Don’t overcook them or else they will fall apart when you add them to the main dish. Cut the tofu into 1 inch cubes then place in a pouch made from cheesecloth and hang it over a bowl to drain while you make the dish. Take one of the soyrizo sausages and remove the casing. After extracting the contents make little meatballs out of it and lay them on a plate lined with wax paper. Gently fry them in a non-stick frying pan with olive oil. Be careful not to burn them or dismantle when turning over. Simply sauté them over low heat until they become lightly browned on both sides. Once cooked place them on a paper toweled lined dish to drain. Mix the paprika, cumin, red pepper flakes, cloves and black pepper and set aside. Take the fresh herbs (minus the parsley) and tie them together with kitchen twine and asset aside.
  • Heat the olive oil in a Dutch oven until almost smoking then add the onions and carrots. Sauté the vegetables for 10 minutes or until the onion begins to turn light brown being careful not to burn it. Add the garlic stirring often for 30 seconds. Add the other sorizo breaking it up as you stir it into the vegetables. Once the soyrizo has been cooked through add the shitake mushrooms and cook until they have given off their moisture. Add the bay leaves and spice mixture and cook until they begin to give off an aroma. Pour in the tomatoes and cook until most of the liquid has evaporated. Add the wine and fresh herb bundle and stir to deglaze the pot. Let the wine evaporate until only about a cup remains. Add the beans, tofu and just enough broth until it covers the beans by 1 inch. If you don’t have enough broth add some of the reserved bean cooking liquid. Bring to a boil, check the dish for salt and add if necessary. Cover and cook over a low flame until the beans are cooked through. During the cooking period check the water level. You are looking for just enough liquid to barely cover the beans. If you need more liquid add the bean cooking liquid. If there is too much liquid, simply remove the lid so that it evaporates. Once the beans are cooked turn off the heat, gently stir in the reserved soyrizo meat balls and let stand for about 10 minutes. Before serving sprinkle the parsley over the food. Serve with butter rice.
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