In Erkki’s kitchen (pesto)

Product development is of course not my task as the export manager but we all need to eat and sometimes even prepare food. I suppose I am some kind of a foodie and I have a keen interest in the whole food value chain. By education I am an Agronomist which funnily means that I have no formal education in food chemistry – it wasn’t included in the curriculum. But as a commercial person I need to understand how our ingredients function in different applications.

We live in the countryside trying to follow an ecological lifestyle and have quite a big garden where we try to homestead following permaculture principles and produce all kind of stuff and even foraging wild food and grow some unusual things like shiitake mushrooms. At the same time it is interesting to use the raw-materials we provide as a business and develop plant based food fitting to our mostly plant based and flexitarian diet.

Is this pesto?

This spring and summer I have been preparing a lot of different kinds of vegan pesto and also shiitake paté.

Winter garlic at Midsummer. Every plant produces a scape which should be cut off.

My pesto production started a couple of years ago because of garlic. I love garlic and grow winter garlic in our garden. It’s a nice crop which you can plant in the winter just before snow comes. Of course it takes a little bit guessing as to when permanent snow finally comes – last winter it didn’t. Anyway normally I plant in November when otherwise there is not much to do in the garden. The garlic gets an early start in the spring and already at midsummer you get the first yield in the form of curly garlic scapes. If you are growing a lot of garlic you get more scapes than you can use in salads etc. The scapes have to be cut off anyway in order to get a good harvest of garlic bulbs. Preparing a garlic pesto is the perfect solution.

Of course you could prepare pesto of almost any greens that you have available (not sure if Italians agree – maybe pesto is supposed to be from basil only?). The first pesto I made this year was wild foraged nettle (actually a weed in our garden) pesto in mid May. A month later I could prepare pesto from Oregano from our garden and that was really delicious. (It reminds me of some herb starters I had in Turkey many years ago.) Now a week later garlic scapes. We don’t grow enough basil yet but that will change next year for sure!

First yield of nettle picked on 19.5.2020

Of course in a real pesto there is basil and parmesan cheese and pine nuts, but in this case I am using none of those (is it still a pesto?). I am replacing the parmesan with our organic brown pea protein concentrate (50.0BP) as emulsifier and the pine nuts with our organic extruded brown pea flour (17.0BP EC). In the following photos you will see how.

Organic Nettle Pesto
300 g fresh nettle (30%)
500 g oil (I used organic Finnish rapeseed oil) (50%)
30 g garlic (cloves - I didn't have scapes yet) (3%)
15 g salt (1,5%)
90 g water (9%)
15 g brown pea protein flour (50.0BP) (1,5%)
50 g extruded brown pea flour (17.0BP EC) (5%)
The nettles I blanch fast in boiling water. In the case of oregano and garlic scapes I just wash them.
Organic Brown Pea Protein flour is where the process starts. Mix 15 g in 90 ml of cold water.
After mixing the flour in cold water bring it to a boil while whipping it. Functionality like foaming and emulsification will be activated by heating. In a kettle it is easiest to prepare with 10-15% of brow pea protein flour. If dosage is higher viscosity becomes very high. In case there is no other heat step in the process (like in pesto) you should continue cooking for 6 minutes so that the pea is fully cooked and does not give off flavour to the product.
The next step is to put the activated pea protein into a blender and while the blender is running, slowly pour the oil in to form an emulsion. After that you can add the other ingredients.
All ingredients have been blended in and the pesto is ready for putting in the jars. This is the garlic pesto.
When I made nettle pesto in May I tested 2 different recipes. The pesto on the right side is with brown pea protein flour only (3%) and on the left side with Extruded Brown Pea Flour only (10%). The amount of protein is roughly the same in both but the emulsification effect quite different. On the right side there is no oil separation (but quite fine homogenous texture) and on the left side quite clear separation (and more crude mouthfeel). The recipe I am proposing above has the aim to just barely emulsify most of the oil but with some separation. The extruded flour gives a nutty taste and mouthfeel. A homemade pesto should look and feel like a homemade pesto.
Demonstrating the texture of the 2 above versions.
Here is the nettle pesto made by the fina recipe. With slices of my shiitake paté on my sourdough spelt bread.
A few jars of garlic scape pesto. In this case I happened to have some fried shiitake at hand which I also blended in. I am pasteurising the jars in a kettle so I can preserve them for some time (too much to eat at once).
Organic Garlic Pesto with Shiitake
650 g fresh garlic scapes (32%)
200 g fried fresh shiitake mushroom (10%)
700 g oil (I used organic rapeseed oil) (35%)
50 g balsamico vinegar (2,5%)
20 g salt (1%)
200 g water (10%)
30 g brown pea protein flour (50.0BP) (1,5%)
200 g extruded brown pea flour (17.0BP EC) (10%)
For garlic lovers! Tomatoes and garlic is a fantastic combination.

Shiitake Paté

Shiitake Paté is an other recipe I have been developing as I happen to have over 1000 shiitake logs in my forest. In this case my aim was to develop something sliceable that I can put of my bread instead of cheese. You already saw the result in the photo a few steps up.

Organic Shiitake Paté
500 g fresh shiitake 
150 g oil
2-3 big onions
40 g garlic (1 big garlic bulb)
250 g water + 50 g Organic Brown Pea Protein flour
75 g water + 100 g Organic Potato Starch
80 g Organic Extruded Brown Pea flour
3 table spoons balsamic vinegar (30 g) 
30 g sauerkraut juice 
15 g salt 
black pepper 

1) Fry the shiitake adding some water on the pan, add oil, onion and garlic (usually shiitake is so dry that water is necessary)
2) Bring protein flour to a bubble in water (same as in pesto recipe)
3) Put shiitake, cooked protein flour, salt, black pepper, vinegar and sauerkraut in blender and blend into a nice texture (not too fine)
4) Mix potato starch into water and add into blender. However let the blend cool down before adding the starch - otherwise your blender will be in trouble. 
5) Put the paté in glass jars and pasteurise in boiling water for 10 minutes. 

Comments: 
- I like garlic
- again the protein flour is the emulsifier so the preparation is the same as with the pesto 
- the purpose of the potato starch is to create the gellified cuttable texture. It will have developed in the jar in 24-48 hours after the pasteurisation. Check at www.organicpotatostarch.com why it works. Other starches (corn starch, tapioca etc) will not give this effect. 
We have about 1500 shiitake logs in our forest. Shiitake cultivation in the traditional Japanese way.
Usually you need to add water on the pan when frying shiitake. You could also use beer, white wine etc.

Yesterday I made some garlic pesto and shiitake paté and still had quite a lot of shiitake left so I had to improvise something. I tossed the fried shiitake in the blender with extruded pea protein flour (50.0BP EC) and extruded pea flour (17.0BP EC), some oil, salt and black pepper. I thought I blended it too fine but actually it turned out good. I made thin patties and fried on the pan.

Vegan shiitake steak.

But why was there no garlic? My wife doesn’t love garlic like I do 🤔 but fortunately I could still spread some garlic pesto on the steak 😊.

We’ll come back to more vegan meat applications later so I am not showing recipes yet. Keep tuned!

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