To add a ‘meaty’ flavour to your veggie and vegan dishes, I recommend smoked paprika or pimènton. It is a smoked Spanish red pepper that will add body, richness, warmth and delicate, smoky notes, which complement pulses, tofu and bland cheeses like halloumi or the vegan alternatives. With judicious use of salt, herbs and other flavourings alongside, you can have superbly satisfying meals in both flavour as well as texture. You can buy smoked paprika it in most supermarkets.
As a ‘Meaty’ Rub or Marinade
Halloumi: Cut a family-sized block of halloumi into 4 equal-sized steaks lengthways (the family blocks are bigger so make bigger steaks. If not, you will need 2 slices each of a normal sized block). Toss in plenty of olive or rapeseed oil then sprinkle liberally with smoked paprika on all sides. Then dust all over with za’atar (a Middle Eastern blend of oregano, thyme, sumac and salt available in most supermarkets). Leave to marinate for an hour or more if time. Heat a griddle pan (lightly oiled unless non-stick). When smoking hot, add the cheese and cook for a few minutes each side until striped golden brown. Serve with fries and a Greek salad.
Firm Tofu: Marinate cubes of tofu in the smoked paprika mixture in the same way as halloumi. Thread on skewers and grill until golden on all sides, turning them as necessary. Serve in pittas with shredded lettuce a dollop of hummus, lemon to squeeze over, and a salad.
‘Mock’ smoked salmon: Thinly pare wide strips of celeriac (use a mandolin, or spiraliser on the single blade attachment for best results). Blend equal parts of smoked paprika and salt in a shallow dish with plenty of rapeseed or sunflower oil. Turn the strips to coat completely and leave to marinate in the fridge for several hours or overnight. Drain on kitchen paper and serve with wedges of lemon (good on blinis with either cream cheese or dairy-free alternative too!).
As a ’Meaty’ Flavouring for Tomato-based Dishes
Add a heaped teaspoonful (or to taste) of smoked paprika to any dish containing canned tomatoes, such as chickpea and vegetable stew, lentil or soya ‘Bolognese’, vegetable ‘cassoulet’. You name it, the addition of some smoked paprika will lift it to another level.
In Pasta and Rice Dishes
It can be added towards to end in any rice or pasta dish to add that extra oomph. Check out my books area, you’ll find loads of delicious recipes that use it like my cashew nut paella in The More Veg Cookbook: Over 200 vegetarian recipes for a more plant-based diet
As a ‘Meaty’ Savoury Topping/Garnish
When you want a crispy, savoury topping to a salad dish or, perhaps pasta, you would normally use some crispy, crumbled, fried streaky bacon or pancetta. Instead, heat a little butter or oil in a small frying pan, add some panko breadcrumbs, a generous pinch of salt and plenty of smoked paprika. Toss until fragrant and a rich, deep red colour. Drain on kitchen paper. Use as required.