A story I’ve heard over and over again is that people didn’t like sausages until they went vegetarian; from Tofurky to Field Roast there are so many veggie substitutes available, it might be hard to know where to start. Unless, of course, you’re unable to eat gluten, then you have next to no choices. It took more than a few tries to get these sausages to the right texture, but the flavour was always spot on. Thanks to a stroke of genius by my husband, we now have the right texture and the right flavour. There is definitely nothing like this on the market where I am, so that’s exciting! Keep in mind, this recipe requires a little patience, as the spices and tofu need a chance to get to know each other overnight in the refrigerator, so a little planning needs to take place.
Traditionally these are spiced with fennel seeds, among other things, but I’ve had to make some substitutions to accommodate my husband’s allergies. The result is a mildly spicy, rich sausage with a fantastic bite – fried or not. If you want to pump up the heat, please add cayenne and red pepper flakes to your taste.
Italian Sausage Spice Mix
For two batches
3 star anise pods, slightly crushed
1 1/2 tablespoons sweet paprika
1/2 tablespoon cayenne pepper
1/2 tablespoon dried sage
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon dried savoury
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried tarragon (I use this to replace the fennel)
1/2 teaspoon sweet smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional; though mine were still very mild sausages)
In a mortar and pestle, crush the anise pods until they are mostly broken up. Add the remaining spices and crush until very fragrant. Set aside.
1 lb firm, or extra firm, tofu, crumbled very small
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cracked black pepper
2 tablespoons tamari
2 tablespoons red wine (optional; replace with a little water or stock if you need moisture)
1 small yellow onion, peeled and diced
4 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
1 medium carrot, peeled and shredded
2 inner stalks celery, diced
1/4 cup chopped sun-dried tomatoes or reconstituted dried wild mushroom (this is for extra chewiness)
1 tablespoon guar gum
1/3 cup corn flour (maize flour)
1/2 cup coarse cornmeal (polenta)
3 tablespoons nutritional yeast
1 tablespoon egg replacer mixed into 1/4 cup water
~ 2 tablespoons spice mixture
In a large bowl, squish tofu. I find the best method is to take small pieces of the tofu block and squish them through my fingers. Once the whole block is broken up, redo the process, making sure to get any large chunks. A few small ones leftover will result in realistic white bits scattered throughout the sausages, which is kind of fun. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, tamari and wine and set aside. Prepare the vegetables and add the tofu mixture and toss to combine. Add the sun-dried tomatoes or mushrooms. Add all the dry ingredients and mix together with your hands. It should hold together when you press it; if it doesn’t it needs a tad more liquid. Cover and refrigerate for at least 24 hours.
Makes 10 large sausages
Bring a large pot of water that holds a steamer to a boil. In the meantime, rip off 10 large squares of aluminum foil. Gather a 1/2 cup of tofu mixture and make into a log shape with your hands. Fold the foil over the log, pulling it tightly into a cylinder (amazingly, that’s a sausage shape) while being sure to twist the ends and the foil is very tightly wrapped around the sausage. Place in the steamer and steam for 30 minutes, until the sausages feel firm to the touch. Let them cool completely before you attempt to unwrap them. Chop, slice, bake or fry them. Eat hot or cold. Rejoice.
Look! A true mark of success when not using gluten; you can cut them without having to fry them first: