Ingredients: Match Vegan Pork, breadcrumbs, egg, feta, shallot, radish, green bell pepper, red bell pepper, tomato paste, fennel seed, sage.
Served with: green peas, carrots, fusilli pasta.
I am really pleased with how this dish turned out. My thought after taking a taste was, “this deserves a blog.” So here we are!
It began as a challenge: how do I use up this package of Match Vegan Pork and make it actually taste good? Earlier in the week, I defrosted the package and used half of it to whip up a recipe I found on the Match site for German-style pork schnitzel. What a failure. The recipe called for mustard and chopped pickles to be mixed into the patties, which I doubted but found intriguing. It was too sweet and didn’t make sense in my mouth. The larger problem, however, was that the Match Pork itself had a terrible soy protein aftertaste. For the record, Match chicken and beef don’t have this problem, but hell if I’m going to toss it in the garbage. I like a challenge anyway. It’s one of the most satisfying aspects to cooking vegetarian meals.
My first idea was to bake some meatballs and then slather them with hickory barbecue sauce. The bottle of sauce I have in the fridge is surprisingly tasty and, more importantly, aggressive. My strategy here was to present something so strong that no other taste could coexist.
As I began to prep for the meal, though, another idea occurred to me. Rather than overpower the aftertaste, could I “mask” it instead? I could pick a similar (but pleasant) flavor and fool my tastebuds into thinking that nothing’s wrong. This way I could also use subtleties like fennel and sage, which wouldn’t be worthwhile behind a barrage of barbecue sauce. To that end, I decided to blend in some soft feta. It worked perfectly. I couldn’t taste the cheese OR the soy protein.
What I did taste was the classic combination of onion, bell pepper, and sweet Italian sausage. Man, so good. The fennel seeds are key. They taste like licorice on their own, which may not seem logical for a savory dish, but they make sense in context. Sage I like too, but it was probably overkill here. It works best in breakfast sausage and Thanksgiving stuffing.
I included the chopped radishes for texture, but that was rather stupid. They just softened like potato bits. Frankly, I forgot they were even in there, so it wasn’t a big deal.
I served the meatballs with plain buttered fusilli, green peas, and carrots. There was more than enough flavor to go around.