Vegan Comfort: Brown Rice Pilaf with Fava Beans, Sauerkraut and Seaweed


I have a feeling this might be macrobiotic in addition to vegan, but I confess to not knowing for sure and I don’t want to make any false claims.

Still, it was warm, soft, and savoury, full of nutrients and deep, earthy umami flavours. Did I also mention it was simple? And a little meditative, as you shell the fava beans one by one to reveal their bright green, creamy interiors. If you can find fresh favas, use them, but these frozen ones were fine.

Brown Rice Pilaf with Fava Beans, Sauerkraut and Seaweed
Serves 4

1 cup uncooked brown rice
1 cup mixed diced celery, carrot and optional onion. If you have the stems of cilantro or parsley, chop them up and use them too
1/2 tsp turmeric
1 bay leaf
3 1/2 cups water (or a mix of vegetable broth and water) + 4 cups water
small handful dried seaweed (not kombu. Wakame or other thin seaweed works well)
2 cups frozen fava beans
2 cups unpasteurized sauerkraut

Wash the brown rice well in cold water, moving the grains around with your hands until the water is cloudy. Drain and repeat at least times, until the water isn’t cloudy anymore. Some brands of rice just don’t get that cloudy, I think because they’re pre-washed. Combine drained rice in a medium saucepan with the celery, carrots, broth or 3 1/2 cups water as well as the turmeric and bay leaf. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer about 30 minutes. Since you want it to be creamy, don’t be afraid to lift the lid and stir it to see how it’s coming along. You may need to add more water as it nears the end. It could take an extra 10 minutes or so to cook. Just make sure it stays at a simmer. When done, remove from the heat, keep covered and reserve until you’re ready to eat. If any of the rice stuck to the bottom of the pot, letting it sit like this will help naturally un-stick it as the liquid spreads evenly throughout the pot.

Heat 4 cups water in a another pot. When boiling add the seaweed. Remove pot from heat but leave covered for about 5 minutes, or until the seaweed is softened and a little slippery. Test a strand and see if it’s soft enough. It shouldn’t be crunchy or overly chewy. Either drain the water through a sieve into a bowl or pot (you want to keep the water to cook the beans) or remove the seaweed with a slotted spoon to a bowl. Cover to keep warm.

Return the pot of seaweed soaking water to high heat to bring back to a boil. When boiling add the fava beans for 1 minute. Their skins should start to crack or puff up. Remove with slotted spoon (don’t drain, because if they’re not done then you’ll need to heat more water) to a strainer and rinse under cold water. This is called blanching. It stops the cooking process and gives the beans that bright green colour. It also locks in a lot more of the nutrients of the bean that would otherwise be destroyed as the bean continues to cook.

When cool, start peeling the fava beans. I serve half of them peeled and place another bunch of the plate to peel as you eat. This stretches out the eating process, helping digestion and making you feel satisfied by the time you’re done.

To serve, take a large scoop of the pilaf and surround it with a scoop of sauerkraut, a scoop of wakame, some shelled fava beans and some unshelled fava beans. I don’t like a dressing on this because the sauerkraut is its own dressing. 1/8 of an avocado combined with the sauerkraut is heaven, though – it tastes buttery and sweet, and works amazingly with the fava beans. Don’t make fun of me until you try it for yourself. the avocado has to be very ripe and creamy for it to work.

P.S. Don’t eat the bay leaf. It’s there for digestion, but you remove it when serving.

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