Sci recently got a slow cooker (aka a crockpot, aka whatever else you call those things). I've been wanting one for ages, it seems like a fabulous way to eat cheap and healthy, not to mention one that is suitable for the academic lifestyle (chuck stuff in the pot, go to lab for 8 hours, and then you HAVE to go home because you left the crockpot on! Not only that, it makes LARGE quantities that a hungry grad student/postdoc can eat off of for a week. Wins all around).
And the first thing I wanted to try? Hot and sour soup. I LOVE hot and sour soup in a way that's almost frightening. It brings back fond memories for me, and is wonderful for chasing away the cold of winter nights. This version is vegan (because I found it in a vegetarian/vegan slow cooker book, is why), and reminds me oh so much of fond memories as a kid. I recommend adding more chili paste than listed if you're used to the real stuff.
You will need:
1/3 cup dried shitake mushrooms
4 oz seitan, cut into thin slivers (seitan is a meat substitute and tastes super good)
6 oz can bamboo shoots, cut into thin strips
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon peeled and minced fresh ginger
4 cups vegetable stock (I use boullion cubes, tastes just fine)
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon Asian chile paste (this is the red stuff in the jar with the rooster on the front. Has a green lid. Be careful because you will start putting it on everything once you realize how great it is)
Salt and pepper
1/2 cup frozen peas
3 tablespoons minced scallions (this is like 1.5 scallions at most)
1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
Soak the dried mushrooms for 20 minutes in hot water to soften them. Drain, cut into thin strips, and add to your slow cooker (this uses 4 quart, mine is a 6 quart and I double the recipe without a problem). Add seitan, bamboo, garlic, ginger, stock, vinegar, soy sauce, and chile paste. Season with the salt and pepper (I do a decent sprinkle of each), and cook on low for 6-8 hours.
Just before serving, stir in your peas, scallion, and sesame oil.
I like to serve mine with a side of brown rice. It's pungent (your apartment will smell GREAT) and the kind of thing that makes you feel like you can COOK!!
I will say: this recipe isn't cheap. It is, however, DELICIOUS, and the food news is that once you've bought things like the chile paste and sesame oil and ginger (though ginger is awfully cheap), you can go a while. The most expensive part is the shitake mushrooms and the seitan. The mushrooms...I'd go to an Asian grocery store for the best price on dried. For the seitan, no helping it, but you can sub in tofu if you like, which is cheaper. The "real" hot and sour soup uses pork.