THE VEGAN EGG
A flax egg is basically 1 tbs of ground flax seeds mixed with 2-3 tbs of water. Left to sit for around 15 minutes, it becomes gloopy and a little egg-like. Ideal for binding vegan baked fare and highly excellent from a nutritional point of view.
The flax seeds should be as well ground as possible, depending on the equipment you have to hand. It is best to use something like a high powered food processor or coffee grinder. We use the later after a good rinse (old coffee grinders smell a little like ashtrays, have you noticed?) We also try to use a pestle and mortar and after lots of elbow grease and caveman grunting; pounding and crushing, we were left with the consistency above. Namely, not very ground up at all. They are hardy little suckers, maybe it’s because they are so full of good things. Even when only semi-bashed, they still work well.
OMEGA 3 POWER!
Flax seeds are full, full, full of healthy Omega 3 fatty acids, one of the highest sources in nature. In fact, flax, chia and hemp seeds contain more Omega 3’s than any type of fish, which may also contain heavy metal contaminants. Recent studies show that baking or cooking these fats is no problem, these amazing polyunsaturated fats will not wilt in the heat.
One of their main uses for the Omega fats in the body is to aid and stimulate metabolism. Omega 3 fatty acids have been shown, in tests (by people wearing white coats clutching clipboards) to help with cumulative conditions such as heart disease, high blood pressure and strokes and can also assist with inflammation and may potentially help with cancer and mental health. None of these ‘white coat’ tests seem conclusive but we can be sure that Omega-3’s (and their sibling linolenic fat, Omega 6) help with the healthy development of brains, eyes and nerves. Other fatty acids in flax seeds give us shiny hair, strong nails and keep our cells firing on all cylinders. Do I need to go on……………….!!!! They’re great!
Omega 3 fatty acids come in different lengths, and without getting too scientific (because I am a cook), the longer the chains (called EPA and DPA), the easier it is for the body to synthesize these glorious fats. Plants provide our bodies with short chain fatty acids (ALA), which can be converted into longer chain fatty acids (with more bonds open for chemical reactions) but the conversion rate depends on whether you are male or female, your age and on your diet. Flax seeds contain roughly 10 times more omega 3 fats per serving than fish, so there is a pretty good chance you will be getting a good dose of the finest EPA’a and DPA’s if you use things like flax eggs, to regularly add flax seeds to foods; cereals, stews, baking, vegan/ veggie burgers, breads and pizza dough etc. Once you make the decision to give up animal products, you are definitely not saying goodbye to our Omega 3 friends.
LIGNANS AND FIBRE
Flax seeds are also by far the highest source of lignans in nature (some say 800 times the amount of their nearest rivals!!!!), which basically translates as a whole bunch of anti-oxidant benefits. In fact, most people think that anti-oxidants rich foods are normally berries and brightly coloured foods, but flax seeds are well up there in the anti-ox states. Not bad for a grass. Flax seeds are almost 70% fat, but will not make you pile on the pounds. These fats are all beneficial to the body and are essential to a healthy, well balanced diet.
Flax is packed with fibre, which helps, especially in baking, when you are adding sugar to the mix. Flax seeds will help to put the brakes on sugar leaping into our systems and creating metabolic havoc and subsequent weight gain. These little seeds actually help to kickstart the metabolism, perfect morning food. Flax seeds are widely used to help the bowels, they are cleansing and maintain ‘regularity’. Especially good for I.B.S., diarrhea and constipation. Try taking a tablespoon of flax seeds before a meal and you may feel fuller, reduce hunger and stimulate your digestive system. Healthy bowels also have the knock on effect of you losing a little weight.
1 tbs of flax seeds contains a similar amount of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and lignans as 30 cups of Broccoli.
Fibre wise, 1 tbs flax seeds = 30 slices of wholewheat bread
Wow! What a thing. See this great site, Healthelicious, for more in depth info.
FLAX OR LIN-SEED? WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE?
There is no difference, its all in a name. Just be aware that boiled linseed oil is best for your shed or garden furniture and not for eating. Things bought in DIY shops are normally not great on the plate! Linseed oil is actually a brilliant wood preservative and perfectly natural, unlike the horribly toxic alternatives (creosote et al). Golden linseeds and flax seeds (a dark reddish brown colour) are very similar things and both can be utilised in the same way.
OTHER VEGAN EGGS (!?)
There are many options out there for vegan egg-subsitutes, most come in packets and plastic wrapping. There are powders you can buy, but I have always found ground flax eggs to do the trick, they are like ‘an egg with benefits’. As I’ve already harped on about, they are proper nutritional powerhouses. Baking recipes with lots of eggs in are normally out of bounds for vegans, but if its something like a quiche or dished with boiled eggs in, tofu or tempeh will make for a perfect substititute. I have used plain silken or firm tofu, blended together with gluten free flours like tapioca, potato or gram, this also works well in cakes and vegan burgers/ sausages. It is always best to blend tofu first, as it may leave chunks in your lovely cake. I have also used mashed sweet potato as a very funky binder.
Vital wheat gluten (or ‘Seitan’ as its called when formed into chunks) is a great addition to breads and burgers. It is basically flour, washed until only the gluten remains. It acts as a string binding agent when added to things like vegan burgers or sausages. It is, of course, highly non-gluten free and I like to enjoy it in moderation.
Chia seeds, when ground and soaked in a similar way to flax seeds, offer a decent gloopy texture and as you may know, wondrous health benefits. Bananas and stewed apples/ fruit can also be used to replace eggs in some recipes, but non of these option offer the ‘fluffiness’ that eggs, especially egg whites can give to baked goods.
Here are some top tips from PETA on egg replacement options:
• 1 egg = 2 Tbsp. potato starch
• 1 egg = 1/4 cup mashed potatoes
• 1 egg = 1/4 cup canned pumpkin or squash
• 1 egg = 1/4 cup puréed prunes
• 1 egg = 2 Tbsp. water + 1 Tbsp. oil + 2 tsp. baking powder
• 1 egg = 1 Tbsp. ground flax seed simmered in 3 Tbsp. water
• 1 egg white = 1 Tbsp. plain agar powder dissolved in 1 Tbsp. water, whipped, chilled, and whipped again
The egg-options mentioned here are a reasonable solution to the vegan baking egg dilemma with the added bonus of being amazing for the heart (and all parts of the body for that matter). See our Juicer Pulp Muffins with Pecans, Fig and Turmeric for flax seed eggs in full effect. It is fascinating what you can do when baking vegan, and although some recipes will be slightly denser than those with eggs, the obvious health and ethical advantages far out weigh the textural differences.