New Zealanders don’t really know what Sloppy Joes are, yet the longer I stay away from the US the more nostalgic I get for childhood comfort foods. Sloppy Joes are something I have been thinking about lately, since spying a tin of Manwich at a grocery shop in Apia. On side note I was strangely confused/comforted by the availability of American junk food in Samoa. I brought home a jar of Goober (the pre-mixed peanut butter & jelly stuff my mom would never buy for me despite pleading for it at the supermarket as a child).
Warwick asked me about the pervasiveness of Sloppy Joes. Do any chain restaurants have them? I said yes, thinking maybe Arby’s does? (He had never heard of Arby’s so assumed it was not actually a well known eating establishment in the States). I’m not sure if Arby’s actually has Sloppy Joes but some chain restaurant must do? It’s common enough yet I don’t think I have ever actually ordered a Sloppy Joe in a restaurant. I only remember eating them at parties and family gatherings. I don’t think it was something my mother ever made either (though maybe my step dad did once or twice?).
Then he advised me that since Sloppy Joes hadn’t filtered down through popular media (TV, film, etc) to New Zealand it must not actually be a wide-spread food. I tried to argue it was and I think soon to become quite popular outside the US as it seems like all somewhat white-trash kitschy American foods are getting claimed by foodies everywhere and becoming gourmet-ified. So here is my gourmet vegetarian Sloppy Joes recipe I came up with, and it was yum (despite Warwick calling it “slop”).
Vegetarian Sloppy Joes with lentils, paneer and TVP
- Boil ½ cup French lentils in veg stock
- Add ½ small TVP (mince or peanut sized chunks) to lentils & stock after 20 minutes.
- Boil for another 5 minutes then strain.
- Add 2 tbs oil to a heavy bottom pot
- Sautee 1 chopped onion
- Add 2 cloves of garlic
- 1 chopped green bell pepper/capsicum
- 1 chili pepper (I used 1 small Thai chilli, then later added chipotle chilli, depends how spicy you like it)
- Add ½ tsp smoked paprika
- 2 tbs tomato paste
- 1 tbs brown sugar
- Sautee 5 minutes more
- Crumble in ½ block of paneer (1 cup crumbled, 2”x2’x4” inches of the block? I get Gopala paneer from the local Indian shop and I love it. You can substitute tofu for paneer for vegan Sloppy Joes)
- Add lentils & TVP
- Add 1 tin tomatoes (whole or chopped)
- Add veg stock to just cover eveyrthing
- Salt & pepper
- 1 tbs chipotle Tabasco (or something similar with a smoky spicy favour)
- Some liquid smoke – depending on the brand I have found this stuff really varies in strength, what I have at the moment (Angel Foods Liquid Hickory) is really strong and I only added a bit (1/4 tsp?). Don’t go crazy with the liquid smoke, you only need a bit or it can take on an overwhelming smokiness.
- Give this all a good stir, cover, and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer with the lid on for 10 or 15 minutes.
- Let this all simmer for about an hour, with the lid off, stirring regularly (and making sure it doesn’t stick on the bottom).
- Sift a few tablespoons of flour into the mix if it’s too wet – it needs to hold together enough to stay on a bun.
- Serve on a nice bun. We topped ours with rocket, and a cabbage/carrot coleslaw.
I really enjoyed the Sloppy Joes, it brought me right back to childhood birthday parties! Warwick ate two so he must have liked them as well.
Sorry it didn’t occur to me at the time to take a photo. I also wonder if it would work as well in a slow cooker… something to try for next time.