Veggie burgers. Are they really burgers? Yes!
Last Sunday at Weddings at Belle Grove I had the best breakfast ever with The Fry Up Police. I last encountered them at Christina and Mark’s wedding where they cooked breakfast for the hungover masses the morning after the wedding!
Anyway, we were talking burgers here. Especially non-meat burgers. I said I’d share some recipes with The Fry Up Police guys so I thought I’d share them with you too. Now don’t get me wrong. I love a big, juicy, meaty, slightly underdone burger. However I live with a vegetarian, so meaty burgers are definitely treats, eaten on the street (don’t tell my ma I was eating on the street!) or at a Festival.
Here’s a selection of vegan burgers for you to try. I have made and eaten them all, but the photos are someone else’s.
The trick with making burgers is to finely balance the amount of moisture and the seasoning in the mix (too little, and they will fall apart and be bland, too much and you will have a stew instead of a burger!) Only you can judge this, so go with what you are feeling in the bowl and with your instinct for the level of seasoning. Does the mixture feel too dry and crumbly, will it form easily into a burger shape in your hands without falling apart, is it too sticky/tacky? Taste a bit to check the seasoning and if anything over-season in the bowl as the flavours will mellow when cooking. Here’s some top tips.
#toptip1 – Remember that the burgers will ‘firm up’ when you’ve made them, and it helps if you get it just about the right texture, form them into burgers and then put in the fridge to hasten the process of firming up before you cook them.
#toptip2 – When you are ready to cook them, dredge a generous amount of coarse semolina on the work surface and put the burgers onto the semolina, turning them over and round so that they are coated. This forms a lovely even and crispy outer shell which holds the burger together
#toptip3 – Seasoning. Always be generous with your seasoning. The reason why most non-meat burgers you’ve eaten up till now are disappointing, is simply because they are under-seasoned!
#toptip4 – Added bits. Always have added bits – raw onion, avocado, sliced tomato (at room temperature), dill pickles, thick brown sauce, Dijon mustard or that lovely mayo mixed with Dijon mustard….. the list is endless. But you must have bits!
The black bean burger
Black bean burgers could not be simpler – mostly because they have in-built juice! But you don’t want all of it! Drain a tin of black beans into a bowl until all the juice has gone. Finely chop three spring onions and one large clove of garlic (grated), a teaspoon of cumin powder, half a teaspoon of smoked paprika and if you like, a chopped chilli (to your taste), a heavy dash of Tamari (like soy sauce), a good squirt of HP brown sauce or a tablespoon of tamarind paste, a cup of fine breadcrumbs or Matzo meal.
Combine all the ingredients by simply squishing them all together with your hands. Leave some texture in there. There should be sufficient moisture to hold it all together when you form it into burger sized patties (how I hate that word – patties).
When making any bean burger, make sure you rest it before you cook it. You have to make the starch in the beans do the work for you, which is why you squeeze them and break them down a bit. Form the mixture into burgers and leave in the fridge for a couple of hours if you can (or half an hour in the freezer) before shallow frying in hot oil.
The bubble and squeak burger
Who can resist bubble and squeak? Not me! Memories of Monday -wash-days at home with the twin-tub burbling away. Coming home from school at lunch time, steaming kitchen, old heavy frying pan on the stove and the smell of yesterday’s sprouts/greens/potatoes frying up in the pan, slightly blackened at the edges.
This burger is better with left overs than made fresh!
Take equal quantities of cold roast, mashed or boiled potatoes, cold dark greens and/or sprouts, a handful of chopped spring onions, salt, black pepper, just a little chopped chilli, grated garlic and squidge together in a bowl with some seasoning. If it is just a little bit dry (it probably won’t be) add a smidge of plant-based milk or plain yogurt. Keep squidging – again its about releasing those starches that will hold it all together. Check for salt and pepper and remember that all that starch will ‘eat’ the seasoning so if anything, over-season and it will taste milder after they are cooked. into burger sized burgers and do the magic trick again. Rest them in the fridge, then take out, dredge with coarse semolina and fry in hot oil.
Don’t forget the magic of your mum’s bubble and squeak. Make sure you have some charred bits on the outside!
The cauliflower steak burger
This one is in contention for my favourite burger of all time. It is ludicrously simple.
Cut 2cm thick slices from a whole cauliflower.
Add salt and black pepper, a dollop of olive oil and a couple of tablespoons of harissa to a bowl. Drop in the cauliflower and marinade for as long as you like. Then put a shallow roasting pan, lined with baking paper, into a hot (200C) oven for 10 minutes. Then sprinkle olive oil onto the paper and lay the cauliflower steaks on top. Roast in this hot oven for 25 minutes then turn the steaks over and roast for another 10. Now, you can either pile into a bun with salad, roasted juicy onions and pine-nuts, or allow to cool then freeze.
The chestnut and rice burger
Yup. Chestnut and rice. It’s another of my favourites.
Take one packet of cooked vacuum-packed chestnuts and half a packet of ready cooked wholemeal rice and half a pack of tofu (well drained). First, put your tofu onto a plate with three or four pieces of kitchen towel underneath and on top. Press down with the heel of your hand to release as much liquid as you can and pour away the liquid. Finely chop a couple of spring onions, put all the ingredients into a bowl and – yes, you got it! – squidge. Break up the chestnuts, combine with the rice and the tofu. Add a good squeeze of tomato puree, the grated zest of half a lemon, salt and pepper, some chopped fresh parsley or coriander and combine into burger shapes. As usual, rest in the fridge, then dredge with semolina and cook in the pan or roast them in a hot oven until crispy.
You get the idea. Burgers can be made of anything. So get experimenting! And don’t forget the bits!