The Really Hungry Burger
I had a little fight with myself over this recipe. Does a veggie burger have a place in modern vegetarian food? Something about veggie burgers feels a bit ‘nut-roast-at-brightly-painted-café-wearing-hemp- trousers’. However, my love of eating these strode forth so here they are. Please be assured that this is not the breaded sweetcorn and mushroom mush excuse that usually shows up between two white buns. This is a hearty health-packed wonder that makes no apology to anyone.
I’ve played around with a lot of recipes before settling on this one, some full of bright herb freshness and grated veg, some packed with protein-rich tofu, and all were good, but what I look for in a burger is a deep moreish flavour, savoury and complex, so this is the one.
I use brown rice here, but any cooked grain you have will do – quinoa, pearl barley and farro all work well.
I like to make a quick pickled cucumber to top these with. Thinly slice a quarter of a cucumber and pop it into a bowl with a pinch of salt, a squeeze of honey and a good tablespoon of white wine vinegar, then scrunch together and leave to sit while you make your burgers. A homemade quick pickle that beats a gherkin any day.
MAKES 8 BURGERS
6 big portobello mushrooms, roughly chopped into little bits
a few sprigs of fresh thyme, leaves picked
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 × 400g tin of white beans, haricot or cannellini, well drained
4 fat medjool dates, pitted
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and finely chopped
a small bunch of fresh parsley, finely chopped
2 tablespoons tahini
2 tablespoons soy sauce or tamari
200g cooked and cooled brown rice (100g raw weight)
50g breadcrumbs or oats
grated zest of 1 unwaxed lemon
1–2 avocados, peeled and sliced tomato relish or ketchup
pickled cucumber (see above)
a few handfuls of spinach leaves
8 seeded burger buns (I use wholemeal ones)
Get a large pan on a medium heat and add a splash of olive oil. Once the pan is good and hot, add the mushrooms and thyme and season with salt and pepper. Fry on a good heat until the mushrooms have dried out and are slightly browned, then set to one side and leave to cool.
Next, drain the white beans and put them into a food processor with the dates, garlic, parsley, tahini and soy sauce. Pulse until you have a smoothish mixture, then transfer to a bowl and add the rice, breadcrumbs, lemon zest and the cooled mushrooms. Mix well, then put into the fridge for 10 minutes or so to firm up.
Once cooled, divide the mixture into 8 portions and shape into 8 patties. Place them on a baking tray lined with baking paper and pop into the fridge until needed. (This can be done the day before – and the burgers freeze well at this point.)
Preheat your oven to 230°C/fan 210°C/gas 8 and bake the burgers for 15 minutes, until nicely brown. If you like cheese on your burger, pop a slice on top a couple of minutes before they come out of the oven.
While your burgers are cooking, get your toppings ready. I go with avocado, tomato relish and the quick cucumber pickle above, plus a few spinach leaves. Hummus, grated carrot and sprouts is another favourite, but feel free to improvise and try it your own way.
Once the burgers are golden, toast your buns and layer up your burgers.
Image: John Dale