I love a substantial, moist, and bursting-with-flavour vegetable/bean patty, topped with a zingy sauce or two, sandwiched in a soft wholegrain burger bun, and nestled on fresh, crispy salad greens, tomatoes and red onions. Veggie burgers have really grown in popularity and it’s wonderful to see how creative home and professional cooks have become in their efforts to craft a tasty veggie burger. The best one I’ve had was at the Gourmet Burger Kitchen in London, at the Belsize Park branch (in case you were wondering); it was a Goat’s Cheese and Aubergine stack accented with the sharpness of rocket leaves and the sweetness of a fruity relish that pleased me tremendously. It’s not something that I can replicate for the cookbook or the blog because it wouldn’t qualify as healthy, Indian, or even ‘Indian with a twist’ and I wouldn’t really want to mess around with the flavours – they work wonderfully as they are. I look forward to enjoying it again when I return to London.
Veggie burgers range from patties made entirely from some form of soy protein (in most cases a poor imitation of their beef/lamb counterparts) to ones made mostly from vegetables/beans/lentils, nuts, brown rice, herbs and spices – and various combinations in between. The ones masquerading as meat burgers are my least favourite, closely followed by the portabella mushroom burgers which usually consist of a giant and rather flavourless mushroom smothered in melted cheese and a mayonnaise based relish – really lacking in flavour, texture and imagination and, thankfully, not as widespread on restaurant menus anymore. I don’t mind some soy protein in my burgers as long as there are lots of other vegetables and legumes – it is a veggie burger after all! In India, the most popular form of veggie burger consists of a potato cutlet (alu tikki) with a couple of chutneys and ketchup in a white bread roll or burger bun. My favourite, for cooking at home, are bean burgers, chock full of veggies, herbs, spices, lemon, garlic and other flavourings. A challenge with veggie burgers is binding them properly so that they don’t fall apart while you’re cooking them. To this end, you can use eggs, flour, or breadcrumbs. Another challenge is keeping them moist. I have found that a generous amount of finely chopped vegetables, especially onions, carrots and mushrooms, help to prevent veggie burgers from drying out.
This veggie burger recipe is inspired by falafels and daal bhajias. Falafels are Middle-Eastern deep-fried chickpea patties/balls and daal bhajias are an Indian version of the same, made with a combination of lentils. I love falafels and worked on a recipe for months before I came up with a really good one – I won’t be sharing it here because there are some things I just have to keep secret. I have never attempted to make daal bhajias but I have a good idea of what goes in them. I’ve blended flavours from both recipes and dispensed with the deep-frying in favour of grilling to come up with a very tasty chickpea patty. Instead of chickpeas, you can use butter beans or other white beans, black beans and even kidney beans. A food processor will be very handy for this recipe, but you should still be able to manage with a good potato masher. This was a very delicious and healthy veggie burger!
Preparation Time: 20-25 minutes + 15 minutes chilling time
Cooking Time: On the hob: 8-10 minutes; Oven grilled: 15-20 minutes
2 cans organic chickpeas, drained and rinsed – drained weight 500g
1 small onion (75g), quartered
1 small carrot (75g), scrubbed/peeled and grated
3-4 cloves garlic
1½ tablespoons roughly chopped fresh coriander
1½ tablespoons roughly chopped fresh parsley
4 teaspoons raisins (30g)
Juice of a lemon
50g chickpea/gram flour or whole wheat flour plus extra for shaping the patties and dusting
1½ teaspoons cumin seeds, roasted and crushed
1½ teaspoons coriander seeds, roasted and crushed
½ teaspoon cinnamon powder
½ teaspoon turmeric powder
1 teaspoon chilli flakes
2½ tablespoons sunflower/olive oil
Place the chick peas in the food processor and pulse a few times to get the blade moving before letting it work for a few minutes so that the chick peas are very finely chopped but not quite a paste – you should be able to shape it into a patty. You may have to stop the machine to scrape the mixture down from the sides of the bowl a few times. If you have a slightly dull blade, you will find this tough going and may have to add a splash or two of oil to help the process – that’s fine. If you don’t have a food processor, crush the chickpeas with a good potato masher.
When the chick peas have been suitably chopped, scrape them into a large bowl. Put the food processor bowl back on the machine and add the onions, garlic cloves, coriander, parsley, raisins, cumin, coriander, cinnamon, turmeric and chilli flakes. Pulse this mixture a few times so that it is well blended and finely chopped, but again, not pureed. Add this mixture to the chickpeas.
Add the grated carrot, lemon juice and salt/pepper. Taste and adjust to your liking before sifting the flour in. Mix it all together well with a spoon/your hands and then chill in the refrigerator for 15 minutes – it will be easier to shape the patties this way.
If you are going to oven grill them, preheat the grill to medium, line a baking tray with baking parchment/greaseproof paper and brush well with some of the oil. You should be able to form 6 patties, about 4-5cm in width and 1 cm high. If the mixture is still a little sticky, pat your hands with some flour while shaping them.
In order to oven grill them, place them on the baking tray and under the grill, brushing the tops of the patties with oil. Turn them over after 8 minutes and let them cook for another 8 minutes and become light brown and crispy on the outside. Remember, the chickpeas are already cooked so these patties don’t need much time. If you want extra browning, turn the grill to high towards the end of the cooking time and give them another 5 minutes.
If you prefer to do them on the hob, heat a frying pan on medium heat and pour in a teaspoon or two of oil at time. Slowly cook the patties in batches, turning over from time to time until they are browned and crispy on the outside. This should take about 10 minutes.
I tried both methods and actually preferred cooking them on the hob in a pan. They took less time and browned very nicely indeed. The patties held together very well using both methods and stayed soft on the inside.
Enjoy them in burgers buns or on their own with a salad if you are avoiding bread for any reason. I would recommend Tahini dressing/Tzatziki/Raita (a google search will bring up lots of quick and easy recipes for these) and a chilli tomato sauce to go with these delicious patties.
Per serving(patty only): Calories 251, Protein 9g, Carbohydrate 37g, Sugars 9g, Fat 9g, Saturates 1g, Fibre 9g. A good source of Dietary Fiber, Vitamin A, Folate and Manganese.
Edit 06/12/2011: On making these again, I reduced the amount of flour, increased the amount of raisins and slightly changed the method, chilling the mixture before shaping them because this was much easier.
I made some Red Cabbage and Apple Slaw and a Fresh Chilli Tomato Chutney for these burgers – so easy and so good! Here are the recipes:
Red Cabbage and Apple Slaw, Serves 6
Half of a red cabbage (230g), grated
1 small apple (150g), grated
4 tablespoons chopped chives
120g low-fat Greek Yogurt or coconut yogurt for vegans
1-2 cloves garlic
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
In a small blender/processor, blend the yogurt, garlic, vinegar and oil. Taste and add salt and pepper to your liking. It should be quite tart/sour.
Transfer this yogurt dressing to a bowl and add the grated cabbage, grated apple and chopped chives. (I didn’t have any celery to hand but would have added some if I did). Taste and adjust seasoning. Store in the refrigerator.
Per serving: Calories 61, Protein 2g, Carbohydrate 8g, Sugars 6g, Fat 3g, Saturates 1g, Fibre 1g. A good source of Vitamin A and Manganese, and a very good source of Vitamin C and Vitamin K.
Fresh Chilli Tomato Chutney, Serves 6-8
2 medium tomatoes (250g), peeled*
1-2 small red chillies, seeds removed if your prefer less heat (I keep them in)
A few sprigs of coriander
2 cloves garlic
Juice of 1 lime
¾ teaspoon soft brown sugar or coconut sugar
½ teaspoon fine sea salt
*Cut a cross in the skin at the base of the tomatoes, and pour boiling water over them until they are submerged. Leave them for at least 5 minutes. Drain the water and then peel the skin off from the base of the tomato, which should come off easily.
Blend all the ingredients together well (more smooth, less chunky)for the most delicious fresh tomato chutney! I always have some in the fridge and eat it with almost everything!
Per serving (for 6): Calories 15, Protein 1g, Carbohydrate 4g, Sugars 2g, Fat 0g, Saturates 0g, Fibre 1g. A good source of Dietary Fiber, Vitamin E (Alpha Tocopherol), Thiamin, Niacin, Folate, Magnesium, Phosphorus and Copper, and a very good source of Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin K, Vitamin B6, Potassium and Manganese.