I am vegetarian. When I was 12 I saw a lorry load of sheep going to what I presumed was certain death. They may of course have been travelling to a bigger, greener field to frolic. Either way I decided sheep crammed into a lorry rattling round on the M5 was not fair. That night I ate the largest plate of meat I’d ever seen, then stopped eating animals.
I don’t disagree with meaty lovers. I love the smell of bloody steak and sizzling pig. I just can’t bring myself to eat them anymore. To me they are not just edible animals, but creatures with families, jobs, hobbies, and names. Humans essentially. Show me anything and I can get my anthropomorphic mojo on. It doesn’t need to be friendly and fluffy either. Slugs munching on my lettuce are on a trip to find a home, the mice that steal my guinea pigs food have families to feed and the ants tapping across my kitchen floor have an old bran flake to transport somewhere important.
I’m 31 now and it hasn’t done me any harm so on I go with my indulgent view on nature. As a chef and wife of a meaty man, I occasionally need to taste sauces and substances that have essence of animal, but it’s always one that has been happy in its living days. And therein lies the problem. There shouldn’t be a choice between well-treated and badly treated animals. Crappy meat isn’t worth eating so just eat less but better quality.
Now, climbing down off my precariously high horse and taking into account life choices are not so easy for lots of people, I’ll get to the fun bit….
I’ve noticed since doing some gentle Twitter stalking of @meatfreeweek and @meatfreemondays there are lots of recipes for veggie burgers. This is because they are awesome! As a vegetarian there is something unendingly satisfying about setting your chops around bready, cheesy, salady, faux meaty textured gubbins: sticky fingers, drippy buns and zippy gherkins. Whether you go for Quorn, gert big mushrooms or a melee of vegetables combined in a fancy fashion, you will experience this ultimate satisfaction. So I’m joining the line of veggie burger revelers and sharing with you one of my favourite ‘wang it together’ recipes. You WILL be happy….
This serves 4 hungry tums making approx. 8 burgers
Can be made gluten free by using Doves Farm rice flour instead of plain. You can also wangle it to be vegan if you leave out the eggs, using a tablespoon or two of tahini instead. Eggs help to bind it and give a pleasing form at the end result but tahini is a winner too.
200g coarsely grated carrot
200g coarsely grated raw beetroot
50g mushrooms, diced smallish
1 clove garlic, chopped finely
1 red onion, diced into small bits
2 large gherkins, diced finely
1 tbsp. sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds
1 tbsp. tomato puree
1 tbsp. horseradish
50g ground nuts (hazelnuts or walnuts is grand)
4 sprigs of fresh dill chopped
100g plain flour
2 eggs, beaten together
WHAT TO DO
Pop the oven on Gas 5/190’c to warm for at least 10 minutes. Once in, the burgers shouldn’t take longer than 15 minutes.
As the oven temp is only there to warm the burgers through, it’s not the end of the world if the oven is fan or gas or electric or what not. If the burgers are set and hot through, jobs done. The main bit happens in the frying pan beforehand.
1) Heat a frying pan with some olive oil and fry off the mushrooms, red onions & garlic. Set aside to cool slightly. You can use this pan again to fry off the burgers later.
2) Cook the quinoa using the packet instructions. Generally this involves putting it in a pan with 1 part quinoa, 2 parts water. Once boiling, turn it to low so it steams itself checking every now and then to see it’s not catching on the bottom. Set aside to cool slightly.
3) Wang the carrot, beetroot, seeds, tomato puree, horseradish, dill, gherkins, nuts, mushroom mix and quinoa in to a big bowl and combine. I tend to use my hands so you get an even distribution of all the yummy bits although this is messy. Otherwise use a fork to combine to avoid clumping.
4) Pour eggs into veg mix and combine then add the flour bit by bit until you can pick up a ball of the mixture and form a ‘patty’ in your hands. It’ll still be a little sticky but you won’t get lumps of stuff left on your hands. Add a bit more flour if you need.
5) Line a baking tray with some foil. Form the burgers. Sprinkle some flour on to a flat plate then gently pop the burgers in the flour, evenly covering them so that they will crisp up nicely in the pan and form a crust, which will prevent them from falling about the place.
6) Heat up a goodly splash of olive oil in your frying pan. Fry in batches depending on the size of your pan until they are nicely coloured on both sides. Try and get some oil around the sides too so it’s crisp all over.
7) Place back on to the baking tray and pop in the middle of the preheated oven. You can check if they are hot through by inserting a knife into the middle of the biggest one and gently testing the temperature of the knife on your forearm. They shouldn’t take long as a lot of heat will have been soaked up when frying.
8) Serve with whatever you fancy really. I cooked it for my friend Emily the other day and it was finished off with goat’s cheese Camembert and fresh tomato and spinach in a seedy bun. Served with sweet potato chips and there you go.