Prep Time 20'PT20M
Total Time 90'PT90M
Remember when all veggie burgers were either made of beans or were essentially a mushroom masquerading as a burger? So do we. But the renaissance of the burger in recent years has fortunately also spilled over into the vegan and veggie varieties. Cue sophisticated, subtle flavours, generously topped with fresh, flavourful pickles and relishes, but still retaining the messy magic of our favourite fast food treat.
Finding the perfect texture
Perhaps the most common criticism levelled at a veggie burger relates to its texture. If you’re moving over to a more plant-based diet from a meat-eating one, replicating the texture of meat always a bit tricky.
The best veggie and vegan chefs will tell you that the best thing to do is to stop looking at foods as a meat replacement. Instead, appreciate them for their own virtues.
While we wholeheartedly agree with that, we also insist on a toothsome texture for our veggie burgers. And this requires a bit of tinkering.
The bean burger, while it holds a special place in our hearts, was always a touch too soft and squishy to hold up to the burger bun and toppings.
Meanwhile, soy protein versions can turn out a touch on the rubbery side.
The answer? Find the perfect balance of ‘bite’ and flavour. Here, we think we may just have achieved a perfect equilibrium. Green lentils and cooked red rice provide texture and a certain resistance to the bite. Meanwhile, sautéed mushrooms, herbs and spices provide bucketloads of flavour.
Our secret ingredient? Amaranth flour. Not only does it help to bind all the ingredients together, but it brings a pleasant background hum of nuttiness; an added level of subtlety.
The unexpected herb
Back when beef burgers were made of beef (how passé!) there was little room for flavouring. Anything bright, green or fresh-tasting was a persona non grata in the burger kitchen.
However, our veggie burger thrives on the freshness of herbs. For the bass notes in the patty itself, we like to use robust, earthy herbs like thyme (rosemary, of course, is also an option).
At the last moment before cooking, we stir in a handful of fresh dill. While perhaps not the first herb that springs to mind to go in a burger, it imparts such a lovely aromatic freshness and really rounds out the flavour.
We also like to add a couple of fresh dill leaves on top of the burger before the final squishing down of the bun. Not only do the fronds sticking out from below the golden crown of the burger bun look very becoming, they provide that first burst of freshness.
A quick pickle
That herbal freshness is only accentuated by our quick marinated onions, which are bright and flavoursome enough to imply that much effort has been spent on them.
In actual fact, they come together in a snap, and the principle can be applied to plenty of other fresh vegetables. Feeling like a change? Drop the onions and pickle some finely sliced cucumber instead. Or use the same mixture to create a fresh slaw with carrot and raw white cabbage to serve on the side.
If you like things a little sharper, you can also sub in apple cider vinegar for the lemon juice, to give it a more classic ‘pickle’ flavour.
This is one of our absolute favourite kitchen tricks, and it’s almost embarrassingly easy.
Warning: tahini is addictive
In the days before Ottolenghi, tahini was a mysterious ingredient that was impossible to find on the shelves. We knew, vaguely, that it had something to do with hummus.
If you haven’t tried it before, it is a paste made from sesame seeds (sort of the equivalent of peanut butter). It is creamy, nutty, mildly bitter, and extremely addictive.
What’s more, it seems to go fantastically with everything. Mix it with soy sauce and a little water for a delicious dressing for roasted cauliflower or potatoes. Blend with maple syrup and drizzle over sweet potatoes or broccoli. Mix it into dips and dressings.
Once you’ve started down this path, it becomes quite hard to remember how you used to live without tahini.
The combination we’ve used here, of sharp apple cider vinegar, sweet raw honey, spicy mustard and creamy tahini is something of a classic. It hits all those flavour notes and will have you reaching back for second helpings.
The perfect partner
What is salt without pepper? Olive oil without balsamic? A burger without….?
Yep, you guessed it: we love to serve our ultimate mushroom burger with fries. And, in keeping with the ‘surprisingly healthy’ ethos, we suggest going with a classic baked sweet potato fry.
After much experimentation, we can confirm that it is possible to achieve a perfectly crisp sweet potato fry in the oven.
There are two tricks we recommend, in terms of experimentation. The first is a very light dusting of cornflour, which seems to help avoid moisture collecting.
The second is to space out your fries as far as possible on the baking sheet. There is undoubtedly some kind of scientific reason to why this creates a crispy chip. While we’re unfortunately unenlightened as to that reason, we can guarantee that a crisp exterior and a fluffy interior are the happy results.
And, should you have any tahini mayo left over, they make excellent dunkers.Mains