Veggie burgers can be rather hit or miss.  I can’t see the point of textured vegetable protein meat substitutes.  The overly processed patties don’t taste anything like meat (which perhaps is a good thing if you are vegetarian) or much else, for that matter.  Getting a fix of protein is important in a vegetarian diet, but that is where beans and lentils come into their element.  I think the best meat-like meat-less burgers are made from black beans.  They’re deep and earthy in flavour and superficially look like beef burgers if crammed into a patty.

Flavoured with cumin, chillies, lime and fresh coriander, they even got panda-in-crimes seal of approval, which is saying something as it was the first veggie burger that he’d ever deigned to try.  Too lazy to soak dried beans and boil them for hours on end, I bought the can of beans with the simplest ingredient listing of: black beans and salt.  Popping one in my mouth, I grimaced and reached for the tin.  Chinese preserved black beans it read.  Sure, they’re fantastic for stir-fries but are impossibly salty for a bean burger.  Oops.  To make amends, I purchased a bag of dried black beans for the same price and no doubt quadruple the quantity, hoping to be converted to cooking them from scratch without a pressure cooker.  True to form, I didn’t measure them out and chucked half the pack into a bowl of water to soak overnight.  Boiled them up the next morning, I conceded that we’d be eating black beans for a week, so we got the BBQ lit and got mashing.  Luckily, cooked beans freeze well.

I topped the patties with a simple tomato salsa, a handful of crunchy tortilla chips, jalapeños and a dollop of sour cream.  Slap a couple of wedges of sweet potato on the grill and a dollop of citrusy guacamole on the side and you’re ready to serve up a tasty meat-free burger that might surprise the most professed of carnivores.

RECIPE:  MEXICAN BLACK BEAN BURGERS

Serves 4

INGREDIENTS:

400g of cooked black beans

Half of a finely chopped onion

Two finely chopped cloves of garlic

The zest of a lime and a squeeze of juice

Two teaspoons of ground cumin

A teaspoon of roasted cumin seeds

A teaspoon of cayenne pepper

A couple of finely chopped jalapeños 

A beaten egg

A handful of chopped coriander leaves

A sprinkling of salt

INSTRUCTIONS:  The first step is to mash the beans.  Use a fork if you want a chunkier texture and a bit of bite, but make sure at least half of the mix is mushy or the burgers will be more prone to falling apart.  For a smoother texture, keep mashing or use a food processor.  Mix in the other ingredients and combine well.   You want quite a firm texture that won’t fall apart when cooked.  The texture of tinned beans is usually mushy enough for a binder of an egg to suffice, as I don’t like adding breadcrumbs, but if you are cooking your own beans make sure that they are soft and are easily squashed between your thumb and forefinger.  Form into flat patties, compressing them well and chill in the fridge for half an hour until ready to griddle. 

Brush the burgers with oil and they’re ready for the BBQ.  You could also fry them in a pan or bake them in a moderate oven for fifteen minutes or until browned, turning over halfway during cooking.  The same goes for the sweet potato wedges.  Grilled avocado, tomato salsa, guacamole, crushed tortilla chips, smoked cheese, more jalapeños and sour cream all make for excellent adornments so load up and enjoy.

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