With my enormous box of Flemington produce I set about making the most of having fresh vegetables and thought long and hard about what I'd like to do with them. One of my favourite things is to do a blindfold taste test. I'm not daft enough to discount the visual appeal of a nicely presented dish but I like the idea of the taste being the primary focus.
I realise that a lot of people are incorporating more vegetarian food nowadays than their parent's generation ever were by including at least one or two vegetarian meals in their weekly rotation. Be it for the health benefits or the fact that vegetarian food and recipes have improved vastly from the stodge that one used to get 10 or 20 years ago. Indeed, one of the items that I sometimes prefer to the meat version is a vege burger. Beef can taste fine but after reading "My Year of Meat" by Ruth L. Ozeki or watching Fast Food Nation, I was somewhat put off beef burgers. So my next thought was, what about a Vegetarian burger taste test? I would do a version with tofu, a version made of lentils and sweet potato (not as dull as it sounds) and a grilled vegetable burger, a homemade version of one which I enjoyed immensely many years ago at Burgerman. And of course who better than to give me their opinions but my favourite vegetarians, my family in law along with a hardcore meat-loving brother in law to add in his opinion on behalf of meat eaters everywhere.
Turkish bread ready to be baked
You can certainly use bought rolls, Turkish rounds or hamburger buns. But as you know me, you'll know that I love any opportunity to make bread so I made Nigella's Nigellan Flatbreads but with a little more yeast and made them into circles rather than the teardrop shape she had. They tasted wonderful, like soft fresh Turkish bread. And of course I've included the recipe at the bottom should you want to do a little bread baking of your own.
After I made each burger, I cut them up into quarters and fed the sections to each blindfolded person and got them afterwards to rate which one they liked most and why. And of course I served them with golden wedges.
The overwhelming favourite was the Lentil and sweet potato burger, heady with herbs and garlic favoured by 4 out of the 5 testers. Tuuliki commented that it didn't have as strong a taste as the others but the taste was better. One person, A, did taste testing at an advanced level and tried to guess the ingredients which she was mostly successful at and she liked the sweet potato and herbs.
The Asian style tofu burger was described by Tuuliki as "spicy and lovely" but not everyone liked the combination of tomato jam and satay sauce. Perhaps only one would have been better.
The Italian burger was favoured by the Assman followed by the tofu burger as he liked the flavours as he felt that the flavours in the lentil and sweet potato burger were too strong for him.
Lentil and sweet potato burger
(makes 8 burgers)
- 400g can lentils, rinsed, drained
- 3-4 garlic cloves, crushed (or 1-2 if you don't like your good very garlicky)
- 380g sweet potato, coarsely chopped and cooked
- 60g stuffing mix or dried breadcrumbs (I used Tandaco stuffing mix)
- 1/3 cup water
- 2 eggs, lightly whisked
- 2 egg whites
- 1 stalk shallot white and green part chopped
- 1 small bunch fresh coriander
- 1/4 bunch parsley
- 2 teaspoons tahini
- Salt & freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 cup Sunflower and sesame seeds
- 1 1/2 tbs olive oil
- 8 rolls
- Mixed salad leaves
Step 1 - Combine lentils, garlic, sweet potato, breadcrumbs, water, coriander, parsley, tahini, egg and egg whites in a large bowl. Season with salt and pepper. Use your wet hands to shape each portion into an patty-you should get 8 patties in total depending on the size you make. Roll one side in sunflower and sesame seed mix. Cover and refrigerate until ready to be cooked.
Step 2 - Heat 2 tsp of the oil in a large non-stick frying pan over medium-high heat. Cook the patties and cook for 3-4 minutes each side or until brown and cooked through.
Step 4 - Split rolls in half and spread a little aioli on bottom half. Add patty and then top with salad.
Asian Tofu burger
(makes 4-5 burgers)
- 1x 600g block of hard/firm tofu, cut into 4 or 5 slices
- curry powder for marinade
- 1 tablespoon of oil for panfrying
- 2 brown onions sliced into rings
- sage leaves
- mixed salad leaves
- satay sauce
- 5 bread rolls
Step 1 - Marinate tofu slices with 1/2 teaspoon of curry powder between each slice for 2 hours if you have time.
Step 2 - Fry onion rings with sage leaves until caramelised
Step 3 - Fry tofu slices for 2 minutes each side until curry powder is cooked and browned slightly.
Step 4 - Spread bread with tomato jam or satay sauce, add tofu slice, caramelised onion and mixed salad leaves.
Italian grilled vegetable burger
(makes 4 burgers)
- Fat eggplant cut into even thick slices (this will be the "meat")
- 4 slices Roasted capsicum in a jar or made fresh
- 4 large, fat slices Grilled eggplant
- 100g rocket
- 4 tablespoons of basil pesto
- 4 bread rolls
Step 1 - Spread the bottom half of a split bun with basil pesto and then top with grilled eggplant slice, 1 slice of roasted capsicum, 1 slice of grilled eggplant and rocket.
(makes 6-8 rounds)
- 500g strong white bread flour
- 2 tablespoons instant yeast
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 2 tablespoons yogurt
- 2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for greasing
- 1 egg beaten
- 1 teaspoon water
- 1 teaspoon yogurt
- 2 tablespoons of Nigella or sesame seeds for sprinkling
Step 1 - Combine the flour, yeast and salt into a large bowl and make a well. Dollop the yogurt and oil into a measuring jug and add warm water to come up to the 350ml mark. Give a quick beat with a fork to combine, then pour this liquid into the dry ingredients and mix with your hands or a wooden spoon, adding more liquid as needed, to form a firm but soft dough.
Step 2 - Turn out onto a floured surface (or set your mixer and dough hook to work on the lowest setting) and start kneading. Add more flour as needed until you've got a smooth, supple and elastic dough. Form the dough into a ball, grease a bowl and turn the dough in it so it's lightly oiled all over. Cover the bowl with clingfilm and leave to rise for about an hour or so, until doubled in size.
Step 3 - Punch the dough down, then leave to rest for 10 minutes. Preheat the oven to 220c/gas mark 7. Divide dough into 6 or 8 pieces depending on the size that you want and shape into round or egg shapes. Place on baking sheets about 3cm apart, cover with tea towels and leave to prove for 20 minutes, until puffy.
Step 4 - Using the blunt size of an ordinary kitchen knife, draw diagonal parallel lines across the loaves about 2 cms apart. Do the same now the other direction so you've got a loose criss-cross.
Step 5 - Beat the egg with the water and yogurt and using a pastry brush. paint this over the breads. Sprinkle on the nigella or sesame seeds and bake in the hot oven for 8-10 mimues. by which time the loaves will be lightly golden and puffed up in places and cooked through.
Step 6 - Remove them from the oven, and drape immediately and for a few minutes with a tea towel so that these small flat breads don't dry up and get too crusty.
Adapted from How To Be A Domestic Goddess by Nigella Lawson