If you asked me what I miss about meat you would receive a very long and convoluted answer. It’s quite likely that the explanation would leave you more baffled than you were to begin with. I have the unfortunate tendency to take after my mother and provide long-winded stories that leave the listener looking slightly vacant with a dazed expression and glazed over eyes. Most of the time this ‘habit’ is because I want to completely clarify a point, yet in doing so I provide far too much, and often irrelevant, information. This post is an attempt to practice ‘taming’ this deplorable trait.
Here are three things you should know about meat and I. Fact number one: I very rarely miss meat. Fact number two: Often it isn’t the meat itself that I miss but certain components that usually accompany it – grease, protein and pastry/bread. Fact number three: It’s the memories attached to particular meat dishes that are most enticing, not the food itself. Ninety-nine percent of the time fact number one overrides the other two – why would I want to eat meat when there is an infinite number of tasty and nutritional vegetarian meals to savour instead? I won’t delve into why I’m vegetarian here – that’s when my long-windedness is at it’s very worst! However, on the occasion that facts two and three conglomerate they become a difficult force to contend with. Take a sausage in a bun or basic hamburger. The combination of greasy meat, soft squishy (and often sugary) white bun and lashings of tomato sauce was a highlight of numerous primary school sporting events. Even after following a meat-free diet for two years I find it particularly hard to walk past a sausage sizzle and not pine after one. The little kid inside me starts chanting “must have one, must have one”, and that can be hard to compete with.
The best thing to do in these scenarios is to make a pledge to cook a vegetarian equivalent in the near future. I have experimented with a variety of patties/sausages/burgers over the last few years. Anyone who believes there are limited vegetarian alternatives is wrong. There are plenty. Lentils, chickpeas, soybean, tofu, sweet potato…you name it and it’s probably exists in some form of patty. I stumbled over this particular recipe a few months ago and it shot to the top of my ‘meat craving fix’ list. The chickpeas satisfy the need for protein and the mushrooms provide that ‘meaty’ texture. Whack in a load of spices and you have one super tasty patty. It works well with all the standard fixings, but particularly avocado. You must have avocado with it. It’s really not an option. (Any meal that contains avocado is a winner for me). The bread on the other hand is optional (the patty would taste just fine with a simple side salad), however as a child it was always my favourite part so I tend to assemble a burger. The only difference now is that I’ve moved on from those awful commercial burger buns. Ick. That’s one food preference that has thankfully kicked the bucket with time. Hopefully I can do the same with my tendency to be long-winded.
Fragrant Chickpea & Mushroom Burgers
Makes 5 meal sized patties.
1 tbsp olive oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
¼ tsp paprika
Pinch dried chilli flakes (alter according to your preferred ‘spice factor’!)
1 small stalk lemon grass, finely chopped or blitzed in a food processor
200g mushrooms, preferably a strong flavoured type (I used Portobello), finely chopped
Juice of 1 lime
400g can chickpeas, rinsed, drained and blitzed in the food process until crumbled
2 slices bread (crusts & all) blitzed in a food processor/blender to form rough breadcrumbs.
Few drops Tabasco sauce
Big handful coriander leaves, finely chopped
Rice flour for coating
Sunflower or rice bran oil for frying
Buns/sourdough bread/Turkish bread/focaccia – pretty much anything you fancy
Avocado or guacamole
Thinly sliced tomato
Baby spinach leaves (or lettuce)
Thinly sliced red onion or gently fried brown onion
Heat the olive oil in a 20cm frypan (or similar sized) over a medium to low heat. Slap in the onion and cook gently for three minutes or until beginning to soften (but not colour). Add the garlic and cook for two minutes. Throw in the cumin, coriander, chilli flakes, paprika and lemongrass. Cook for three minutes, stirring regularly, or until fragrant.
Add the lime juice and the mushrooms and cook for approximately eight minutes or until most of the juices from the mushrooms have evaporated. Stir at regular intervals. Transfer to a large bowl and leave to cool for ten minutes or so.
Add the chickpeas, breadcrumbs, chopped coriander and Tabasco. Season well with salt and pepper. Stir with a fork until thoroughly combined.
Dip hands in rice flour and take a large handful of the mixture (about 1/3 cup) and gently shape into a thick patty. Dust with rice flour, then carefully flip over (it will be fragile) in your hands and dust the other side. Place on a large plate. Repeat the process until all of the mixture is used. Refrigerate for at least fifteen minutes to firm up a bit.
Heat a tablespoon or two of oil in a large fry pan over a medium to high heat. Fry the patties for 3-4 minutes each side until well browned and cooked through. You may need to reduce the heat halfway through cooking so that they don’t burn.
Serve however you like – as a traditional burger, in a pita, wrap or with a salad!
Source: Adapted from Sam Stern’s Get Cooking