When I look at a veggie burger, I don’t want it to be a meat burger. When meat cooks it has its own unique texture because of certain inherent qualities. Trying to instill that uniqueness on vegetables, grains, and legumes would be denying these ingredients their own uniqueness.
Grains and legumes, when cooked go quite soft. Something like barley or brown rice may retain a bit of a toothsome texture but nothing like the protein fibres in meat. To make a veggie burger its own, one has to look at each ingredient you’re using and draw out as much flavour as possible, all while maintaining the concept of binding it enough to make a patty.
I bound my patty with a pan roasted root vegetable jam that not only served to bind, but added a savoury-sweet element that makes the vegetable component more prominent.
As for spicing it, I was heavy handed with sweet paprika, not only because of my family’s Hungarian heritage, but when you think about paprika itself, it’s a dried pepper. When you reconstitute a dried pepper, it thickens whatever it is added to. In this case, the moisture of the veggie burger is further bound by sweet paprika.
If you want a burger that has a meaty texture, eat meat. I know there’s a loaded political element to recommending people to “just eat meat.” I look at food in a broader scope. How it affects all elements of humanity.
Is a coconut grove that exists because it’s clear-cutting other tropical trees using slave labour better than cows packed together in miserable conditions, but are closer?
Neither are a good option. If I’m eating meat, I look for farmers and ranchers who care about every step of that animal’s life. I think of the work that went into that animal’s life so it can provide a meal for me. But I’m the same way about any vegetable or legume that I eat. The more you know about everything you eat, the more you respect it and the people behind it. That lessens the stress on you, the people around you and the planet itself.
Eating a veggie burger is nice from time to time, not because it’s this grand gesture. I just enjoy barley, lentils and root vegetables and it’s a different way to enjoy them 😉
Lentil Vegetable Burgers
For the Maple Carrot Parsnip Jam:
1/4 cup cold pressed canola oil
2 medium parsnips, peeled and chopped
3 medium carrots, peeled and chopped
1/4 cup maple syrup
In a medium pan over medium high heat, add the oil, parsnips and carrots. Sauté for 5-7 minutes until just starting to get slightly golden along the edges. Reduce heat to medium and continue to sauté, stirring occasionally, for another 7-10 minutes until getting more golden around most of the carrots and parsnips. Reduce heat to medium low, add the maple syrup and stir constantly for a further 4-5 minutes until the consistency is jam-like and most of the excess moisture is absorbed. Transfer to the beaker of a hand blender and purée in pulses to get a chunky jam. Set aside in a large bowl.
For the burgers:
2 cups cooked whole lentils
2 cups cooked barley
Reserved Maple Carrot Parsnip Jam
Zest and juice of 2 lemons
1/4 cup sweet Hungarian paprika
2 Tbsp celery seeds
2 Tbsp caraway seeds
1 Tbsp mustard seeds
5 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
1 Tbsp salt
In the beaker of a hand blender (I find it works better than a regular blender or food processor), pulse half of the cooked lentils and barley with the zest and juice of one of the lemons. Repeat with the remaining lentils, barley and lemon. Transfer to the large bowl with the Maple Carrot Parsnip Jam.
Grind the paprika with the celery seeds, caraway seeds and mustard seeds until a powder is achieved. Add to the large bowl with the lentil mixture. Add the garlic and salt and blend together with your hands. Portion into 1/3 cup patties about 3cm (1-1/4″) thick.
Heat a few tablespoons of oil in a nonstick pan over medium heat. Add a few patties at a time. Cook for 5-7 minutes per side. When ready to flip, keep your fingers on the top of the patty to brace it while you scoop beneath it with the spatula. The texture will be softer and this flips the patty safely. Cook for another 4-6 minutes. Drain on paper towels and serve on a bun with your favourite condiments (I used a garlic mustard), spinach and tomatoes.