Monday, 13 May 2013

Better than it initially sounds: Broccoli Burgers

I was a vegetarian once, you know.  One of those clich├ęd teenagers who turns veggie because her friends are.   I somehow overlooked the fact that most of my favourite meals revolved around meat, and instead turned into the world's worst vegetarian.  I thought if I snuck some ham from the fridge and nobody saw, then it didn't count.  Once, as we were driving to the home of an elderly relative for what was going to be an excellent Sunday lunch, Mum, I suspect knowing I was an open door against which she could lean, suggested we didn't tell our host I was a vegetarian as she wouldn't understand and wouldn't be prepared.  As Mum predicted, she got no argument from me and I merrily tucked into roast beef and the best Yorkshire Puddings the world has ever known, and returned to my version of vegetarianism the next day.  It was sausages that got me in the end.  Delicious sausages, wolfed down after a big night out with my cousin, were just about the best things I had ever eaten, and I knew then that the jig was up.

Nowadays I am a committed omnivore, and do my bit by buying happy meat where I can, and local where possible.  I don't know whether the teenage me would be proud or not of the fact that, without thinking about it at all, there are days that easily pass with me following a vegetarian diet.  My interests today would, admittedly, be more about my appetite than anything else, but whenever I pause and think about the effects of campaigns such as Meatless Monday, then that makes me even happier.  

I definitely ate versions of these Broccoli Burgers as a teenage vegetarian, probably by Linda McCartney or in the form of those delicious crispbakes that Marks & Spencer used to do (do they still make those?  I miss them).  I do admit, though, that just the name - Broccoli Burgers - is enough to make even a total Broccoliphile like me do a small inward sneer before I catch myself, have a think about it, and realise that a) I love, love, love broccoli and all the other ingredients in these, b) having these cheesy, moreish burgers in my freezer, ready to be defrosted in the oven or in a frying pan or even for a couple of minutes in the microwave would be a great easy, quick dinner for us, and c) I just need to grow up if I am inwardly laughing at something that even rubbish-veggie teenage me would totally be on board with and adore.  

I managed to take the world's worst photo of these but it was in the middle of another endless bout of packing, and my biggest achievement today was not kicking the packing boxes out of my way in a teenage rage.  Moving in five days.  Luckily I have a stash of these burgers in my freezer to keep me going.

Broccoli Burgers
Recipe sent to me by a friend who has no idea of its provenance; I therefore apologise if I am ripping someone's recipe off.  I'll gladly add the author here.

1 whole head of broccoli, including the stalk, grated or processed
2 slices of bread, whizzed in the processor
1 handful of cashew nuts, whizzed in the processor
1 onion, finely chopped
1 handful grated strong cheddar
2 eggs
1 heaped tablespoon grainy mustard
Splash tabasco sauce
1 tablespoon olive oil
Salt and pepper

Preheat your oven to 180C.

In a large bowl, mix everything together really well and make burgers - I got 10 out of these. 

Put them on a greased baking tray, and bake for an hour, turning them over half way through.

Serve as a regular burger, on a bun, with cheese, mayo and lettuce.

They freeze incredibly well.  You can reheat them straight from the freezer, either for 10 minutes in a hot oven, or 2 minutes in the microwave.  

Makes 10 burgers.

Thursday, 9 May 2013

Indian Summer

Eating out at great restaurants is, to my mind, one of the best value ways to pass the time in New Zealand.  I don't necessarily mean it's cheap, mind you; just that, comparatively speaking, restaurants that are truly world class are more affordable than elsewhere in the world.  One of my absolutely favourite restaurants, not only in Wellington, not only in New Zealand, but anywhere, is the legendary Logan Brown.  We have been lucky enough to go a few times now and, while it is definitely a special occasion date for us, we've always been welcomed in a charming, relaxed way that speaks volumes about the refreshing lack of snobbery in this country.  One tip I got before I went was to order the Paua Ravioli, if it was on the menu, and it was so amazing I still dream about it now.  Light, citrussy, buttery - perfection.  I'm never going to attempt to recreate it, as it would surely end in disappointment.

One of the founders of Logan Brown, Al Brown, has just left Wellington (he lived in the same bay as us - it's magnetic, this place) for Auckland, but his legacy lives on - in this house, at least - through his recipes that he writes for Cuisine magazine.  During the summer, I cooked a barbecue regularly for a local pub, and was always on the lookout for interesting food that I could serve up, and when I saw this recipe for an Indian Burger, courtesy of Mr Brown, I knew it sounded like a winner.

He recommends serving it with an aubergine chutney - which really, really, works - but the second time I made these, I had no chutney, no raita, and so made a simple ratatouille.  Confusing my culinary cultures, I know, but think about the ingredients and there really are no clashes at all.  Just garlicky, really tasty goodness.

We are sadly past barbecue season here in Wellington, so I offer this up to those of you lucky enough to be facing summer in the northern hemisphere.  Wish I was there.

Indian Lamb Burger
Adapted from Al Brown, Stoked, via Cuisine Magazine

1kg minced lamb
1 egg
1 onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped (I use the microplane fine grater)
1 cm root ginger, peeled and finely chopped or grated
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons ground coriander
2 teaspoons garam masala
pinch chilli powder
salt and pepper

Mix all the ingredients very thoroughly in a large bowl, until it starts to come together.  Divide into six equal portions.

To make the burgers, take each portion and flatten it slightly - don't overwork it or the burger will be tough.  Make a slight indentation in the middle of each burger - this will rise up as they cook and ensure even cooking.

Put in the fridge to set for at least an hour.

To cook, preheat a barbecue or cast iron griddle pan to searing hot.  Brush the burgers lightly with oil and then cook until done - obviously this depends on how thick your burgers are, but about 5 minutes per side should do it.


2 onions
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 aubergine
2 courgettes
1 capsicum
4 large tomatoes
6 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
Flat-leaf parsley

Peel the onion and cut it into half moons.  Slice the courgettes.  Quarter the aubergine lengthways then cut into slices.

In a large, heavy pot on a medium heat, cook the onions until soft but not brown.  Add the aubergines, courgettes, garlic and capsicum.  Stir for a few minutes.  Add the tomatoes and give another good stir.

Turn the heat down, put a lid on, and cook gently for about 30-40 minutes, stirring occasionally to make sure that the bottom doesn't stick.

Add the coriander, salt and pepper to taste, and stir in a handful of parsley.

This keeps really well in the fridge and is an incredibly useful bowl to have hanging round, if only for eating on toast for breakfast.

Serves 6