Funny how inspiration can come from anywhere, at any time, and mostly when you least expect it! Last week the hubby and I went to Italy to visit family. We took different flights as he was a bit more flexible. In the plan he was sitting next to a man ready “Eat and Run”, by vegan ultra-marathoner Scott Jurek. He had no book to read at that time so went to by this one and started it just as I was ramping up my training for an upcoming half-marathon race. This book is all about Scott’s journey to becoming an ultra-marathoner and vegan, and how being a vegan helps him keep his body happy. The book is peppered with some of his recipes – and even though I have not read it myself yet, it motivated me to try my first vegan burger – only slightly adapted from the original.
What do you need? (makes 8 burgers): 2 1/4 cup soaked dried green lentils – 2 1⁄4 cups wate – 1 tablespoon dried parsley – 1⁄4 teaspoon black pepper – 3 garlic cloves, minced – 1 1⁄4 cups finely chopped onion – 3⁄4 cup finely chopped walnuts – 2 slices dried bread – 10 mushrooms – 1 1⁄2 cups destemmed, finely chopped baby spinach – 2 tablespoons olive oil – 3 tablespoons vinegar (balsamic, red wine or other – I used my pineau vinegar) – 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard – 1 teaspoon sea salt – 1/2 teaspoon black pepper – 1 teaspoon paprika
I omitted the flax seed and the nutritional yeast originally in this recipe because 1/ I had no idea what that was 2/ When I did my research and found out, I figured it was not essential for this recipe 3/ It is expensive and this was only an experiment – I did not want to spend £15 only to have this stay at the back of my cupboard until it goes bad. From what I understand, in this recipe, the flax seed and nutritional yeast are flavour enhancers, and also provide nutrients that you might otherwise miss as a vegan.
How to make them?
- So, first you have to cook your lentils. In a small pot, put together the the lentils, water, parsley, 1 chopped garlic clove, and 1⁄4 cup of the onion. Bring this to a boil then reduce heat and simmer for 35 to 40 minutes, or until the lentils have absorbed all the water.
- While the lentils are cooking, chop the bread and walnuts in a coarse powder (I used my faithful Thermomix for that). Then add salt, pepper and paprika. Reserve on the side.
- In a blender, or in the Thermomix, chop the spinach, mushroon, remaining onion and garlic, then sauté for about 10 mn. Set aside and let it cool down.
- Your lentils should be cooked by now, so remove them from the heat add the vinegar and mustard, and mash to a thick paste, either with a spoon or by pulsing it into the TM bowl a few times. Mix in the walnut-bread mix and the veg, and leave to cool down. Then put in the fridge for 15-30 mn.
- You are now ready to make your patties and cook the burgers. Simply make the patties by hand to the desired size and thickness. I found that no thicker than 5 mm was best, otherwise the core does not cook properly. I tried 2 methods. In his book, Scott Jurek’s says you can either grill, fry or broil these. So I tried grilling in a pan with a little bit of olive oil, and broiling in the oven. Both work, but in my mind grilling in the pan is by far the best method. The patties cooked in the oven were ok, but I had to finish them in a pan anyway to add that nice crunchiness. According to the original recipe, cooking time is aout 3-5 mn on each side. I had to cook mine for much longer – more like 3 mn each side on high fire, then 10 mn on reduced fire to cook the centre. But it might be because I had to much moisture in my patties.
- I served these on a slide of toasted bread, with some grilled courgettes, cherry tomatoes and onions. So..what the verdict? Well, although you can definitely tell it is not meat, it is far from cardboard either. The burgers are very tasty and filling, soft inside and crunchy outside, and even look like actual burgers. I would say that it definitely beats an average burger… not yet the amazing Spartan Burgers we get from our local butcher, the Hook and Cleaver which are out of this world. But they were pretty meaty for a non-meat product!
I have to say that while I was making the burgers I had a few moments of “WTF – this looks disgusting” but in the end, it was pretty good! Just have to get past the brownish/greenish lentils mash and mushroom/spinach mix which are less than appealing. But once turned into a grilled patty, it is all fine!
A positive vegan experience altogether and we have a couple of burgers in the fridge still for an impromptu snack! Completing the recipe took me quite a bit of time though – probably 1h30 all in all, between cooking the lentils and letting everything cool down – and I went through a lot of pots and pans. So if that’s what it always is cooking vegan, I admire you guys so much for the time and effort put into your food!