Yes, yes, the title of this post is bound to invite raised eyebrows. Could this really be the best veggie burger, of all time, ever? Well, I can tell you this with full confidence: this here veggie burger is the best I’ve tasted by some margin.
Because here is the thing–given the choice between a beef or lamb hamburger and a vegetable facsimile, I would never normally choose the later. Ever.
It’s not that I have something against vegetables. In fact, I quite like vegetables, in their natural state, or coaxed with a bit of heat, olive oil and sea salt. But veggie burgers are not vegetables. Veggie burgers have always seemed to me a strange and unhappy amalgamation of rabbit food mash, a strict and humorless attempt to appease those who forgo meat.
But then, but then. I tasted the veggie burger Burger FI. And then all my previous ideas of veggie burgers were exploded. What was I to do?
I asked what was in these magical, paradigm-changing patties, and was told the following:
quinoa, lentils, onions, fontina cheese, Parmesan cheese, red wine, panko bread crumbs, carrots, mushrooms, garlic, egg
Armed with this information, I took to my kitchen to try and reproduce the restaurant’s version. After a bit of tinkering, I arrived at this recipe. While I don’t have a deep fryer (and didn’t cover mine with melty cheddar cheese and “special” sauce, although by all means you could if you like), I think my homemade version tastes almost as good.
What’s more, you can make a big batch, and then freeze them individually for some other night you are short on time.
Makes 12 veggie burgers
- 1/2 cup French lentils
- 2 cloves of garlic
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 1/2 tablespoon olive oil, divided
- sea salt, pepper
- 1/4 cup quinoa
- 1 sprig of thyme
- 1/2 cup chicken (or vegetable) stock
- 1 small white onion
- 1 medium carrot, peeled
- 2 tablespoons red wine
- 1.5 cups sliced button mushrooms
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 1/2 cup grated fontina cheese
- 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 2 medium eggs
- 2 cups panko bread crumbs
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
- 1 -1.5 cup peanut oil
- about 1/2 cup of flour, for dusting
- 12 whole wheat or oatmeal buns
- 2 tomatoes, cut into slices
- 1 red onion, cut crosswise into slices
- 1 heart of Romaine lettuce
- hot sauce (optional)
1. Prepare the lentils: Empty the French lentils into a medium pot. Add 1 of the garlic cloves (peeled), the 2 bay leaves, and 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. Pour in 1.5 cups of water, and bring the lentils to a boil. When they reach a boil, cover the pot with a lid, and let them soak for 1 hour. After the hour is up, simmer them for 20-25 minutes, or until the lentils are soft and the liquid has evaporated. Add salt and pepper to taste, and then set the lentils aside.
2. Prepare the quinoa: Rinse the quinoa under running water for 1-2 minutes, and then tap the sieve to dry them off as much as possible. Add the quinoa to a small pot, along with the thyme sprig and 1/2 tablespoon of olive oil. Turn the heat to medium, and cook the quinoa for about 2 minutes, or until it is quite dry and smells toasty. Add a small pinch of salt and the chicken stock. Cover the pot, and cook the quinoa for 10 minutes. (At this point, the chicken stock should be absorbed.) Turn off the heat, but keep the lid on for another 5 minutes. Fluff, and set the quinoa aside.
3. Prepare the onion and carrot: Mince the remaining garlic clove, along with the onion and the carrot. Saute the three vegetables together with 1 tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat, until everything is quite soft, about 15 minutes. (If the vegetables start to brown before the carrot is soft, you can add a little water to the pan.) Add the red wine, and let it reduce until there is no spoonable liquid left. Add salt and pepper to taste. Set the vegetables aside.
4. Prepare the mushrooms: Wash and slice a punnet of button mushrooms, until you have 1.5 cups of mushrooms slices. Heat the butter over medium heat in a large pan, until the butter is gently bubbling. Add the mushroom slices, and cook until they are soft. Add salt to taste, and then set the mushrooms aside.
5. If you have not done so, grate both the cheeses.
6. Move the lentils, the quinoa, the onion/carrot, the mushrooms, and the cheeses to a food processor. Pulse everything together until it is quite well combined. (I admit, at this point the mixture will not look very pretty, and you will be able to smell the funk of the fontina cheese. Power on!) Move the mixture to a large bowl.
7. Meanwhile, in a separate small bowl, beat the eggs.
8. Add the beaten eggs, the panko bread crumbs, and the lemon juice to the bowl with the vegetable/lentil/quinoa mixture. Fold everything together until just combined. Add a healthy pinch of sea salt and pepper, for good measure.
9. Now form the veggie burgers into patties: roll the mixture into balls, about the size of a large meatball. Place each ball between your palms, and push together to flatten. (It’s better to make smaller veggie burgers and plan to serve 2 per person; the cooking process is just easier when they are smaller.)
10. Pour the peanut oil into a cast iron pan or Dutch oven (you want about 1/2″ of oil in the pan). Heat the oil over medium heat; the oil is hot enough when it sputters after being spritzed it with water.
11. When the oil is hot, dust each patty generously with flour. Depending on the size of your pan, you should be able to cook a few patties at a time. (Don’t crowd them.) Cook the veggie burgers for a few minutes per side, or until both sides are thoroughly golden brown. When you are finished cooking each patty, move it to a paper towel-lined plate.
12. Put the burgers together: Toast the buns, slice the tomatoes and onion, and pull the lettuce apart. Allow everyone to dress the veggie burgers how they like; I think they taste best with a healthy splash of hot sauce. Serve warm.