The veggie burger trend
When three years ago Californian group Beyond Meat (supported by significant investments in favor of technical innovation applied to the food industry) 100% vegetable “fake meat” product made its debut in Italy three years ago, the response from consumers was immediate. Behind the success and motivation of the company there is first of all advocating the environmental cause, presenting omnivorous consumers with products that are attractive but with a reduced environmental impact. A surrogate designed not only for vegans and vegetarians, but for everyone, so as to reduce the consumption of meat (and the consequent CO2 emissions deriving from intensive farming). Even the classic veggie burgers made with legumes, grains or vegetables are still a valid alternative for those looking to replace animal products: to eat as is or enjoyed stuffed in sandwiches enriched with sauces and other delicious ingredients, here are some ideas for veggie burgers to make in home.
Ideas and recipes for making veggie burgers at home
Often mistakenly considered a grain, quinoa actually belongs to the Chenopodiaceae family, the same as spinach and beets. An ancient food born in the territories of the Andes about 6,000 years ago and still cultivated today mainly in South America at over 3,000 meters above sea level. Rich in fiber, minerals, vitamins and proteins, quinoa is a good base not only for salads and hot soups, but also for burgers, meatloafs and croquettes. Once cooked in a pan, it can be combined with beans or other blended legumes, with spices and herbs to taste and that’s it (instead of legumes you can also use a boiled and mashed potato, useful for holding the patty together). Both baked in the oven or cooked in a pan with a little olive oil are equally good methods..
Chickpeas, beans, lentils… legumes are classic staples that are never missing from a vegan’s pantry. They are a nutritious and substantial vegetable protein base, with the perfect texture for burgers: once cooked and puréed, they can be mixed with an egg for a vegetarian version, or with breadcrumbs, corn starch or again boiled potatoes (worthy substitutes for eggs in many vegan preparations) without forgetting another classic: stale bread softened with water, which will make the recipe not only delicious but also use leftovers. Tip: experiment with colourful spices or vegetables to make your burgers even more cheerful. You can, for example, get a yellow chickpea meatball by using turmeric (which together with paprika goes well with legumes, the winning ingredient trio in hummus), while a lentil burger can be coloured red with the help of beets.
A perfect summer variation for vegetable lovers, aubergine burgers are simple, delicious and anti-waste: just like classic meatballs, pan-fried aubergines can be mixed with stale bread soaked in water and made into burgers. The aromatic herb par excellence in the warmer months is undoubtedly basil, the ideal accompaniment to aubergines, but for an irresistible veggie burger you can think of re-proposing all the flavours of eggplant parmigiana in your sandwich. That means adding sliced scamorza cheese, grated parmigiano and tomato sauce in a sliced open hamburger bun, or any other traditional Italian bread, as long as soft. Those wishing to consume their veggie burger in purity, can still add parmigiano and tomato in the burger mix and stuff the aubergine patty with smoked cheese, which during cooking will melt and produce a delightful cheese-pull.
Also in this case the recipe can be vegan or vegetarian, depending on tastes and needs: boiled potatoes go well with parmigiano cheese, but can also be mixed with other ingredients like onion, sun dried tomatoes, zucchini and olives. If not using eggs, it’s better to add a handful of breadcrumbs to give more consistency to the burger, which in this case is preferably cooked in a pan. It can also be baked in the oven, but with a drizzle of olive oil cooked in a pan will render a delicious crust on both sides that will make the dish even better. Those who prefer a vegan version, in place of parmigiano (in addition to the many vegan cheeses now available on the market) can employ nutritional yeast flakes, obtained from the same Saccharomyces cerevisiae of fresh brewer’s yeast, dried at low temperature and used for flavour dishes (not used for leavening).
Omnipresent in vegan cuisine, seitan is a mix made from gluten and used as a meat substitute to prepare sauces, stews, ragù and even burgers. It can be prepared at home with gluten cooked in boiling broth for about 40 minutes. Seitan is now available in all grocery stores, even the smallest ones, as well as in health food shops and organic markets. How to use it for burgers? Just cut into small pieces, mince it and then mix it with the ingredients of your choice, giving the classic patty shape and cooking everything in a pan with a drizzle of olive oil.
The production of tofu is very similar to that of cheese: this product also derives, in fact, from a curdling process, in this case the juice of soybeans. There are three types: delicate tofu, which holds more liquid and has the consistency similar to pudding; Asian solid tofu, produced with a cloth that wraps it and absorbs more liquid in the coagulation phase; and Western dry tofu, a particular variety with the lowest amount of liquid. There are many ways to use tofu in the kitchen, both cooked – lightly griddled or fried – and raw, even better if flavoured with spices and herbs. For burgers, the usual procedure applies: mince, flavour and season to taste and then cook in a pan.
In addition to soybeans, flakes are also very popular. Simple and practical to use at home to prepare vegetable ragout and vegan meatballs. In fact, simply rehydrate the desired quantity in water for about 10 minutes: once ready, the flakes need to be squeezed and then treated like any other ingredient: add to favourite vegetables, spices and aromas. Before cooking in a pan, it’s advisable to dredge in a little flour on both sides.
by Michela Becchi