Through all the trials and tribulations of attempting to come up with the best veggie burger recipe possible, or better still — the perfect one, that will leave even an omnivore coming back for more, I finally devised something that is now going to be my go-to recipe. It is probably less of a challenge to add taste to a vegan burger if one is going to include some nuts, almonds or seeds. But in my case, being allergic to most of them (including flax seeds), I had to think of another way to get a burger that will have maximum taste, great texture and hold together well, i.e not crumbly or falling apart.
Although I sometimes like a pan fried burger, I mostly enjoy my vegan burgers baked. Kevin, on the other hand, is not a great fan of the baked ones; he finds them too dry and more often than not, crumbly. So, my challenge was to find that one ideal mix that would be equally suitable for both baking and pan frying.
This burger works well for both methods of cooking with a slight variation, i.e. one small extra step, for the fried version that actually makes the burger more interesting too with a crispy outer shell.
Apart from being nut-free and seed-free (no flax egg), I also wanted this burger to have the option of being soy-free and gluten-free. Homemade veggie burgers are somewhat notorious for being crumbly or falling apart. To tackle this one, I started off with the same concept as the lentil loaf that I made a while ago over the holidays. Instead of making the loaf more compact by pressing in everything tightly into the pan (like a lot of other recipes suggest), I decided to do the reverse and added a little more water instead to the mixture so that it was the consistency of a risotto that was somewhat a little drier than oozy, as if it has been sitting for a little while but not so much as to have become stodgy. This produced a loaf that held together well without being mushy either. So, the mixture for this veggie burger is a little on the wet side which may sound daunting to handle. But trust me, after leaving the mixture to sit for about fifteen minutes on the counter, I did not find it difficult to shape into patties. It just needs less handling and shaping in the hand but rather directly on the tray or pan.
For both the baked and fried versions, a half cup measurement made good sized burgers for a regular size burger bun. For the baked version, I only shaped it to a ball in my hands, then lightly flatten as I placed it on a baking tray lined with parchment paper and continue to shape it on the tray itself until it was the thickness that I wanted. For the fried version, I rolled the ball into a little buckwheat flour then flatten it just before frying. Once in the frying pan and lightly crispy on one side, after flipping on the other side, you can lightly press on the burger with a spatula to flatten it further.
As for the burger base itself, I have used brown/black chickpeas or kala chana (I have talked about them before) because they have a more roasted and earthy kind of flavour that give this burger a more meaty depth of flavour. But you can also use other beans like regular chickpeas or black beans. The addition of curry leaves in the herbs and spice mix, really took the taste to another level. If you've never used curry leaves before in your recipes, I really recommend that you do. They have an intricate flavour all their own and quite difficult to find a match for. If you can't find curry leaves close to where you live, you can purchase them online, either fresh or dried. The fresh one freezes well for up to a year. So you'd only need to buy it once and freeze it as soon as you obtain it. It will turn darker when frozen but that is okay, they will still be good to use. As a last resort, if you really can't get hold of curry leaves, you may replace them by a combination of two to three bay leaves and a few thai basil leaves.
Brown Chickpea and Eggplant Veggie BurgerIngredients (10 - 12 burgers)
2 cups dried brown/black chickpeas (yield 4 and a half cup cooked)
1 medium [700g, 25oz] eggplant
1 tablespoon soy sauce (or use a little salt or this soyfree sauce instead)
1 cup chopped coriander (cilantro) leaves
1/4 cup water from the cooked chickpeas
3/4 cup water
1 cup rolled oats (use gluten-free certified if required)
2 green chilies
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon cumin
1 tablespoon minced ginger
2 tablespoons tomato puree
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1 tablespoon lemon juice
10 - 12 curry leaves
Salt and pepper to taste
For pan fried version
3/4 cup [90g] Buckwheat flour or as needed for coating (you may substitute with rice flour, other gluten-free flour or regular all-purpose flour will work too if you do not need this to be gluten-free)
Oil for frying
Soak the chickpeas overnight or for at least 8 hours. Then drain all the water and rinse. Place chickpeas in a deep pan and cover with water. Bring to a boil then reduce heat to medium and simmer for about 30-40 minutes or until chickpeas are soft and easy to mash. Once cooked, drain all the chickpeas but keep the water. Reduce the chickpea water to 1/4 cup and allow to cool. If using canned beans, use 1/4 cup of liquid from the can of beans.
Mash the chickpeas with a fork or use a food processor. But take care not to turn them into a paste. They should just be pulsed. Reserve about 1/2 cup to add to the blender mix.
When chickpeas are cooking, you can also cook the aubergine in another pan. Wash and cut them into strips. Place in a non-stick pan with 1 tablespoon soy sauce and 1-2 tablespoons water. Stir and mix, then cover and let cook on medium heat. Occasionally check on the aubergine and give it a stir or add a little water if required. Once aubergine is soft and mushy, remove from heat and place in a large plate. Mash them with a fork to form a puree or pulse them in a food processor. If using a fork, you may remove the skin from the puree as they may later cause the burgers to break if they are too large.
In a blender, place the coriander leaves, chilies, paprika, cumin, minced ginger, tomato puree, maple syrup, lemon juice, curry leaves, 1 cup oats, 1/2 cup brown chickpeas, 1/4 cup chickpea water and 3/4 cup water. Blend until smooth.
In a large mixing bowl, add the mashed chickpeas, add the eggplant puree. Mix well.
Next add in the mixture from the blender and mix well. You may taste the mixture at this point to adjust the salt. Add pepper to your taste if desired.
Now let this mixture sit on the counter for 15 minutes. You can use this time to clean up a little bit and do the washing up!
After 15 minutes, take a 1/2 cup measurement and scoop out the mixture.
For the baked version:
Preheat the oven at 350 degrees Fahrenheit (180 degrees Celsius).
Place a scoop of the mixture into the palm of one hand and shape lightly into a ball, then flatten lightly. Place onto a baking tray lined with parchment paper. You may shape or flatten the patties further on the tray. The burgers will become just slightly smaller after baking and cooling.
Bake for 15 minutes on one side. Then turn the burgers onto the other side and bake for another 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool slightly before serving.
For the fried version:
Get a bowl with about 3/4 cup of buckwheat flour. Form a ball in your hands then dip it into the flour to coat it. If you are not frying it immediately, place it on a plate and repeat for the rest of the mixture. Just before frying, flatten the balls and shape into patties. Dip into more flour if needed.
Heat a skillet on medium-high. The oil needs to be hot. Place the patties into the skillet. I like to fry only 2 at a time so that I can turn them over easily. Once the burger has a crispy shell on one side, turn onto the other side. You may flatten it a little further with a spatula at this stage. Allow to cook until the other side is crispy. It will take about 12 - 15 minutes for the burgers to be cooked. Remove from the oil and drain on some absorbent paper. Allow to cool a little before serving.
These burgers freeze well either cooked or uncooked. To freeze them uncooked, form the patties. If you are going to fry them later on, then coat them already with the flour before freezing and flatten. Then, place in a container and layer with greaseproof or parchment paper or some cut plastic bag strips. Each patty should be separated with a piece of the paper or plastic. Take care so that the patties don't get distorted. You can fry them directly from frozen, no need to defrost. For baking, do the same, just bake from frozen.
To freeze them once cooked is easier as they are less likely to be distorted but they still need to be separated with greaseproof/parchment paper or plastic. Then just reheat in a dry pan or in the oven.