Thursday, 26 July 2012

Veggie(ish) Delights

Do you ever just get fed up of too much meat? I am a very dedicated carnivore, but I really love to have a "meat free" day every now and again. Firstly, to explain the title - I am not actually a vegetarian, so therefore I often add in some bacon bits to my "veggie dinners", but for the dedicated veg eaters among you, of course just leave the bacon out (although I believe bacon is the one thing that turns more vegetarians back to meat than anything else - I read a very funny blog on this recently, check it out here, a stressed American Mom blogging about family life, with hand drawn illustrations).

Anyhow, I was initally very dubious about a meat free dinner, but I turned to it once several years ago when I had a bundle of asparagus at home in the cupboard that I was aware was very nearly ready for the bin and I was loathe to throw out, even in those heady Celtic Tiger days. So I turned to my old reliable Delia Smith - this, I think, was the time I discovered just how comprehensive her website is. It really is great. I found a recipe for an asparagus gratin that is truly delicious and even Himself doesn't "miss the meat". It's fiddly though, I wouldn't be making it for more than 2 or 3 people. And it's in season right now, try it.

As a result of that success, I got more adventurous. To start with, I discovered the vegetarian lasagne in Fallon & Byrne in Dublin (yes, we're back with the old Celtic Tiger again!) and it was great, especially as Himself used to work late shifts a lot back then (did I mention he's a chef?). Imagine my disappointment when I went a couple of weeks ago to get us some as a treat, to discover they don't do it anymore, BOO! I see Jamie Oliver has a recipe for one in his "30 Minute Meals" book, I might just try it out one of these days. It's also a "semi-veggie" recipe, as it includes anchovies, I have got as far as buying the tin of anchovies!

I do find that the vegetarian dinners I have though are often quite wintry dishes - there's a gorgeous veg crumble that I make that is truly scrummy, so hearty, but really is not for these (brief!) summer days, so I'll save that one for autumn for you all. Another one we like is a cauliflower cheese that is hearty enough to be a main meal - I saw it when I was pinned to the couch one evening with a sick, sleeping baby on my lap and the remote control on the other side of the room... Whatever show I was watching finished up and I got stuck watching a programme on BBC2 championing food that's fallen out of favour. This episode was on cauliflower and the Hairy Bikers had an interesting sounding cauliflower cheese... I googled the recipe the next day, and it's now on regular rotation in our house. Again, there's bacon in it, but you could easily leave it out. Follow this link to the recipe. I honestly hadn't eaten cauliflower in years, and would've said I didn't like it, if asked. I've changed my mind!

So, what to eat in this weather? Well, here's another one off the telly - remember "Doctor" Gillian McKeith, she of the tongue examinations to diagnose sick tummies, and the poo dissections?! Gross. Well, she was talking one night about chick pea burgers. God knows why, but I thought they sounded nice. Again, this was back about the time I discovered the asparagus gratin, so obviously I was open to the "veggie dinner" idea at the time. So I got Himself to concoct a recipe (it's handy having a chef in the house!) and we had them with some side salads. They were yum! Again, they are now a regular enough dinner in our house, and this time I can say the recipe is truly original. They are great for this time of year, and now that the Celtic Tiger is very much a thing of the past, a very cost effective meal too - a tin of chickpeas only costs just over a euro. I reckon this recipe might come in useful when the sweet babies (well, mostly sweet!) turn into stroppy teenagers and go through an inevitable veggie phase...

Anyhow, here's the recipe, give them a go and let me know what you think,  it certainly makes a change from my usual dessert / cake recipes!

Chickpea Burgers

makes 4 - 6 burgers

  • 1 tin chickpeas
  • ½ bunch coriander
  • ½ red onion, diced small
  • 1 egg
  • Pinch / ¼ tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp plain flour in the mix, plus a plate with seasoned flour to dip burgers in
  • Salt & pepper
    Quite a runny mix

    Pre-heat the oven 180°C
  1. Pulse all the ingredients in a mixer - the mix will be very wet and sloppy, but if it's too wet, add some more flour
  2. Use a medium cookie cutter to shape the mix into burger-shaped patties, if you like, or else roll in your hands
  3. Dip both sides of the patty in the seasoned flour (if you're unsure of the consistency and think they are still too sloppy, leave them stand for 2 or 3 minutes once dipped in the flour - you should be able to roll them gently in a clean dry hand without them disingetrating. If not, add a little more flour), then seal them by flash frying them / browning them in a HOT pan. The pan absolutely must be hot, or again they will break up. Be careful when turning not to let them break up. Don't worry too much, the egg in the mix will keep it together during cooking
  4. Do you like my plate for the flour dip?!
  5. Pop straight into the oven and cook for 6-8 minutes at 180°C - this is easiest if the pan you browned them in is ovenproof so the whole thing can go straight in the oven. When done, they should be dry on the outside but quite moist on the inside

To Serve

It's up to you - I like some some homemade coleslaw (I can't bear the commercially available types) with lots and lots of chopped white cabbage, a good grating of lots of carrot, a tiny bit of onion, maybe some chopped raw celery for crunch too, and a scant spoon of mayonnaise to bind it loosely.
Some potato wedges would be good too - homemade oven baked ones would continue the healthy theme, and pretty easy too... Chop up potatoes into wedges with the skin on (remember, even though it doesn't look like a huge amount, if you only eat one potato usually - then that is still the portion size!) and dry them thoroughly. Throw into a roasting tin and sprinkle on some salt and pepper, toss in a tablespoon of oil and bake at 230°C for about 25 minutes. 
A lightly toasted burger bun would be nice too - although personally I prefer a soft floury bap, untoasted; it is, of course, totally a matter of personal taste.
A nice crispy green salad with lots of herbs (some of that left over coriander would be nice, as would some chopped chives), plenty of cherry tomatoes and chopped cucumber (de-seed it, if - like me - it repeats on you) and a light vinaigrette ... see the post about simple suppers for a quick vinaigrette that would work nicely.

Ready to eat, with oven baked wedges
Consistency of cooked burger

Sorry for so many photos, but with the consistency thing being an issue here, I thought lots of photos would help. Wish I'd thought to take a nice "posh" photo of the burger cut open before I lowered the tone with ketchup and mayonnaise!

Anyhow, enjoy something new,

Sarah xx

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