A little while ago, I had the misfortune of trying my first McDonalds veggie burger. In case you’re wondering why I was at a McDonalds, I’ll tell you.
A couple of friends of mine play in a band that I really like, not because they’re my buddies, but because I actually think they’re excellent. Whenever they play a gig, I try to tag along – I help carry stuff, they get me in for free is usually the arrangement we make. A couple of weeks ago I went to The Hague with them for what promised to be a rather good night.
However, the venue was a bit odd, and the night turned out to be one of those Where-in-christ’s-name-did-we-end-up-now? nights. For instance, although my mates were the last band to play and they had been scheduled to start at 11pm, we were required to be there at 6pm, quite early. When we arrived, we found out why: there was no backstage entrance, and all the instruments had to be carried in through the main entrance, past the stage. The venue also couldn’t (or wouldn’t) provide any food for the band, so we had to come up with something ourselves. However, we were in the outskirts of The Hague, in some godforsaken suburb with zero amenities, and there didn’t really seem to be anything there, especially after 6pm on a Saturday. The one chippie in the area was closed (at the time? Indefinitely? Forever? We couldn’t tell.). The supermarket’s microwave meals were out of the question as the venue didn’t have a microwave (that was working? That they were willing to let us use? Again, we couldn’t tell.) and we thought a dinner of just fruit wouldn’t quite cut it. Unfortunately, that only left us McDonalds. Not really our first choice, because McDonalds is the Devil, but what choice did we have? So off to McDonalds we went.
Once there, I figured I’d give the veggie burger a shot, as it couldn’t be any worse than one of those comatose cheeseburgers I saw most people ordering. Good God, was I wrong. The burger was made of the obligatory recognisable vegetables (peas, sweetcorn and chunks of carrot, mostly), then some other colourful little bits (bell pepper? Onion? Once more, we couldn’t tell). All of this was presumably held together by saw dust and wallpaper glue. It was flavoured with… nothing, I guess. We tasted the faintest hint of some sort of curry powder, not enough to give the burgers some actual flavour, but enough to be a little disgusting. The whole thing made me feel pretty despondent, and I didn’t finish it, preferring to eat the slices of tomato and gherkin on top of the patty, before generously giving the rest away to the one person in our group who could stomach this abomination.
And the saddest part is, there’s absolutely no need for this kind of sadness, because veggie burgers are actually pretty easy to make! I gave bean burgers a shot a few days after, just to reassure myself that it could be done, and they turned out really nice. You can add any toppings you want, the ones listed here are just my suggestion.
One more side-note: my first version wasn’t actually vegetarian – I used Worcester sauce, which contains anchovies. If you’re OK with that, (for instance, if you’re not a vegetarian and you just want to eat bean burgers,) use Worcester. If not, use brown sauce instead – not quite the same, but still really good.
For 3 large or 4 slightly-on-the-skimpy-side patties, you will need:
- 1 tin of black beans (400gr, about 260gr drained)
- 1 slice of bread’s worth of breadcrumbs – stick it in the toaster or oven to dry it, then crumb it yourself, or use pre-made, I guess about 2-3 tbsp
- 1 egg
- 2 cloves of garlic
- a pinch of chilli flakes
- a dash of tabasco
- a dash of Worcester for the carnivores, or brown sauce for the veggies
- salt and pepper
- Some buns, of course, to serve your burgers in. I used some dark super awesome multi grain ones.
I served my burgers with 2 sauces, for which you will need:
- a handful of cherry tomatoes
- half a red onion
- about a cm of fresh red chilli, seeds removed
- a handful of coriander
For the other one:
- 5 tbsp yoghurt
- 2 tsp mayonnaise
- 1 clove of garlic, pressed
Other toppings I used and which you can choose to use too, if you fancy:
- avocado, sliced
- pickled gherkins, sliced
- red and white onions, fried
- lettuce of some description, in my case lamb’s lettuce, but see who cares
I also served some chips with my burgers, which I made out of those super fancy red potatoes, what are they called. For this you will need:
- some of those super fancy red potatoes
- some oil
- salt and pepper
If you want to serve chips with your burgers, you should probably start with them, as they’ll take longer. Slice your potatoes into chip or wedge shapes, boil them in salted water for 2-3 minutes, drain, cover in oil and salt & pepper, then stick them in the oven, 220°C for about half an hour.
Now for the burgers. Drain and rinse your black beans, stick them in a bowl, add the breadcrumbs, the chilli flakes, press the garlic cloves into the mixture, then mash it all up. I used a potato masher first, then a fork. I’d advise against using a blender, you don’t want the mixture to be too fine and homogeneous. After mashing, add the egg, the sauces and some salt and pepper, then mix well with a fork. If you’re happy with the consistency, great. If you find it too liquid, add a little bit more breadcrumbs or just a small amount of flour. Too dry? A tiny bit of water should help, but please be careful when adding it, you really don’t want to add too much. Probably won’t need to, anyway.
Pre-heat a frying pan with some oil. Divide the mixture into the amount of portions you want. Put some cling film onto a chopping board. Put a portion of bean mixture onto it, shape it into a burger shape, then lift the cling film to carefully peel off the burger and place it in your hand. Now carefully lower it into the pan. If it sticks together and browns nicely, your bean mixture is OK and you can make the other ones. Repeat the same process with each burger. Fry them for a few minutes on one side, then flip. They should be heated through and through, but still succulent on the inside.
In the meantime, you can make your sauces. Take all the ingredients for the cherry tomato topping, stick them in a food processor and blend very briefly. You still want to recognise your ingredients, so don’t blend it all up. As for the other sauce, the garlic one, just mix the ingredients together, no big deal.
Slice the gherkins, slice the avocados, slice and fry the onions. Pile a burger and a whole bunch of toppings onto a bun. Try to eat the burgers and drop food all over yourself. Secretly enjoy it.