Burgers are comforting. We graze on mass-produced patties of variable quality, and I have never had an objection in principle to fast-food burgers as long as the customer eats them as a treat. We blame the mass-produced burger for rising obesity rates but one burger a month does not a chubby diner make.
Part of the appeal of a burger is its melange of flavours and textures. Yes, there is the meat but also a little crunch from salad and perhaps a tang of relish; but there is never much for a vegetarian who might also like to enjoy a gastronomic experience of similar texture and complexity. They would be well served by Veggie Burgers Every Which Way by Lukas Volger, who presents burgers that are delicious enough to appeal even to those who have a too-close relationship with golden-arched restaurants and their competitors.
I am an unashamed meat eater but I prefer veggie burgers to the more traditional carnivorous version. A hamburger seldom excites me and I find the fried onions more tempting than the meat. A vegetable burger has more interesting flavours, generally has less fat and will constitute part of your elusive 5-a-day. But it’s true that they do take a little more preparation and we need some good recipes to get us started.
Lukas has burgers that can be baked, fried or grilled on the barbecue. You won’t want to wait till summer to try these, though. Veggie burgers can make a substantial meal even when it’s snowing outside. He also considers what you might like that burger sandwiched between, and has a basic bun recipe along with some unique alternatives including a gluten-free bread. If you don’t want bread of any kind then try the Tortilla-crusted Stuffed Portobello Burgers. The mushrooms take the place of bread, around a bean-and-cheese filling.
Thai Carrot Burgers are aromatic and exotic although simple to make. Lukas suggests using freshly-made peanut butter but I guess it’s fine just to use your favourite brand. These are delightful served in the regular burger fashion with a salad garnish but they can be enjoyed as a starter with just a dipping sauce or, made in bite-sized portions, used as a canapé.
Armenian Lentil Burgers are robust in flavour and texture. Puy lentils retain their shape when cooked and the mix is mildly spiced with cinnamon, cloves and allspice. There is a pinch of cayenne but that can be increased a little if you are a lover of epicurean heat. Serve in a bun with relishes or with salad for a light meal.
The simplest, cheapest and most versatile recipe is that for Easy Bean Burgers. All the recipes here are worth trying but this basic veggie burger is the one I’ll use most often, as it can be adapted to produce a spicy Indian burger, a melting cheese burger or a crunchy burger with the addition of some chopped nuts. Change the beans to give a different flavour but whatever you choose these burgers will be great value for money and sure to become a family favourite.
Veggie Burgers Every Which Way isn’t just a cookbook for vegetarians and vegans, it has ideas for tasty food for everybody. The array of burgers is complemented by not only recipes for the buns but also suggestions for relishes and garnishes. This book would make an ideal gift for any novice cook who is strapped for cash and who wants a battery of recipes that can be presented as smart dinner party fare or as quick and healthy snacks.
Veggie Burgers Every Which Way
Author: Lukas Volger
Publisher: Grub Street
Cookbook review by Chrissie Walker © 2018