My family became vegetarian when I was in my pre-pubescent years and I continued to be vegetarian until my early twenties. Fortunately I grew up in a culture that celebrates and glorifies vegetables; south Indian vegetarian cuisine is famous the world over for a reason. But I was also doubly blessed to have a culinary adventuress for a mother; she knew we loved continental and western-influenced food and she went above and beyond to ensure that we continued to eat the food we loved to eat while still remaining vegetarian.
One of the things she made was this: Gopal’s Famous Veggie Nut Burgers. The recipe is from the inimitable and incomparable Kurma Dasa, the godfather, if I may, of vegetarian cuisine. His cookbook ‘Great Vegetarian Dishes‘ is one of the most loved books in our family collection; the cover is in tatters, the pages have been dusted with flour and sugar (and other things), the cats have used it as a bed when we’ve forgotten to take it off the table and put it away again, and the book actually smells like food. It is one of my favourite vegetarian cookbooks, and I go back to it time and again for inspiration. His love of food and his love of feeding people comes shining through the book; if you can find it, please buy yourself a copy. I assure you that it will be the best choice you will make for yourself. I have yet to cook a recipe of his that doesn’t turn out better than I expected it to.
Although I am no longer vegetarian, I still adore this protein-packed burger that is both delicious and nutritious; it combines lentils and rice and carrots and peanut butter and other deliciousness into a patty which is then baked and then pan-fried as needed. It is delicious on a bun; I have also shaped it into sausage-like shapes and eaten it in rolls, hot dog-style. It is amazing, and you should give it a go.
Photographs: Awanthi Vardaraj
1 cup cooked short-grain rice (sticky)
1 1/2 cups cooked brown lentils, thoroughly drained
1/2 cup carrots, coarsely shredded
1 1/2 cups breadcrumbs
1/2 cup peanut butter (I used my home made one)
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon Chinese sesame oil
2 teaspoons dried basil
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons yellow asafoetida powder
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
1 teaspoon sweet paprika
1) Combine all the ingredients in a large bowl and knead well.
2) Divide the mixture into 16 portions; roll them into balls (with damp hands) and press the balls into 8 cm (3 inch) patties.
3) Arrange the patties on a lightly greased (oiled) baking tray and place in a pre-heated moderately hot oven (200C/390F). Bake until the patties dry out somewhat and darken slightly.
4) The burgers can now be cooled and refrigerated (they also freeze really well) until needed. When you are ready to use them, pan-fry them with a little butter or oil until they are hot and then serve on buns or as required.
1) As mentioned above, these freeze perfectly. I’m a huge fan of freezing things until you need them at a future date. Because I eat seasonal, I often end up preserving fruit and pickling vegetables; I also freeze seasonal herbs until I need them at a future date. I dislike ‘fast food’ and tinned food, but like you, I sometimes come home tired and would like a ‘convenient option’; frozen meals come in incredibly handy during those times. I wrap these burgers individually in greaseproof paper and tuck them away until I need them. I’m famous among my social circle for my frozen cakes; I simply make and freeze the cakes (without the frosting) until I need them. You never know when you might need a cake in a hurry! Always remember to follow freezing guidelines to ensure that you freeze your food in such a way that they retain all of their benefits.
2) The buns used are my ‘Soft Doughy Buns‘ recipe, and the peanut butter is the home made one that was highlighted in my most recent post.
3) Asafoetida and brown lentils will be available at your nearest Indian or Asian supermarket or grocer.
4) I adjusted this recipe slightly by adding 1/2 teaspoon of ginger powder to the mix.
5) Everybody likes their burgers differently. I usually put lettuce or coleslaw on mine, but discovered that I was out of lettuce. So I used a quick and easy cheese sauce on the buns instead. Just build your burger the way you like it.
Enjoy this! Let me know if you make it and how much you loved it!