Spicy Tofu and Vegetable Burgers

IMG_2178As you may know from earlier posts, I have a love and hate relationship with tofu, but I am happy to tell you that these tofu burgers definitely fall into the ‘love’ category. A crispy outside, a soft, but not mushy, inside and great flavours. I was eating these alone and found myself saying ‘Wow, these are good!’ out loud. And I don’t normally talk to myself. 😉

These burgers are based on a recipe from Madhur Jaffrey’s World Vegetarian. I have simplified the preparation a bit and scaled it down to fit the tofu blocks I usually buy. I have also made the burgers slightly unhealthier by shallow-frying them instead of using only a few tablespoons of oil but it really gives them a much better texture, in my opinion.

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I don’t know about you, but I write in my cookbooks. Ratings of recipes, tweaks, what to do differently next time, what to serve it with, etc. If I didn’t, I would probably just forget I ever cooked a recipe, my memory is that bad.
After the first time I made these, I wrote: ‘good but a LOT of work for a burger’. The vegetables, mushrooms and herbs that go into the burgers all have to be chopped very finely, which is a labour of love. I must have written my comment while standing right next to the obvious solution, the food processor.

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Yes, it all looks much prettier on the chopping board when you’ve cut everything in neat little rings and cubes but it won’t make any difference to the finished burgers. And unless you’re entertaining food critics, no one is going to look at the inside of your burgers and humph.
Using the machine turns this into a relatively quick recipe (excluding tofu draining and fridge time, but why not put your feet up and have a glass of wine while you wait?).

IMG_2158If you can get them, I would recommend using small green bird’s eye chillies in these burgers. They pack a punch without adding much moisture. If they are not available, use one green jalapeño and add some more breadcrumbs to the burger mixture, if necessary.
I used ‘strong’ tamari here, which is quite salty. If you are using normal soy sauce, you may want to add a bit of salt to the mixture.

A note on draining tofu. I use the kind of tofu blocks that come floating in water. Once it’s out of the package, I first squeeze the block gently to get some of the liquid out. I then put a layer of kitchen towel on a chopping board, lay the tofu on top, cover with another layer of kitchen towel and another chopping board. Then I fill up a vase-type thing with water and put this on top of the second chopping board and leave for about an hour (see photos below).

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Well, this is the kick-off of my Quest for the Ultimate Vegetarian Burger and I have to say these are pretty close to being ultimate. As I said in my post about the Quest, one of the criteria by which I judge a veggie burger is how it keeps or freezes and reheats. These freeze very well after they’ve been fried and cooled, and heat up nice and crispy when you put them in a preheated oven (200°C) for about 8/10 minutes. Turn them halfway through.

 


 

IMG_2183Ingredients
– 375 g block tofu (net weight 325) drained (see above) and crumbled into a bowl.
– 2 spring onions, roughly chopped
– 50 g shiitakes, roughly chopped
– 70 g carrot, peeled, roughly chopped
– 2 small, green bird’s eye chillies, roughly chopped
– 2 tbs leaf celery, roughly chopped
– 3 tbsp fresh coriander, roughly chopped
– 2 tbsp tamari or regular soy sauce
– 1 egg, beaten
– 5 tbsp dried breadcrumbs plus more for covering the burgers.
– Enough oil to shallow-fry in. I used groundnut oil.

Preparation
– Put spring onions, mushrooms, carrot, chillies and fresh herbs in the food processor and pulse (don’t just let it run) until everything is chopped finely but not turned into a paste.
– Heat 2 tbsp of oil in a pan on a medium heat and fry the contents of the food processor for 3 minutes.
– Add this to the bowl with the tofu, and also add the tamari (and some extra salt, if necessary). Mix well.
– Sprinkle a generous amount of breadcrumbs on a plate.
– Add 5 tbsp of breadcrumbs and the egg and mix well, using your hands.
– Shape the mixture into 6 burgers, adding some more breadcrumbs to the mixture if they do not hold their shape.
– Dredge the burgers through the breadcrumbs on the plate to cover them well, including the sides.
– Chill the burgers in the fridge for at least one and up to four hours.
– Pour enough oil into a low pan to shallow-fry (don’t go overboard, 1/1,5 cm should be enough). Heat the oil well.
– Fry the burgers for three minutes on one side, turn over, and cook for another three minutes. They should be golden and crispy.
– Drain on kitchen towel and serve. They are great in a bun but also as part of a larger meal.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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