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Veggie delight

Burgers get a healthy makeover from Lukas Volger

As a cook, baker, caterer, waiter and occasional dishwasher, Lukas Volger certainly knows about food. Growing up, his first job after high-school was in a bakery, fuelling what he says was ‘the beginning of a life in food’. More specifically, vegetarian food – as evident in his new recipe book Veggie Burgers Every Which Way (Grub Street, $15.5). ‘Burgers have a special appeal for me. They’re straightforward, less fussy than a sandwich – but more robust – and they conjure up so many wonderful images of casual dining outdoors,’ he says. High praise indeed for the humble patty, but Volger explains that after sparking an interest in vegetarian cooking when he was at college, he found ‘there’s a lot of room for creativity’.

Description: Burgers get a healthy makeover from Lukas Volger

Burgers get a healthy makeover from Lukas Volger

Rather than list a handful of usual veggie burger suspects (textured vegetable protein, anyone?), the book details original, mouthwatering recipes inspired by Volger’s experiments with all kinds of vegetables. ‘With veggie burgers, I always work backwards. Thai carrot burgers began with a bunch of carrots; my Sun-dried tomato and goat’s cheese burger was first just a cob of corn. This way, the veggie burger is more an expression of a vegetable than a patty-shaped shadow of a hamburger,’ he says. They’re also much healthier than their meaty counterparts, and Volger’s book is loaded with low-fat, nutritious recipes – including vegan options and recipes for healthy toppings and buns. ‘As long as you don’t deep-fry them, veggie burgers are a safe bet in the healthy-eating department,’ he explains.

Description:  Veggie Burgers Every Which Way by Lukas Volger

 Veggie Burgers Every Which Way by Lukas Volger

‘Try new recipes and ingredients as often as possible. I think of it like exercise: it’s not any fun until you find something you enjoy. But you won’t know that if you limit yourself to the sad few vegetable dishes that generally come under the “vegetarian” header,’ he says.

Most vegetables don’t need too much cooking time either, so a lot of the recipes are quick and easy to make, meaning they’re a healthy convenience option if you’re short on time. And, with so many restaurant or takeaway burgers low in flavor and texture, and high in fat, it’s easy to see why Volger has developed a love affair with the homemade veggie version. We think you will, too.

Quick tip: ‘Vegetables that grate easily are best for veggie burgers. They cook quite quickly in a pan, and provide clean flavor with a nice robust texture.’

Thai Carrot Burgers

Prep and cooking time: 30 minutes

Makes: Four 10cm burgers

Description: Thai carrot burgers

Thai carrot burgers

Per serving: 226 calories; 5g protein; 13g fat (2g saturated fat); 22g carbohydrate (17g sugar); 14g salt; 7g fibre

·         3 tbsp olive oil

·         1 bunch spring onions, including the dark green parts, thinly sliced

·         3 garlic cloves, finely chopped

·         5cm piece fresh ginger, grated

·         1 serrano chilli, finely chopped (seeded or unseeded)

·         8 carrots, grated

·         1tsp salt

·         1 tsp ground coriander

·         ¾ tsp ground turmeric

·         ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

·         2 egg whites

·         2 tbsp natural peanut butter

·         Juice of ½ lime

·         15g fresh coriander, roughly chopped

·         25g breadcrumbs, toased

Pre-heat the oven to 1900C/Gas mark 5

  1. Heat a large lidded sauté pan over medium heat. Add one tablespoon of the oil. When hot, add the spring onions and cook for about two minutes, until just soft. Add the garlic, ginger and chilli, and stir for 30 seconds, until fragrant. Stir in the carrots, salt, coriander, turmeric and cinnamon. Cover and cook for six to eight minutes, until the carrots are soft but not mushy.
  2. In a mixing bowl, whisk together the egg whites, peanut butter and lime juice. Stir in the carrot mixture and the chopped coriander. Fold in the breadcrumbs. Let the mixture sit for about 10 minutes, allowing the crumbs. Let the mixture sit for about 10 minutes, allowing the crumbs to absorb some of the liquid. Add seasoning if required, and shape into four patties.
  3. In an oven-proof frying pan, heat the remaining two tablespoons of oil over a medium-high heat. When hot, add the patties and cook until browned on each side, four to six minutes in total. Transfer the pan to the oven and bake for 12 to 15 minutes, until the burgers are firm and cooked through.

Chef’s tip: For the best flavor, use natural, unsweetened peanut butter. Choose smooth or chunky, depending on the texture you want.

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