Friday, 10 April 2015

Chickpea and sweetcorn burgers with smoky tomato sauce - A family winner

So, whoever said "we're having burgers for dinner" has to mean that the eaters will shortly be consuming what is supposed to pass as meat but tastes more like cardboard, out of a slightly stale white bap smothered with tomato ketchup, was vastly unimiginative. In fact, even if the burgers were delicious, made from the finest steak meat, served up in organic, stoneground flour rolls with artisan ketchup, they would still be lacking in the imagination department. Because who says burgers have to be made of meat? But who also says it is necessary to confess that they are not when one is asked what is for dinner?

These absolutely mouthwatering burgers are in the latter category, made not from meat but from a combination of chickpeas, sweetcorn and spring onions, enhanced by the distinctive addition of cumin, a commonality in this type of chickpea based burger. I found the recipe in the latest issue of Tesco Real Food magazine, and immediately ripped it out for future reference (though, to my great misfortune I seem to have misplaced it). Fear not however, for this necessitated my doing a search for the recipe, and I am very happy, for my sake and yours, to be able to say that I have found it on the Tesco Real Food website.

You will see my little note scribbled on the bottom of the page, which says "sweet potato chips". The mention of smoky tomato sauce immediately brought to my mind a delicious portion of sweet potato chips roasted in the oven with smoked paprika and seasoning, to be served on the side. What could possibly accompany this dish better? If you want to make these, prepare before the burgers by peeling and cutting your sweet potatoes into wedges, par-boiling for five minutes, just to take the edge off the hardness, then arranging in a baking tray. Add a generous glug of olive oil, swishing the potatoes around to ensure they are all coated, before adding a very generous shaking of smoked paprika, salt and pepper.

Roast in an oven pre-heated at fan 190 for 40-45 minutes until as crispy as you like them.

The putting together of the burgers is super simple. All the ingredients are put in a blender and  whizzed together to leave you with a coarse, even lumpy, mixture. You ideally want to be left with large lumps of sweetcorn and chickpea, rather than a broken down mixture; the sweetcorn will then char deliciously in the frying pan later on!

You can see the layer of breadcrumbs in the bottom of the jug. To save time, I just processed the breadcrumbs before adding the rest of the ingredients, as it makes no sense to make the breadcrumbs and remove them, only to add them again.

How my finished mixture looked.

Once finished, make the mixture into four patties (the recipe says six, so I guess ours were quarter pounders!) making sure you follow the instruction to dust your hands with flour before picking up each portion; this makes it much easier to shape without the mixture sticking to you, and put into the fridge to firm up. I made two larger and two smaller patties for my family of two adults and two children. You can make them into whatever size and number you like to suit whoever you are feeding, just adjust frying times according to size.

Your patties should be made and in the fridge by the time the sweet potatoes have been simmering for as long as you need, so once the latter are in the oven, you can continue with what is, in my opinion, the most genious part of this recipe: the smoky tomato sauce. The very simple trick is in the reduction of a tin of chopped tomatoes, to which is added only crushed garlic, smoked paprika and a pinch (ok, I definitely gave it more than a pinch; do this according to your taste) of sugar. Incidentally, I usually use light brown soft sugar when the addition of sugar is required in a savoury dish. I like the subtle of richness of it, compared to, say, granulated sugar. The sauce goes from this... this... this... this.

 And the best part of it? Those little, slightly charred bits of tomato scraped from the pan as the sauce becomes denser. Mmmmmm!

I allowed about 15 minutes for the frying of my burgers, so get them in the pan when the sweet potatoes have about that long left. I cooked mine over a medium to high heat, so they cooked through and didn't get too burnt on the outside, but still attained a degree of char.

Once everything is finished, assemble the burgers as described in the recipe, with the sweet potatoes on the side.

Yes, it was as delicious as it looks! The tomato sauce really was mouthwatering, and the sweet potato chips were the perfect accompaniment. Another perfect accompaniment was this delicious Stockyard barbeque sauce which I believe we purchased in M&S. It goes exceptionally well with paprika roasted sweet pottoes.

And the translation into childrens' portions consisted half a burger bun each, topped with a burger and relish, and a large sweet potato chip. This was more than enough for a two and four year old.

This meal got a massive thumbs up from every angle, even though husb, after reading my first paragraph, vehemently disagrees with the ideas of a "burger" containing no meat! Ahhh, the mindsets we are conditioned to have. It reminds me of a couple of months ago when I made us River Cottage (again!) lamb and rhubarb pasties; savoury at one end, sweet at the other. He could not come to terms with this peculiar slant on eating, and the lack in distinction between savoury and sweet. It still greatly amuses me!

Here are my little Tonjus enjoying their delicious dinner (Tonju is a nickname we started to give our oldest son following a recent trip husb made to Japan. I shan't elaborate on the meaning, though needless to say, it is one of those disparaging but loving nicknames only a parent can give their child, that the child just doesn't get but thinks is hilarious. Both boys are occasionally referred to as Tonju, depending on their demeanour at the time!)

So I hope this recipe dissection (which it was not intended to be, but thus it has turned out) will inspire some of you to whip out your food processor and tell your family they'll be eating burgers for dinner. And what do you think - can a burger be meatless? I'd love to know what your opinion is.

Thanks so much for reading :)

xxx Sam

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