Lentil – Mushroom Burgers

A case of good ingredients, bad dish.

Have you ever picked a recipe thinking it sounds great and the picture looks really appetising? Well I did last week. My teenage son has been bugging me for weeks about including more protein in his diet. He is not only going thru a growing spurt, but decided to embark on a fitness kick and strive for the best abs, shoulders, and pecs a 15 year old can have. I am not complaining, better have a fitness fanatic teenager than a couch potato.

So I grabbed one of the few Men’s Health and Outside magazines we have laying around, and came across a Lentil-Mushroom Burger recipe recommended by an ultramarathon runner, called Scott Jurek. If you’re like me, you probably have never heard of him and are highly unlikely to ever run into him (pun intended!). You see, he holds the record for the most miles run in 24 hours: 165.7. And he’s done it on a vegan diet. I am always looking for new ways to incorporate plant-based foods in our rotation (that’s new lingo to say I try to eat more vegetables!) and under my son’s influence, I find myself thinking not only about the yumminess  aspect but also the nutritional value of such foods ( like energy boosting or endurance enhancing). So I was intrigued by Mr Jurek’s claim that “this vegan burger is so delicious, even meat eaters find it satisfying!”.

 

All the ingredients are favourites of ours, and I happened to have them at hand on the boat: garlic, onions, lentils, mushrooms, walnuts, flaxseeds, breadcrumbs, Dijon mustard and spinach…I do feel like I am running a floating market sometimes! The recipe has you cooking the lentils till soft, finely chopping, mixing and sauteeing the vegetables, combine everything together, forming patties and grilling them as you would a hamburger. Sounded and looked perfect.

Except that the result was shocking: not shockingly bad, just shockingly…weird. It was savoury enough, but it felt like a vegetable patty masquerading as a burger. Which it was, and doing a bad job of it. The texture was sandlike, so dry it felt like eating gravel. The walnuts gave it crunch, the mushrooms and lentils added that earthy taste (like mud Terry said), the flaxseeds were supposed to act as binding agent (the same way an egg would, but this is a vegan dish, so eggs were out!) but they didn’t. Extra olive oil would have gone a long way, but our marathon runner mustn’t believe in adding more than 1 tablespoon of fat in the pan. I am not sure what he was thinking when he suggested to serve the patties on “toasted buns ” with no mention of any sauce (not even ketchup?) or extra fillings (lettuce leaves? Tomatoes? beetroot? No, nothing!) Hello carbs!!!

I don’t think of myself as a member of the food police, however I did find the whole combination just plain wrong. I skipped the buns, preferring to serve a baked ratatouille on the side, and a bowl of homemade tomato sauce to smother over these make believe burgers. Our daughter nailed it when she flatly declared “Mum, I don’t like your burgers” and instead, took a second serve of ratatouille, one of her least favourite food. Terry skipped straight to dessert, claiming he needed a cup of tea and a couple of coconut cookies for comfort. Our son, Marc, said it was OK, but not before slapping slices of smoked provolone cheese,  sliding the lot under the grill, and whopping some tomato sauce on top. I am actually reluctant to validate his opinion, on the basis that he declared the whole dish acceptable by making it non-vegan (ie adding cheese, that’s cheating!)

 

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So what went wrong? To me, a good burger is a burger burger, beefy and juicy (sorry, I love salmon, chicken and pork too, but they don’t come close to a good old beef burger!)Tried to make a burger out of what would make a fantastic salad, that’s what went wrong.  Imagine this: lovely green lentils, sliced mushrooms, toasted walnuts, garlic croutons, caramelised onions, on a bed of shredded spinach, with a Dijon mustard dressing. Doesn’t that  sound nicer? To make my point, I am off to the market this week end, to buy more vegetables and cook my version of  ultramarathon fuel food. Stay tuned!

In the meantime, here is the Outside recipe for the lentils-mushrooms patties (I really can’t bring myself to call them burgers!) If anyone out there decides to try it, please do report back, I don’t mind being proven wrong (though I prefer being right).

Lentil- Mushroom Burgers

 

Makes 12 4” burgers (serves 6 people, or 3 ultramarathoners!)

2 ¼  cups water

1 cup dried green or brown  lentils

1 tsp dried parsley

3 minced garlic clove

1 ¼ cups chopped onions

¾ cup chopped walnuts

2 cups breadcrumbs

½ cup ground flaxseeds

3 cups chopped mushrooms

1 ½ cups finely chopped kale or other winter greens ( I used spinach)

2 tbsp Dijon mustard

3 tbsp balsamic vinegar

 

1-     In a medium-size pot, bring the water to the boil and add the dried lentils, parsley, 1 minced garlic clove, ¼ cup chopped onion. Simmer for 35-40 minutes.

2-     Combine walnuts, breadcrumbs, ground flaxseeds in a small bowl and set aside.

3-     In a separate pan greased with olive oil, sauté 1 cup chopped onion, 2 minced garlic cloves, mushrooms, spinach for 8 to 10 minutes.

4-     Remove lentils from heat, add Dijon mustard and balsamic vinegar, and mash ingredients together.

5-     In a large bowl combine lentils, sautéed vegetables and breadcrumb mixture. Cool in the fridge.

6-     Using your hands, form patties and fry or grill until lightly browned and crispy on both sides, 3-5 minutes each side.

7-     Serve on a toasted bun ( I DIDN’T) or on their own with fresh tomato sauce and baked ratatouille (AS I DID).

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