When I created this vegetarian/vegan burger, I focused on two important aspects: texture and umami flavor. Vegetarian burgers often lack both. I like to think I succeeded in resolving these issues. Lack of great texture is often caused because the water content of vegetarian ingredients (like vegetables) is too high, which will make your burger mushy, so I decided to roast all of the main ingredients to dry them out a bit. The result is a vegetarian burger which has a lot of bite.
Secondly, I wanted my eggplant burger to be able to compete with beef burgers in terms of umami flavor, so I added both soy sauce (or tamari, if you're gluten free) and chopped kalamata olives to the mix to make them extra-savory.
The result: the best vegetarian or vegan burger I've ever tasted! —Lieke Sniekers
cooked chickpeas, drained
cumin or ras el hanout
small eggplants, cubed (no need to peel, the skin adds to the texture)
kalamata olives, finely chopped
egg, beaten* (see last step for a vegan option)
tamari or soy sauce
garlic clove, finely chopped
flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
burger buns of your choice, split
toppings of your choice, such as tomato slices, romaine lettuce, piccalilly, mayonnaise, red onion, harissa, pickles
Sprinkle the eggplant cubes with 2 teaspoons of kosher salt and leave to drain in a colander for an hour.
Heat the oven to 180º C / 355° F . Distribute the cashews over a baking sheet and roast until golden, roughly 10 minutes. Set aside to cool. Pulse them in a food processor until they are ground into a fine meal.
Meanwhile, heat the oven to 220º C / 430° F. Dry chickpeas carefully with a tea towel and toss with ½ tablespoon of the olive oil and cumin. Spread on a baking sheet and roast them in the oven until crisp, 8 to 15 minutes. Leave to cool. Pulse the chickpeas in the food processor until they are ground into a course meal. Add to the ground cashews.
Carefully rinse the eggplant. Wring out in the eggplant cubes as much as you can, using your hands or a clean kitchen towel. Heat the oven to 200º C / 390° F. Spread the eggplant on a large baking sheet and roast for about 25 minutes until browned and dry.
Mash the eggplant. Add to the cashew and chickpea meal together with the remaining ingredients. Divide mixture into two balls and shape into patties. Wrap carefully in plastic and leave to rest in the fridge for at least an hour.
Heat the remaining table spoon of oil in a frying pan over medium-high heat. Add patties to the pan and cook for 3 minutes on both sides until golden. Place on the burger buns and add any toppings of choice.
*to make a vegan burger, combine 1 tablespoon of flaxseed meal with 3 tablespoons of water and leave for at least 30 minutes until it starts to gel. Use instead of the egg.