What is a “veggie burger” to you? To me it’s what I commonly choose when dining out because (sadly — unless I’m at EDNA) it’s what passes for the plant-based choice on most menus except for salad or some sort of pasta…well there’s pizza too but in all truth the veggie burger is the most ubiquitous and well-loved of plant-based cuisine (true story — when I first started telling people I was a “vegetarian” I’d usually got the reply: “Oooh! I love veggie burgers!” Proof that everyone loves a good veggie burger) So it’s safe to say that I don’t make lots of veggie burgers if it’s the “going out” food — too much of a good thing and all of that.
When I received a copy of Martin Nordin‘s Green Burgers I was equal parts excited and apprehensive. Excited to try some fresh, new recipes but apprehensive that this book might deliver more of the same-old same-old veggie burger recipes. Right from the beginning he sets his book apart by calling them ‘green burgers’ instead of veggie burgers — whether he meant to or not I think this is a subtle way of distancing himself from what’s been done before. In his introduction, this self-proclaimed “cabbage butcher” makes a strong case for the notion that meatless burgers are more open to exploration because unlike their meaty counterpart these green ones can have patties made from anything and are completely open to interpretation. This is true — a meat burger can really only have one type of patty whereas a veggie burger has endless choices.
Which recipe really blew my mind? His Twirled Aubergine Burger w/ Homemade Tomato Ketchup and Caramelized Onion! The idea to thinly slice eggplant, brown it in a pan then fill it with tomato paste and cheese to then roll it like a cinnamon bun is genius! Baking it in a ramekin helps the patty to retain it’s shape but I loved the idea that a patty doesn’t necessarily need to be a conventional patty. I think this burger turns the whole concept of a burger on it’s head! While it’s topped with ketchup (a very traditional choice) the homemade variety from his cookbook offers a bit more of a sweetly-tangy-smoky sensibility. Topped off with some beautifully jammy caramelized onions it really is one of the best burgers I’ve made.
Nordin’s minimalist approach to cookbook writing is refreshing — with no recipe head notes the home cook is left to explore and interpret each recipe on their own. His succinct introduction along with a short description discussing burger structure and a list of the utensils he finds most useful leads quickly into the first section on Burgers. I found that each burger recipe itself (just the patties) had fairly short ingredient lists — 8 to 12 items. Each recipe has a photo to accompany it and the recipes are fit to one page (maybe I’m the only person out there who hates flipping pages in the middle of cooking a recipe?). The remaining sections focus on Burger Buns, Side Orders (this is where all the fries are!!!), Pickles, Condiments, and Other Accompaniments, and pantry items.
So far I’ve only tried making three burgers out of the 31 in the book and I found a few things. Firstly, while none of the burger recipes I tried were difficult to make they could be time-consuming. If there were steps to roast an ingredient before use (i.e. sweet potatoes) or if you need to let the patties “rest” in the fridge before cooking or marinate ingredients before starting then you may need to plan ahead. But with the Black Bean Burgers I found that I could make them ahead of time and cook them at dinner when we were ready to eat. These patties kept well in the fridge so I think you could easily whip them up on a weekend and enjoy them during the week. Secondly, he doesn’t explicitly talk about vegan options but you can totally omit some dairy (cheese, butter, etc) or substitute ingredients (flax eggs for actual eggs, df cheese, vegan butter, etc). In his preface he really emphasizes the fact that he hopes people adapt their plates to whatever excites them. I think his recipes are flexible enough to accommodate any dietary preference. Finally, while the majority of the ingredients are easily sourced there are a few that may not be as easy to find — such as lingonberries or sea buckthorn berries.
One of the best takeaways is the use of food rings. Helpful in shaping the patty and getting a patty size that corresponds to the bun diameter. I had never used a food ring before this and now I’m not sure how I got on without one. As you can see from the photo above by using a food ring you can really achieve a professional looking patty. A technique that I’ll be adopting for cooking any green burgers I make from now on is to brown the patties in a pan first, then finish cooking them in the oven (which is what he does in his recipes). This is something I’ve seen on cooking programs where meat is being cooked but I never thought to apply it to plant-based cooking. The resulting patties are beautifully browned and cooked straight through.
I know that one of the most daunting things to make is any type of bread. It can seem like a big deal but what I’ve come to discover is that all you need is time and a great recipe. When I tried a recipe from the Burger Buns section I was ecstatic over the Sweet Potato Buns I made. I followed his recipe exactly and the buns turned out perfectly. For those of you who do not weigh your ingredients I strongly urge you to. Your recipes will yield far superior results if you use a scale. While Nordin provides both ways in his book do yourselves a favour and use a scale.
I was a little concerned that trying so many burger/burger-related recipes over such a short period of time would turn my family off of veggie burgers but each burger we tried was so delicious (extremely so!) and so different from each other that it didn’t feel boring. Tonight I made his Quinoa and Sweet Potato Burgers w/ Horseradish Sour Cream, Shallots, and Chives and I think the best thing about this patty (aside from that killer horseradish cream) was the squeeze of lemon in the patty mix. It made the burger taste fresher. Do you ever find that veggie burgers can be a bit dense and the flavours heavy? I do sometimes but I’ve found that Nordin balances the ingredients so that the flavour and textures never seem heavy or over-mixed.
I think what Green Burgers offers is a complete change to the veggie burger lexicon. Not only will you find new takes on classic favourites (such as the portobello burger and black bean burger) but you’ll find other recipes to excite your imagination and palate — such as Green Banana Guacamole, Kimchi w/ Rhubarb, or Oven-Baked Jerusalem Artichoke Burger. If you’re curious to see what I’ve been cooking up from Green Burgers check out my custom hashtag #eatworthygreenburgers or my dedicated Facebook post. As I try more recipes I’ll continue to add pictures of what I make.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank Raincoast Books and Hardie Grant Books for providing me with a free, review copy of this book. I did not receive monetary compensation for my post, and all thoughts and opinions expressed are my own