You can’t beat a tasty veggie burger, far superior to any meat offering (well I would say that wouldn’t I!!). But they do need careful thought and preparation – so often they can seriously underwhelm. Not just in terms of flavour – there is nothing more disappointing than a bland veggie burger than melds into a pappy bun. You definitely need a powerful flavour punch to withstand being ‘sandwichified’. But they also so often disappoint in terms of texture, especially with no egg or dairy in the mix to hold them together. Bean burgers tend to work well, but other varieties can crumble at the first bite, leaving a seriously un-satisfying burger experience. Some people bridge this gap with vegetable protein or fake mince but I have a bit of an aversion to anything resembling meat, so I needed another binder to give a great bite, but this time I didn’t feel like beans.
I had settled on Italian flavours (olives, sun-dried tomatoes, pine nuts and basil) to give the flavour, and then it seemed obvious to try polenta. It easily forms patties that hold together, is a great carrier of flavour and gets a lovely crispy coating. As it happens it was a very good choice – these veggie burgers delivered on all fronts and somewhat to my surprise worked beautifully in a bun. They’d also be rather successful just served in patty form. I have yet to give them a go on the barbecue, but I reckon they’d work just fine.
Italian Style Polenta Burgers (dairy-free, egg-free, nut-free, soya-free, sesame-free, gluten-free, vegetarian and vegan)
- 1/3 cup sun blush or sundries tomatoes
- 1/4 cup olives (I used green as its all I had in, but black would be more suitable)
- 1/4 cup pine nuts or sunflower seeds, toasted
- Small bunch of basil, shredded
- 1 spring onion, finely sliced
- 6 tbsp quick cook polenta
- 2 cups water
- 1 tbsp nutritional yeast (or 2 of hard cheese if you use dairy)
- 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
- 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1/4 cup dry polenta to coat the burgers
– Bring the water to the boil
– Pour in the 6 tbsp of polenta and whisk until its cooked through and forms one lump
– Stir in all the other ingredients, taste and adjust seasoning as necessary
– Dollop it into a cling film lined baking tin and press down firmly to make an even rectangle
– Place in the fridge for at least 30 mins to cool and firm up
– Cut into desired shapes, dust with the dry polenta and set aside.
– When ready to cook, fry each side in oil until golden, then transfer to a medium oven for 10 minutes to finish cooking though.