Saturday, 23 July 2011

Bean Vs. Beef

A couple of posts ago I mentioned that I sometimes find it tricky convincing the ardent carnivores I cook for that a meal free of meat or fish can be just as filling and tasty without a giant hunk of protein. Having said that, I am by no stretch of the imagination a vegetarian. I just watched Simon Hopkinson fry a steak that looked so perfect I'd knock my grandmother down to get to it before anyone else.

 I did dabble with the idea of vegetarianism for about six months when I was in high school, but then, who didn't play around with some kind of food fad when they were in high school? I did pretty well until it got to Christmas time and my mother taunted me with the agonising notion of skipping butter roasted turkey and gravy. I finally buckled under the pressure. She hates most cooking, so forcing her to cook me alternative, meat-free meals was torture for her. I suppose it was only a matter of time anyway. There were only so many Saturday mornings I could press my face into a cushion so as not to inhale the intoxicating scent of smoked bacon coming from the kitchen. If you're able to resist that heavenly odour, you are a stronger person than I!

I do think vegetarian meals can be amazing. I've mentioned (oh about 600,000 times) how much I adore Mediterranean food, and Italian food in particular. The Med has a food culture that celebrates all ingredients and isn't afraid to make vegetables the centre of a dish, as opposed to our preference for making them an accompaniment. There is one area though where I am yet to be convinced that vegetables can beat meat - BURGERS!

I recently decided to make cheese and bean burgers as an experiment. Even the concept of a meat-free burger was alien to my diners:

No was no response after that. Nevertheless, I persevered.

They were a little fragile and collapsible, mainly because I'd forgotten to buy leeks and substituted with onions. The consistency was all wrong, but they were at least quite tasty. Something was missing though, and it was that deep, thick squish you get on biting into a meat burger. Maybe if I'd given them a different name, cheese and bean patties for example, they wouldn't have been a disappointment. But burgers just aren't meant to be that soft. You need that satisfying feeling of resistance as you chew down and force your jaw to do some work.

A few weeks later I decided I wanted proper burgers, and by proper I meant made of meat. I came across a recipe for Scandinavian style beef burgers. The recipe wasn't from my latest cookbook acquisition, but one found online. What makes them slightly different to standard burgers is that they have courgette, carrot and dill in them. They also have beer in them, which I supposee should have been an authentic Scandinavian branded beer, but all I had lying around was a bottle of Old Peculier.

They look good, yes? They really were lovely and definitely had that satisfying chew factor. Yeah, they could have done with a little more oil and salt (I was afraid of over salting them - not something I'm usually shy about) and I made the schoolgirl error of forgetting to oil the grid, but overall they were delicious. Now I'm gagging for a burger, and something tells me a little paper-wrapped parcel from McDonald's just won't do.

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