Brilliant beetroot & lentil burgers

The verdict is out: veggie burgers trump their meaty counterparts. It’s a sneaking suspicion that I’ve harboured for quite some time now, and I’ve finally put it to the test. For the carnivorous amongst us, a juicy beefburger is unlikely to be beaten by mere lentils; but if you prefer your burgers with more flavour, veggie is the way to go.

I made these beetroot and puy lentil burgers, from Delicious Magazine (well worth a gander for recipe ideas) with my twin brother, visiting for the weekend. He pronounced them to be better than the last McDonald’s burger he’d eaten (hardly a compliment), but also the best veggie burger he’d ever clapped eyes on / sunk teeth into. They’re a tad messy, but very much worth it: the beetroot and lentils create a burger which is lighter and much more nutritious then meat.

 

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To make four burgers, you’ll need:

  • 325g raw beetroot (I used ready-to-eat vacuum packed beetroot)
  • 250g cooked puy lentils
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • a red chilli
  • 5cm piece ginger
  • a handful of fresh mint or coriander springs
  • a medium egg
  • 1/2 tbsp medium curry powder
  • plain flour
  • oil for frying
  • wholemeal burger buns
  • mature cheddar cheese, or feta cheese
  • lettuce leaves

 

Leave the messy till last: begin by finely chopping the garlic, chilli, and ginger. Weigh out the lentils.

In a large plate or bowl, grate the beetroot, wrap a third in a clean J-cloth (not kitchen towel!) and squeeze out all of the liquid. Don’t squeeze too hard – the J-cloth will break. Repeat with the rest of the beetroot, until you’re left with a much-reduced, dry red pulp. I recommend doing this over the sink, to avoid transforming your kitchen surface into something resembling a murder scene.

In a large mixing bowl, add the curry powder, chilli, garlic, and herbs to the beetroot and lentils. Crack in an egg, and season with salt and pepper. Use your hands to mix thoroughly, and shape into four burgers. You may need to add a little flour to bind the slightly sloppy mixture together. Dust with more flour.

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius. Heat a generous few lugs of oil in a frying pan, and place the burgers inside to cook. Fry for around five minutes on each side, using a spatula to flip. Once browned, put the burgers on a baking tray and cook in the oven for another five minutes or so. Add the burger buns to the tray to toast up.

Build your burgers with grated cheese, lettuce, sliced tomato, and mayo or chilli sauce. Serve with salad or crudités. I can safely guarantee that they’ll be one of the best veggie burgers you’ve eaten!

 

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Jamie’s Italian, York

Have you ever enjoyed a meal out at a particular restaurant so much, that you’re back within the week? It sounds rather luxurious, the spontaneous whim of a spendthrift. But after visiting on one Friday for a friend’s birthday, I recommended it to my family visiting the next Friday (for a dinner I happily didn’t have to pay for).

I always look forward to other people’s birthdays, and for the excuse to eat out. My friends and I discuss our options with the gravity of politicians before making a rational and well-reasoned decision on location, time, and day. The birthday girl was eager to introduce us Jamie’s Italian, being a big fan herself, and came armed with her shiny Gold Card.

The York restaurant is quite tucked away, to the extent that some aren’t aware of its existence. Outside, there is a pretty al fresco seating area, which I can imagine is lovely in the summer. Inside is stylishly furnished, spread across three floors; although with slightly dim lighting, and limited bar seating, the bathrooms surprised me with their Italian piazza-style tiling, golden taps, and pink toilets.

The menu consists of a range of pasta dishes, grills, salads, and sides, with an extensive starter and dessert list. There’s an impressive range of cocktails, well worth their price, and beer is served in classy glasses. One thing to bear in mind before ordering is that the menu offers small and large portions of pasta dishes, meaning that you can fit in a three course meal without leaving uncomfortably full; or, if you’re a budgeting student, you can feel pleased with yourself for saving a few pounds. And then there’s the Jamie’s Gold card: by signing up for free, you’re entitled to a free bottle of Prosecco or Lambrusco, a complimentary mini-starter, and a discount.

 

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Jamie’s Mojito

 

The two visits sufficed to give me a very favourable impression of the restaurant as a whole. Staff are friendly and chatty, service is prompt, and the food is great. I’ll pick a few selections from the dishes my two respective groups ordered over the two evenings.

The starters menu is very diverse, putting a spin on classics: there were pork scratchings with apple sauce; crab and avocado bruschetta; baked chestnut mushrooms; Italian nachos; and olives ‘on ice’. The bruschetta had a strong chilli kick, fantastic with the creamy avocado; the mushrooms were loaded with gooey mozzarella cheese (although probably overpriced at £5.75), and the nachos were fantastically flavoured: stuffed with threes type of cheese with a hint of smokiness, and accompanied by a chunky and sweet tomato dipping sauce.

 

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On my first trip, I opted for the meat pappardelle with a rocket and parmesan salad; when it arrived, I was concerned that it wasn’t enough: but I was happily mistaken. The sauce was rich in flavour, the pork tender. On my second visit, I chose one of the specials – pan-fried cod with butternut squash, on a bed of lentils. My dad shared my concern regarding size this time, and we ordered some garlic bread to share. For the £15 price tag, it did seem expensive for the portion size: but bearing in mind that good quality fish is not cheap to come by, I’m not complaining. The fish was soft, and the squash sweet: all was served beautifully with a drizzle of oil. I also sampled the pumpkin ravioli, deliciously sweet with nutty overtones. This time, though, portion size was undeniably petite.

 

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Desserts were a molten chocolate cake with salted caramel ice cream; lemon meringue cheesecake; ice cream with a variety of toppings, including berry compote and butterscotch; and tiramisu. If anything, do not leave without tasting the ice cream – it’s fantastic. I savoured every mouthful of the cake, and helped to polish off my friend’s slice of fluffy and rich cheesecake.

 

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I’d reccommend Jamie’s Italian on the strength of its dining experience, service, and food. Although some portions could have been a bit more generous, taste was faultless; everything was well worth its price.

 

 

Cauliflower, potato, and spinach curry

The cauliflower is a neglected vegetable. Underneath its extensive leafy wrappings, it’s small, mild, and delicate: so why is it so often over-looked? Often inseparable from the memory of bland school-dinner cauliflower cheese, or an over-boiled, tasteless mess, cauliflower has suffered harshly in our hands.

So I decided to breathe some fresh life into my own use of this plant. As it has no particularly distinct flavour of its own, I thought the cauliflower would lend itself well to a curry: and this one from BBC GoodFood appealed to me with its range of spices. I added a few fistfuls of fresh spinach, and used plum tomatoes in place of tinned, to use up the sad-looking remnants of last week’s shop. Parboiling the potato and cauliflower beforehand significantly reduced the cooking time.

The overall result was a satisfying and healthy dinner. The lemon gave the ginger and chilli sauce a lift, and the combination of cauliflower and potato left me feeling happily full.

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To serve one, you’ll need:

  • a third of a stripped cauliflower, in florets
  • a small baking potato, or a few handfuls of small potatoes
  •  half a tin of chopped tomatoes / seven or eight plum or cherry tomatoes / two salad tomatoes
  • spinach
  • third of a small red onion
  • a clove of garlic
  • a small piece of ginger
  • half a green chilli
  • 1/2 tsp curry powder
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric
  • juice of a lemon
  • salt and pepper
  • natural yoghurt and coriander, to serve

 

Unclothe the cauliflower (how else can I put this?), and chop the inner vegetable in half. Roughly dice the potato. Blanch the two together for five minutes in boiling water.

Finely chop the onion, garlic, chilli, and ginger. Heat a lug of oil in a pan, and gently cook the onions until soft. Add the spices all together and fry while you roughly chop the tomatoes, before putting in the pan with the drained cauliflower and potato.

Stir well to incorporate the vegetables, season with salt and pepper, then pop a lid on to simmer for around twenty-five minutes, or until the potato is soft.

Squeeze in a generous amount of lemon juice before dishing up: serve with coriander and natural yoghurt.

I’d love to know how this can be improved in terms of flavour: the potato and cauliflower, being a tad bland, are blank canvases to taste. It’s a dry curry, but perhaps a little sauce would add some real richness of flavour.

 

 

Asian steamed salmon

Salmon is my weekly treat. It’s my favourite fish, with a fantastic texture; and it’s not overwhelmingly, well, fishy. It’s incredibly versatile, lending to so many flavours; my preferred way of eating it is simply roasting with a drizzle of oil, and splashing with fresh lemon juice.

But this week, I decided to mix things up. This recipe idea came from Tesco’s website, which I recommend as a great source of ideas for meal planning and general food inspiration.

You’ll need, to serve one:

  • one salmon fillet
  • a small piece of ginger
  • 1/4 red chilli
  • a clove of garlic (not in the recipe, but I thought: why not?)
  • half a lemon
  • soy sauce.

 

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Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius, or gas mark 5. Peel and slice the ginger into small matchsticks. Slice the chilli, a few thin pieces of lemon, and finely chop the garlic.

Simply lay the salmon on a piece of tin foil, and scatter with the spices. Lay the lemon slices on top, drizzle with soy sauce, and wrap the salmon into a parcel. Then, bake in the oven for fifteen minutes (twenty to twenty five, if from frozen.)

The ginger gave the salmon a lovely flavour, combined with the roasted lemon and the soy sauce. I enjoyed this with cumin and paprika sweet potato wedges, broccoli, and a yoghurt and tahini dip. Delicious!

(Salmon can easily be substituted with chicken – I’ve made it this way before, and served with courgette and tagliatelle. I will try this next time with noodles and stir-fried vegetables!)

Butternut squash chilli

 

 

Sometimes, investing the time and energy into a meal really pays its dividends. I know that for many people, time and effort are insurmountable barriers to recipes such as this one: but, honestly, if you just set aside the time for it, or enlist a little extra help, the satisfaction will merit its labour.

This recipe for butternut squash chilli is from BBC GoodFood, and makes four portions – although as always, I chopped and changed a few ingredients. You’ll need:

  • 600g medium vine tomatoes, or 400g can of chopped tomatoes (I used the latter)
  • two onions (I used a small brown one, and a bit of red)
  • two large garlic cloves
  • one red bird’s-eye chilli (I used one ordinary red chilli, and found it sufficiently hot)
  • a tsp cayenne pepper
  • a tsp oregano
  • one bay leaf
  • 600g butternut squash, cut into cubes (about two-thirds of an average plant)
  • twelve pitted green olives
  • 150ml red wine (I took the risk of using 90ml of red wine vinegar instead…)
  • 1/2 vegetable stock cube, or 3/4 tsp stock powder
  • 200g jar piquilio pimentio peppers, or 2 large roasted Romano peppers (or normal peppers!)
  • 400g black beans (or kidney)
  • small bunch of chives
  • soured cream

It’s tempting to buy pre-prepared butternut squash – but I can testify that going for a whole plant is much better value: a 400g pack at Asda costs £1.50, in place of just 75p for the whole thing. You won’t need the whole squash – but save the leftovers for a curry later on.

Start by peeling and dicing the butternut squash. Mary Berry’s advice on this was to use a regular peeler if the skin of the fruit is ripe enough: but if you struggle to remove it, protect your digits by cutting the squash into rounds, and peeling it in parts. (I wish I’d read this sooner – I spent a laborious fifteen minutes removing the peel with a knife.) Make sure the squash cubes aren’t too chunky; they’ll take even longer to cook otherwise.

Finely chop the onion, garlic, and chilli.  If you’re opting for fresh tomatoes, pour boiling water over them and leave for thirty seconds, before chopping in half, removing the skins, and roughly chopping the insides.

Heat a tbsp of olive oil in a large saucepan, and cook the onions and garlic gently until soft. Add the chilli, oregano, cayenne and bay leaf, stir-fry for a minute, then add the red wine. (I didn’t have red wine, so experimented with red wine vinegar: it gave the sauce a good sweetness, but I’d be interested to know how it was supposed to taste!) Mix in the olives and the squash.

Simmer for a few minutes before adding the tomatoes, with 200ml water. Crumble or stir in the stock. Pop the lid on the pan and simmer for another thirty minutes, stirring every now and then.

Add the peppers when the thirty minutes are up. I used one green pepper in place of the fancy ones stipulated in the recipe; but I can imagine that they would have added a real sweet depth of flavour to the squash and beans. Season the chilli with salt and pepper, and leave for another twenty minutes, or until the squash is soft. Add the drained and rinsed beans, and stir through.

Serve with brown rice, snipped chives or coriander, and soured cream.

This was very satisfying and rich in flavour; the olives, in my opinion, gave it a special something. And it tasted even better reheated the next day.

 

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