THIS week, I thought it time to leave the meat to one side and concentrate on a vegetarian recipe for a change.

I rarely do an all-veg recipe, for a number of reasons. Partly, my love of meat, fish and poultry is too great most of the time, and partly (to my shame), I’m less than brilliant when it comes to being particularly inventive with vegetables.

I love them enormously, but I think that, mostly, they’re better with little done to them, allowing the natural flavours to shine through. I’m simply not wired (unless I concentrate all my efforts) to think of vegetables in the way ‘proper’ vegetarians do, as their staple diet.

Their inventiveness, creativity and mastery of textures and flavours are of constant fascination to me and I collect the better books that appear in order that I might gain some inspiration.

Of course, it should be said that any vegetable meal should have a small amount of protein for balance’s sake, whether it’s a bit of cheese, some lovely fresh nuts or, in this case, pulses.

It certainly need not be animal protein, but a balanced diet, even meat-free, should include some protein for the body’s benefit. A classic supper of aubergine Parmigiana wouldn’t be the amazing dish it is without that all-important crust of stringy, tasty Parmesan to add saltiness and savoury notes.

A simple dish of fried rice, loaded with quickly-cooked peppers, spring onions, aromatic herbs and garlic is wonderful with some unsalted peanuts or cashews thrown in at the last minute, providing terrific flavour and texture.

Beans such as kidneys, borlottis or cannellinis are enormously tasty, and incredibly versatile, and can easily make the heart of a great vegetarian dish, either as a stand-alone meal, or combined with other elements (poultry and especially fish or seafood) to make a more substantial offering.

Try simmering some sweet little pale green flageolet beans in a little vegetable stock before draining all but a little of the cooking liquor, and stirring in some root vegetables cooked in plenty of butter, and a handful of roughly-chopped greens such as spinach or spring cabbage, along with a cup or two of frozen peas. This makes a delightful supper as it is, but is also the perfect foil for a bit of roast lamb.

But we must leave brer sheep to his meadow for this week, and instead have a crack at a great recipe for a lovely vegetarian burger, so delicious it’ll have even the most ardent carnivore pricking up their ears.

I’ve been playing about with recipes for a beanburger for a while now, ever since a conversation brought up the subject of the vege-burger once offered by the fast food chain Burger King.

I’d remembered how much I liked these crunchy, tasty treats from time to time – they were bouncing with flavour, and one always felt that, because they weren’t the most popular sandwich on offer, one’s beanburger was cooked “fresh”.

They were certainly crispy-coated, and the textural combination of this burger within a soft white bun, along with some crisp lettuce, was really most enjoyable.

At least it was to a 6th-form student whose adventure in culinary life was a little way off just yet. I knew the base of the burger was a thick puree of beans, and I’d suspected kidney beans from the pale pink hue, so I got started on a few tests, the result of which was a brilliant patty of beans, some whole, some blitzed, bound with a little egg and crammed with spices, herbs and a few extra aromatics.

Double-dipped in egg and breadcrumbs and then deep-fried to a deep golden crunch, they really are terrific. I served mine in a lightly-toasted bun with fresh, cool avocado, ripe tomato and a blob of chipotle chili mayonnaise, but the garnishes are entirely up to you. Have fun. Aprons on!

For the burgers:

3 tins black beans, rinsed and drained

3 tins kidney beans, rinsed and drained

6 spring onions, finely chopped

110g fresh white breadcrumbs (plus more for coating)

4 cloves garlic, minced

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon ground coriander

A pinch of chili flakes (optional)

A handful fresh spinach, finely chopped

A few leaves fresh oregano, chopped

A few stems fresh coriander, chopped

1 tsp fresh thyme, chopped

A few leaves fresh flatleaf parsley, chopped

2 teaspoons Maldon salt

1 teaspoon freshly-ground black pepper

1 egg

A little chilled vegetable stock

For the coating:

4 eggs, beaten

Plenty of fresh white breadcrumbs

Oil for deep-frying

To serve:

A few lettuce leaves of your choice (Cos, Romaine, Radicchio)

A few slices fresh tomato

A few slices fresh avocado


In a dry pan, gently heat the cumin, coriander and chili until fragrant.

Tip into the bowl of a food processor, along with two-thirds of the beans. Start pulsing, adding a little vegetable stock if needed to get things moving.

You should end up with a grainy paste, a bit like hummous.

Spoon out into a large wide bowl, and add the rest of the beans, plus the remaining ingredients, smooshing everything together to make an even mixture.

Using your hands, divide the mixture into patties about 2cm thick and about 10cm in diameter.

Place these carefully on a tray lined with greaseproof paper and freeze for an hour to firm up enough to coat.

Place the beaten eggs into a wide bowl, and the breadcrumbs into a separate bowl.

With your left hand, plunge a burger into the egg, shake the excess off and toss into the breadcrumbs.

With your right hand, roll the burger in the breadcrumbs. Repeat the process for an extra-crunchy coating.

Chill the burgers until you’re ready to cook. They will freeze well at this point.

To cook from frozen, microwave the burgers for three minutes, and then carefully slide into hot oil.

To cook fresh, heat a pan of oil to 200ºC. Gently lower the burgers, a couple at a time, into the oil, and fry, turning occasionally, until deep golden in colour.

Keep in a warm place until you have cooked them all. Stack up with your chosen accompaniments and serve immediately.