Last week, as part of Vegan MoFo’s TV Tuesday, I pledged to find the perfect red lentil burger. I based this challenge on the episode of How I Met Your Mother where Marshall was trying to track down his perfect hamburger.
Last Friday night I made my first attempt, and it turned out pretty well.
The first attempt in an old Brunswick share house
Thinking back on my 1980s red lentil burger from Apollo Bay, I remembered that I’d returned from the holiday desperate to make one at home.
I was living in a fantastic, old, two-storey share house in Brunswick Road, Brunswick, with 3 friends. None of us were very good cooks back then, so when I got actual saucepans out it was a bit of an occasion. We were going to have real home cooked food!
My sister lent me her vegetarian cookbook—Vikki Leng’s (is anyone else old enough to remember Vikki the Vego?) Super vegetarian dishes. I carefully followed the recipe for ‘Succulent Red Lentil Patties‘. It was supposed to make 12 patties, but I must have got the quantities mixed up, because I remember sloppy red lentil mixture EVERYWHERE in that kitchen—it was turning up for weeks afterwards! (and probably feeding the mice who lived under the kitchen sink)
Luckily, one of my friends had just met the man who would become her husband, and he, being keen to please and with the appetite of a man in his 20s, ate loads of those burgers. Every time he visited, he was greeted with, “Tom, would you like a lentil burger?” And, to his credit, he never backed down.
Tracking down the old recipe
So, last week I rang my sister to see if she remembered that little cookbook. Not only did she remember it, she had it in her bookcase, photographed the recipe and emailed it to me within minutes. The wonders of technology and an organised sister!
As I started cooking, it all came back to me. The recipe involved cooking red lentils, then steaming onion, carrot and pumpkin, and mashing the whole lot together with a fork. Then you mix up parsley, garlic, tamari and enough wheatgerm to make a thick mixture. I used a mixture of wheatgerm and rolled oats, just because I like rolled oats in burgers.
Then the patties are dunked into wheatgerm and sesame seeds to coat them, and fried until they are golden.
The final product
True to the original Apollo Bay burger, I served them in a seeded, wholegrain bun with a thick layer of hummous, grated carrot, alfalfa and lettuce (although I used butter lettuce instead of the iceberg lettuce in the original). I have hardly seen alfalfa since the 80s, and I liked it.
So how did it compare?
I thought these burgers were really good, and the family loved them too. The taste was very simple compared to the flavours we’re used to now. I think next time I’d probably add a strong spice mix like Ras El Hanout, Dukkah or Baharat. I think one of those would go nicely with the sweetness of the pumpkin, and with the tang of the hummous.
As it was, it didn’t QUITE match my perfect burger, because I think I made these patties a little bit too small. The originals were big, substantial burgers, not like these ladylike patties that were a little bit swamped by the salad and bun.
And so next week I’ll try a bigger burger, and see if I can get a closer to that perfect burger!
What were we listening to?
What I really wanted to post here was a clip of Vikki the Vego in her huge earrings, doing one of her vegetarian cooking segments that seemed to pop up everywhere in the 80s.
Sadly, I can’t find one, so I’ve decided to go with a clip of a fantastic band that always reminds me of my friend and her husband when they met. (Although this clip is relatively recent.)