I had more than my fair share of vegetarian chilli during my university years. It was often on the menu for dinner when someone else was cooking (next to the chicken wrapped in parma ham for the meat-eaters). It was a great option: a tasty ensemble of vegetables, beans and rice, inexpensive and easy enough for even the most kitchen-shy student to master. So great, in fact, that I thought it deserved a new lease of life as a burger and a comeback as one of the greatest hits of the kitchen.
Vegetarian chilli burger with garlic ‘mayo’
It might feel a bit odd to knead the burger mixture with your hands, but it will come together much better than if you use a spoon. If you need to cook some thesome rice first, wash 75g basmati rice under the cold tap until it runs clear, then leave to soak in warm water for 10 minutes. Drain, put in a pan, cover with plenty of cold water and bring to a boil on a medium heat. Turn down the heat, simmer for 10 minutes until tender, then drain and leave in the sieve to cool.
Prep 20 min
Cook 1 hr
1 x 400g tin kidney beans, drained
3 tbsp rapeseed oil
1 red onion, peeled and very finely chopped
300g peppers (ie, about 2), red and green, stems, pith and seeds removed, cut into 1cm dice
3 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
1 ½ tbsp tomato puree
1 tsp hot smoked paprika
1 tsp red chilli powder
1 ½ tsp ground cumin
1¼ tsp salt
200g cooked basmati rice
8 good-quality burger buns
For the garlic ‘mayo’
200g silken (or very soft) tofu, drained
1 garlic clove, peeled and roughly chopped
¼ tsp salt
2 tsp dijon mustard
1 tbsp lemon juice
Lemon zest, to taste
3 tbsp rapeseed oil
Sliced red onion
Caramelised onion chutney
Put the kidney beans in a bowl and mash with a fork until paste-like (some texture is fine).
Heat the oil in a large frying pan on a medium flame, then fry the onions and peppers for 15 minutes, stirring often, until the onions are soft and browning. Add the garlic, cook for two minutes, then add the puree and stir-fry for a minute. Stir in the paprika, chilli, cumin and salt, cook for a couple of minutes more, then mix in the beans. Transfer to a large bowl and leave to cool.
Meanwhile, make the “mayo”. Put the drained tofu in a blender with the garlic and blitz to the consistency of cream. Pour into a bowl, stir in the salt, mustard, lemon juice and zest, then slowly whisk in the oil bit by bit, until the mixture thickens. Taste, adjust the salt or lemon if need be, and put in the fridge.
When the burger mix is cool enough to handle, add the rice and breadcrumbs to the bowl and knead everything together with clean hands until it all comes together. Divide the mixture into eight and shape into patties: they should be firm enough to hold their shape (if not, add more breadcrumbs).
To cook, fire up a barbecue and cook over an indirect heat until pleasingly striped (if cooking indoors, cook for four minutes a side on a hot griddle pan). Assemble the buns with liberal amounts of mayo, lettuce, tomato, onion and chutney, and serve hot.
- Food styling: Aya Nishimura