Who knows what got into me today, but holy moly, I woke up and wanted a burger. And not a dry, wimpy, boring burger either. Something with guts. Something I could sink my teeth into.
Veggie burgers typically give meat-eaters grounds to criticize vegetarian cooking because, well, they suck. Rare is the day when I come across a flavorful, non-sawdusty patty with creative toppings and bread that is not an afterthought. It’s also tricky to find one that is made with high-quality ingredients, and is also vegan-friendly and gluten-free. Let’s just say that is all about to change.
The inspiration for this meal, as usual, came from nature. There are mushrooms littering the forest floor, and woody herbs are the last green survivors of the first frost. The temperature in Copenhagen is steadily dropping, the trees are almost bare, and boy is it getting dim. I looked out the window at 4:30 to definite twilight. This burger was going to be a dark one.
I thought about all the foods I am loving at the moment: mushrooms, olives, black lentils, rosemary--anything with a deep flavor and dark spirit. Combining these from a taste perspective didn’t worry me, but texturally I wasn't so sure. It's difficult for a veggie burger to nail juiciness without dampness, to be light enough without it crumbling into pieces. Well, the gods were smiling on me today, as I nailed it on the first try.
Because I am all about balance, I wanted a light-colored, and rich and creamy condiment to bless the top of this beast. Mayo is the obvious choice, and if you eat eggs, go for it. I wanted to keep things vegan, so I looked to cashews. It’s important to soak the cashews for optimal digestion, and also to make them soft enough to blend into a sauce. You can do this the day before.
I crowned the burger with quick-pickled onions. This is not one hundred percent necessary of course, but it tastes awesome; I highly recommend.
Wild Mushroom, Lentil and Olive Burgers with Cashew Garlic Sauce
Makes 6-8 patties
1 cup beluga lentils
Knob of ghee or coconut oil
1 red onion, sliced
Couple pinches sea salt
2 cups / 175g mixed wild mushrooms, sliced (shiitake, oyster, chanterelle…)
5 cloves garlic, minced
3 tablespoons fresh rosemary
1 tablespoon fresh thyme
2 tablespoons tamari
½ cup / 80g sunflower seeds
15 kalamata olives
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoons Dijon mustard
Freshly cracked black pepper
1. Wash and drain lentils. In a medium saucepan, cover with 2 cups water, bring to a boil, cover, reduce to simmer and cook until tender (about 20-25 minutes). Remove lid off to cool and set aside. Drain if there is any water left.
2. In a frying pan heat a knob of ghee or coconut oil. Add sliced onions and a pinch of salt. Cook until softened, about five minutes, then add garlic, rosemary and thyme. Cook for a few minutes, then add sliced mushrooms. Allow the mushrooms to cook without stirring for a few minutes so that they brown on one side. After five minutes, stir mushrooms and add tamari, stir to coat. When mushrooms are cooked, remove from heat and set aside.
3. In a food processor grind sunflower seeds until they resemble breadcrumbs. Add cooked lentils, mushroom mixture, mustard, olive oil, and plenty of cracked black pepper. Pulse to blend. You may need to help this process by stirring once in a while. Avoid adding too much liquid – the mixture should be really thick. Season to taste.
4. Pit and roughly chop olives. Add to the food processor and stir to combine (you want them to remain in fairly large chunks).
5. Form 6-8 balls with the mixture, slightly smaller than a baseball. Press to flatten into patties, but keep them thick. Press around the outside edge to prevent them from cracking.
6. You can warm the burgers two ways. Remember that they are already fully cooked, so all you need to do is heat them up.
Frying pan: heat a knob of ghee or coconut oil and cook the burger on one side until golden, 4-6 minutes, then flip and cook on opposite side. Serve.
Oven: Cook burgers in a 375°F/ 190°C oven for 15-20 minutes, flipping halfway through bake time.
7. Serve burgers open-faced on a slice of whole grain sourdough toast, or in a high-vibe pita. Garnish with anything you like! I used Cashew Garlic Sauce, pickled onions (recipe here), and a pile of greens.
Cashew Garlic Sauce
½ cup raw cashews, soaked for at least 4 hours
Scant ½ cup water
1 small clove garlic (start with just ½)
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
4 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 tablespoons chives
½ teaspoon sea salt
Squirt honey or maple syrup
1. Soak cashews for at least 4 hours, up to 12. Drain and rinse well.
2. Add cashews to a food processor or blender, which ever is the most powerful. Add ½ clove garlic, all other ingredients and ¼ cup of water. Blend on high and add the remaining water in increments until the desired consistency is reached – not too thick, not too runny. Season to taste and add the other half clove of garlic if desired.
Pickled onions (recipe here)
Head here for more meatless recipe ideas.
Sarah Britton is a holistic nutritionist, vegetarian chef, and the creator of the award-winning blog My New Roots. Sarah is currently a chef at three organic restaurants in Copenhagen, Denmark, where she has earned praise for her creative and adventurous recipes. A Certified Nutritional Practitioner, she is also the founder of New Roots Holistic Nutrition, where she educates others to be an active participant in their own health and healing.