Yvonne Spence loves to create healthy recipes and believes we don't have to give up enjoyment when we give up refined sugar.
For years, I tried to create a nut burger that tasted good and didn’t fall to pieces as I lifted it from the frying pan. The veggie burgers we ate in restaurants had a texture I could never get at home. “They must use additives and other nasty ingredients,” I told myself as I scooped another pile of mush onto my kids’ plates, telling them it was a burger.
Their reaction? Let’s just say they didn’t squeal with delight and say the crumbling objects on their plates surpassed Gourmet Burger Co or Handmade Burger Company. I didn’t even want to surpass them; I just wanted to come close enough that I could call my offerings burgers.
Creating a Gluten-Free Veggie Burger
Then, a few months ago, with a combination of nuts, cheese, breadcrumbs, onions, rice and grated carrot, I produced a something that didn’t have the kids roaring with laughter whilst simultaneously crying with horror at their mother’s delusions! They actually liked it and thought it worthy of the name veggie burger.
Emboldened, I tried again. Only this time, since I wanted a gluten-free veggie burger that I could feed to my wheat-allergic or cholesterolly challenged friends and family members, I left out the breadcrumbs and cheese.
The result? Shall we say it was slightly on the solid side? Okay, I’ll be honest; my children’s description was: “Like bricks.” Back to the drawing board—or, erm, the mixing bowl.
The Light Bulb Goes On
Like Edison and his light bulb, I wasn’t about to give up even if producing the perfect (or at least acceptable to my kids) burger took 1000 non-burgers. (Edison famously said he didn’t fail to create a light bulb 1000 times, rather that developing it took 1000 steps.)
Surprisingly, the brick-like combination gave me hope: a small amount of Brazil nuts in the mixture had created enough stickiness for the burgers stay intact. Now I just needed something to make it softer. I carried on experimenting with bricks and exploding vegetable and nut combinations, and then I had my own light bulb moment! (Sorry, couldn’t resist.)
A Shiitake Mushroom Moment
In truth, my light bulb moment was a shiitake mushroom moment. Since these have been found, in animals at least, to be cholesterol-lowering and virus-inhibiting, I was keen to use them more often in our diet. Apart from my husband having raised cholesterol, one of our daughters is prone to picking up viral infections. But she wasn’t too keen on Shiitakes. She liked the flavour but found the texture too spongy and slimy.
That sponginess was exactly what the burgers needed. In this recipe the mushrooms are put through a food processor until they are the size of breadcrumbs – and not a slither of sliminess remains.
Adding Soaked Almonds
The final step on my burger-making journey came as a result of reading an article by fellow Hubber, Rajan Jolly, Almonds And The Benefits Of Almonds Soaked In Water On Health. I often used to soak almonds overnight because this makes them more digestible and their nutrients more easily absorbed – and they taste good that way! I had got out of the habit until Rajan’s article reminded me. The next time I set out to make burgers, a little bowl of soaked almonds was sitting on the kitchen counter and so I added them to the mix. The result is the burger in the picture above.
When I presented the plate to my children, they said, “Oh wow, that looks so pretty!” Then they ate the whole lot.
|Prep time||Cook time||Ready in||Yields|
Serves 4 to 5 people as a main dish
Read More From Delishably
Notes on Measurements and Ingredients
- Although I have included North American cup measurements, because of the irregular nature of nuts and mushrooms I recommend measuring by weight, not volume.
- For North American readers, all the nuts together should make about one cup when ground.
- You can substitute walnuts for the cashew nuts if you prefer (my family are nuts on cashews).
- This recipe contains a small amount of gram flour—a flour made with chickpeas, also known as garbanzo beans, and available in most supermarkets, health stores and Asian grocers. This helps the mixture to bind. If you cannot find gram flour, you could use gluten-free flour instead.
- To bind the mixture, I used a little egg. If you want to avoid all cholesterol, use the white only.
- For Vegans: Although this recipe contains a little egg, for vegans I have also tested it without egg. Add an extra dessertspoon of oil until the mixture binds together. The burgers made without egg are slightly crumblier than those with egg, but they do hold together.
- This recipe contains no added salt, but you may add seasoning if you wish.
- 1 medium onion
- 2 to 3 tablespoons of oil, preferably olive oil
- 50 grams (2 ounces or 1/2 cup) almonds, soaked in water overnight
- 100 grams (4 ounces or 1 cup) of cashew nuts
- 50 grams (2 ounces or about 16 nuts) Brazil nuts
- 150 grams (6 ounces or 2 to 2 1/2 cups) of shiitake mushrooms
- 3 tablespoons of gram flour, plus extra for coating
- 1 egg or egg white (you won’t need an entire egg; see note above for vegans)
- 1 teaspoon of mixed herbs
- Finely chop the onion (or use a food processor).
- Fry the onion gently in about a tablespoon of the olive oil until translucent but not browned (about 5 minutes).
- Drain the almonds.
- Grind all the nuts together in a food processor (or use a pestle and mortar).
- Clean the shiitake mushrooms and grind in the food processor (or chop very finely).
- Mix together the nuts, mushrooms, gram flour, onions and herbs.
- Add enough egg to make the mixture stick together (Or add a little olive oil if making the vegan version). Add the egg or oil slowly to avoid the mixture becoming too runny, but if you do add too much just add a little more gram flour.
- Shape the mixture into burgers. It will make 4 to 5 standard-sized burgers. Sprinkle gram flour on a plate and coat both sides of each burger.
- At this stage, the burgers need carefully handling to avoid breaking up, so use a spatula or fish slice to transfer to the frying pan. You can use the same pan you used to fry the onions, adding more olive oil if necessary.
- Cook the burgers over a medium heat for about 7 minutes each side, until golden brown.
Nutritional Information Explained
The nutritional information above is for burgers made using egg white only. If you use no egg and extra oil, the fat content will be slightly higher, while using a whole egg gives 32mg of cholesterol - still only 17% of the daily recommended amount.
Each burger contains around 17% of daily iron requirements. Iron from non-meat sources is less easily absorbed than from meat sources. For vegetarians or vegans I recommend eating foods with high vitamin C content along with iron rich foods because Vitamin C allows the body to more easily absorb iron.The suggested accompanying vegetables of green leafy vegetables, potatoes and tomatoes are all foods with high vitamin C.
You could use walnuts instead of cashews to obtain more Omega 3 essential fatty acids.
Are Nuts Fattening?
Although nuts are high in fat, several studies have found that they are not in fact fattening. Partly this is because they make you feel full and less inclined to eat, partly it is because they increase metabolic rate and some studies also suggest that around 20% of the fat in nuts is not absorbed. Several studies have found that including nuts in your diet reduces your risk of heart disease. Almonds in particular lower cholesterol, as well as being high in minerals and protein.
Easy, Low-Fat Potato Wedge Recipe
- 1 medium potato per person, or 3 large potatoes between 4 to 5 people (depending on appetite)
- 1 dessertspoon of oil
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- Cut each potato into quarters, and then angle your knife and cut each quarter in half again.
- Boil the potato wedges for 5 minutes.
- Drain, and then leave to cool slightly and to dry off.
- Put all ingredients in a large bowl and swirl around to coat all the wedges with paprika and oil.
- Bake at 220°C/200°fan oven/450°F for 20 minutes. (If you prepare the wedges first they will cook while you make the burgers.)
Further Reading on Nuts
- For more information on research on the impact of nuts in lowering risk of diabetes: Nut and Peanut Butter Consumption and Risk of Type 2 Diabetes in Women
- Nut consumption, body weight and insulin resistance.
- By Dr John Briffa: Why the notion that eating nuts causes weight gain is, well, nuts!