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Wednesday, 9 January 2013

Sticking Together

 Now although I am not a vegetarian I have always been a fan of the Vege Burger and have tried lots of different receipes over the years. All have been quite varied in their ingedients (brown rice, tofu, cous cous, +/- cheese, lots of different herbs etc), but the one consistent factor is the they never seem to hold together during the cooking process. Never. Ever. I generally get one or two that stay together, lots that fall apart and a whole heap of crispy crumbs left  in the bottom of the frypan. I have tried lots of different techniques and additions (mashed potato or pumpkin, egg, breadcrumbs) but none have made them hold together as well as the good ol' beef mince hambuger. *sigh*

 But at the weekend I had a Eureka! moment. I was making quinoa patties for my vegetarian sister-in-law who had most unfortunately sliced her finger while cutting up an avocado and had required surgery (as you do when you sever a tendon, artery and two nerves) which was going to impact on her cooking skills (among other things). I made some recently after Christmas, where I ended up with about a cup and half of cooked quinoa left over from salalds I made for my contribution to Christmas lunch. Those patties was a bit of a hotch-potch in that I grabbed a receipe from Google and added a few things that I had in the fridge (including bacon). Tasted great, but again, more fell apart than retained their shape. However I did try out a new technique, which was using an egg ring in the frypan, but more on that later.

 So the successful entrant was a Bill Granger receipe from the Decemeber Delicious Magazine (Quinoa Fritters with Green Goddess Sauce, check it out at,1637). Seemed pretty standard ingredients as previously tried but the stars aligned and the delightful cooking alchemy of Everything Going Right worked its magic and they all stayed together. All of them. So with that in mind, here are my tips for Sticking Together.

1. Moisture + Flour = Glue
 Do you remember the cheap glue you could make wih flour and water? I think there's something in that for all of us. Flour will help to bind almost anything together but it needs some sort of liquid to help it stick; whether this is sauce (sweet chilli or soy sace or something like tahini) or trying to be cheeky by not fully cooking your rice/quinoa/cous cous so there is some excess liquid.

2. Eggs-ellent
 Have you ever tried to make an egg-less cake? I have - one of my brother's friends when he was growing up was allergice to egg, so his mum had one that tasted quite good (and actually amazing straight out of the oven with butter - mmmmm). But generally, not a great rule to follow. And this is because Egg is a Great Binder. Egg and Flour are an even more dynamic duo. Not so great when cooking for vegans (or whichever strain of vegetarianism that doesn't eat eggs) but great for the rest of us. So throw in an egg; or two (the receipe asked for 2 eggs plus an extra egg yolk; as I had 2 spare egg yolks from another receipe, I used them and one whole egg. Worked fine)

3. Shape it Up
 - which usually meant rolling it into a ball/patty shape and hoping for the best. In my youth I worked at Johnny Rockets Hamburger restaurant (ask me after a wine or two and I'll break out the dance moves) and they had a technique for their patties where they threw a lump of meat from hand to hand over and over until it turned into a malleable ball. I have tried this with vege burgers and just made a lot of mess on my bench. Same goes for sqeezing the mix together; doesn't always help.
 What I tried this weekend was using an egg ring (or in this case a large scone cutter) on a baking tray, spooning in the mixture and pressing it down to create a lovely round patty. Remove cutter, move onto next one and repeat.

4. Chill Out
 Certain things get firmer in the fridge. Which is why you need to bring butter to room temperature before creaming it. So once you've shaped you patties, pop them in the fridge for a while to firm up; which gives them more of a chance to hold their shape. The weekend receipe said to chill for an hour, but as this was a late afternoon decision to cook them, I cheated with 30 minutes in the freezer which seemed to do the trick.

Then all that was left to do was pop them in a heated oiled frypan, and gentle press on top, flip (when browned) and repeat! I would love to have some some photos to share with you the various stages, but it wasn't until half way through the cooking process that I realised what I had stumbled across; the best discoveries are usually by accident!

 So hope this helps you in your healthy cooking endavour, and I will be adding this ripper recipe to my repertoire. Just maybe next time adding a bit of bacon.

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