Yum in a bun – 5 reasons to cook veggie burgers this summer

With summer now in full swing in the northern hemisphere and most countries out of lock down, getting together with friends and family for a barbecue seems like hell of a good idea. That’s all well and good for meat eaters, but vegetarians often get forgotten when it comes to barbecuing – with a few grilled peppers or (the dreaded) kebab with chunks of under and over cooked pieces of something, that once resembled a vegetable, speared together on a stick.

Well you need to look no further than a good old burger or slider (a mini burger) and by taking a journey around the world for inspiration treat yourself to one of these delicious meat free options. A good burger is made by balancing and layering of flavours and textures set in a bun, bread or wrap. We need yum, we need crunch, we need gooeyness we need salty, sour and a little sweet – can’t really say it better than that.

Aubergine sliders with tahini sauce 

Here lovely rich flavours combine in this Middle Eastern-style burger with preserved lemon, pomegranates, tahini and ras al hanout – a classic spice mix. Simply make 4 larger burgers if you prefer.

Serves: 4

100g semi-dried tomatoes, sliced

½ preserved lemon, flesh discarded and skin diced

4 tablespoons pine nuts (35g)

4 tablespoons pomegranate seeds (50g)

4 tablespoons parsley leaves

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

2 teaspoons honey

1 large aubergine (about 450g)

1 teaspoon ras al hanout

8 small ciabatta rolls (or 4 large)

50g salad leaves

salt and pepper

Tahini sauce

100g Greek yogurt

2 tablespoons tahini paste

1 small garlic clove, crushed

1 tablespoon lemon juice

Combine the semi-dried tomatoes, preserved lemon, pine nuts, pomegranate seeds, parsley, 2 tablespoons of the oil, the honey and some salt and pepper. In a bowl and set aside.

Make the sauce. Beat together the yogurt, tahini, garlic and lemon juice and season to taste.

Cut the aubergine width-ways into 8 thick slices. Combine the remaining oil with the ras al hanout and some salt and pepper and brush over the slices. Barbecue the aubergine slices for 4-5 minutes each side until well charred and softened. 

To serve, cut the rolls in half and toast the cut sides. Fill with the aubergine slices, tomato mixture, tahini yogurt and salad leaves.

Vietnamese sesame tofu banh mi burger with pickled vegetables

The tofu is marinated in a char sui sauce before being grilled and served in rolls with pickled vegetables, chillies, salad leaves and fresh herbs making this a delicious veggie alternative to the classic Vietnamese BBQ pork rolls, or ban mi.

Serves: 4

350 g firm tofu, drained

80 g hoisin sauce

4 tablespoons honey 

4 tablespoons dark soy sauce

2 tablespoons Shoaxing wine (Chinese rice wine)

1 teaspoon sesame oil

1 teaspoon Chinese 5 spice

1 French baguette 

50 g salad leaves 

2 tablespoons black and white sesame seeds

a few fresh coriander, mint and basil leaves

4 tablespoons mayonnaise

4 tablespoons sweet chilli sauce

Pickled vegetables

1 small carrot

½ cucumber

½ small red onion

50ml rice wine vinegar

50g caster sugar

2 tablespoons water

1 teaspoon salt

a few sesame seeds, to serve (optional) 

Make the pickled vegetables. Thinly slice the carrot length ways and then cut into long thin strips. De-seed and cut the cucumber into long thin strips. Thinly slice the onion and combine the vegetables in a bowl. Place the vinegar, sugar, water and salt in a saucepan and heat gently until the sugar is dissolved. Bring to the boil and then pour over the vegetables. Stir well and set aside until cold.  

Cut the tofu into 8 thick slices and place in a bowl. Combine the Hoisin sauce, honey, soy sauce, Shaoxing wine, sesame oil and Chinese 5 spice. Pour over the tofu, turning to coat thoroughly and leave to marinate for 30 minutes. 

Cook the tofu pieces on a hot barbecue for 2-3 minutes each side until charred and heated through.

To serve, cut the baguette into 10cm lengths and then cut each one almost in half. Fill each one with the salad leaves, fresh herbs, fried tofu and pickles and drizzle over the mayonnaise and sweet chilli sauce. Top with the sesame seeds.

Buffalo cauliflower burgers with blue cheese sauce

A classic American dish usually made with chicken wings is given a veggie makeover with chunks of cauliflower replace the more usual chicken. Pared with a blue cheese sauce, this is finger-licking good. The cauliflower is actually cooked in the oven, but you can toast the buns on the barbecue before assembling it.

Serves: 4

500g cauliflower florets

12 5ml full fat milk

75 g chickpea flour or plain flour

1 teaspoon mustard powder

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon smoked paprika

2 tablespoons hot chilli sauce

1 tablespoon clear honey

15g butter, melted

4 burger buns

125g iceberg lettuce, shredded

Blue cheese sauce

75 g sour cream

50 g creamy blue cheese

1 tablespoon white wine vinegar

1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives

½ teaspoon caster sugar

salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 220c/425f/gas mark 7 and line a roasting tin with baking paper. In a bowl, combine the gram flour or plain flour, mustard powder, cumin, paprika and a little salt and pepper. Gradually whisk in the milk with 50 ml cold water until the batter is smooth.

Dip each cauliflower floret into the batter and then shake off the excess so the cauliflower is just very lightly coated. Place on the prepared baking tray, leaving space in between each floret. Roast for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, warm the chilli sauce, honey and butter in a small saucepan until combined. Remove the cauliflower from the oven, drizzle over the chilli sauce and stir well until evenly coated. Return to the oven for a further 10-15 minutes until the cauliflower is tender and golden. Let cool for 10 minutes.

Make the sauce. Place the sour cream, blue cheese, vinegar and a little salt and pepper in a blender and whizz until fairly smooth. Stir in the chives, adjust seasoning to taste.

To serve, cut the rolls in half and toast the cut sides. Fill with the lettuce, cauliflower pieces and blue cheese dressing.

Super greens zucchini sliders whipped feta and kale crisps

Lovely vibrant green sliders served with crispy kale chips, perfect for vegetarians and meat eaters alike. You will need thick curly kale for the chips as it is more robust than baby kale leaves. Make all the separate parts ahead and barbecue the zucchini to serve.

Makes: 8

2 small zucchini (about 500 g)

1 lemon

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

8 small poppy seed rolls 

Kale crisps

100g kale, trimmed

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 teaspoons sesame seeds

Rocket pesto

2 tablespoons pumpkin seeds

60 g rocket leaves

1 garlic clove, chopped

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Whipped feta

100g feta

25g creme fraiche

Trim the zucchini and cut length ways into 3mm thick slices. Grate the lemon and squeeze the juice into a bowl. Add the oil and some salt and pepper. Place the zucchini slices in a shallow dish, pour over the dressing and stir well to coat. Leave to marinate for 30 minutes.

Make kale crisps. Preheat the oven to 150c/300f/gas mark 3 and line a large baking tray with baking paper. Shred the kale into bite size pieces, discarding the thick stalk and place in a bowl, combine with the oil and caress until the leaves are well coated. Scatter over the prepared tray and roast for 18-20 minutes until crisp. Season with salt and pepper and scatter with the sesame seeds.

Make pesto. Toast the pumpkin seeds in a small frying pan over a medium heat for 2-3 minutes until golden. Cool and place in a food processor with the rocket, garlic, oil and a little salt and pepper. Blend until smooth.

Make the whipped feta. Place the ingredients in a blender and puree until really smooth. 

To serve, cook the zucchini slices on a hot barbecue for 2-3 minutes each side until charred and tender. Cut the rolls in half and toast the cut sides. Fill the rolls with the zucchini slices, whipped feta, pesto and some of the kale crisps. Serve with the remaining kale crisps on the side.

Sticky sweet chilli halloumi sliders with crispy onions

I didn’t think haloumi could get any better but adding a little sweet chilli jam is a knock out. You can temper the heat of the chilli sauce by using large mild chillies if preferred. It is best to cook the halloumi on a flat griddle plate on your barbecue if you have one, rather than the grill rack – or cook in a frying pan in the normal way. Make 4 large burgers, if preferred.

Serves: 4

250g halloumi

1 tablespoon olive oil

8 small wholemeal baps (or 4 large)

50 g rocket leaves

8 baby tomatoes, halved

Sweet chilli jam 

6 large red chillies, seeded and chopped

4 garlic cloves, chopped

1 teaspoon grated root ginger

1 teaspoon salt

100 ml rice wine vinegar

100 ml granulated sugar

Onion rings

125 g plain flour

30 g cornflour

250 ml sparkling water

1 onion, sliced

Sunflower oil, for deep frying

Heat the oven to 180c/350f/gas mark 4. Make the sweet chilli jam. Place the chillies, garlic, ginger and salt in a food processor, blend to a rough paste and transfer to a saucepan. Add the vinegar and sugar, bring to the boil and simmer gently, partially covered for 5-10 minutes until the mixture becomes a quite thick and sticky. Cool completely, bottle and store in the ‘fridge. Use as required.

Make onion rings. Sift the flours into a bowl, add the salt and then gradually whisk in the water to make a smooth batter. Let sit for 10 minutes. Fill a wok or old saucepan with 5 cm sunflower oil and heat until a cube of bread, added to the pan crisps immediately. Whisk the batter again and dip the onion rings in a few at a time and deep fry for 2-3 minutes until crisp and golden. Keep warm in the oven while cooking the haloumi.

Cut the halloumi into 3 mm thick slice. Heat the oil on the flat griddle of your barbecue or in frying pan over a high heat and fry the halloumi slices for 30 seconds each side until starting to brown. Brush with a little of the chilli jam and cook for a further 30 seconds each side until golden and sticky. 

Cut the rolls in half and toast the cut sides. Fill with the haloumi, rocket, tomato halves and the crispy onions and serve with a little extra chilli jam. 

Recipes © Louise Pickford

Photographs © Ian Wallace

Published in the book Burgers & Sliders © Ryland, Peters & Small and Cico Books

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