Hail to the Hamburger- beef free, of course

I’ve been sitting, waiting, wishing, that my amazing blog idea from last week would return. It was amazing, I do promise you that, but as I don’t own a memory I will not promise that it will come back any time soon- I’d hate to let my loyal follower(s?) down. I came to this realisation whilst enjoying my Sunday lunch of leftover chicken patties, the most amazing chicken patties ever. Since moving to the outback I have had time to perfect this recipe, handed down from the one place that never fails to disappoint- Mum. 

Let’s take a step back. Now burgers don’t seem to have a very glamorous story to tell, or so McDonalds would like you to believe.  A mushy bun, a slab of something that was possibly part of an animal, and of course NEVER looking like it’s picture. But the story can be more romantic, if we look slightly deeper.Technically speaking, a burger should have two components- meat and bread. Putting these together formed the invention of the “sandwich” in England in the 1700’s, but the Americans will claim the hamburger’s invention, the way Australian’s have claimed Russell Crowe. Fast forward to the 19th century, when Germany was providing the US with much trade and lonely seamen were missing home. The ports in New York began to sell Hamburg- style steaks (minced beef, lightly salted and often smoked, and usually served raw along with onions and bread crumbs) to the homesick sailors. Germans have produced some fine dishes, like spatzle and stollen (shameless self promotion right there), and this dish didn’t let Germany down- it became quite popular, timed perfectly with the growing beef production in the US, making it a cheap food. By the 1920’s the first hamburger stand opens, and when the McDonald brothers opened their Burger Bar Drive-In in California in the 1940s, the rest, as they say, is diabetes-inducing history.

But why do hamburgers get such a bad rap? In theory they should be a dietitian’s dream. A couple of serves of carbohydrates? Check. Portion controlled meat? Check. Filled up with veggies? Check.

But then the “crosses” start. A slice of full fat cheese? 300kJ and 6g fat. Crispy bacon? 600kJ and 11g fat. A smear of mayo? Another 300kJ and 8g fat. A side of chips, and a Coke? 2100kJ (that’s easily a meals worth of energy right there) and 20g- two whole tablespoons- of fat. So really, the hamburger is like the straight-A kid who gets tempted into hanging out with the kids who smoke behind the sheds. And I’m here to drag it back to the classroom. One could think a non-red meat eater is no expert on burgers, but in fact by excluding a whole genre of burgers, I have been able to perfect the art of two alternatives to the old beef patty. 

The first, my Delicious Chicken Burger, was invented by Mum, named by me. The addition of carrot satisfies the dietitian in me, the sweet chilli sauce satisfies the tastebuds, and it is as easy as it gets. The second, my Roasted Pumpkin, Sweet Potato, Feta & Pesto Burger, was inspired by my former city-girl life. Melbourne can easily be named the city of food, and my old stomping ground was famous city-wide for its burgers. Limited to the vego options suited me fine, as on the list was the most tasty patty you could imagine. The combination of sweet vegetables, salty feta, crispy panko breadcrumbs and a soft interior… it’s enough to put me on the next plane home. I am pleased to announce that through experimentation I have just about cracked the recipe. Intrigued? Follow me!

PS. Make this dietitian happy and team your burgers with a nice low GI sourdough bun, a tonne of greens, and hold the bubbles- you’re sweet enough ;)