One of my most clicked-on, photographed, and tweeted-about recipes is ‘the 9p burger’, a carrot, cumin and kidney bean burger born of a toddler nagging for burgers and an empty storecupboard and a handful of change. Mashed and shallow fried, they looked like burgers, and he wasn’t any the wiser – though I’m sure he can tell the difference three years later, he still eats the bean versions as well as the occasional beef ones.
This morning, I opened a can of Basics kidney beans for brunch and only used a third of them. I knew as I put them back in the fridge that it would be bean burgers for dinner, and that excited me, as I haven’t had them for ages and people keep tweeting me pics of theirs, and I’ve been getting a Hankering.
The first hurdle was a lack of carrots in the fridge. Luxuriating in its place was a Deathbed Leek, so dry around the edges that the first three layers were stripped back for the guinea pig. I can’t remember the last time I even bought leeks – or how I hadn’t spotted it before.
If you’ve read today’s Evening Standard article, you’ll know I have worked a few shifts at Blackfoot, Allegra’s restaurant in Exmouth Market. One of my favourite things to cook there was a Mega Nut Burger (not on the revamped Spring menu, I’m afraid), with a base of leeks and chestnuts and roasted nuts. I looked at my leek. I looked at my kidney beans. I looked for some nuts. I had no nuts. In all manner of contexts. No nuts. I did, however, have a tub of peanut butter (I use Sun Pat as it’s the lowest price brand that doesn’t use palm oil, and I don’t know enough about palm oil to be able to advise anyone else on it but there have been news stories of deforestation and sad looking orangutans and it just doesn’t sit well with me so one day I sat on the floor of Sainsburys and turned over all the jars of peanut butter scrutinising the ingredients for ones that didn’t have palm oil in and then compared the price per g and ended up at Sun Pat. Short soliliquy to peanut butter ends.)
And so, this was born. And today I am grateful for my disparate fridge and lack of nuts and my health-binge, because I can say quite frankly that this will be one of my favourite ever recipes. It tastes like it’s bad for me. And I like that in a healthy dinner. The peanut butter adds extra protein (I sense the next few days will be protein-tastic), and to finish it off I dusted it in gram flour to keep it gluten free (and more protein), and fried it in coconut oil. I know these are both new additions to the pantry but gram flour will feature heavily over the next few weeks as a lot of readers have asked for gluten free recipes, so bear with me. If you aren’t gluten free then feel free to use ordinary flour. And coconut oil has been a fancy health fad for so long now that it’s finally available at affordable prices. I found mine in the world foods aisle, it’s KTC, and was just over £2 for a large jar. I use less of it than I would sunflower oil, as I spoon it out of the jar rather than slosh it in, and think although it won’t go as far as a 4l bottle of sunflower oil at the same price, it’s still not the £17 it once was in Holland & Barrett. If you don’t think it’s worth it, hey, don’t buy it. I’m just doing my thing, and you do yours too.
Makes 4 generous adult burgers or 6 kiddy ones or a gazillion canape-sized ones at 22p each
(As ever prices are costed at Sainsburys because that’s where I do my shopping and no I’m not doing any more ad campaigns with them, they’re just local and I like the staff):
400g can of Basics kidney beans (240g drained weight), 30p
50g leek, finely sliced, 10p (£2/kg loose)
50g onion, finely sliced, 3p (Basics 80p/1.5kg)
2 tbsp coconut oil, 13p (KTC £2.25/500ml)
pinch of salt, <1p (Basics table salt 25p/750g)
½ tsp paprika (or cumin would be nice instead), 2p (£1/42g)
50g peanut butter, 27p (£1.80/340g)
1 tbsp gram flour, 1p (KTC superfine gram flour £1.30/kg)
First drain your kidney beans and give them a thorough rinse with cold water, and tip into a shallow frying pan.
Peel and finely slice your onion (50g is about half a small onion, a quarter of a massive one) and add to the pan. Ditto the leek, I chopped from the bottom of mine as I just want the white bits for this recipe, the green bits will be used somewhere else in the week. Add your salt and oil, paprika and peanut butter, and cook all together on a low heat to saute (soften) the vegetables and the kidney beans. Stir well to disturb your ingredients and stop them from sticking to the pan. Cook low and slow for around 10 minutes until everything is combined and the veg has softened, and the beans start to split. Mash them to a pulp, mixing with the other ingredients – it doesn’t matter if some of the beans are left whole, in fact it gives them a quite pleasant knobbly texture.
Tip the mixture into a bowl and pop it in the fridge for at least 30 minutes to cool and set – an hour or more is better, overnight even more so, but if you’re in a rush 30 minutes will do the job. This step is important – as the mixture firms up and thus the burgers don’t fall to a mush in the pan when you cook them. I’ve lost count of the amount of times I’ve cooked the original bean burgers on film and rushed this step and then had to re-shoot the whole thing as I’ve ended up with Scrambled Bean Mush instead of burgers!
When the mixture has firmed up, remove it from the fridge and heat a little oil in the pan. Shape the burger mixture into four or six balls with a little gram flour to stop them sticking to the pan, and flatten gently to make your burger shapes. The thinner they are, the better they cook through, although as all of the ingredients are already cooked, it’s a taste thing rather than a health and safety one. Cook for a few minutes on one side on a high heat to seal and crisp, then carefully turn them over and repeat for the other side. Turn once more, turn the heat down to a low-medium, and cook for a few more minutes to warm right through. And serve – I had mine straight from the pan in a fit of gluttony, but they would be delicious with some kind of grain and some greens. I just didn’t get that far tonight!