A question that is often asked when one runs into a vegetarian.
Well here is an option, a juicy lentil quater pounder!
In the Eastern tradition, food is nourishment, love, communal, ceremonial, wholesome, divine but never talked about in terms of its nutritional component like protein, carbs or fats!
The conventional wisdom in the West is that you need your protein from an animal source along with your two vegetable sides to have a balanced meal. Vegetarians, on a plant and dairy diet were thought to be less healthy and sickly. Even though vegetarianism is becoming more mainstream and that perception is slowly changing, the W D Y D F P question is still on people’s mind. Usually followed by “So what do you eat?”!!
Without getting too technical, here is what I have learned….
Protein is basically made up of building blocks called amino acids. The body produces quite a few of these in its magnificent factory but still requires a few more amino acids that can be supplied only through diet.
These missing amino acids are called essential amino acids and can come from plant and animal sources. Generally speaking when it comes from animal sources these essential acids are complete. When it comes from plant based sources not all amino acids are present in every source, they might be missing an amino acid here and another there or sometimes its quality might be poor. However if you diversified your diet to include whole grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, vegetables, fruits along with dairy [if this protein from an animal source is O.K with you] and consumed a calorically adequate diet you are home free. That’s right even vegetables have proteins.
Our protein requirements are not large, we only need around 10 % of our calorie intake to come from protein sources. You’ll get more protein than what you need if you combine from all the above, provided you keep the fats in check from dairy, nuts, seeds, soy[a legume] and the carbs in check from grains etc.
My family has been vegetarian for the last five generations that I know of and I am sure for several generations before that. I can definitely attest to the fact that we come from some pretty sturdy stock!
Now to the lentil burger. I’ve watched with a twinge of envy when people trade tips and talk about grilling burgers and etc. A culture I felt I could never be part of as a vegetarian, but wait! I could try and make a vegetarian version….. That got me experimenting with kidney beans, potatoes, oats, bulghur, rice, lentils etc and many, many attempts later I think I may have a keeper. This recipe requires no exotic ingredients just everyday staples.
1 Tbsp oil + oil for shallow frying
¼ Cup each of very finely chopped onions, celery and carrots
¼ Cup unseasoned toasted bread crumbs [not Panko]
¼ Tsp Italian seasonings
1 Cup cooked lentils
¼ Cup cooked rice
¼ Cup boiled potatoes, mashed to a creamy consistency.
1 Heaped tbsp of Lipton’s onion soup mix
¼ Tsp salt
Everything measured, packed and heaped.
Should yield about half cup of soft and mushy vegetables.
Wedge between a toasted bun with your favorite “fixins’ or have it bare!
- The cooked lentil should be soft when squeezed between thumb and forefinger and not overly wet or dry.
- Mix the contents of the Lipton soup packet well so that the fine sediments at the bottom are well mixed in with the larger flakes when measuring.
- I drizzle a few drops of oil on the skillet /non stick pan and place a patty and gently coat the bottom of the patty with the oil and repeat with all the patties instead of coating the entire pan with oil. Then I brush some oil on the uncooked side and turn it over. This way I use very little oil but I get the desired result. A minute on each side should do it as everything in the mixture is already cooked.
- Freezer friendly! The lentil mixture and the cooked patty, both freeze really well. A couple of hours at room temperature is all it requires to thaw.
- The soup seasoning gives it a subtle meaty flavor which is what makes this burger. Leave it out or add your own seasoning. Voila! you have the perfect standby recipe for those pesky vegetarians like me, but is also meat eater approved.