I’ve written before about being a reluctant vegetarian; that is, I like the ethos of not harming living creatures just marginally more than I like how a lot of them taste fresh off the barbie! If you’re a new veggie in a similar situation, rest assured that a) it does get easier and b) figuring out exactly what you miss about meat and fish means that you can find clever ways to replicate it. For me it’s the ‘bite’ or texture, and the savoury, umami taste. This vegetarian burger hits those spots so well that even meat-eaters have agreed that it’s really satisfying, and the baked sweet potato chips on the side make what’s actually a really healthy veggie meal taste downright down and dirty! Serve with a chilled alcohol-free beer for the full confusing good-but-bad-but-good experience.
4 large Portobello mushrooms
1 medium red pepper / capsicum
2 large sweet potatoes
1 ripe medium avocado
Handful of baby spinach leaves
2 large red onions
4 garlic cloves (or garlic paste if you’re feeling lazy)
4 slices halloumi cheese
4 teaspoons soft butter
2 teaspoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 granary burger buns
Oil for cooking
How to do it:
– Preheat oven to 180 degrees C. Place a little oil on a baking tray and put in the oven.
– Slice sweet potatoes longways in half, then half again, then half again and repeat until you have long thin wedges. No need to peel; lots of the best nutrients are in the skin. Toss in the now-hot oil and place in the oven for around 30 mins, turning once or twice until they’re easy to put a fork through.
– Crush the garlic, mix with half the butter and set aside.
– Remove stems from mushrooms. Cut peppers in half from stem to tip and remove seeds and stem. Brush mushrooms and peppers with oil and place them frilly side down under a medium grill, keeping a regular eye on them so they don’t burn. After about 10 minutes, turn them all over and spread the garlic butter on the frilly side of the mushrooms. Add the halloumi slices to the grill tray and grill for around 5-10 more minutes, turning the halloumi halfway through.
– Slice onions into rings. Heat a splosh of oil in a frying pan and add onions, remaining butter, balsamic and sugar. Cook on a medium heat, stirring regularly until soft and fragrant and caramelised.
– Mash the avocado and slice the buns in half. Generously spread the avo on each half of the buns. Place some spinach on the bottom half of each bun.
– Place a mushroom, frilly side up, on top of the spinach on each bun; then the pepper; then 2 slices of halloumi; then the other mushroom frilly side down. Add a lavish dollop of onions. Put the bun lid on, serve up the sweet potatoes alongside, and sink those teeth into veggie heaven!