Encouraged by some unusually warm spring weather this year, my eldest daughter and son-in-law have been firing up their BBQ since 6th April. Accordingly, the rest of the family were very happy to receive an invitation to join in the fun this bank holiday weekend (even if the weatherman was threatening rain).
My son-in-law is the archetypal carnivore, so steak, sausage and burgers are his bag. In theory, he should enjoy the Paleo/Primal diet, but won’t be persuaded to give up his high carb favourites! Anyway, between his voracious appetite for meat, people’s general expectation of what’s quintessentially BBQ fare, you’d think there’d be a mis-match with my preference for all things vegetarian. Still, it doesn’t have to be so. In August 2008, I invited all my family to a BBQ and then caused several raised eyebrows when I announced it was going to be an entirely meat-free affair! In spite of some family member’s initial reticence (which turned into disbelief at the variety of vegetarian options on offer) it turned out to be one of the most successful family BBQs ever.
Back then, I relied heavily on vegetarian wonder woman Rose Elliot, and specifically her book Vegetarian Barbecues and Grills for inspiration. Ninety-nine per cent of Rose Elliot’s recipes never let me down. But this week, for the sake of originality, I decided to have a bash at making some Halloumi Veggie Burgers courtesy of Green Kitchen Travels. Unfortunately, when I read through the recipe properly, I couldn’t see how simply combining grated courgette, grated carrot and grated halloumi would work. Turns out, I was right.
Halloumi cheese does not melt when heated, so it’s ideal for grilling in flat slices on a BBQ (like a burger) but as I discovered, if you just add a load of wet ingredients to grated halloumi and nothing else to bind it together, you’ll end up with a halloumi ‘salad’ or at best, halloumi rösti! Undeterred, I added ricotta to the mix, which at least enabled me to mould everything into burger patties. Nevertheless, these were still far too wet and fragile and, in my view, would disintegrate on a BBQ. If the authors would like to elucidate, I’d be most grateful! On the plus side, Primal Plate tries these things so you don’t have to. Essentially, they tasted quite good, so at some point this summer halloumi burgers may well make an appearance on Primal Plate with the essential missing ingredient (what ere that be), added!
For now, I’m going with the thought that if it aint broke, don’t fix it. So instead I’ve adapted a Rose Elliot recipe to create some moist and tasty Mushroom Cheese Burgers. I know from experience that these burgers hold together well on the grill and, being pre-cooked, all I needed to do when we were ready to eat, was brush them with olive oil and compete with Nick for cooking space…
The day after the night before, and I can vouch it was a very good party. Proof that a flexi-vegetarian rubbing shoulders with a devout meat-eater - aprons donned, cooking tongs and spatulas drawn over hot coals - is definitely viable. I still think the delectably crisp Mushroom Cheese Burgers were the star of the show. However, the halloumi, having been demoted from its intended pole position as a burger, really came into its own as Halloumi & Vegetable Skewers (recipe coming soon) - a colourful, barbecued veggie alternative to meat or, for any meat-eating diehard like my son-in-law, a healthful vegetable distraction!
You’ll need a deep-holed muffin or Yorkshire pudding tin to pre-bake these burgers.
Mushroom Cheese Burgers (Makes 8 x 7cm / 3 inch burgers)
Ingredients - for the burgers
2-3 tbsp olive oil
450g (1lb) button mushrooms, wiped clean with damp kitchen roll and sliced
350g mature Cheddar cheese, grated (I used Sussex Charmer)
2 tbsp fresh chives, finely chopped
1 tbsp fresh thyme, leaves only
3 large eggs, beaten
Freshly ground black pepper
Olive oil, for grilling
Fresh rosemary sprigs, to garnish
Ingredients - for preparing the tin
20g butter, melted
1-2 tbsp Napolina Italian Grated Cheese
Pre-heat the oven to 180℃ / 350℉ / Gas mark 4
Brush 8 compartments of the muffin tin with the melted butter. Sprinkle evenly with the dry-grated cheese (Napolina). Set aside.
Heat the olive oil in a large non-stick frying pan, add the sliced mushrooms and fry until tender and free from liquid - this will take about 15 minutes or so.
Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the chives, thyme, cheese, beaten egg and season with sea salt and black pepper to taste (go steady with the salt - strong-tasting Cheddar already packs a lot of flavour).
Divide the mixture between the tins, smoothing the surface of each ‘cake’ with a spatula knife.
Bake for 15 minutes, until firm to the touch and lightly browned.
Cool completely in the tins, loosen the edges with a small knife, then turn out.
To barbecue or grill:
Brush the burgers on both sides with olive oil. Place on the grid of the barbecue or under a hot grill and cook until browned.
Turn over and cook the other side, brushing with a little more oil if necessary.
Top each burger with a sprig of rosemary and serve piping hot.
Carbohydrate 2g Protein 16g - per burger