I've been enjoying the long Easter weekend in the UK, topped up by me with another couple of days off to detox from work. Part of my relaxation regime was to spend the weekend with Mr A&N's immediate and extended family at a house in the middle of the countryside.
The weekend was put together by Mr A&N's mother in order to draw the scattered strands of the family together at a central point to everyone. "There's going to be walking involved" Mr A&N complained before we even got there. "Why does everyone in my family seem obsessed with walking?". Perhaps because it's an enjoyable and healthy alternative to sitting around on your ass all day, I suggested. "Bah" he replied.
To organize the weekend, Mr A&N's mother wrote letters to everyone explaining what foodstuffs they should bring and when their cooking duties would be. We were assigned Saturday lunch (soup) and Saturday dinner (roast night), and were instructed to aim to feed six. With 15 of us gathering, though, we felt that we should cater for more than six people so that no one was left with an empty plate and a half-filled stomach. We weren't the only ones pondering how to locate and fit half a side of a cow into the oven; Mr A&N's lovely-but-slightly-nervy Aunt sent a message to all declaring she was 'v v stressed figuring out the menu' and wondered if others felt the same.
We decided to take artistic license with our instructions and bought supplies for hamburgers for all. Except that among the 'all' were a few vegetarians, and though we knew that we would probably not be expected to put food together for them, we also didn't want to leave them out. Luckily, veggie burgers slotted into the theme quite easily.
The burgers were a huge success, although it did mean that Mr A&N had to stand over the small frying pan cooking the burgers in batches and queuing up hungry hordes until the next burger was cooked. The meat version was made with beef (though lamb would have been even tastier), chopped chili, coriander, and a bit of lime juice, while the veggie version was a bean and vegetable medley. The veggie burger had the same warm, comforting, soft and squidgy qualities that make a normal hamburger so luscious, but it was simply minus the meat. The recipe Mr A&N found for Mexican veggie burgers included chopped almonds which came through a surprising amount in both taste and texture, and had the added bonus of using up the fennel from our veg box.
It has only been at weddings that we've been able to see all the cousins and aunts and uncles, and with no more of those on the horizon it's only weekends like this past one that bring us all together. Understandably for a family who genuinely enjoys each other's company, there is talk of making our group weekend a yearly thing. Of course, Mr A&N would have to keep his hiking boots in a polished state - as he feared, there were daily 3-hour treks through fields and forests, despite driving winds and blizzard-like snow. He did have my sympathy, really, as we were at one stage blinded by horizontal snow and almost couldn't move forward, but as his mother would say: it's character forming.
Veggie Burgers, adapted from The Veggie Table
makes 6-8 burgers
- ½ C almonds, finely chopped
- 1 tsp ground coriander
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1 bulb fennel
- ¾ C coriander/cilantro
- 1½ C black beans or black-eyed peas, cooked or canned
- 1 C bread crumbs
- ½ red bell pepper, seeded and minced
- 2 Tbs toasted wheat germ or untoasted rolled oats
- ¼ tsp ground cloves,
- ½ tsp salt
- black pepper
- 1½ t olive oil
- flour for coating
- Heat almonds and ground coriander in dry frying pan over medium-high heat, stirring or shaking constantly, until almonds are lightly toasted, about 1 minute.
- Food process garlic, fennel, and coriander/cilantro until finely chopped.
- Add beans, and pulse repeatedly until chopped but not liquidized.
- Transfer to bowl and mix in almond mixture, bread crumbs, bell pepper, wheat germ, and spices.
- Taste and adjust seasonings.
- Shape into six -eight patties with floured hands, adding more bread crumbs if necessary.
- Lightly sprinkle flour onto a plate, and gently press each side of the burgers onto the flour.
- Fry the burgers in the 1½ Tbsp oil (topping up if needed) over medium-high heat until crust forms, about 3 minutes per side.