Bean burgers & “falafelesques”

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A rustic recipe, but no less tasty for its homeliness I think, the mixture, using butterbeans as the key protein, is great whether shaped as burgers or into balls as a homage to falafels.

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For me, commercial bean burgers are usually appalling things: dry, heavy, dull, bland……a very sad affair indeed! And of course they should not be.

I’ve actually yet to find a commercial bean burger which has that “more please!” quality about them

Once cooked, these burgers/falafels are great piled into flatbreads and wraps, with some lettuce, tomatoes, other veg of choice and a simple dip. I rather like to place everything onto boards for people to mix, match and build their burgers or wraps however they like.

For this dip, I  simply mixed an instant soya cream with harissa spices.

Mix it up with the ingredients!

I used butterbeans here, which is a great ingredient for taking up all the flavours.

For more traditional falafels, chickpeas are ideal, but I occasionally make these with red kidney beans, lentils or a mixture. I sometimes add green beans, sweetcorn, chillies, peppers…….

basically whatever I have might find itself being chopped up and used!

I oak-smoked the butter beans here for 5 minutes (before turning off the heat and leaving them in the smoker to cool down) for added flavour – and that really comes through in the finished burgers, but of course they can be used just as they are. However, if you do have a smoker or BBQ, I cannot recommend highly enough the flavour wallop you get if the butterbeans are smoked.

I prefer to coat these (I use soya milk and some spiced breadcrumbs) and they can be pan-fried or baked in the oven – but either way they do need a generous splash of oil over them.

A recipe for school

I am currently working on recipes to add to our bank of recipes to cook with the students at school, with this dish slotting into the Year 8 one.

Although with the upcoming NEA for the GCSE Food students, this dish can be made complex in many ways to help them work towards the highest marks – not least, using a combination of making flatbreads, making a stable emulsion for a dip, smoking the butterbeans, roasting and grinding spices for their own spice blend…….

Recipe: bean burgers & falafelesques! – makes about 12 burgers

Main mixture:
  • 1 can of butterbeans, drained (put them in a smoker if you want a deeper  flavour profile)
  • 1 large sweet potato (or white potato)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon harissa powder
  • 1 teaspoon toasted cumin seeds, kept whole
  • handful fresh coriander
  • 1 small red onion, peeled and finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
  • handful of dried apricots, chopped
  • handful of pistachios, chopped – optional
  • 1 tablespoon pomegranate molasses – optional
To pan-fry/oven cook:
  • couple tablespoons soya milk
  • a few tablespoons breadcrumbs
  • 1/2 teaspoon each of smoked paprika and ground cumin (or use 1 teaspoon of harissa powder)
  • a few tablespoons vegetable oil

(1) Chop the potato into small piece, keeping the skin on or peeling it. Boil in salted water or seam or until it just becomes soft but still has a bit of bite to it. Empty into a medium bowl.

(2) Add the remaining ingredients and use a fork to mix it all together, pressing the butterbeans and potatoes to break them up and help everything bind, but trying to keep some texture in there so that it is not just a mush!

(3) For burgers. take a heaped tablespoon or so of the mixture and shape: or for more uniform burgers, pat the mixture into a pastry cutter or metal ring. Carefully lift onto a tray and ideally chill to firm up.

For falafel-style bites, take a heaped teaspoon or so of the mixture and roll into balls.

(4) Pour the milk in a wide shallow dish and the breadcrumbs with spices in another. Dip the shaped mixture in the milk, spooning over the milk to cover fully  and carefully place in the breadcrumbs, spooning the breadcrumbs over the top and sides. Set aside until needed.

(5) Heat the oil in a solid frying pan and add the burgers/falafels. Leave for a few minutes before turning them over carefully with a palette knife. They will hold their shape if you are gentle with them – however, if they do break up then you can keep cooking them to get nice toasty bits and serve them like bubble and squeak  – lovely spooned into flatbreads! If you don’t want to make these fully plant-based, you could add a small beaten egg to the mixture.

NB: you can start them cooking like this in the frying pan, getting them nicely browned and then pop in the oven set at 180C (fan) for about 10 minutes or else pop them in the oven instead of frying.

Author: Philip

Finalist on Britain’s Best Home Cook (BBC Television 2018). Published recipe writer with a love of growing fruit & veg, cooking, teaching and eating good food.

2 thoughts on “Bean burgers & “falafelesques””

  1. ok, I am sold. I am absolutely sold. You know I adore to smoke stuff (well, that came out pretty odd, but you get me) – and I simply love your take on veggie burgers (I’ve tried many commercial brands, they are horrific). I’ve made a few but intend to give yours a try soon


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