Vegan Lunch: Lentil Burgers and Carrot Cake

A lot of people recoil at the word “vegan” thinking that it means food lacking in taste and so healthy that it must be boring. A good friend recently became vegan (for ethical reasons) and came to visit me in Italy. The land of the tripe sandwich at a football match, liver crostata for an aperitivo, and the bisteca fiorentina – a good hearty hunk of beef so big that two need to share it! What was I to do with this clean conscience farming industry savvy friend? I knew one good recipe that I could do, ribollita, a traditional Tuscan soup (recipe on the blog soon!) made entirely from vegetables. Phew! And, of course, there is always salad, and risotto if you use vegetables and omit the parmesan. I arranged for us to do a wine and cheese (for me!) tasting at a friend’s bar (Pitti Gola – the link is on the right) and explained to my friend that vegans eat nothing that involves animal products. “Ok”, he said, “so she can eat cheese” “No! No animal products!” “But eggs, right?” “No!! Eggs are from a living heart pumping creature!” “Huh!?” Silence! Befuddlement! I jokingly asked “Do you have pigs’ blood in your wine?” My friend paused, my eyebrow raised, and he said: “Mmmm…no, but pig manure could have been used on the terroire.” Not a great image but I thought it was ok with the vegan rules.

Vegan food can seem pretty complicated as you have to substitute so many ingredients that are staples in most kitchens: butter, milk, cream, cheese. This can seem daunting when you need to make something for a vegan/ dairy intolerant/ allergic to eggs friend but I have been shown that it isn’t that hard. My vegan pal and I recently cooked lunch together and it was delicious! We had lentil burgers (maybe it’s best to call them lentil patties so that meat eaters don’t get disappointed at the lack of meat) followed by carrot cake which was one of the best recipes I have had.

Many thanks to Laura Hoyland for the recipes.

Lentil Burgers

400g canned brown lentils, rinsed and drained
1 tablespoon veg oil (I used linseed oil – for omega 3!)
1 medium brown onion, chopped finely (I used 3 shalots, organic of course!)
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 teaspoons ground coriander
2 teaspoons ground cummin
1/4 cup loosely packed, coarsely chopped fresh coriander
Egg replacer for 2 eggs
2 cups stale breadcrumbs (you could also used ground old biscuits eg. rich tea)
4 bread rolls, not white please!
1 large carrot
veg oil for shallow frying
1 cup alfalfa sprouts
1 small red onion, sliced thinly

Tahini dressing:
1/4 cup tahini
1/4 cup juice of a lemon
2 tablespoons water

1. Blend or process lentils until smooth

2. Heat oil in medium frying pan; cook onion/shalots, ginger and garlic, stirring, until onion softens.  Add ground coriander and cummin; cook, stirring, until fragrant.

3. Combine lentil puree, onion mixture, fresh coriander, egg replacer and half of the breadcrumbs in medium bowl; mix well.  Using hands, shape mixture into four patties.  Dip patties in remaining breadcrumbs; turn to coat all sides.  Shake off excess; refrigerate at least 10 minutes (make sure you refrigerate, don’t rush!).

4. Meanwhile, split each bread roll horizontally; toast both sides.  Using a vegetable peeler, slice the carrot into ribbons, for prettiness 🙂

5. Heat oil in a large frying pan; cook the patties for about 5 minutes or until browned on both sides.  Drain them on absorbent paper.

6. Place the patties on the bottom half of the rolls; divide the carrot, sprouts, onion and tahini dressing among lentil burgers.  Top with the remaining halves.

Tahini dressing: combine the ingredients in small bowl and mix well.

Carrot cake

8 oz (225g) grated carrot
6 oz (170g) sultanas or raisins
Half a handful of dried gooseberries cut finely
Finely grated zest of 1 orange
5 oz (140g) SR white flour
5 oz (140g) SR wholemeal flour
6 oz (170g) sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ginger
7 fl oz (200 ml) vegetable oil
7 fl oz (200 ml) water
pinch of salt
dash of vinegar
1/2 tsp vanilla essence

Icing

6 oz (170g) icing sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla essence
3 oz (115g) vegan margarine (I use Pure – readily available)
Then cashews or sunflower seeds for decoration if you fancy

1. Preheat the oven to 190C/375F/gas mark 5.
2. To make the cake, stir all the dry ingredients together and then mix the wet ones in.
3. Bake for 45 minutes, then reduce oven to 160C/325F/gas mark 3 and cook for another 30 minutes. Cool in tin.
4. To make the icing mash the sugar and vanilla essence into the margarine with a fork.
5. Ice the cake once it is cold. Top with very roughly chopped cashew nuts or sunflower seeds if you wish.

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