I know these aren’t burgers, but I loathe the word patty, and I’m not sure what else to call them – cauliflower cakes does not sound appealing. What I do know is that they are perfect wedged between two halves of a bun, with perhaps a slice of plastic cheese, or a generous splodge of guacamole. This is a gluten-free recipe; they also freeze very well.
This recipe is from my cookbook, where it sits with three other vegetarian burger ideas, and they are probably some of the things I cook the most.
It’s not so far in the distant past that the news reported that cauliflower farmers couldn’t give them away, and that the seemingly old fashioned vegetable was only ever seen smothered in Béchamel for cauliflower cheese, or boiled to infinity for school dinners and ropey Sunday lunches.
Then the low carb dietary revolution happened and cauliflower became one of the new superfoods for its low glycemic index ability to add bulk to meals without maxing out on carbs, and to mimic potatoes (puree), couscous and rice (when finely chopped and steamed).
These cauliflower cakes are a perfect standby for those days when you want to roll out of bed towards the stove: you can make them the night before – as a bonus they are less likely to fall apart in the frying pan after a few hours in the fridge. They make an excellent morning-after-the-night-before brunch, packed as they are with vitamins and good things.
When I first wrote this recipe, I had only tried them fried. Since then I’ve also baked them to very good effect. You don’t get the crispy bits on the side, but they are much healthier as you don’t need any oil, or flour for dredging.
The burger in the photo below uses a mixture of red and white quinoa, in case you were wondering why it’s flecked with darker seeds. I’m pretty sure no one is going to be hunting down rarified forms of quinoa right now – the plain white stuff is perfectly fine. Given that I am publishing this post in the middle of the pandemic lockdown, I’m also going to suggest that you could try this recipe with bulgar, couscous or even basmati rice. If you do use a different grain, I would start with three beaten eggs and see how you go as the suggested alternatives are softer than quinoa, and you don’t want to end up with a pappy sludge.
Equally, if you don’t have gram (chickpea) flour, then you could absolutely use any flour that you have to hand. (The reason that I often use gram in vegetarian cookery is because it is packed full of protein.)
Herbs and lemon zest are wonderful but don’t worry if you can’t lay your hands on them. If you have a bottle of lemon juice, but no real lemons, just add half a teaspoon of lemon juice to add a little acid to the party.
You can absolutely use any grated hard cheese instead of Parmesan – use the finest grater section.
Ingredients – this will make between 6-8 cakes, depending on size
250g cauliflower florets
The white and green parts of 4 spring onions, roughly chopped
100gms gram flour
4 eggs, beaten together
Sea salt and black pepper
50gms grated Parmesan
Zest of one lemon
Half a cup finely chopped flat leaf parsley or coriander
If frying , more flour for dredging the cakes in (I use plain flour, but if cooking gluten-free, use gram again.)
Plenty of sunflower or rapeseed oil for frying.
Cook the quinoa according to the packet instructions, drain and leave to cool. Roughly chop the cauliflower and spring onions, and reduce to to fine rubble in a food processor, using the pulse button.
If baking (instead of frying) the patties, turn the oven to 180C.
Tip the cauliflower and spring onion rubble into a large mixing bowl, and add the herbs, Parmesan and lemon zest. Generously season with salt and pepper. Sieve in the gram flour, and mix it all together with your hands.
Add the cooled quinoa to the mixture, and mix again. Pour over the beaten egg, and really thoroughly combine. You will end up with a very, very wet mixture, but do not be disheartened. The egg is necessary to bind the mixture: as it cooks the proteins solidify and stop the cake falling apart.
Pour a generous amount of flour onto a dinner or shallow soup plate.
Take a handful of the wet mixture and form into a patty in your hands, and place in the flour. Very gently lift and turn it over, so that both sides are thickly covered in flour.
Place a large frying pan over a medium-high heat, and add a tablespoon of oil. When it is smoking, slide the first two patties into the oil. Do not be tempted to cook more than two at a time, as they will lower the temperature of the oil. Press down gently with the back of a fish slice.
Flip over very carefully after about 2-3 minutes to cook the reverse. You may need to flip again to ensure an even browning. When cooked remove to a plate lined with kitchen paper. Each pair takes about four minutes to cook.
Line a baking sheet or sheet pan with greaseproof paper or a non stick liner. Take handfuls of the wet mixture and form into balls in your hands, before placing gently on the sheet and smooshing the top so that they form patties.
These are wonderful with a poached egg on top, with a fresh tomato chutney, but best of all I like them sandwiched in a bread bun, with some guacamole, and crunchy lettuce.
Above: the cauliflower and gram flour mixture before adding in the beaten egg.
Above: floured patties waiting to be fried.