Sandwiches


Tofu burger with Asian flavours

These light, nutritious and colourful tofu burgers are far removed from the mundane, ready-made supermarket variety in terms of taste and texture.

Serve them either in a bun with sliced onions, tomatoes, lettuce, alfalfa sprouts and a little chutney or ketchup or, alternatively, accompanied by brown rice and stir-fried green leafy vegetables. They also taste great with a deep-flavoured mushroom sauce, along a side helping of potatoes, grilled tomatoes and sautéed spinach. For a variation of flavour, add a pinch of curry powder to the tofu mixture.

If you don’t eat eggs, you may substitute the egg – which only acts as a binder in this recipe – with a tablespoon or two of cornflour (cornstarch), though to be honest I have not tried this myself.

Panko – which are available in Japanese grocers – can be replaced with ordinary dried breadcrumbs if you can’t find them. Remember to go easy on salt because it’s already added to soy sauce and panko, and you don’t want your burgers to become too salty. Makes 6 to 8 burgers/ Serves 3 – 4.

1 lb/ 450g firm plain tofu
5 tablespoons corn or groundnut (peanut) oil
3 spring onions, trimmed and very finely chopped
4 large shiitake mushrooms, stalks removed and finely diced
3 oz/ 75g carrot, trimmed, peeled and finely diced
2 tablespoons celery, trimmed, peeled and finely chopped
1 or 2 green chillies, finely chopped
4 tablespoons fresh coriander (cilantro), chopped
2 tablespoons tamari soy sauce
Salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 medium egg, beaten
Around 8 to 10 tablespoons panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)

1.    Place the tofu between several layers of kitchen paper, and weigh it down with a heavy kitchen utensil or a bag of sugar. Leave for about an hour to drain off excess water so that you get the dry texture that’s necessary for this recipe to work.
2.    In a large bowl, crumble and mash the tofu with your fingers until it resembles fine soy mince.
3.    Heat a large frying pan (or a small wok) on high heat. Add 2 tablespoons of the oil, and stir-fry the spring onions, mushrooms, carrots, celery and chillies for about 3 minutes, or until the vegetables are cooked through. Let them cool a little.
4.    Tip the vegetables into the crumbled tofu. Add the coriander, soy sauce, and a little salt and pepper. Mix well.
5.    Add the egg and about 5 tablespoons of the panko, or enough to make a mixture that can be formed into patties. Mix well, and adjust the seasoning.
6.    Shape the tofu and vegetable mixture into 8 round burger-shaped patties.
7.    Spread the remaining panko in a thin layer onto a large plate. Roll the burgers in the panko so as to cover them lightly on all sides, including the edge. (If you are not cooking the burgers immediately, you can refrigerate them for up to 3 to 4 hours).
8.    A few minutes before you are ready to eat, heat a large, non-stick frying pan on medium heat. Add the remaining 3 tablespoons oil in the pan and, when hot, put in the burgers 2 or 3 at a time. Cook for 3 to 4 minutes on each side, or until they are well browned.
9.    Drain on kitchen paper. Serve immediately.

lebanese-aubergine-sandwiches

Fed up with your regular sandwich and looking to ring changes? Then look no further. These Lebanese sandwiches can be as simple or elaborate as you want. At their simplest, plain slices of aubergines can be grilled or cooked on a charcoal and stuffed inside hot flatbreads, sprinkled simply with coarsely ground salt and pepper. This is a more dressed-up version, which is a meal by itself.

Use any Middle Eastern flatbreads: the choice available in supermarkets and Middle Eastern delis these days is astonishing. I’m particularly fond of the sesame-studded variety. You can peel the aubergines if you like, as many Lebanese do. Peeled aubergines have an elusive, meat-like texture – though personally I’m happy to leave the peel on. Eat warm. Serves 4.

For the marinade:
Juice of 2 lemons
4 tablespoons virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper
1 teaspoon cumin powder
1 teaspoon dried red chilli flakes
½ teaspoon dried thyme
1 large garlic clove, peeled and minced

For the sandwiches:
1 large aubergine (eggplant)
Approx 8 tablespoons olive oil
4 large pita breads, Middle Eastern flatbreads, or ordinary sliced bread
1 medium firm tomato, finely chopped
1 small red onion, trimmed, peeled and finely sliced
Small bunch mint leaves, torn
Small bunch flat-leaf parsley, roughly chopped
Salt and pepper
A few salad leaves (optional)
2 tablespoons red or yellow pepper, finely chopped (optional)
4 tablespoons diced or crumbled white cheese, any variety (optional)

1.    Make the marinade by combining all the marinade ingredients and mixing well.
2.    Slice the aubergine into 1-inch thick rounds. Working quickly, dip both sides of the aubergine slices in the marinade until you have used it all up. The liquid does not have to fully cover or soak the slices – just a touch is enough to give flavour.
3.    Heat the oil on low to medium heat in a frying pan, and cook the marinated aubergine slices in batches of 2 or 3 at a time. The cooking temperature is important here: too high and you’ll burn the aubergine slices and they will remain undercooked from inside; too low and they will absorb the oil, become greasy, and take a long time to soften. The aubergines should be light golden-brown and cooked through (pierce some slices with a knife, just to make sure). Drain on kitchen paper.
4.    Lightly grill (broil) the pita breads or any other bread that you are using.
5.    Stuff the breads with aubergine slices, tomatoes, red onions, herbs, and seasoning. Add the salad leaves, chopped pepper and cheese, if using. If eating as a main meal, serve with salad and a bowl of thick, creamy yoghurt.