Growing up, books in the genre of The Enchanted Broccoli Forest, The Vegetarian Epicure and The Silver Palate were regularly used to create our family meals. I remember years where beans and lentils were prominent features in bakes and stews, but for some reason I cannot recall anything like vegetable fritters. Mum, is my memory failing?
Outside of the compulsory Hanukkah latkes, my first memorable taste of a vegetable pancake/fritter was on my first trip to Australia in the late 1990's. Sydney was in the throws of a food revolution, and seemed streets ahead of the scene in London at the time. We gorged ourselves on outstanding coffee and bread, ate at wonderful beach shacks serving home made focaccia sandwiches with fresh rocket (slight contrast to the availability on British shore lines) and returned many times to Bill Grainger's first eatery, Bill's, in Darlinghurst.
It was at Bill's that I first had sweetcorn fritters. For breakfast. They were delicious, fresh, tasted of the sunshine, and opened up a world of options for new veggie dishes. When I had children, who, given the choice, would rather not eat vegetables, I returned to the fritter concept as a way of disguising all varieties of your 5 a day (or 7 if you live in the Southern Hemisphere). They tolerated them with only varying degrees of success.
And then, while on a health kick a few years ago, I discovered Trina Hahnemanns's book, The Nordic Diet, which opened up a whole new aspect of Skandi love for me. Her recipe for beetroot burgers are delicious, gluten free and are the inspiration for today's post. I have, however, adapted them slightly. I add carrots. Yes, more sugar, and maybe a little sweeter, but diluting the beets are helpful for those fussy eaters in my house. Trina's makes hers gluten free by using oats to bind them, where I use flour. I also add feta. Basically, mine are less virtuous, but equally as tasty, and can always be adapted for the gluten and dairy free diet.
These beetroot burgers are very versatile. If you mould them together more compactly into a "burger" shape, they are wonderful stuffed inside pita bread or a bun as a vegetarian burger option. And much better than the more traditional veggie burgers stuffed with beans or lentils, which I have never mastered.
Alternatively, you can make them less dense and more spread out in the frying pan, giving them a latke, fritter or rosti feel. They can be eaten hot straight out of the oven, or at room temperature as a part of a buffet, picnic or brunch. Perfect as a variation on potato latkes, or a tasty snack straight out of the fridge. And I love them with a little adulterated creme fraiche on the side (recipe included).
Inspired by the beetroot burgers in The Nordic Dietby Trina Hahnemann
Makes 8 burgers
Even though I call them burgers, I like to make them a little more of a latke shape, as then you can easily double them in a bun or pita pocket and they have wonderfully crispy edges, but please make any shape you prefer!
Feel free to substitute other root vegetables like sweet potato or parsnips, or a little chili for a kick.
Also, it is important to weigh the beets and carrots, as their sizes vary, and you may need to increase the egg and flour quantity to ensure they bind.
FOR THE BURGERS
400g (14oz) beetroot (approximately 4 medium),
150g (5.5oz) carrots (approximately 3 medium),
2 shallots or 1 banana shallot, finely chopped
1 bunch dill finely chopped (4tbsp)
1/2 bunch parsley finely chopped (2tbsp)
1/2 bunch corriander finely chopped (2tbsp)
100g (3.5oz) crumbled feta (preferably sheep's)
2 tbsp plain flour
2 large eggs
salt and pepper
2 tbsp rapeseed oil (or other flavourless oil), divided
FOR THE SAUCE
200g creme fraiche (or greek yoghurt if you prefer)
2 spring onions (scallions) finely sliced
1/2 bunch (2tbsp) chopped dill
1 tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper
Preheat oven to 180C (350F) and line a baking sheet with parchment paper
Grate the beetroot and carrots. I like to do them separately so that the carrots retain some of their colour
Put them in a doubled kitchen towel (to avoid staining your tea towels) and wring out all the excess liquid (you may be surprised how much comes out!)
In a large bowl combine all ingredients apart from the rapeseed oil and combine.
To make the sauce, combine all ingredients together and mix
Heat 1 tbsp rapeseed oil in a frying pan, and form burgers in your hands
Seal patties in 2 batches on medium heat on both sides until slightly crisp. Transfer to baking sheet and cook a further 15 minutes until cooked through.
Serve either on a bed of greens, on a bun or in a pita pocket with the sauce and a slice of lemon.