Happy New Year, everyone! To all my longtime readers, thanks a million for all the support over the year. It’s been a wonderful journey. Can you believe this little blog will be 10 years old this year? To all my new readers — welcome! I have absolutely no new year’s resolutions. Same old me, taking each day as it comes and enjoying every moment. See, nothing new.
Wanna see something that is new?
Behold! The vegan burger dreams are made of. This giant panko-crusted vegan “chicken” fillet (or should I say chicken-less fillet) is the star of the show. Nestled between the folds of a squishy sesame bun, it’s joined by fresh avocado, lettuce, red onions, tomatoes and a spicy vegan mayo. Limp fast food veggie burgers can step aside, for there’s a new wave of vegan burgers hitting our plates, shops and restaurants. Soy, gluten, pea and bean-based burgers and other meat substitutes are all on the rise and non-meat eaters have more choice than ever. For me, a grilled mushroom between two buns has never hit the spot but thankfully, there’s so much more out there now. I’m not even sure why grilled ‘shrooms are classed as a burger patty.
Now let’s get straight to business. It’s full disclosure time. This is by no means a quick and easy recipe. It’s a labour of love and like with all good things, you must have patience and be prepared to wait. I think a burger this spectacularly juicy, fresh and nutritious is worth said wait. Although, I’ve found that if you break the steps down and tackle one bit at a time, it’s much easier. Making the vegan “chicken” is what takes the most time.
I’m a huge fan of chickwheat which is a high-protein wheat meat made with vital wheat gluten, tofu and white beans. Once a “dough” is made, it’s wrapped in foil, pressure cooked and left to rest. The result is a slab of textured, shreddy chickenless chicken that’s so flavoursome and versatile. I make big batches and freeze it so it’s always on hand for dishes like Vegan Seitan Butter “Chicken”, stir fries, tacos and Vegan Hariyali “Chicken” Drumsticks. I first heard about Chickwheat via The Seitan Appreciation Group on Facebook and Lacey Siomos of the Avocados and Ales blog. With vegan diets on the rise, seitan and other meat substitutes like this chickwheat are becoming widely recognised these days and vegan or not, I think it’s brilliant for those who’d like a varied choice. You were lucky to get a frozen bean burger when I was growing up in the 90s and 00s. Times are changing for the better when it comes to food options, culinary innovation and an open mindedness towards alternative diets.
As much as I like the convenience of shop bought, there’s nothing better than being able to customise your own flavours by making your own vegan meat subs at home. I order my vital wheat gluten online (Buy Whole Foods Online do a great one if you’re UK based – try Amazon if you’re not) and my chicken-style stock/seasoning of choice is Massel and Schwartz but you can use any. If you’re vegan or are cooking for vegans, read the ingredients to make sure the one you choose is suitable.
If you don’t have a pressure cooker for making the chicken, you can use a large saucepan with a lid and gently simmer (not boil) for 2 1/2 hours. An instant pot is also a great option – cook on high for 35 minutes. A stand mixer with a dough hook attachment is essential for this recipe. If the dough is not kneaded enough, you’ll end up with more of a spongy texture without the desired “pulled” effect. Knead the dough long and hard and keep an eye on your mixer to ensure it doesn’t wiggle across the countertop — they can shift fast! I wrap it tightly in foil to make sure the chicken doesn’t expand too much during the cooking process. We want it nice and compact. You could also use cheesecloth or muslin and string if you’re not keen on using foil, although it is a little messier. Be sure to wrap it tightly for a good shape and to stop the water leaking in. To sum up, It’s the long kneading, tight wrapping and long cooking that gives the chicken its perfect shreddy texture.
Panko are my coating of choice because I like the crunch you get with larger breadcrumb pieces. Switch in regular breadcrumbs if that’s what you have. You’ll need to dust the fillets in plain flour and batter of dairy-free yoghurt and chickpea flour first — this will help the breadcrumbs adhere well. It’s messy but fun and kids will love helping with this part! Feel free to customise the burger toppings to your taste; a slice of melty vegan cheese, wafer-thin pickles and a smidge of mustard or barbecue sauce is also a good idea. I’ve also been known to throw in a few jalapeños for a big chilli kick.
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