Mushroom Lentil Burgers

mushroom lentil burger 1

Can we talk about the importance of a good burger? When the mood strikes, it’s impossible to shake, right?

My favorite burgers involve a whole heap of stuff. I like condiments and lots of little accessories on all the things I eat, but especially on burgers.

I love caramelized onion, melted cheddar, bbq sauce, tomato, and lettuce for crunch. But lets be real, with all of that stuff, sometimes it doesn’t really matter whether the burger underneath it all is beef or chicken or legume – especially if the meat version isn’t up to scratch, I’ll take a veggie burger in a heartbeat.

Despite my love of a perfect beef burger and obsession with toppings, I think a good-quality veggie burger can be just as badass as a meat one, albeit in a slightly more hippie kind of way.

The key to an excellent vegetarian-friendly burger begins with packing lots of flavor into the pattie.  (See also various add-ons above.)

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Summer Lentil Salad

lentil summer salad #voraciousvander

What’s your favorite way to spend a lazy day?

On a rainy Sunday are you inclined to a.) curl up on the chaise lounge with a good book b.) scribble in your journal for an hour or two c.) have a movie marathon d.) bake something that fills the house with a crazy-good smell of butter and sugar and spice (?)

I’m not very inventive when it comes to the lazy Sunday. I’m all about tackling a TV series or two. I mean, this is really the only way to watch Homeland, in my opinion. Downton after Downton episode? Oooh yes please.

Catfish? Ugh, I might be addicted in a this-makes-me-nervous-and-I-can’t-stop-watching kinda way.

I also enjoy copious amounts of cookies and tea with my embarrassing entertainment  choices. And maybe a lunch that involves a baguette, at least two types of cheese and some sort of pesto.

I love when I can fully enjoy being lazy. Not feeling like I should be doing anything else besides hanging out on the couch with my man.

This Monday, I’m starting the first full-time office job I’ve had in a long while. Of course, I’m a little nervous. I’m concerned about what to wear, wondering what my co-workers will be like, and just plain eager to get that first day behind me.

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Lentil Soup with Harissa and Pumpkin

Ways to brighten a grey wintery day:

- Stay in bed a little longer. Heated blanket ON. (No central heating in Australia, folks – that heated blanket has been MONEY this past month.) Check your emails on your phone while doing this – you’re totally getting things done while still lying in bed!

- Make or buy the best dang cup of coffee you can muster. Drink it while watching different versions/parodies of Call Me Maybe on youtube. (Like this one or this one.)

- Do your own version of yoga/stretching/dance aerobics while watching fluffy morning TV. Mute TV occasionally to play Call Me Maybe.

- Bundle up and get outside for a walk. You’ll try and resist this at first (it’s so gloomy out there!) – but you’ll be happy you did.

-  Simmer something over the stove for a little while – something a hearty, lentil-packed and a little spicy. Top it with a zippy lemon-scented yogurt and eat while piping hot!

Awww yeah, you’re treating winter right.

Lentil Soup with Pumpkin and Harissa (serves 4-6)
adapted from Gourmet Traveller

- 1 tablespoon olive oil
– small knob of butter
– 1 large onion, finely chopped
– 1 medium-large leek, finely chopped
– 2 carrots, finely diced
– 1 celery rib, finely diced
– 2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
– 2 cups dry French lentils
– 6 cups (1.5 liters) water, or more if needed.
– 2-3 cups diced Japanese pumpkin (or butternut)
– 1 14-ounce/400-gram can of diced or cherry tomatoes
– 2-3 tablespoons harissa paste, to taste
To serve:
– 1/2 cup Greek yogurt
– zest of 1/2 lemon
– handful of chopped coriander

Heat olive oil and butter in a large pot over a medium heat until the butter is foaming.

Add onion and cook, stirring occasionally until soft and golden – about 8 minutes.

Add leek, carrot, celery and garlic and cook for another 8-10 minutes stirring occasionally, until soft.

Add lentils and water and cook for 20 minutes over a simmer.

Add pumpkin and tomatoes and cook another 20-30 minutes until everything is tender. Add a bit more water if needed. (I added a splash.)

Stir in harissa paste and cook another 10 minutes.

Combine lemon zest and yogurt and serve over soup with fresh coriander.

Spicy Coconut and Lentil Soup

It’s been a grey and rainy week. I’ve been caught in the rain three mornings in a row trying to go for a run. My umbrella’s all bent out of shape. I don’t want to leave the house.

What’s your favorite rainy evening ritual? Mine looks like sweat pants, bad tv (wuttup Revenge), a glass of red and a curry.

I don’t love the rain, but I don’t mind the excuse it gives me to get cozy, make something warm, and treat myself right.

I was impressed with this recipe for 2 reasons:
It develops a rich Thai flavor in less than a half an hour – if you’re craving a Thai red curry, this is probably a quicker bet than delivery.
It’s also easily adaptable for whatever vegetables you have at home. Asian veggies like bok choy, baby corn and snow peas are all at home here, but mushrooms, green beans, carrots, spinach and even sweet potato are all welcome too.

Spicy Coconut and Lentil Soup
adapted from Donna Hay’s Off the Shelf
(makes 4 serves)

- 2 tablespoons oil
– 2 tablespoons red curry paste
– 4 spring onions, light green and white parts thinly chopped
– 4 cups vegetable stock
– 2 cups coconut cream
– 1 cup red lentils
– 1 1/2 cups button mushrooms, thinly sliced
– 1 cup snow peas, trimmed and sliced in half
– 2 cups spinach, chopped

Heat the oil and curry paste in a large saucepan over a medium-low heat and cook for 2 minutes. Add in spring onions and cook 1 minute.

Add stock, coconut cream and lentils and cook for 10 minutes.

Add mushrooms and simmer for 5 minutes. Add snow peas and cover, simmering for 2 more minutes.

Stir in spinach and let it wilt down. Serve hot with rice or grilled flat bread.

Carrots and Peppers Roasted with Harissa and Lentils

Every now and then, I have ice cream and popcorn for lunch.

I know from where you’re sitting it probably looks all like salads, roasted vegetables and legumes over here. And I love all that stuff…that’s why I write this blog. I make them taste good and they make me feel good. It’s a love-love relationship.

But sometimes (usually on a Saturday) a late lunch ends up being two scoops of the silliest flavors you can think of (No joke, I had a gingerbread flavor called Hansel He’s So Hot Right Now this weekend. It was marvelous.) and some salty popcorn to balance it all out.

Ain’t no thing.

Part of me likes to think I’m doing 7-year-old me justice and living the dream of ice cream whenever I want. I kind of am.

My goal when I make a salad is to make it as alluring as ice cream for lunch can sometimes be. I like to give it an edge, (read: cheese) a little extra flair (harissa) and implement some lazy, but effective technique (roasting) – together those things make a lunch that I would pick over ice cream 6 days out of 7.

Carrots, Peppers and Lentils
– 4 large carrots, cut into rounds
– 1 large red bell pepper, cut into thin strips
– 1-2 tablespoons olive oil
– 1 tablespoon harissa
– 1 cup cooked French lentils*
– 1/4 cup goat or feta cheese for serving
– salt, to taste

Pre-heat oven to 220 C/430 F.

Combine carrots, peppers olive oil and harissa in a large bowl. Mix well until the vegetables are well coated with oil and harissa.

Spread vegetables out on a baking sheet. Bake for 20-25 minutes, tossing half-way through, until golden brown.

Combine lentils and vegetables in a bowl. Add a touch more olive oil if the vegetables are a little dry. Sprinkle with salt and cheese and serve warm or at room temperature.

For cooking lentils: Place 1/2 cup dry lentils in a medium saucepan with 1 1/2 – 2 cups water and a whole garlic clove. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Cook covered for 25-30 minutes until tender. Drain well to serve.

Porteño Pan-fried Brussels Sprouts with Lentils

Here’s a virtuous green dish, for the post-St. Paddy’s Day guilt/Guinness belly.

If you haven’t caught on and discovered the excellency of semi-caramelized Brussels sprouts, now’s your chance!

The original version of this recipe called for deep-frying the B-sprouts which I think is a brilliant idea, but I am extremely uncomfortable with the notion of deep-frying at home. I think I would at least need supervision/protective gear for my face and hands.

And plus, we’re repenting from day-long Irish festivities right?

I decided to pan-fry these babies in a little olive oil until golden brown and crispy around the edges. (Roasting would work well here, too.)
Combined with dainty French lentils and a hot mustard vinaigrette, the B-sprouts make a great side dish or main, depending on who you’re talking to.

On another day, I might top this with a few bite-sized chunks of smokey bacon.

Brussels Sprouts with Lentils
adapted from Porteño restaurant’s recipe in Sydney
(Serves 4 as a side)

- 3-4 cups Brussels sprouts, cut in half
– 1 cup cooked French lentils
– 1/2 cup chopped parsley
– 1/4 cup chopped mint
– 2 tablespoons olive oil
– sea salt

For dressing:
– 2 tablespoons hot English mustard
– 2 tablespoons olive oil
– 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
– salt and pepper to taste

Heat olive oil in a large pan over a medium heat. Add Brussels sprouts and cook, stirring frequently for about 10 minutes, until they become browned in some parts. Stir in lentils and remove from heat. Season with sea salt.

Whisk together ingredients for dressing in a small bowl or jar.

Place B-sprouts with lentils in a large bowl. Add dressing and chopped parsley, mix well to combine. Serve warm.

Moroccan Cauliflower and Lentils

Straight up, Cauliflower is a bit bland. There, I said it. But this is easily fixed. Let’s think of it as a blank canvas.

Come on, let’s treat some cauliflower right.

My favorite secret weapon lately is Moroccan spice blend,  or Ras al hanout (which means “head of the shop” in Arabic, you know – cream of the crop stuff.)

It’s a pretty common spice mix in Australia but I’m sure it wouldn’t be hard to find in any good spice section. You can use it in tajines, soups, or as a roasting rub or seasoning for meat, vegetables and even apples.

This spice blend has: coriander, cumin, paprika, fennel, ginger, turmeric, cassia, caraway, nutmeg, cayenne, cardamom, allspice pimento, black pepper, sea salt, galangal.

You can make your own simplified version too, here’s one from Epicuious. I would probably add some paprika to this – to give it a more savory edge.

I’ve used the following method for cooking a few different versions of this dish – chickpeas, pumpkin and eggplant have all been involved at one time or another. The result is a hearty vegetarian stew that’s simple to make but full in flavor. It’s a great way to dress up some regular old pantry items and a flexible vegetable like cauliflower.

Moroccan Cauliflower & Lentils

- 1 medium yellow onion, diced
– 1 clove of garlic, finely chopped
– 1 1/2 heaping tablespoons of Moroccan spice blend
– Pinch of red pepper flakes
– 1/2 large head of cauliflower or 2 1/2 cups
– 1 cup cooked French lentils
– 1 1/2 cups or 1 can of crushed or diced tomatoes
– 1 1/2 cups water
– Olive oil
– Salt & Pepper
– Fresh coriander (optional)

Heat olive oil in a large pot over a medium high heat. Cook onion for about 3 or 4 minutes until translucent. Add garlic and cook an additional minute.

Add the Moroccan spice blend and stir well, coating the onions and garlic in the spices. Cook for 1 minute.

Pour in tomatoes and water and bring to a boil.

Add cauliflower and lentils and bring to a boil again. Turn down to s simmer and cook covered for another 15-20 minutes until the cauliflower is softened.

Serve with fresh coriander as a side or over rice or cous cous.