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Black bean and tofu burgers, à la North Peak Tavern

Black bean and tofu burger a la North Peak

Despite being a committed carnivore, there are few things I enjoy more than a good veggie burger. Making them well has always been an ambition of mine, but sadly it's been an unfulfilled one until recently – delicious-tasting but mushy lentil blobs, or pancakey fritters. A recent search turned up this wonderful-sounding recipe from the North Peak Tavern, which I desperately wanted to try. The one issue, sadly, was that one of the main ingredients is the one thing Kathryn genuinely won't eat – mushrooms. Not to be put off, I thought I'd give it a go with tofu instead, adding soy sauce to try and retain some of that rich umami flavour. The amount this recipe makes is based around using a whole pack of tofu as sold by my local asian supermarket (it doesn't keep and the packs are large), so bear in mind that you'll end up with a lot – I ended up with sixteen good-sized burgers last time I made this recipe. That said, they freeze really well – you can bag them up ready to defrost and fry whenever you like.

Pico de Gallo

The original recipe includes directions for creating Pico de Gallo, which serves as one of the ingredients – if you have a bit left over, it makes a great accompaniment.

I don't know about you, but I've got a little food processor for exactly this situation. If you're on team mini-chopper, stick all of the ingredients (along with a splash of olive oil) and pulse until it's salsa-licious. If not, go and buy a mini-chopper (you'll thank me later). If still not, just chop everything up as finely as possible, then mix it up in a bowl.

Black bean and tofu burgers

Put your beans in an oven-proof pot with a well-fitting lid, along with the cloves of garlic and a decent pinch of salt. Cover with cold water, put the lid on, and stick it in an oven heated to 160°C. Cook for 75 minutes, then check them – if they're not tender, give them a stir and return to the oven, checking every ten minutes (add more water if they seem to be getting dry). Drain, rinse well with cold water, then set aside.

While your beans are cooking, get the tofu sorted. Drain and dice it, then dry it well – lay a double thickness of kitchen roll in the bottom of a large dish, add the tofu on top, and press another couple of sheets on top (you might need to discard this and replace a couple of times to dry it out properly). Finely dice your onion, heat some oil in a large saute dish, and soften over a medium heat for five minutes, before adding the tofu and soy sauce. Continue to cook, breaking the chunks up with a spatula until it's got a mince-like consistency. Once everything's cooked together (about another ten minutes) remove from the heat, and stir in the Pico de Gallo. Set aside to cool.

Add the cooked beans, honey, treacle and cumin to a food processor, along with a couple of generous pinches of salt. Pulse until it's thick and even – you're looking for a thick, smooth paste with a smattering of whole beans in there for texture. Combine with the tofu in a large bowl, and mix well. Add the bread crumbs a bit at a time, kneading them into the mix to form a pliable, dryish dough (if you're lazy like me, you can do this bit in a Kitchen Aid).

Heat your oven to 180°C. Brush a non-stick baking tray with olive oil and set to one side, then spread out a good amount of semolina flour onto a (clean) work-surface. Take a handful of your burger mixture, pack into a ball – I'm not going to tell you what size you want your burgers, but a decent fistful makes a good starting point – then roll in the flour to coat and press into a burger. Line them up on the tray (actually, since this mix makes so much, you might fill a couple of trays). Bake in the oven for 15 minutes to set them, then cool – you can bag them up and freeze them at this point, if you want (if you've made the full amount, you'll probably need to!)

To serve, heat some oil in a large frying pan and add one or two of the burgers (give them plenty of space). Fry until crispy on the outside and warmed through, turning halfway – probably around 3 minutes each side. Toast your buns under the grill, adding some slices of cheese to melt halfway through. The original recipe suggests Provolone, and I'm inclined to agree. That said, we've had these with melted Gruyere, chunks of Edam, and even slices of vegetarian Parmesan (which I had mistaken for Provolone at the time!)

Pesto aioli

The original article also suggests dressing the burgers with a pesto aioli, which I have to agree with. I've put together a recipe to make it from scratch.

Pop the egg yolks and mustard into a smallish mixing bowl, and whisk until they're smooth and even. Add the oil very, very slowly – we're talking about a dribbling trickle here – whisking the whole time. You'll know it's working because it'll be getting thicker, smoother, constantly glossier. Whisk in the vinegar – now you've got mayo (if you were going to leave it like this, you'd want to season it now). Finely grate the cheese, crush the garlic and finely chop the basil. Mix them together, then stir into the mayonnaise.

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