Vegetarian Vindaloo Burger with Raita and Cardamom Scented Rice
India is a tough country to describe in just a couple of paragraphs. It’s ancient with a civilization that dates back to around the 3rd century BC. It’s big, at over 3MM kilometers, it is the 7th largest country in the world. And, of course, with 1.2 BILLION people, it is the second most populous country in the world. So, a brief history of India would take a lot more than a couple of paragraphs, let’s see if we can focus on a few key points and leave the exploration of centuries of history to someone else…deal?
India is located in Southern Asia bordering the Arabian Sea and the Bay of Bengal. It shares a land border we Pakistan, China, Bhutan, Nepal, Burma and Bangladesh. Sri Lanka and Maldives are not far away across the seas. So, while it’s only about a third the size of the US, India has mountains, deserts, sandy beaches and just about everything in between. As a result of all of this the food in India is highly varied both regionally and ethnically.
Over 80% of the population is Hindu, so pretty much no one eats beef in India. It’s also important to note that while only 13% of the population is Muslim, that’s still a lot of Muslims so we don’t see much pork consumed here either. Although it has a reputation of vegetarianism, only about 30% of the population is technically vegetarian. However, because of widespread poverty and limited access to proteins, most Indians get most of their calories from non-meat sources (although I’m including dairy – dairy is pretty widely consumed).
I do love a challenge and I find vegetarian burgers challenging (usually to eat, but that’s a different story), so I couldn’t resist taking on vegetarian for India. I think the trick to making a satisfying veggie burger is to embrace it for what it is and not try to make it seem like meat, so that’s what I’ve done here. There are lots of tasty vegetables and some garbanzo beans and flour help hold them all together. The flavor is exactly what I had hoped, layered, complex and exotic.
Of course you can’t just get that from vegetables, it’s really the spice that is so critical here. Indian food is all about the spice and there are a number of classic spice blends that are used in traditional Indian cooking. For this burger I decided I wanted to bring a little more heat than I did with the Bangladeshi burger, so I went with a vindaloo spice blend. Vindaloo is again one of those blends for which there are probably millions of recipes. For mine I used dried dundicut peppers – mainly because I couldn’t resist buying them during one of my Penzey’s buying sprees (no I am not compensated for endorsing Penzey’s), and because they are both hot and grown in the region (in Pakistan). You can use any dried hot pepper you like, spicier peppers would be authentic, but use what you like, that’s far more important than authenticity.
You can also purchase pre-made vindaloo spice blend. I’m not a fan of the pre-made blends because I like to control the flavor of my dish. Spice is such an important part of Indian food, I just can’t bring myself to shortcut it. But again, I don’t judge…well at least I won’t judge you for using the pre-mixed stuff – not everyone is a control freak like I am, and not everyone is the spice whore that I am. So if you find yourself needing to buy a whole bunch of new spices and cursing me, just get the blend instead and pour yourself a glass of wine and relax.
To balance the heat of the vindaloo, I made a raita. Raita is a yoghurt sauce that you can get at most Indian restaurants; it is a terrific side dish and one of the best ways to tame food that is too spicy. I never order Indian without it, so please, give it a try. Lastly, I put this burger on cardamom scented rice – it makes for a simple looking but amazingly complex dish, I’m already wishing I could have another. If you like Indian food, I think you’ll love this burger. If you aren’t a fan of Indian, this might be too aromatic and spicy for your tastes – try the Bangladesh burger first, if you like that burger you may be surprised how much you’ll like this one.
Enjoy and Happy Holidays to all!
1 small eggplant diced (about 2 cups)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1½ Tablespoon peanut oil
1 cup chopped onion
1 cup chopped cauliflower
2 Tablespoons Vindaloo Paste (recipe below)
1 cup garbanzo beans (drained and rinsed)
2 Tablespoons flour
Cardamom Scented Rice (recipe below)
1 tomato sliced
Raita (recipe below)
Cilantro chopped (optional)
Place the chopped eggplant in a large glass bowl and sprinkle with salt – toss to coat, then let the eggplant sit for 10 minutes.
In the meantime, in a medium sauté pan, heat the peanut oil over medium high heat. Add the onions and sauté for about 3 minutes or until they are beginning to turn translucent. Add the cauliflower and the vindaloo paste. Stir and cover – cook over medium/low heat for 5 minutes.
Drain and blot dry the eggplant. Add it to the pan. Cover and cook for another 15 minutes. Add the chick peas and cook uncovered for 10 minutes.
Remove from heat and let the mixture cool a bit. Pulse in a food processor until chunky. Add the flour and pulse until mixed through.
Separate the mixture into four portions and form four patties. In a large skillet, heat 1-2 Tablespoons of peanut oil until shimmering. Add the patties and cook until you get a nice brown crust, turn the patties and cook the other side to match.
To serve start with a scoop of rice on each plate, add tomatoes, cooked patties, a generous scoop of raita and top with cilantro.
1 teaspoon fenugreek seeds
2 teaspoons black mustard seeds
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
4 dried dundicut peppers (or other dried hot pepper)
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
1 clove of garlic grated
½ teaspoon ground turmeric
1 teaspoon white wine vinegar
1/8 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
½ teaspoon kosher salt
In a dry pan, toast the first 5 ingredients until fragrant. Grind them into a fine powder in a spice grinder. Add the remaining ingredients and pulse until you get a paste. You can store this in the freezer for a couple of months and it will keep its flavor.
Cardamom Scented Rice
1 cup long grain rice
2 cups water
12 whole green cardamom pods lightly bruised
Place all ingredients in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Cover and reduce heat to low. Cook 20 minutes or until rice is cooked through. Remove the cardamom pods before you serve if you don’t want your guests to get a big bight of cardamom.
½ cup shredded cucumber
1 cup 2% Greek yoghurt
½ cup shredded carrot
½ teaspoon Garam Masala (follow this link for recipe)
½ teaspoon kosher salt
Squeeze the cucumber to remove excess water. Combine all ingredients and adjust spice to taste. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes then adjust spice again and serve cold.
©Copyright 2012 Linda Monach