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Monday 14 October 2013

Grilled Halloumi & Mushroom Burgers

One of the most interesting things about having a vegetarian girlfriend is the clever and creative spin that gets applied to food whenever we cook together. It's tempting to think that vegetarians 'must be missing out' on certain kinds of foods but, even without the likes of Quorn and Tofu, there are many ways to get the feel of common dishes with all manner of wholesome substitutes. Some I'm familiar with, having gone through an almost vegetarian phase myself but, coming from a family of unabashed carnivores, most meals were very meat-oriented.

I'm familiar with several different kinds of 'veggie burgers', too, but I'd never considered the humble mushroom as the main player in a quick, simple and very tasty variation on the cheeseburger.

  • 2 Crusty Bread Rolls
  • 2 Large Flat Mushrooms (ideally Portobello)
  • Small pack of Halloumi
  • Small pack of Spinach
  • Olive Oil
  • Herbs/Spices/Seasonings, as preferred
Preparation Time: About half an hour

Tools Required:
  • A Sharp Knife (to cut both the bread rolls and the Halloumi, and to lop off the mushroom stalks if they're too long)
  • That's about it
The Process:
This one's fairly simple, relying mostly on looking in on the grill regularly to check the progress of the mushrooms and halloumi. Mushrooms, it should be noted, will release an awful lot of moisture while grilling, and may need to be drained/squeezed (by pressing down on them with a fish slice or tongs, for example) to ensure the burger buns don't end up as soggy lumps.

To begin, preheat your grill to about 200C. Wash the mushrooms, chop off the stalks, then lightly score the domes of the mushrooms. Drizzle olive oil over the mushrooms and rub it in. Cut the Halloumi into slices about 1cm thick, ensuring there's enough to cover each burger.

The Halloumi will need about 5 to 10 minutes under the grill, while the mushrooms tend to need 15 to 20 minutes and will need to start dome-upwards. Both will need to be turned about halfway through their grilling time. Once flipped, sprinkle over whatever herbs, spices and seasoning you feel like adding to the Halloumi, noting that salt shouldn't be required as it's a fairly salty cheese as standard.

While the grilling is in progress, cut the rolls and prepare them with your desired salad, condiments and whatever else you like to add to a burger. One suggestion was to add spice mixes made by a certain chain of chicken restaurants into mayonnaise, or even use the spice mixes on the mushrooms/Halloumi themselves.

Once the grilling is complete, pile the mushrooms and cheese slices into the buns and devour mercilessly.

The Results:
There's no doubt in my mind that large mushrooms such as the Portobello are meaty enough to serve as a burger. These were made with only the barest additional seasoning, so the flavours of the mushroom, cheese and spinach were clean and prominent in every mouthful. Crusty rolls are preferable simply because, however well you drain your mushrooms during and after grilling, a certain amount of fluid will remain, and it will begin to soak into the buns. Standard burger buns would end up saturated and dripping far too quickly.

It's not often I'll cook something entirely vegetarian when I'm eating on my own, but this is quick and simple enough - as well as tasty and filling enough - to experiment with when I'm otherwise stuck for ideas for a straightforward and satisfying lunch.

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