Sunday, August 25, 2013

Carrot, cumin and kidney bean burgers/balls

Since coming across A Girl Called Jack a couple of weeks ago I've been trying to read through her archives and keep having to stop to make notes of recipes and meal ideas to try out. Jack was a single mother (just got engaged so not so much single anymore, although definitely still a mum) living on benefits in the UK, who got into a serious financial situation and decided that she would just have to find ways to feed herself and her toddler healthy meals while spending as little as possible, which was the very little that she had. She is a so-called austerity cook and costs out her recipes on the blog (based on prices from her local supermarket). And she highlights important facts, such as it potentially being cheaper to buy a tin of beans because even though dried beans might be cheaper, they require more electricity to cook and so on. Not to mention that the dried stuff tends to come in bigger packs and for those watching every penny, that outlay might just not be in the budget (21p for a tin versus a pound or so for a bag of dried - if literally every penny counts, that pound might be just out of your budget).

Reading her blog does raise some interesting issues for me. She has had very little money and buys everything possible from the supermarket own brand value ranges. I've spent the last few years often paying more than most people for some items of food as I've focused on the issues of buying directly from farmers at fair prices, fair trade for items not available from my area and so on. I can, of course, understand that if the decision of whether to buy directly from a local farmer or buying the cheapest range from a global supermarket chain directly affects your ability to feed your child (or yourself) then there isn't much of a decision to make. I do still think that at some point though, if you're not involved in a literal "it's this or starve" situation, that the issues of how food is produced, how much the producers are paid and so on are really important. Some of the earlier posts I read on her blog were also about the lack of a proper market where she lives, for example (one had just been closed, I believe) - it's important to remember that not everyone is as lucky as I am, to live only five minutes walk from where the local farmers' market sets up twice a week.

One of her most famous recipes is her 9p burger. There was a link to a video (warning: that video starts automatically) posted on her blog recently and they just looked so easy to make, I decided I really have to give them a go. I've been wanting to try more variations of bean burgers anyway so this seemed like a good place to start. I did take the 'easy' way out and buy a tin of beans to try this out. Mostly I try to buy the dried beans and cook them myself but I wanted to see if this recipe really was as easy as it looked and I was also interested to see what the price of tins of beans was in my local supermarket. A lot more than it is in the UK apparently. Most of them were around the 1.70 per tin mark. I got the one cheaper option (around 70c) - must have a look in Aldi to see how much they cost there. While I think I'll mostly stick with cooking dried beans, there's no denying that a tin in the cupboard could make for a very quickly prepared meal in a pinch.

I was all set to make these for dinner tomorrow and then she posted a variation which I decided would be nice to try, too. So I made these today and, so to speak, used the leftovers in advance.

There was a recipe for tostada shells on Frugal by Choice, Cheap by Necessity the other day which I also wanted to try out as I had wraps in the freezer I wanted to use up so I combined the two. For the burgers, I chopped the onion quite finely (not as finely as Jack does but more finely that I usually bother to), added a couple of cloves of chopped garlic and fried that in some olive oil, grating the carrot on top of the whole lot, too. I then forget to check the recipe properly and just threw the teaspoon of cumin directly in on top of that lot but oh well. I drained and rinsed the beans and then boiled them for about ten minutes. At the same time I coated the wraps with the oil and water mixture and put them into the pre-heated oven on top of jars.

Once the beans had boiled, I mashed them and then mixed them in with the carrot and onion mix. Shaped three small burgers to use for tomorrow's dinner and then used the rest (about half) of the mixture to shape six small balls, which I fried before putting them into the nicely crispy tostada shells. I then poured about a cupful of the passata into the pan (note that this will spatter madly going into the hot pan) and heated that up with all the flavours left in the pan from preparing the bean balls before pouring it over them in the shells. Added the last handful of salad from the garden last week and had a meal that, well, it was really too much for one person but so delicious I finished it all anyway. Must remember that those wraps, although they seem quite small, are very thick so one is definitely enough.
Sorry about the photo, was very hungry by the time these were ready and just barely remembered to take one before digging in. Burgers for tomorrow are in the Tupperware container in the background
I'll be making these again often, I think. So, so very good. Highly recommend giving them a go.

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