Friday, 6 June 2008


I love a good name for a recipe. Some of my favourites are rumbledethumps, the enchanted broccoli forest and mock turtle. These names conjure up wonderful images that make you curious if not enlightened.

I have always been particularly fascinated by the names inspired by the vegetarian’s search for alternatives to meat: facon, tricken, and chilli non carne. So I was delighted recently to discover a recipe for Shamburgers. What a great name!

The recipe comes from a 1963 cookbook called Sixty-Three Meatless Meals by Bridget Amies that I recently purchased. It is written for the harassed housewife and advises that ‘the preparation of meals should be undertaken in a happy state of mind’ and you should never eat when you are worried or tired or in a hurry. If I took this advice I would be sure to lose weight because there would be days that I would never eat. More reassuring is that assertion that meatless meals can be tasty and nourishing.

Ms Amies presents recipes with some slight differences to those we expect to see today. They are rich in cheese and nuts, use outdated measurements (such as a gill and a dessertspoonful), and don’t give as much instruction as today’s recipes (how long? how hot?). She feels the need to explain that ‘gniocchi’ is pronounced ‘noky’. And I don’t think many modern cookbooks would recommend an asbestos mat for cooking ‘rissotto’.

It is interesting to see how the terminology has changed. No one today would freely use the word ‘fats’ rather than oil or butter. What we know as ‘raw food’ seems to be the same as her ‘unfired foods’. Saying ‘fireproof dish’ rather than ‘ovenproof dish’ suggests a world where people still cooked on an open fire or had those around them who remembered such times.

Her recipes for nut cutlets, nut roasts and shamburgers shows why such vegetarian substitutes for meat were quite unpopular. I couldn’t resist making the shamburgers because I loved the name but I probably would not usually make such nut-heavy burgers. In a way, I understand that the concentration of nuts does make it more like the meat burgers I once ate but it seems quite old-fashioned. Their unrelenting nuttiness reminded me a little of the Michaelmas nut roast I made from a 1910 cookbook.

But it does show how the vegetarian diet has changed along with other general dietary changes. Most modern nut roasts I have come across have more vegetables, flavours and breadcrumbs (or other grains) so they don’t feel like a mouthful of ground nuts. I also found out just how dry the dreaded nut cutlet could be when I left the shamburgers in the oven to reheat a little too long on the second night.

However, if you manage not to overcook them, these Shamburgers are quite tasty. Ms Amies suggests serving them with brown gravy and two vegetables such as cauliflower and carrots. We had them with marinated, roasted root vegetables and some brussel sprouts on the first night. On the second night I was inspired by AOF's gravy to mix tahini and miso with mashed pumpkin to make a side dish that wasn’t sure if it should be called a sauce or a vegetable. It is something I will continue to experiment with. And I hope I will try some other recipes from this book. Seems our ancestors weren’t completely clueless about vegetarian cooking.

(From 63 Meatless Meals)
Makes 8-12

50g ground almonds
100g ground peanuts
100g nut meal
50g grated cheese
100g breadcrumbs
Rind of 1 lemon
2 tbsp parsley, finely chopped
1 onion, finely chopped
1 tbsp mixed herbs
2 eggs or 1 gill of white sauce
For crumbing: 2 eggs and extra breadcrumbs

Mix all ingredients together (except extra eggs and breadcrumbs). Before shaping set out two shallow bowls. In one pour a generous amount of breadcrumbs and in the other lightly beat two eggs. Shape into burgers (the recipe says to shape as for fishcakes - I just made palm sized burgers). Toss each burger first in breadcrumbs, then in egg and then in breadcrumbs again. Fry or bake. I suggest lightly frying for about 5 minutes either side and then bake in a moderate oven for 15-30 minutes til just starting to brown. (The first night I served them I fried them for about 7-8 minutes per side and the second night I put the cold burgers in the oven for 45 minute which was much too long and they were on the dry side.)

On the stereo:
Stasis: the UA Years: 1971-1975: Hawkwind


  1. I do love that name! But what I found surprising was that one could buy a vegetarian cookbook in 1963--I wouldn't have thought veg meals were that mainstream back then. These do sound "nut-heavy," though quite tasty. And I guess all those nuts provide a dose of protein that's similar to meat.

  2. I was talking to a client today about meatless meals. She'd been reflecting that week on how she ate when growing up, compared to now. Her parents were not well off, so they bought cheap cuts of meat and cooked them in casseroles, bulked up with beans and vegetables. Chocolate, biscuits, cakes, wine were all rare treats.

    They regularly ate meatless meals and it was exactly these kinds of foods. This wasn't a health or ethical decision, they simply couldn't afford meat every day. So the "vegetarian" meals were made to mimic meat.

    And we talked about the similarities between the diet of her parents, the low-cost diet, and the way I was encouraging her to eat now.

    It was an interesting discussion and one of those lovely moments when you know there has been a big attitude shift.

  3. thanks Ricki - I have been quite surprised to find vegetarian cookbooks going back through the 20th century when I was researching nut roasts - and surprised to find recipes that interest me not just appal me!

    thanks Kathryn - what a lovely story that gives great insight into how we have changed our habits in a cyclical way

  4. Interesting post. I'm amused by the different usage of terms back "then." And can only imagine that many of the vegetarian recipes are likely quite different than they are today. I was not raised vegetarian, but my friends that were (about 15-20 years) ago describe their childhood eating experiences as "bland" and "before the veggie burger." (I guess, that's the veggie burger as we know it today...)
    Nonetheless, I happen to love nuts, and see this recipe has having quite a bit of potential.

  5. thanks CookinPanda - am sure I would feel differently about vegetarianism if I had been raised one - I eat this way because I have chosen to! I would be interested to hear what you think if you do try this recipe - I doubt I would make it this way again but do like combinations of nuts and breadcrumbs in burgers

  6. Cool cookbook, especially neat that its from 1963!!

  7. Gosh, how much IS a 'gill', I wonder? Sounds like a lot!

    Loved it.

    Some of those classic veg recipes still are classic. But the title of this one is priceless!

  8. thanks Veggie - it is an interesting cookbook

    thanks Lucy - good question about the gill - Lysy in her pease pudding post wrote she thought it was an imperial quart or 2 (British) pints but that still doesn't mean much to me - and I do like the mystery of it


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