Monday 27 October 2008

Lysy’s smoky burgers

Smoked tofu is one of those strange foods that appears from nowhere when I can’t for the life of me think what to make with it and then it disappears when I want it. It is a very strong flavoured tofu which is scarily reminiscent of bacon. I first tasted it years ago and it was my first experience of eating any smoked food which was not meat. It was a shock to my system. My initial encounter with smoked tofu reminded me of the unpleasant intensity of eating meat.

More recently I have come to embrace the more subtle smoky flavours of smoked paprika and chipotle chilli peppers. I still find the flavour of smoked tofu confronting but if used creatively, it can be delicious. On our recent trip to Hobart, E had a wonderful smoked tofu dish with spicy pesto and broccolini.

Months ago Lysy posted a recipe for Smoked Tofu and Bean Burgers. Gluten free, dairy free and nut free. Lysy describes their healthiness as “generalised-and-no-specific-implications-for-magical-disease-warding-off-properties superfoodiness”. How could I resist! But the post coincided with a conspiracy to hide all smoked tofu in every shop near me.

Finally, despairing of ever finding smoked tofu again, I tried making my own version of these burgers with plain tofu and liquid smoke. The taste was ok but not great. Even more disappointing was the texture which was so soft it seemed more the consistency of a dip than a burger. I baked them in mini muffin trays (see photo above right) and was not thrilled with them. I did wonder if it was because I used white cannellini beans instead of kidney beans.

Recently I found some smoked tofu and knew I had to try again. This time I wasn’t so loose and easy with the recipe. But again I found that the mixture was incredibly soft. There was no way I could roll it into a ball with my hands. So I spooned it onto the baking paper and spread it into a burger shape. It was a little grey when unbaked but did brown as it cooked. I thought that maybe I left it in the food processor too long – the mixture was actually a bit much for my small food processor. Lysy’s burgers look less processed but she says to blend for 6-8 minutes. However I found a post by AOF on the same recipe and her burgers looked more like mine.

Despite my uncertainties about the look of the burgers, they tasted great, albeit quite strong. I had thought about trying mashing some of the tofu and kidney beans by hand for a more chunky texture but, on reflection, I quite liked the way they held together really well. Baking them as burgers rather than mini muffins meant they got a lot crispier.

These strong-tasting burgers needed a sweet tangy sauce. I made a tomato sauce which was quite sweet because I added the rest of the pineapple juice from my fried rice. I serve it with the rest of the fried rice and some broccoli the first night and with steamed broccoli and corn on the cob the second night. I would also recommend a condiment like the pumpkin chutney that I served with the first dodgy batch.

I imagine that these burgers would be brilliant in a hamburger bun with lettuce, tomato, beetroot, tomato sauce and mayonnaise like the traditional Aussie fish and chip shop burger with the lot. Not every vegetarian burger can make that claim. But not every vegetarian burger can claim to be a superfood!

Smoked tofu and bean burgers
(from Gillian McKeith, You are what you eat cookbook)
Makes 6-8

1 onion, peeled and quartered
1 garlic clove, peeled and chopped
1 carrot, grated
410g can red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
220g smoked tofu, chopped
75g sunflower seeds
1-2 handfuls fresh parsley, roughly chopped
2 tsp vegetable stock powder

Preheat oven to 200C/Gas 7/400 F. Line a baking tray with greaseproof paper.

Place parsley and sunflower seeds in the food processor for 1-2 minutes until chopped. Add remaining ingredients and blend til ‘roughly chopped but not smooth’, ie blend til just mixed.

Place a couple of spoonfuls onto tray and use back of a spoon to press down and spread into burger shapes. Mine were too soft to mould with my hands as McKeith suggested.

Bake in oven for 25 minutes or until golden brown.

On the stereo:
All of this and nothing: Psychedelic furs


  1. Yes, I'd love to try those on a burger bun.
    I have no idea why foods are in the store when you have no use for them and the next day they're gone when you're running over with ideas how to use them but they do! I like liquid smoke but it has taken me a long time between when I think it's enough, it's too much and now when I think it needs just a little more, that's when it's enough!
    I always thought that cannellini beans were kidney beans?

  2. Those look really good, even if they were soft! And I like the idea of them being grain-free (though I'd swear from Lysy's photo that hers had corn kernels in them!). I've had smoked tofu exactly once in my life and, like you, I could never find it again when I wanted it. But I may have to suss it out for this recipe. :)

  3. I'm so glad you tried these again - but sorry they still weren't as good as they could be. I blend the ingredients in my mini blender and I probably just do it until they're combined - it certainly doesn't get so mushy. Perhaps smoked tofu is firmer here? Anyway, I'm glad you made such a fine meal out of them - we like them in buns with relish as well, and perhaps some sweet potato chips on the side :)

  4. thanks Tanna - I haven't used liquid smoke much but I did find it took me a while to get my head around how much smoked paprika is needed. re cannellini beans - I think they might sometimes be referred to as white kidney beans but when I refer to kidney beans I mean to dark red ones

    thanks Ricki - I am surprised smoked tofu isn't easier to find hear you but if it is not readily available in America that might explain why I don't see it often on blogs. It is great when it works!

    thanks Lysy - I suspect it is the difference in how our blenders work - I thought mine was quite full and slow moving so it took a while to blend - I liked AOF's idea of gradually adding ingredients to the blender with the tofu and kidney beans at the end. (The smoked tofu I used was quite firm)

  5. It's a long time since I made these. They were the most appealing recipe to me in the McKeith book (the next recipe book of hers was full of meat - not impressed). But have not made them again since. They were nice but not "oh gosh I've got to make them again in a hurry" like those banana, cherry and walnut muffins (2 batches in a week and I'm considering #3).

    I buy smoked tofu from Tofu Trek at Vic Market - for earnest bean, the Tasmanian one that is smooth and creamy. I can also get smoked tofu (forgot brand name) from my local Coles, which is a firmer one. I've made a vegetarian kedgeree using smoked tofu instead of fish. Otherwise it tastes good raw, with a dab of wasabi for a snack.

  6. thanks AOF - I think these grew on me but smoked tofu tastes so strong I couldn't eat it too often - wasabi is a bit spicy for me but I do like the idea of it in kedgereee. Good to know it is at vic market! And I am still thinking I should make the banana and cherry combination because it sounds so good!

  7. I love your idea of baking burgers in muffins trays. Genius!

  8. thanks Lisa - it was actually desperation that made me do it but I like the idea too for those akward moments!

  9. Yum! I was inspired by Gillian's recipe to make my own version of smoky tofu burgers. I find that adding some whole wheat breadcrumbs and flour (Gillian probably won't approve of this!) but they made the burgers hold together better and also leaving them in the oven for 30 minutes and flipping over halfway made them nice and crispy on the outside.

    I posted about them at my blog today.


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