I'm generally happy when there is leftover food from home cooked dinners as the man and I usually rely on these remnants for our workday lunches. The exception is when I have attempted a new recipe that hasn't been to our liking. After these scraps have sitting in the fridge for a few days and look like they are in danger of being tossed into the rubbish bin, my solution is to give these unpopular leftovers a second chance by turning them into burgers.
The most delicious burgers I've been creating recently have been the result of an original meal that was bland, the flavours were out of balance or it just didn't suit our tastes. These concoctions never make it onto my blog as I don't see the point in posting about the original recipe unless it was a hit with at least one or two of us. Instead of providing you with a recipe, here are my steps and a few tips for making fantastic "leftover burgers".
1. Retrieve leftovers from the fridge. Curries, stews, casseroles and even thick soups have all been successfully transformed into burgers by me so far. If the leftovers have been stored with a portion of a cooked grain (i.e. rice, couscous, quinoa), transfer as many of the grains as possible to a bowl. Place the non-grain portion of the leftovers in your food processor and pulse until they are thoroughly broken down.
2. Season the food processor mixture and taste test as you go. If the original meal was bland, perk it up by whizzing through additional herbs, spices, nutritional yeast, salt or stock powder. Your favourite sauces can also be tasty additions although I don't usually like to add much additional liquid if the mixture is already quite runny. Be mindful of the ingredients in the original recipe and try not to create flavour clashes with the added seasonings (A google search can be helpful if you are unsure about what will and won’t work).
3. Thicken the mixture, making it suitable for shaping into burgers. Whiz through some chickpea flour (besan), ¼ to ½ cup is usually a good benchmark - chickpea flour in larger quantities can be overwhelming as it has a strong flavour. Transfer the mixture to a large bowl and stir through any reserved cooked grains that were separated in Step 1. If you don’t have any spare cooked grains on hand and the mixture is still too runny after adding chickpea flour, stir through some breadcrumbs.
4. Prepare and cook the burger patties. Shape the burgers into small, medium or large patties. Most veggie burgers are adaptable with how they can be cooked so it becomes a personal preference of pan frying or oven baking. Most of the time I find it easier to place all of the shaped patties on a tray lined with baking paper and bake them in the oven (baking for 20-25 minutes on each side at 180C). I find that pan frying in batches can require more attention although this is preferable on a hot summers day when you don't want to turn on the oven!
5. Enjoy the "leftover burgers" in rolls with salad toppings or served with salads, roasted or steamed vegetables. Have fun pairing your burgers with different sauces, you may even find they have more than enough flavour and can be enjoyed without any additional condiments.
These photos were from my most recent batch of "leftover burgers" which were enjoyed with some roasted vegetables. The leftovers resulted from an unsuccessful batch of thick white bean soup I had made for an around the world post. In my rush to make this soup at the same time as another dinner I mistook a jar of ground cinnamon for cayenne pepper (oops!). The soup never made it to our bowls as I hadn't been overly impressed with how it tasted prior to making the cinnamon/cayenne blunder and the man hadn't been enthused about the overpowering smell of cinnamon. This "leftover burger" mixture was on the runnier/softer side which could have been improved with the addition of some cooked grains yet I didn't have any at my disposal.
I have made at least six different types of "leftover burgers" and every single time the burgers have been more popular than the original meal. The man and young man have been halfway through devouring their dinners before I've mentioned that it's a make-over of the meal they weren't keen on a few nights earlier. A future goal is to recreate my best ever "leftover burger" recipe as just a standard burger recipe (i.e. not making the failed recipe first). These ones were the nicest and most interesting burgers I've made at home and rated amongst the best I've eaten.
With the amount of food wastage that happens in our society these days, I hope this post inspires some of you to give your unloved leftovers a second chance too!