Eating vegetarian, means eating lots of legumes. Luckily, I love them all: lentils, chickpeas and kidney beans. When I was younger, I remember eating kidney beans only in Chili con Carne (my mom always preparing the kidney beans in her pressure cooker), but then I moved to Nicaragua and discovered the world of kidney beans and their black relatives: refried beans, gallo pinto (fried beans and rice) and the pleasure of putting kidney beans into salads and just eating them plain in their broth.
I should say, that while I try to cook everything from scratch and fresh, I am in favor of certain convenience foods, such as tinned chickpeas or canned tomatoes or frozen parsley. But there are some things you can absolutely not rely on purchasing in cans, and kidney beans are number one on that list for me. Every once in a blue moon, I will urgently need a can of kidney beans for something and I will reluctantly buy the spicy, expensive one. After opening the can, I will immediately regret it. Even with all the added spices they just don’t compare to making your own. The broth they come with always has the consistency of a soapy slime and there is always a very strange sweet aftertaste that does not belong there. So, often I decide that I may not require a kidney beans that urgently and buy something different alltogether. Like chickpeas, those can be bought in cans, in my humble opinion.
Time and again I am surprised to learn that this is news to many. I have had many a conversation on the subject of making one’s own kidney beans and will not get tired of preaching the benefits of cooking them yourself. It’s easy, it’s inexpensive and it is oh! so! delicious! And the broth they make: so yum! This is why, in this post, I will tell you how to cook your own kidney beans. I hope you decide to try. If you do, you will ask yourself why you did not consider making them yourself all along. I was recently able to perfect the process thanks to An Everlasting Meal by Tamar E. Adler, who suggested one add a dash of olive oil and Mediterranean herbs – boy, am I ever so thankful that I did!
But, the original purpose of this post are burgers: kidney burgers! Ever since I have become a vegetarian, I have been on a quest to find the ultimate burger recipe. I tried many versions with all sorts of legumes and combinations thereof (my last, very delicious attempts, including toasted walnuts and sesame), but wasn’t entirely convinced until I followed Gluten-Free Girl’s recipe for kidney burgers, which included tahini. I didn’t exactly follow the recipe (even though in the beginning of the book you are asked to follow the recipe as it is written at least once before “playing” around yourself), but it turned out to be the most delicious burgers ever. I always tweak recipes, because I always find something I would like to do different, I just can’t help myself, so I think it is okay to post my version of this dish.
How to cook your own kidney beans:
500g dry kidney beans (renders about one kilo of cooked kidney beans)
one huge pot full of water
1 dash olive oil
1 twig thyme
2 onions cut into large pieces
2 cloves of garlic (peeled)
parmesan rind (if you have it)
salt, pepper, chilli and vegetable broth to taste
Place the kidney beans into a large pot, cover entirely with water and then some. Let stand for at least twelve hours. Drain the water from the kidney beans, add new water (once again covering the kidney beans entirely and then some) and place on stove, turned up to the highest level. Once the pot reaches a boil, be mindful of the starchy foam that will rise. If you don’t remove it, it will continue to rise and eventually cause the pot to boil over, so be quick to take the foam off as it appears until no new foam forms. Add the dash of olive oil and continue to cook for about two hours (at a mid-level temperature), stirring every once in a while. You may have to add water in the process, always ensure they are entirely covered in water. After an hour, add the fresh pepper, the twig of thyme (and oregano, sage or parsley depending what you have available), the onions and the garlic.
If you don’t want to spend a lot of time retrieving the leaves of the herbs from all over the pot, tie them together with a piece of string.
Continue cooking and after an hour and a half, check whether the kidney beans are done. They most likely won’t be, but try anyway. You do this best, by trying: take a kidney bean, from different parts of the pot, at least three – and if all three taste are done, they will be frothy and creamy (you can also blow at them, and their skin will break and curl up). When the kidney beans are about done (this will most likely be after almost two hours), add the salt and the vegetable broth to taste and cook for another five minutes. It is imperial that you only add the salt at the very end. Your kidney beans will never cook to be smooth and creamy if you don’t. Turn off the pot and wait for the kidney beans to cool. You can use the kidney bean broth as seasoning and as a base for a minestrone or other vegetable-based soup.
Ingredients for the burgers:
1 kg kidney beans (cooked and drained)
2 shallots (or spring onions, if you have those)
1 clove of garlic
2 carrots, grated finely
4 generous tablespoons tahini
4 tablespoons of defrosted spinach (but you can also use salad or cabbage if you have it)
1 cup quinoa (both white and red) and canihua
4 sundried tomatoes
herbs (such as sage, parsley, thyme, etc) to taste
2 handful gluten-free oats
6 tablespoons gluten-free flour mix (add carefully)
In a bowl, place the sundried tomatoes. Cover with water that has just boiled and let sit for ten minutes.
In a pot, cook about ¾ of a cup of your quinoa-canihua mix (but you could also use amaranth, I imagine) in salty water until cooked al dente. This means that the middle of the quinoa corns will still be white, but the remainder of the corn will already be translucent. Drain and set aside.
Grind the kidney beans: I do this by pureeing a part with my blender, one part with a mortar and leaving the rest of the kidney beans as they are. Add the drained quinoa and stir well. Add the tahini and mix well.
In a small pot, fry the shallots, the garlic, the spinach and the carrots with a teaspoon of vegetable oil. Add to the kidney-batter and stir well.
Drain the sundried tomatoes, chop them into small pieces and add to the kidney-batter. Finally, add the gluten-free oats (crumble them carefully in your hands as you do so) and the gluten-free flour mix. Stir well. You may not need as much flour, or more, to form firm dough that can be easily formed into patties that will not fall apart when rolling in the polenta. Add salt, pepper, sage and parsley to taste.
On a clean kitchen counter spread out a small mountain of polenta. Take a good handful of kidney batter, form into a patty and roll in the polenta, pressing the crumbs into the patty. Repeat with the rest of the patty mix, placing the finished patties on a plate or baking sheet lined with baking parchment.
In a pan, fry the patties in a generous amount of vegetable oil on both sides until they are golden-brown. Take out of pan and drain patties from fat by placing on a baking sheet lined with a couple of kitchen roll sheets.
Serve the patties warm, accompanied by burger buns or on their own.