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Taking the stress out of dinner parties

Recipes by Debbie Schembri

Smoky Beetroot and Kidney Bean Burger

For the bread buns:
3 cups bread flour or plain flour
1 tsp salt
2 tsp sugar
1 tbsp dry active yeast
½ cup lukewarm milk
½ lukewarm water
½ melted butter
1 medium egg

For the burger patty:
2 medium beetroots (raw and skin on)
1 regular tin red kidney beans (drained)
2 cups cooked quinoa
1½ tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp ground coriander
½ tsp ground cumin
1 tsp salt

To fill the burger:
Slices of gouda or your favourite melty cheese
Sliced avocado
Rocket leaves
A few coriander leaves
Sour cream mixed with mayonnaise (half and half)

I love meat burgers. This isn’t going to taste like one, but in my eyes it is incredibly satisfactory on another level. It has a real moreishness about it that comes from the smoked flavour obtained from purposely burning the beetroot and the addition of smoked paprika.

This burger isn’t here because I’m advocating for vegetarianism. It’s here because it is an incredibly tasty meal in its own right. But it doesn’t hurt to occasionally leave the cows in peace . Understandably, you don’t always have the time and patience to make your own bread, but if you fancy feeling really chuffed with yourself here it is. The recipe makes around 12 so you can nibble on them later.

Let’s get started:

If you are making the bread, let’s get that going. Combine the dry ingredients in a bowl, keeping the salt and yeast on separate sides as they don’t really like each other (direct contact with salt hampers yeast’s efficiency). Combine the water, milk and egg, whisking to make sure the egg is incorporated. Add this into the dry ingredients and knead away for about five minutes. If it seems too wet, add more flour and vice versa.

You want a dough that will keep together as a ball and not one that is too sticky and loose. After five minutes, pour in the butter gradually, kneading in between. It will initially look like it doesn’t want to cooperate but it will eventually become incorporated. Continue kneading for five mins after all the butter has been added. It should look slightly shiny and elastic.

Cover with a damp tea towel and leave in a warmish place to prove for an hour. After that time punch it down and divide into 12 balls. Shape, roll and stretch them until they are taut and leave them to rise on a well-floured baking tray before baking at 200˚C for 15 minutes or until golden.

For the beetroot patty: ideally you have a gas barbecue that you can start to heat up. If you don’t, you can still achieve a similar effect by using the grill function in your oven. The idea here is to purposely burn the entire things. This will not cook the beetroot through but it will impart a really smoky flavour to it.

Make sure you keep rotating the beetroots so they end up evenly burnt. Then, switch to oven mode and wrap your beetroots in foil and cook until they are tender. This should take about an hour-and-a-half at 180˚C.

Once cooked, leave to cool for a few minutes and then peel the skins off them. Use a box grater to grate them and set aside. In a food processor put the cooked quinoa, kidney beans, spices and salt. Pulse till it comes together in a ball, similar to a dough. Using a wooden spoon stir in the beetroot and check for seasoning. Form the mix into patties and allow to chill in the fridge to firm up.

Heat a non-stick pan and get it as hot as you can. Place in the patties without crowding the pan. Try to give them a decent amount of char on the outside (without burning them). You want the outside to get a little crispy while the inside remains moist.

Place the cheese on top to start melting. Once they are cooked slice open your bread roll. Spread over your mayo mix, lay some seasoned avocado, follow with the patty and cheese and top with the rocket, a few coriander leaves and more mayo. Bite. Smile.

Lemon, Ricotta and Poppy Seed Waffles

Ingredients:
I measure things in cups because even though I’m not American I think it’s a much more practical way of doing things.
1½ cups plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
Couple of pinches table salt
3 tbsp granulated sugar
4 tsp poppy seeds
Juice of 1½ medium lemons
Zest of the same two lemons
Couple of drops vanilla extract
2 large eggs
1 cup unsalted, melted butter
½ cup Maltese ricotta
3 quarters cup of skimmed milk

To garnish:
4 tbsp mascarpone
Zest and juice of one lemon
Honey to drizzle

I’ve never been a massive fan of waffles, but these are just the right balance of sweet, tangy and savoury to hit all the spots. Lemon and poppy seeds are weirdly made for each other and the ricotta gives the waffles an interesting depth and keeps them tender and moist. A dollop of zesty mascarpone and a drizzle of honey…how could your day possibly go wrong when you start it off with these? If you don’t have a waffle iron, don’t fret, just drop spoonfulls into a non-stick pan and make mini pancakes. They’ll still taste great.

Bringing it together:

No need to complicate things. You’re probably going to be half asleep making these on a Sunday morning. So, just chuck all the dry ingredients into one bowl: flour, baking powder, baking soda, sugar, zest and poppy seeds.

In another bowl or jug (whatever you have to hand) mix all the wet ingredients: milk, ricotta, melted butter, eggs, lemon juice and vanilla extract. Then, just pour the wet into the dry and using a wooden spoon stir until combined.

Try to avoid over stirring as this will cause the flour to start working too hard making your pancakes chewy. Seriously some lumps are fine. Better even. Heat up your waffle iron or pan and drop in spoonfuls. Don’t overfill as it will ooze out… no one likes wasted waffles.

While they are cooking use a regular spoon to combine the mascarpone with the lemon zest. Unleash your waffles when they are done, spoon over the mascarpone and drizzle over some Maltese honey.

These go particularly well with fresh blueberries or blackberries.

Debbie Schembri from Barefoot and Curious is a private chef.

www.debbieschembri.com

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