Having people over for dinner is one of my favourite things. I like to think that our house is sort of a hub - it is where people gather. It's where there is always food, and good company. I grew up in a home where there were always loads of extra people, and I loved it. It is always my aim, no matter where in this world that we are living, to create that wherever we go. To me, having a home base is so important. I want to have a space where people can come and treat it like their own space. Where they can relax, and feel comfortable enough to invite themselves over. One of the things that I love about food, is that it almost does this for me. Since we moved over here, I have always been the one who is in charge of organising the meals, whether it be a holiday occasion, or a weekend camping trip. I love how a meal can bring people together - for me, living in a city so far from my home, this is one of the most important things : making myself feel at home. And providing a home base is a great way to do that. It's almost as if I need to do it for me - there's something so comforting about putting a meal on a table for people that you love. And in a city filled with seamless and people cooking for one, it is such a nice thing to do for friends.
Often we have people over either one, or both weekend nights. Eating out can get expensive quickly in NYC, and to me, sitting at home sharing a meal with friends is so much more appealing than having to compete for a server's attention in a noisy restaurant. Of course there is the huge plus side of not having to leave the house. We are avid Settlers of Catan players, so that often also takes place in the window between dinner and dessert.
At first, I used to bust ass making intricate dishes that took a long time to make. Individually portioned meals, or multi component dinners. I soon realised that our guests didn't mind what we had for dinner - it was often the same group of friends, who were ok with me trying out new, slightly obscure recipes on them, provided that I made Molly's Mac and cheese semi regularly.
So the solution was - to start making 'build your own' dinners. I get all the components ready ahead of time, and come dinner, we all make our own! It's the best way to feed a crowd - you don't have to worry about serving someone too much or too little, or something that they don't like. It works with loads of meals - we do it with nachos, pasta, summer rolls, dumplings (which is literally build your own - I sit everyone down at the table and we make them all!), and these Black Bean Burgers.
Burger night is one of my favourite meals, and I love mixing it up so that the type of burger is slightly different each time around. For this particular burger, we keep things simple. There is a black bean burger patty, which I was totally skeptical about, until I tried it for the first time. After a huge amount of tweaking and research on how to keep the patty to stay intact while cooking (all it took was for me to make a burger from leftovers the next day to realise the mixture needs a little resting), I have come up with something I think you will love. It is 'meaty' enough that it isn't a total burger cop out, it has texture, amazing flavour, and doesn't totally fall to pieces when you go to eat it.
I have also included a recipe for my new found love: Brioche burger buns. I was working on a recipe for a custard roll situation last week, which involved me trying a bunch of different brioche recipes, not being totally satisfied with any of them, and setting out to make my own. I wanted something versatile - something that could be used for sweet or savoury, loaves, buns, and scrolls, and didn't need an overnight rest. And I got it! These buns are super easy to whip up, don't require a spin in the fridge like most recipes, and are perfect for your burgers. This is the start of a wee series I hope to do on ways to use the one recipe of brioche dough - watch this space!
A few wee notes:
- The burger patty mixture definitely benefits from a rest before you shape it - this allows the panko breadcrumbs to soak up a little bit of the moisture, which makes things much easier when it comes to cooking time, because the patty holds together nicely.
- I haven't tried making these on the BBQ before but I think it would probably be quite crumbly - if you can, a skillet or frying pan is your best bet! You can always pop them in the oven on a low temp to keep them warm until you are ready.
- We always have our burgers 'kiwi style' with beetroot and pineapple rings - feel free to add on whatever you like! I also added some home made pickles on the side.
- Leftovers are best kept uncooked, and quickly fried up just as you need them!
- If you want to make this GF, swap out the panko for GF panko.
- Store bought buns are just as awesome! We lightly toast ours before assembling the burgers.
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Black Bean Burgers with Homemade Brioche Burger Buns
Brioche Burger Buns
- 1 envelope (2 ¼ tsp) active dry yeast
- 1 cup (240ml) whole milk, lukewarm
- 2 Tbsp sugar
- 3 ¾ cups (565g) all-purpose flour
- 1 tsp salt
- 2 eggs, at room temperature
- 90g (6 tbsp) unsalted butter, at room temperature
- egg wash - 1 egg plus 1 Tbsp water, whisked
- sesame seeds to sprinkle, if desired
Black Bean Burger Patties
- 2 x 15.5oz (440g) cans of black beans, drained and rinsed
- 1 small red onion, very finely chopped (if you don't like onion very much, use half an onion)
- ¾ cup panko bread crumbs
- 1 egg
- 2 cloves garlic, minced or grated on a microplane
- 1 tsp cumin
- salt and pepper to season
- Salad, condiments, and filling of your choice - I used tomato, lettuce, canned beetroot, canned pineapple slices, mayonnaise, and tomato sauce (Ketchup), and served with home made pickles on the side.
- I also added cheese to the patty once it was cooked, and popped it under the broiler / grill for about a minute to melt the cheese.
- In a small bowl, combine the yeast, milk and sugar. Mix well, and leave to sit for 10-15 minutes, or until foamy.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook, combine the flour and salt. Mix briefly to combine. Add the eggs and foamy yeast mixture to the bowl. Mix on low for 2-3 minutes, until the dough is starting to come together. It may look slightly dry but do not worry - it will mix together nicely in the next steps. Increase the mixer speed to medium, and mix for another 10 minutes, until the dough is soft and smooth.
- Reduce the mixer speed to low, and add the butter a little at a time, waiting until it is fully incorporated into the dough before adding the next piece. This process should take 3-4 minutes. Once the butter is fully incorporated, increase the mixer speed to medium, and mix for a further 5 minutes, until the dough is very soft and smooth.
- Transfer to an oiled bowl, and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Place in a warm spot until doubled in size, approximately 1 - 1 ½ hours.
- Preheat the oven to 350˚f / 180˚c. Line two baking trays with parchment paper. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Divide into eight equal portions. Shape each portion into a ball, and place four balls on each baking tray, leaving room between. Cover lightly with greased plastic wrap, and leave to rise for approximately 30-40 minutes.
- Brush the tops of the buns with egg wash, and sprinkle with seeds if desired. Bake for 15-20 minutes, until the buns are a deep golden brown colour. Remove from the oven and allow to cool on a wire rack.
BLACK BEAN BURGER PATTIES
- Place one can of drained, rinsed beans in a large bowl. Using a potato masher, mash well until smooth. Add the second can of beans, leaving whole, and mix through. Add the onion, bread crumbs, egg, garlic, cumin, and salt and pepper, and mix well using a spoon or your hands.
- Cover the bowl in plastic wrap and rest in the fridge for 45 minutes to an hour.
- Form the mixture into six to eight patties using slightly wet hands, (I like to use a round cookie cutter and pack the mixture in to make my patties) and place on a plate or parchment paper lined tray. (If you aren't using all the mixture at once, transfer any leftover mix to an airtight container and store in the fridge until ready).
- Heat a cast iron skillet or heavy-bottomed frying pan over medium heat. Add a small amount of olive oil. Cook the patties, three or four at a time depending on your pan size, for four to five minutes on each side, adjusting the heat as necessary. They should be lightly golden brown. Transfer to a plate, or onto a paper towel lined tray in the oven to keep warm until serving.
- Slice each burger bun in half, and lightly toast under the broiler / grill. Melt cheese over the patties under the grill if desired.
- Assemble burgers. Serve immediately.