Greek Style Tomato and Lentil Burgers

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 I do love barbecue season. Bear in mind I live in the UK so the novelty doesn’t really wear off; sadly it can be perilously short. This, coupled with the fact that my husband takes a very hands on approach to cooking when faced with an outside grill or fire (move the grill into the kitchen and you wouldn’t see him for dust) means that I like to enjoy a good barbecue as much as possible. And I know I’m not alone, although perhaps others not for the same reasons as me (do all the prep, let someone else finish off whilst I relax with a Pimms) judging by what I see on the supermarket shelves in the run up to the weekend.

Now say what you will about barbecues, but lots of people do take the dull approach, only ever chucking on the same old burgers and sausages without ever branching out. So unnecessary. This week I had some gorgeous tomatoes, perfectly ripened and smelling like you’d just brushed through a greenhouse filled with tomato plants and provoking a craving in me for something along the lines of the greek dish ntomatokeftedes or tomato fritters. But obviously not them as that would involve me standing over a frying pan and as I said I had other Pimms related plans. And to be fair, I wasn’t sure that they’d fill up my ever hungry brood. To kill both birds with one stone, lentils and the barbecue would have to be in there somewhere. Heart healthy lentils are the perfect base for any meat free burger. Not only are they (as stated) super healthy but they have exactly the right consistency and texture and can stand up to whatever herbs or spices you may choose to mix in with them. And of course, go hand in hand with those gorgeous greek flavours of tomatoes, herbs and feta. These burgers have the added advantage of being really easy to knock up as long using not much more than a bowl and your bare hands (perfect for the kids to get involved in) but you do need to keep moisture to a minimum. Unless you want to stand by for hours with the breadcrumbs afterwards. I chose to eat mine over a fresh green salad covered with a dressing of yoghurt, oil and lots and lots of lemon juice but if you fancied a more conventional burger they’d easily fit the bill, perhaps topped with extra feta and a slice or two of a nice juicy beef tomato. You’d never notice it was meat free.

Tomato and Lentil Fritters Recipe

Makes 10-12

500g tomatoes, skinned

1 tbsp capers, chopped

1 tbsp each of fresh basil, oregano and mint chopped

1 tbsp sundried tomatoes, chopped

500g cooked green or brown lentils, well drained

125g feta cheese

Around 100g fresh breadcrumbs but use as much or as little as you need to absorb any excess moisture.

Start by skinning your tomatoes. Make a small cross in each and out then in a bowl. Pour boiling water over them and leave for a minute. When the time’s up, drain them then the skins should slip off easily.

Quarter the tomatoes and remove their juice and seeds  Put the quarters in a colander and sprinkle a tablespoon or so of freshly ground sea salt over them leave then for about half an hour to help get rid of some of the excess moisture. A word of advice, place the colander over the sink; it will drip.

When the salting time is over, pat them dry with kitchen paper then roughly dice the flesh. Mix the chopped flesh in a large mixing bowl with the freshly chopped herbs, finely chopped capers, sundried tomatoes and the feta. Squish everything together with your hands. You shouldn’t need any extra salt so be careful and don’t throw it in without thinking.

Roughly mash about half of the lentils with a fork. Mix the mashed and unmasked lentils with the tomato mixture, using your hands agin so you can feel how wet it is.

Add the breadcrumbs but by but mixing in each load before you add the next. You may not need all of them, depending on how thorough you were with removing the tomato juice. When you have a thick consistency that doesn’t feel wet to the touch form the mixture into patties.

Refrigerate until you’re ready to go to help firm them up a bit more then preheat your grill. Grill for 3 minutes or so each side until they are a nice dark golden brown.

Serve on a bed of fresh green salad with plenty of lemony yoghurt dressing. Enjoy!

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