For the hardworking onion, the engine room of many of the world’s finest dishes, it’s hard to get a big break and play the star of the show. There are a few French dishes that have given this vegetable a proper leg-up, such as the onion tarte tatin and French onion soup (which inspired my own caramelised onion ramen), and here I’ve pushed the onion bhaji to centre-stage after years of playing a supporting role as everyone’s favourite curry-house snack. The crunchy chickpea batter and sweet onion, together with a smattering of mango chutney and vegan yoghurt, make for a very satisfying burger.
Onion and potato bhaji burgers
This recipe makes enough to feed a crowd; if you’d like to make fewer, the quantities can easily be halved.
Prep 20 min
Cook 50 min
For the bhajis
450g potatoes, peeled and coarsely grated
Fine sea salt
1 lime, squeezed, to get 2 tbsp juice
600g brown onions (ie, about 3), peeled and thinly sliced
5-5½ tbsp (20g) fresh coriander, finely chopped
2cm piece fresh ginger, peeled and grated
¾ tsp ground turmeric
2 green finger chillies, finely chopped (pith and seeds removed if you prefer less heat)
1½ tsp ground cumin
250g chickpea flour
Rapeseed oil, to fry
200g vegan yoghurt
20g mint, leaves picked and finely chopped (15g net)
100g mango chutney – I like Geeta’s
10 burger buns, cut in half
2 little gem lettuces, washed and leaves separated
Put the grated potato into a clean tea towel, then wring it to squeeze out as much water as possible. Transfer the potato to a large bowl, add a teaspoon and a half of salt, half the lime juice and the remaining bhaji ingredients, and mix to combine. Measure out 140ml water into a jug and add it little by little to the bhaji mix, scrunching and mixing it in with your other hand as you pour it in (the scrunching helps to soften the onions), until the onions have wilted and you have a thick batter.
Now prepare all the burger bits. Put the yoghurt in a small bowl and stir in the mint and a quarter-teaspoon of salt. Put the chutney in a second bowl, add the remaining tablespoon of lime juice and mix.
When you’re ready to cook, pour four tablespoons of oil into your biggest nonstick pan over a medium-high heat. Take a serving spoonful (about 120g) of the batter, drop it into the pan and, depending on the size of your pan, add two to four more spoonfuls of bhaji mix without overcrowding the pan. Cook the burgers for eight minutes in total, flipping them once halfway, until the middle is cooked through and the outside is crisp and golden. Lift the cooked burgers on to a plate lined with kitchen paper, and keep warm while you fry the rest of the bhaji mixture, adding more oil if need be.
When all the burgers are cooked, open up the buns and spread one side of each one with minted yoghurt and the other with chutney. Lay in a couple of little gem leaves, top with a bhaji burger, then sandwich the bun back together again. Best eaten with friends in the garden.