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Moving Mountains: a plant-based burger for the future

Moving Mountains: a plant-based burger for the future

by Great British Chefs 19 July 2018

With vegan and flexitarian eating showing no signs of slowing down, Moving Mountains has created a burger made entirely from plants that looks just like the real thing. We took it to chef Chantelle Nicholson to see what she thought of this very futuristic food.

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It’s become clearer than ever in the past few years that we can’t keep eating meat at the rate that we do without causing some serious (and likely irreparable) damage to the planet. To keep up with demand intensive farming has become commonplace, which has a negative impact on the environment. It’s this, combined with an awareness of healthier eating and ethical reasons, that vegetarian, vegan and flexitarian diets are enjoying a meteoric rise.

While many of us are trying to cut back on our meat consumption, it can be hard to make changes to how we’ve eaten for all our life. And while it might be hard to admit, sometimes the taste and enjoyment of eating a burger or a steak can override our ethical or moral concerns. That’s where companies like Moving Mountains step in.

It all started when Simeon Van Der Molen became vegan after a blood test showed he had high cholesterol. After finding other plant-based burgers on offer pretty dry and uninspiring, he decided to spend the next two years producing a patty that was as close to beef as possible, but completely vegan, packed with protein and much healthier. Fast-forward to today, and the Moving Mountains B12 Burger is starting to appear in restaurants up and down the country.

However, even if a burger is healthy and environmentally friendly, if it doesn’t look, feel and taste like its meaty equivalent then it’s not going to convince meat-eaters to give up the beef. That’s why we went to see Chantelle Nicholson, the chef-patron of Tredwells and a pioneer of high-end plant-based cooking, to see what she thought of it.

Hear more about Moving Mountains on the FoodTalk podcast

Hear what founder Simeon Van Der Molen had to say about his plant-based burger as he talked to Ollie Lloyd on the FoodTalk podcast.

Looks and texture

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As Simeon brought the burgers out – which are best cooked from frozen – they certainly looked like ground meat formed into a patty. It is, in fact, a combination of mushrooms, onions, coconut oil, beetroot and wheat, pea and soy proteins (although the exact recipe is a secret). As soon as it hit the hot pan it sizzled just like beef and the pink colour soon started to turn brown as it caramelised on the outside.

When it was cooked and placed in a bun with all the usual burger toppings, you’d be hard put to distinguish it from beef. One of the selling points of the Moving Mountains burger is that it ‘bleeds’ – although don’t expect a torrent of blood to rush out of it (we’re pretty sure no one would want that anyway). Instead, it has a very convincing ‘juiciness’ inside, much like a real burger.

Chantelle likened it to a processed burger, as the ‘mince’ was very fine and homogenous when compared to the coarser real beef patties she makes from scratch in her restaurant. ‘I think it’s more like the inside of a processed sausage than a burger,’ she notes. However, it was still the most convincing plant-based burger any of us had ever come across.

Taste

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This was always going to be the hardest thing to replicate – how do you create something that tastes just like beef by using ingredients like mushrooms, beetroot and onion? Simeon says that’s why he went down the burger route. ‘Only around thirty percent of a burger’s taste comes from the patty,’ he says. ‘The bun, cheese, sauce and all the other elements are just as important.’ Biting into the burger certainly felt like the real deal – the texture of the patty had that satisfying succulent juiciness about it – but the flavour was perhaps a little bit ‘muted’ compared to actual beef.

Tasting the burger on its own confirmed why Simeon believed a burger was the best way to present his creation. With cheese (vegan or dairy-based), bread and sauces, the flavour of the patty could pass as meat, but on its own you could clearly tell it wasn’t made from beef (although it could be some sort of generic meat). However, it’s unusual to eat a beef patty on its own without any other ingredients, so this isn't really a fair judgement.

After closely inspecting the patty’s texture and flavour, Chantelle had an idea that could see the Moving Mountains burger follow a slightly different path. ‘I’d like to take it apart before it’s cooked, add lots of spices and herbs for flavour then turn them into meatballs,’ she says. ‘I think it’d be really interesting for things like children’s menus, as it’s healthier than meat, but I think you need to add some other flavours directly into the patty rather than adding toppings after it’s cooked.’

Conclusion

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It’s fair to say that Simeon’s Moving Mountains burger is by far the most convincing meat substitute we’d ever come across – in terms of looks and texture it was seriously impressive. While it might not pass for beef when tasted on its own, in a burger it was surprisingly like the real thing, and Chantelle’s idea of forming them into heavily spiced and herby ‘meatballs’ is definitely worth exploring.

The very fact that the Moving Mountains burger exists – and is a popular item on the menus of burger restaurants like Dirty Bones and Maxwell’s in London – is a sign that times are changing. While it might not exactly replicate beef, it’s pretty damn close, and Simeon has created a fantastic alternative to meat that contains the same succulence and texture meat-eaters crave. If you’re looking to cut down on the amount of meat you eat but just can’t bear the thought of a dry beanburger, give Simeon’s fantastic creation a try.

FoodTalk

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