Braaied Aubergine and Papaya Burger

by Dr. Hennie Fisher

Burgers on the barbeque isn’t something that South Africans really consider a braai. Probably because we hardly ever braai on a solid plate, generally using a type of grill that has direct exposure to open coals, and braaiing patties made from minced meat on a grid with spaces has many potential problems. Furthermore, most South Africans would run a mile if they were invited to a braai without meat. So, meat free burgers on the braai are probably totally anomalous for us, but since pulled meat (such as pork or beef) burgers are so trendy at the moment, we encourage you to try these vegetarian burgers.

One of the problems with aubergines, and a reason why people may not immediately have an affinity to them, is that they are often undercooked. Make sure to braai these extremely well. Furthermore, it is advised that you buy aubergines that are fairly mature – young aubergines have a different texture that would not work well in a recipe where the aubergines are cooked whole.

Barbeque sauce is somewhat of a sore point – some aren’t really piquant, being neither tomatoey nor spicy, and bad quality brands are just nasty. If you feel like making your own, Google a good recipe, or buy a brand you trust – one wants a deep umami flavour that is simultaneously sweet, acidic and savoury.

Accompany these burgers with whole corn on the cob, braaied on the open fire.

Ingredients for 6 portions:

For the pulled aubergine:
2 large or 3 medium aubergines (± 800 g), pricked all over with a fork
2 garlic cloves, mashed
60 ml (4 tablespoons) olive oil
5 ml (1 teaspoon) smoked paprika
5 ml (1 teaspoon) sugar
60 ml (4 tablespoons) barbeque sauce
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
Juice of ½ lemon

For the papaya parsley salsa (all mixed together):
1 medium red onion, finely diced
1/3 medium papaya, small dice
1 red chilli, seeds removed, finely sliced
50 g fresh Italian (broad leaf) parsley, finely sliced
Zest of 1 lemon
½ garlic clove, mashed
2,5 ml (½ teaspoon) salt
15 ml (1 tablespoon) olive oil

6 burger buns, cut in half, spread with a flavoured parsley (or similar) butter and toasted
12 slices of tomato
6 thin whole slices of hard feta cheese
2 handfuls of leaves (rocket, basil, lettuce or any mix)


On medium high coals, braai the aubergines whole, turning often, until they are quite soft and pulpy – it will take a good 30 to 45 minutes. Let them cool, then cut them in half lengthways and strip (shred) out the inside in long pieces. The aubergine should come away from the charred skin quite easily, but if small bits should remain, don’t try and get them all off. Those little bits of charred skin provide a nice braaied flavour to the aubergine. The shredded pieces should look like shredded lamb or beef. Gently stir through all the remaining aubergine ingredients.
Assemble the burgers in whatever order suits you, dividing the papaya salsa and aubergine between the 6 buns. Secure them with a large cocktail stick.