For centuries Europeans, and more recently Americans, have been taking a minced meat pattie and placing it between two pieces of bread.
The humble hamburger is big business now with billions of them consumed globally every year.
They range in price from a simple McDonald’s burger for 99p to one created by chef Hubert Keller for his Fleur restaurant in Las Vegas. For $5,000 this gets you a luxurious Kobe beef burger studded with black truffles, topped with foie gras and served in a Brioche bun.
The price tag is related to the fact the Japanese cows are fed beer, massaged and classical music is piped into their byre.
They include a glass of 1995 Petrus Bordeaux wine in the price.
And that’s before any associated travel costs.
But you don’t need to go over the top to enjoy a perfectly good burger here. The perfect recipe is all about meat and fat balance.
For the best texture I buy rump steak and hand chop it – it’s a bit of work but well worth it. For fat I coarsely grate bone marrow and gently fold it in with breadcrumbs, gently cooked onions, an egg and some seasoning. The result is a juicy flavoursome burger. Serve in a good bap from a home bakery with cheese on top and a gherkin for good measure. I’ve included the recipe for my favourite way to make a burger. You could use shop bought gherkins but at this time of year baby cucumbers are in full swing. Alicia Breslin has a stand at St George’s market every Saturday and sells these beautiful vegetables that she grows in her garden outside Lurgan. Eat them fresh now or pickle for later. I’ve added a pickle recipe – they only improve with age. I’ve just finished last year’s batch in time for a new crop for the fridge.
More often than not when you eat a burger out you’re presented with a towering construction that looks like it needed planning permission. The current trend seems to have a perilous looking knife slammed into the middle of the whole edifice. Layers of burger are topped with lettuce, cheese, onions, relish, tomato, and served in a bun. By the time it’s been deconstructed into something manageable it looks like a burger car crash on a plate.
Burgers by their nature are meant to be something you can pick up, eat in a few bites and move on. They shouldn’t be a day’s work, no matter how impressive they might look when they leave the kitchen.
Another thing that irks me is big bits of raw onion on a burger – who wants to eat big lumps of raw onion? Either cook finely sliced onions in with the burgers or make a delicious relish. Mine calls for red onions to be cooked gently then fire up the heat to caramelize with sugar and then balance the sweetness with some vinegar – simple as.
And burgers don’t just have to be beef – lamb, combined with a proportion of pork mince for fat balance, works really well too. Ask your butcher to mince some lean shoulder meat for the best results.
Top with feta for added zing and a dressing with yoghurt, slow roasted tomatoes and mint.
There’s nothing as tasty as good meat, a bit of cheese and some dressing in a bun – and you don’t need to include the whole vegetable patch in the mix.