09 June 2009

Recipe - Make Your Own Burger

Recipe - Make Your Own Burger


It's summer and the time of barbecues is upon us.  We love making burgers, or, as my father insists on calling them, rissoles.  However, there is nothing more disappointing than a shop-bought burger whether from a local butcher or one of the multiples.  They are full of promise, but when cooked, have the texture of rubber or those plastic burgers that come in young kids' toy shopping sets.  I am not quite sure how they manage to get that rubbery feel from perfectly decent mince, but I suppose it is a chemical binder that’s been added to glue everything together.


500g     Beef mince (the best quality that you can buy and ideally organic)

1          Medium onion, finely chopped

1          Handful of breadcrumbs

1          Lightly whisked free range organic egg (optional)

½ tsp    Freshly ground Steenbergs black pepper

½ tsp    Good sea salt

Pinch    Ground cumin (ideally Steenbergs)

Pinch    Cayenne pepper (ideally Steenbergs)

Soft cheese, ideally a creamy blue cheese like Yorkshire Blue


Firstly, heat up a heavy bottomed frying pan and add a small amount of sunflower oil.  Gently fry the onions until they are clear; this will take about 5 minutes and then leave them to cool down a bit. 


Secondly, prepare the breadcrumbs.  You can do this in 2 ways: either make them in your food processor using a good bread that is a couple of days old, or take some dried organic breadcrumbs and rehydrate with some warm water for a few minutes.  I think slightly old bread is better than fresh bread, plus it means you can use stuff that’s hanging about rather than buying it anew.


Now put the mince into a clean, large mixing bowl and then add the chopped onion and the breadcrumbs.  Then, making sure your hands are washed clean, mix these together thoroughly with your hands.  Now add the seasonings and once again mix with your clean hands.  If you want to, you can add a free range egg at this stage; it does add some extra richness and helps to bind the meat together.  Now cover and leave in the fridge for 30 minutes or so, to let the flavours flood through.


You can play around with the seasonings to suit your taste, so for example in the height of summer you might pick some fresh parsley or chives from the garden and chop these up and add them to the mix, or in the depths of winter you could add a ½ teaspoon of organic baharat or ras al-hanut to spice it all up.  But remember that the better the beef you use, the more subtle your seasonings should be, so that the flavour of the beautiful beef is enhanced rather than blasted out; on the other hand if the meat is tasteless, then you will need to do everything you can to make it taste good.


Now, it’s time to make the burgers.  Get a clean plate ready and wash you hands again.  Take a small handful of the meat mixture and roll these into a ball and put them on the plate.


I know it’s a horribly bad habit, but I have for many years added mild, creamy cheese into the centre of the burger.  I like to use the wonderful Yorkshire Blue from Shepherd's Purse as they are local cheesemaker's but other cheese will do - even Boursin.  It means that you don’t have to cook the burger right through, plus it gives the burger an extra edge.  To add the blue cheese, make a small hole in the centre of the meat ball and scoop in some cheese with a spoon; now close over the hole and reform the meat ball.


With the palm of your hand, gently squash the balls flat.


Heat up a heavy bottomed frying pan and add a small amount of sunflower oil.  Place the burgers in the pan and fry slowly until lightly browned; this will take 5 or so minutes, then flip over carefully and fry the other side.  Serve immediately.


Serve with potatoes, tomato salsa and a green salad. 


If you want to put them in a bun, make sure that it is really good bread.  To me, massed produced burger buns has always been one of the worst food crimes ever; you go to a farmer’s market or food show and a farmer is selling the most beautifully reared organic beef and selling artisan made burgers from this meat, then beside the stand they are frying off burgers to eat then and there and plonking these burger perfections into a cheap Morrisons burger bun.