Beef up your burgers

HOT STUFF: Summer brings on the urge to barbecue, so why not make the highlight of your next outdoor meal a round of succulent burgers made by your own good self?
HOT STUFF: Summer brings on the urge to barbecue, so why not make the highlight of your next outdoor meal a round of succulent burgers made by your own good self?

A homemade hamburger is such a far cry from its mass-produced cousins that there really is no comparison. Honestly, would you rather eat a UFO (unidentified frying object) or a thick and juicy round of meat that's bursting with flavour?

The world's most popular takeaway was almost certainly invented in the United States, but there are so many stories (most dating from the 1850s, and all proven to be urban myths) that it's impossible to know exactly how it came about.

I like the one about the German seaman whose ship berthed in New York. He craved a bite one night while on watch. When the cook in a dockside dive slapped some grilled meat into a roll, it did the trick and soon found favour among the rest of the crew. The ship and the sailor hailed from Hamburg. Hmm.

A truly juicy and flavoursome beef burger calls for mince with a fat content of about 20 per cent. Standard grade mince is therefore ideal, as well as being cheaper.

If processing the meat yourself, choose rump, blade, or topside steak, and leave a generous amount of fat.

Grilling over charcoal delivers the ultimate flavour, while a gas barbecue or kitchen grill is the next best thing.

Frying is also delicious; just drain the burgers on kitchen paper.

My favourite burger is by far the simplest.

Put 500 grams of beef mince in a bowl and stir in 2 scant teaspoons of salt and a few grinds of black pepper. Divide the mixture into four portions, shape each into a ball, press to flatten (about 2cm thick), then cover and chill for 15 minutes. Remove from fridge, brush with oil and cook over a medium heat for 5 to 8 minutes each side, depending on how you like them. Excellent with a fresh tomato salsa.

For a traditional burger – the kind my mother used to make – combine 400 grams of mince with a small finely chopped onion, a cup of breadcrumbs, salt and pepper, a slosh of milk, a lightly beaten egg, and a scattering of mixed herbs (a commercial product consisting of dried marjoram, thyme and sage).

Shape into four patties, coat lightly in flour and fry for about six minutes each side, or until cooked.

Today's recipe is a pull-out-all-stops affair, with flavour to the max. Like all burgers, it cries out to be served with a green salad, homemade chips or wedges and a good tomato sauce.


Ingredients (serves 4)

1 Tbsp vegetable oil

1 small onion, finely chopped

450g mince

1 clove garlic, crushed and chopped

1 tsp ground cumin

2 tsp ground coriander

2 Tbsp tomato ketchup

1 tsp wholegrain mustard

dash of Worcestershire sauce

2 Tbsp chopped mixed fresh herbs (eg, thyme, oregano, parsley)

1 egg, lightly beaten

salt and freshly ground black pepper

flour to coat (optional)

oil for frying (optional)

Method: Heat oil in a pan and fry onion, stirring often, for 5 minutes.

Drain on kitchen paper and set aside.

Combine remaining ingredients in a bowl and stir in onion.Divide mixture into 4 portions and shape firmly into patties.

Dust a board with flour and lightly coat each of the patties.

Cover and chill until ready to cook.Heat oil in the onion pan and fry for about 6 minutes on each side (depending on how you like them).

If using a barbecue or grill, omit the flour coating and brush with oil just before cooking.

Cook's Tip: To maximise juices, do not press burger while cooking, and turn only once.