For me a burger is all about comfort food, something that is simple, tasty, satisfying and takes me back to my childhood. Burgers have really made a come back in the last few years, all you have to do is check out all the trendy gourmet burger shops that have opened up on the high street. The burger is no longer about fast cheap food, it has been elevated to loftier culinary heights, something to ponder and argue over as everyone has their own opinion on where serves the best burgers and which combinations of toppings are best. Are you a traditionalist or are you a searcher, looking for the latest whacked out burger creation? I’m a traditionalist when it comes to burgers, but there are chefs who are trying to push the limits, there’s even a burger sold in Las Vegas for around $700, which comprises Kobe beef with a lobster topping. I’m sure this is delicious, but in my humble opinion a burger should be kept simple and as close to its main ingredient of a patty of ground beef as possible, dressed modestly, maybe with some fried onions and a slice of cheese.
I’d encourage you to try different seasonings for your burger, but just remember the burger mantra that I go by – keep it simple. Get some really good quality minced beef and you’re 90% there. This recipe will produce four burgers. I have added some smoky streaked bacon to the beef as this gives the burger a smokey flavour and the fat from the bacon means you get a juicy tender patty of burger. In terms of seasoning I like to add a tablespoon of creamed horseradish sauce into the burger mix as it gives a nice background heat which really lifts the flavour of the beef.
It’s up to you how want to tackle the eating of this but I always feel a sense of male satisfaction if you can successfully eat the whole thing with your hands – to use a knife and fork with a burger is a travesty. It should be messy and there should be ketchup and mustard, and burger juice dripping down your chin and all over your fingers. I like a bowl of pickled gherkins on the side and I go Dutch with my wedges topped with a big dollop of cool creamy mayonnaise. This is perfect Friday night food, washed down with a cold beer.
500g good quality minced beef, rump steak if possible
150g smoked streaky bacon, chopped into small pieces
1tbsp tomato puree
1tbsp creamed horseradish
Salt and pepper
For the potato wedges
About 8 large potatoes (Kerr’s Pinks or Maris Pipers), peeled and cut lengthways into chunky wedges
3 bushy Rosemary sprigs
salt and pepper
To dress the burgers
3 large red onions, sliced into half rounds
1tbsp balsamic vinegar
4 burger buns
In a bowl mix the minced beef with the smoked bacon, tomato puree, horseradish, egg, and season with salt and be heavy with the black pepper. The only way to do this is to get your hands in there and really mix and squeeze all the ingredients together, until everything is well mixed.
Divide the burger mix into four, then with wet hands, shape the burger patties, until they are roughly the size of the palm of your hand. If you have the time I would suggest covering the patties with some greaseproof paper and leaving them in the fridge for a few hours or overnight if you can. This allows the burgers to set and also gives the ingredients the chance to mellow and develop.
For the potato wedges, heat the oven to 180 degrees C and in an oven dish mix the wedges with rosemary, coat with olive oil and season well. They should take about 40 minutes until they are golden and crisp.
To cook the burgers, get a frying pan really hot, until it is smoking, then rub some vegetable oil over both sides of the burgers and sear in the hot pan for a minute on each side. Place onto a baking tray and finish them off in the hot oven for about 6-8 minutes. Allow them to rest for 5 minutes before serving.
While the burgers are in the oven, fry the onions in the same pan you used for the burgers in a knob of butter, add in the balsamic vinegar and cook over a medium heat until they are nicely caramelised, but make sure they don’t burn. The balsamic vinegar helps to sweeten the onions but adds some sharpness too.
Now all you have to do is build your burgers. Lay a patty onto a burger bap, add a slice of cheese, some of the caramelised onions, some lettuce, and finish with mustard and ketchup, or whatever way you like.