Tuesday, 26 February 2013

How to make a burger

In the news today, sales of ready-made burgers have dropped by 43% since the 'horsemeat' crisis. I'm like everyone else in that I work, come home frazzled and need to eat. I cook every day and never buy processed food; you see, I don't trust manufacturers one bit. Business is about making money and in order to make money, corners have to be cut, margins have to be squeezed and an unsuspecting consumer is frequently duped. I learned from my days in global companies what really goes on and the person who always bears the brunt is the consumer.

It is not that my personality is indefatigable and that I possess endless reserves of energy- no, as I am getting older, I am aware that my energy is finite. I merely prefer to feed myself and if one knows how, there is minimum effort involved. My father died of Parkinson's Disease and there can be nothing worse than a person watching themselves diminish on an almost daily basis. For me it follows that nutrition and what we eat (plus what goes on in our heads) are our best defenses against illness.

The French thinkers of yesteryear believed that illness begins in the digestive tract. In other words, digestion is key to good health. I practice this thinking and eat like a peasant. My food is simple and quite bland. Don't get me wrong, I LOVE to entertain and frequently make dinners of 10 courses if there's an opportunity but for myself, on an everyday basis, I eat extremely simply.

Jean Giono, another favourite author, was put on a strict diet as his health began to fail. He reached a point where he savoured his meals to such an extent that he could taste the single grain of salt which he was allowed to add to his plate of food. It is this thinking which I practice-  respect and savour food.

So please, try making your own burgers. A packet of mince is still relatively inexpensive to buy and 400g of mince will make at least 8 patties. All in all, burgers are cheap, easy to make and healthy.

This recipe harks from my days of barbecue fanaticism but the burgers can be grilled or pan-fried just as well. Use the same recipe to make meatballs (which you can dress up with a tomato-based sauce).

400g lean beef mince (although I love fat and will happily use the fatty, cheap mince too)
tablespoon ketchup
dash Worcestershire sauce
half teaspoon salt or teaspoon soya sauce
1 egg
good grinding black pepper
1 small onion, finely chopped - optional
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped/pulverised - optional
tablespoon finely chopped parsley or  1/2 teaspoon dried thyme or small bunch chives, chopped finely - optional

If using the onion, saute quickly in a dash of olive oil until just beginning to brown- the burgers will taste better if the onion is pre-cooked. Add all the ingredients together and using your hands, mix well. If you have a stone pestle and mortar, you can mix the ingredients together that way- the pestle will make the mixture quite smooth. Shape the patties into the size of your choice but bear in mind that bigger patties take longer to cook. You should end up with 8 regular-sized patties that would fit neatly into a bun. Rest the patties, if you have time, for around 15-30 minutes. Cover and place in the fridge (this will help them hold their shape when you cook them)- go have a bath while you wait.

Grill: place the patties under a pre-heated grill (medium heat) for around 4 minutes each side. Turn twice for well done or once for medium.

Pan fry: heat a tablespoon of olive oil over medium high heat. Add a knob of butter. Once the butter begins to foam and turns a light brown, add the patties. Fry for four minutes each side as above.

Leave the cooked burgers to rest- this will release the juices and the burgers will be more moist- for around 10 minutes. Keep covered in a warm place. Serve and eat as you wish.

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