Monday, 16 November 2015


William Shakespeare was not only probably the greatest writer in the English language, he was also incredibly prophetic when his witches from Macbeth accurately predicted the composition of your standard burger available on the British High St 500 years after his death (see above). Generally, if a burger is made of crap it will taste like crap. Mind you, putting a slightly different spin on things, who needs to go to the zoo to see lots of animals when you can take a bite of a cheap burger and have an entire menagerie parading across your tongue and into your stomach? It's like a multi-species game of Operation "I'll go for the aardvark pancreas, then the walrus foreskin, and the hypothalamus of a couple of squirrels". On more pertinent note, a good burger can be a wonderful culinary experience and even better if you make it yourself and you know what's in it.

Authentic street or peasant food is often wonderful and can tell you a lot about the place it originates and the people who make and eat it. This stuff is often made for workers in offices, in the fields, those cleaning streets, often all standing in the same queue, all of whom need something quick, cheap and nutritious. More than that, good street food thrives through word of mouth recommendation so any street food seller depends on the quality of their offerings and is therefore usually made with more than a little bit of love. It's often eaten on the hoof, or at plastic tables at the side of the road, served from a shack, a kiosk or just a barrow. Think Belgian waffles, Thai noodles, German wurst and even, dare I say it, Gregg's pasties. On the other hand, street food is also one of those current wanky food fads that are increasingly misappropriated of late by middle class people in gingham shirts and tweed, sporting ridiculous facial hair (aka fucking "hipsters") and sold from the "pop-up" restaurant. These are the sort of people who had a couple of tacos at Chiquito's and then decided to go off touting their food as authentically Mexican when, in fact, all they've done is buy an economy tub of Old El Paso fajita mix and thrown it over some Iceland chicken portions in a huge fuck-off bucket the previous night before banging them out from the back of a trailer for a tenner a pop.

Hamburgers get their name because they were once street food in Hamburg, or maybe it was because  they were produced by German immigrants in America. Actually, the true origin of the burger seems a bit fucking hazy. Well, after a cursory Google search it does, at any rate. Wherever the thing started, the hamburger basically uses cheap cuts of beef and makes them quick to cook, easy to eat and downright delicious if done right, so what's not to love?

Now, while it's true that hamburgers are still very much the food for poor, lazy or inebriated people, with our streets lined with fast food outlets, many upmarket restaurants now also have them on their menus. Probably the most ridiculous and obscene example is something like the Fleur Burger made in Las Vegas and costs $5000. OK, it's not really your normal hamburger. It's got truffles in it and it's made with Wagyu beef, but it's a bit of a stretch that one of these is a few hundred times better than a Big Mac. Wagyu beef is rumoured to be the very best sort of beef there is, as the cows it comes from are given the finest grain, plied with beer and their farmers massage them and probably fellate them on a daily basis, all in an effort to give beautifully fat-marbled beef. This attention doesn't come cheap, making Wagyu beef the most expensive form of cow flesh in the world. I have trouble understanding what sort of fuckwit takes the finest quality steak, mashes it up then puts it back together again in the form of a burger. It's the kind of cuisine that kind of makes you hope for a shred of truffle getting stuck in the recipient's windpipe. Nothing fatal, you understand, just enough to require a fairly violent and undignified Heimlich Manoeuvre to project the sliver (all couple of hundred quidsworth) across the room.

The Heimlich Manoeuvre
Never has the line between first aid instruction and soft-core gay porn been so blurred


1/2 a medium sized red onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves
1 tbsp olive oil
500g beef*
2 tsp Worcester sauce
dash Tabasco sauce
pinch mixed herbs
1 tsp smoked paprika
1/2 tsp (or more) freshly ground black pepper
1/2 tsp coarse grain mustard
1 medium egg

To serve:

Grated cheese
mixed leaf salad
Tomatoes, sliced
1 red onion, sliced
Gherkin slices

Chilli sauce
Sliced jalapenos

*The beef can be mince, stewing beef like chuck steak or, on a couple of occasions, I've used some very cheap sirloin steak from my local butcher which was awful as steak but made pretty good burgers. If not using mince, remove any really stringy or gristly bits from the meat then chop it roughly. I'll twat on about this more in the notes

Heat the oil is a small pan and add the onions and garlic to fry gently until soft, around10 minutes.

Allow to cool and add it to a food processor along with all the other ingredients. If you don't have a food processor, you need to use mince and mix everything together by hand in a bowl though the texture won't quite be as fine and the burger is more likely to break apart when you cook it

Take a quarter of the mixture, roll it into a ball then squash it into a patty between your hands.

Alternatively, if you're a foodie wanker like me, you might possess a burger press which means you can make nice, regular-shaped burgers.

When formed you can keep these in the fridge for a while if need be, for example if you are planning to barbecue them later, and they also freeze pretty well too.

A burger press doing its stuff

Smear the burgers with a little oil, slap them into a hot griddle pan and cook for maybe 4-5 minutes each side, turning regularly. Alternatively do them on the barbecue where they taste fantastic.

Unlike steak, the suggestion is that burgers are cooked through. See notes.


Perfectly griddled

Stripes like this are NEVER out of season

Toast the bun a couple of minutes before the burgers are cooked then serve them on the buns with the salad ingredients plus condiments of your choice. Serve them up with chips, or better still, potato wedges like these I posted a while back.

Done to perfection
I'm not going to win any awards for food photography.  I'm not David fucking Bailey, OK?

I've tried making burgers a few times in the past and they never worked as they tasted just like mince. The key is in the other things that go into the mix: the onions, garlic etc.

Having tried this with different types of beef, they all have different properties. The cheap sirloin I used tasted great but the burgers were a bit dry. Chuck steak made burgers that were a bit more moist but still a little drier than I prefer. Mince made the best patties in terms of being moist as it's all down to the fat content so cheap mince would probably work best as it has a higher percentage fat. This means that the cost of the burgers is really low as well, and the recipe could even be classed as yet another of my mince wonder.

Burgers ought to be cooked through completely. This is apparently true even if they are made from steak. The reason is because if you cook a steak, the bugs are on the outside and get killed by the searing whilst the under-cooked inside stays fairly bug-free (don't mention the parasites!). However, if you mash it all up to make a burger, the bugs are then spread through the whole patty. Saying this, I'd risk doing a burger rare if it was made from steak, but if it's made from mince you really need to make sure they are cooked properly. Besides, minced beef tastes like shit if it's under cooked.

The composition of the final burger in its sandwich form is very much a personal thing: how much salad, what salad ingredients, which sauces. Personally I like some cheese, a bit of lettuce, some sliced tomato, sliced onion, sliced gherkin, mayonnaise, ketchup or some sort of chilli sauce and perhaps some jalapenos. Mrs Sweary, on the other hand, has her burger totally bare with perhaps a few leaves of lettuce and a bit of sliced onion, a statement which would not have been out of place in the script of a Carry On film or indeed on my blog entry for pork afelia.

Shakespeare quote pic from
Heimlich manoeuvre pic from

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