Classic Hamburger

Burgers are, without doubt, this year’s sushi.

Yes it is official, the Foodie Overlords have decreed that burgers are just too cool for school and I am, quite literately, lovin’ it. I’m not sure what the exact reasons are for this up-swing in the humble burger’s popularity, but it is way overdue and long may it continue! So to whomever designated 2015 the Year of the Burger, I just want to say a hearty thank you!

So okay yes I am supposedly avoiding carbs these days, but burgers have always been my Achilles Heel and, as such, one of my favourite cheat-meals…but I know I’m not alone. In terms of Western food, there is nothing quite as satisfying or as iconic as a good burger. Their popularity is almost universal and enduring, in spite of fast-food’s attempts at turning us against them (no, I don’t consider a Big Mac a real burger – I scarcely consider it food)! Classic HamburgerBut what is it about burgers that keep us coming back for more? Is it their irrepressible retro-Americana charm? Maybe its the sheer “junk-food” decadence that burgers came to represent in the 90/00’s; a symptom, if you will, of the “mum says don’t eat it, so I want it more” syndrome? I just don’t know, but I will tell you this: a good burger is damn hard to beat!

Of course, with renewed popularity comes the inevitable desire for ‘reinvention’. It happens to even the noblest of foods: sushi got cream-cheesed & biltonged, smoothies got iced & goji-berried, coffee got lost in soya & hazelnut and now, burgers have become classy.

Now don’t get me wrong, there is absolutely nothing wrong with a classy burger; I even have a few concoctions of my own that I wish to share (wait till you try my miso butter, goats cheese & mushroom burger!).  With hordes of hip burgers-bars popping up all over the place, the market is awash with every kind of burger you can imagine. These days you can’t seem to get away from the promise of wagyu patties, truffled mayo and unmani ketchup – all utterly delicious, but all utterly superfluous to the crafting of the perfect burger. Seriously, enough already. The Fonz lived without chipotle salsa and trice-cooked fries and so will you! So whilst I appreciate the ingenuity of some of the more outlandish toppings offered, burgers are at heart the epitome of unpretentious eating and we must never lose sight of that.

Okay, so what does maketh the perfect hamburger then?

For me it is all about doing the basics well. Sure you can add cheese, gherkins, bacon into the mix, but all that extra stuff comes down to preference and taste. The essential building blocks of a true hamburger are simply these:  a homemade flame-grilled patty slavered in a decent basting sauce, a quality sesame bun which has been lightly toasted and the Holy Trinity of Burger Toppings being ice-berg lettuce, sliced tomato and onions.

Finished and klaar.

Classic Hamburger: Makes 4

For the Hamburger Patties:

  • 500g lean beef mince meat
  • 1 spring onion, very finely chopped
  • 2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tsp. dried mixed herbs
  • 1/2 tbsp. Dijon mustard
  • Salt & pepper

For the Basting Sauce

  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 tbsp. tomato ketchup
  • 2 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tbsp. honey
  • 1 tsp. Dijon mustard
  • 1 tsp. smoked sweet paprika (if unavailable, substitute with ½ tsp. regular paprika & ½ tsp. castor sugar)
  • ½ tsp. dried mixed herbs
  • ½ tsp. ground fennel
  • A good pinch of salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the Basic Toppings

  • 2 large ripe tomatoes, thickly sliced (4 slices per tomato)
  • Iceberg Lettuce
  • Red Onion rings
  • Olive Oil
  • 4 good quality burger bun, cut in half

For the extra toppings:

  • Grilled bacon
  • Cheese
  • Gherkin
  • Jalapenos
  • Mayo
  • Ketchup
  • Mustard

Method:

  1. In a large mixing bowl, thoroughly combine all the burger patty ingredients
  2. Divide the meat mixture into four equal portions and, using your hands, roll the meat into a ball
  3. Place the rolled balls onto a plate, cover with cling-wrap and chill in the fridge for a couple of hours
  4. In a small bowl, combine all the ingredients for the basting sauce
  5. Remove the burgers at least an hour before cooking to allow them to return to room temperature (this will help minimise shrinkage later)
  6. Lightly cover the meat balls with some vegetable oil
  7. Sandwich the balls between two sheets of wax paper and then press down until you have a patty that resembles what you’d consider a decent sized burger (I like mine flat and wide). I use a heavy rolling pin to flatten the patties out. Keep in mind that the patties will shrink as they cook
  8. Without adding more oil, cook the patties on a hot griddle (preferably on a hot braai/barbeque) – about 2 to 3 minutes per side should do
  9. Drizzle the burger buns with olive oil. Add to the hot griddle and toast lightly
  10. Liberally baste the patties with the basting sauce in-between flips and just before serving
  11. If you are making a cheeseburger then top the patty with the cheese just before taking it off the griddle

To assemble your burger:

  1. Layer your lettuce on top of your toasted bun
  2. Place the burger patty on next
  3. Now add the tomato and red onion
  4. Spread any sauces on the second half of the bun before placing it on top of the completed burger
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