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Saturday, July 27, 2013

My perfect burger


Okay first up I can’t claim to be an authority on burgers. Coffee yes. Cinnamon rolls definitely. Cocktails maybe once upon a time. But burgers… I never eat them outside of barbeque season. I’m not American. I have never set foot inside an In-N-Out burger. I haven’t even tried a big mac for goodness sake

But the sun is shining, there is a delicious smoky meaty smell wafting over the neighbours’ fence and I’m thinking we should fire up the barbeque ourselves. Throw on some marinated chicken, a few sausages and of course a hamburger or two. I am pretty particular about my burgers. I think because I eat them so rarely I want them to be a special treat.

My absolute favourite place for a burger used to be the Eagle Bar Diner off Tottenham Court Road. I think it has closed down now and apparently it went off in later years but I used to love it. My favourite thing to order was a hamburger, fat chips and a lychee martini. Blissful.

If I am making a DIY burger at home, this is how I go about achieving burger perfection. First of all you need the right climatic conditions. A truly fabulous burger can’t be cooked indoors under the electric grill. It needs sunshine, charcoal and lots of patience to get the barbeque to just the right temperature. A fierce enough heat to char the meat and give it a bit of surface crunch but not too hot that it dries out the juices. Medium rare is best.

The bread roll has to be white and soft inside but with a tiny bit of crunch – almost imperceptible - on the crust. Preferably homemade and fresh from the oven. (I admit the roll in my picture is less than perfect. I ran out of white flour and had to mix in some wholemeal.) Your bread to meat ratio has to be spot on too. Burgers that are nothing but great mouthfuls of fluffy white bread and hardly any meat are a sad disappointment. Likewise there is nothing messier or more frustrating than struggling with a generous-sized burger and toppings but not enough bread to hold the thing together.

Before adding anything to the roll, I spread it with a thin layer of butter to waterproof the bread. Soggy bread has no place near a perfect burger. There are several must have ingredients; coleman’s mustard, ketchup and gerkins and/or jalepenos to give sweetness and kick. I also like piri piri sauce but it’s an optional extra. I think with a burger you are aiming to pack every flavour and texture into one bite. Sweet, salty, spicy, bitter, meaty, juicy, dry, fresh, crunchy, crisp and smooth. It’s all there.

Sometimes I am satisfied with a nice piece of crisp lettuce and nothing else. Other times I quite like a bit of Stilton melted on top. But my number one all time favourite burger toppings are watercress (the big dark green leafy stuff obviously) and pickled beetroot.
So that is my perfect burger. Now I just need to figure out how to recreate that lychee martini.

Happy barbequing!

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