When it comes to widey explored topics like these, I like to steer clear, simply to avoid becoming tiresome and monotonous. The discourse surrounding this topic has been numerous and is known to arouse heated debate; however, allow me this one occasion to possibly re-explore this already vastly disputed and at times contentious subject. The subject in question is what makes a great burger?
Now this subject matter could almost be a university degree in itself as there is probably enough text surrounding it to warrant a whole faculty in tertiary education. And I am certain there are some out there that claim to be professors of this subject, or perhaps possess a Doctorate in Hamburgular Studies. As a topic, it is as subjective and individual as any other, it’s like discussing people’s tastes in music, a conclusion can never be reached and this type of discourse does seem rather futile. There are no absolutes, just a multitude or variables adding up to no one, undeniable conclusion. In mathematics exist perfect numbers and is dependant on formulas generating specific absolutes, however when it comes to burgers, no one formula can arrive to a definitive solution which is, the perfect burger. Essentially, a burger is a bun plus a patty. Salads and other condiments are optional but take away the bun and the patty equals something other than a burger.
Mathematical and theoretical expositions aside, I can deduce that the burger is one of those culturally transcendental articles of food. Regardless of nationality, race or language the burger has its appeal in all these facets. I’m sure even the Queen, in the privacy of Buckingham, enjoys tucking into a hearty burger every now and then. Sure it might be on some very fine china and possibly made with buns dusted with gold, mined from the peaks of some Aztec mountain range, nonetheless it’s a burger.
But enough if this meaningless chatter, what does make a burger good? In my personal opinion, it is the two things that constitute a burger, namely the bun and the patty have to be of exceptional quality. Everything else is secondary to these two elements and only when these two crucial elements are exceptional, that a burger can be deemed perfect. Now there are two schools of thought regarding the bun, some belong to the crusty exterior, soft interior ideology, while there are some who belong to the soft, sweet bun persuasion. I think both groups are justifiable and I happen not to prefer one over the other, as long as the buns are not dry and stale.
The buns may have two different viewpoints, but the patty I believe only has one underlying philosophy. The patty must, and I repeat must be juicy, tasteful and tender, not dry and tasting of styrofoam. From my research, I have discovered that a simple way to ensure patties do not become dry is to ensure that there is enough fat in them to sustain its juiciness and make sure not to overcook them. The ground meat must also be fresh and of the highest quality. Rumour has it the ideal ratio for ground meat is 20 per cent fat, although I have yet to see it proven.
These two factors, I think are the basic building blocks in creating a great burger. As for the extras- the salad, the cheese, the condiments, I say whatever goes. As long as ingredients are fresh, I think there are no sure-fire rules in this component to burger making. These "extras" I suppose, relies on the creativity and ingenuity of the person making the burger. Lastly, there is also the theory that the order in which the burger is stacked has a significant bearing on the burger’s taste. For example Californian burger chain In-N-Out Burger, which has an extremely strong and cult-like following claim to always stack their burgers in a specific order. I am not sure if this particular notion has any validity in improving a burgers taste, but it appears to be working in favour of In-N-Out.
Mumbo-jumbo theories aside, I think the best way to enjoy a burger is to go and make one for yourself. These Lamb Kofta Burgers were inspired by a recipe for Lamb Kofta from this book. I simply added some lettuce, tomato and topped the burgers with a delicious coriander and chilli pesto. The buns I used were sourdough rolls, lightly oiled and toasted on the grill. They were slightly chewy on the outside and soft and spongy on the inside. The only thing I regret is not making the kofta patties wide enough for the buns, however they were still perfectly succulent and tasty. These burgers were perfect for Slashfood's upcoming Sandwich Day, an event where readers are instructed to make all things sandwich or sandwich-like; be it paninis, subs, burgers, clubs or dagwoods, all are welcome. So to all of you out there Happy Sandwich Day!
Lamb Kofta Burgers
(makes 10-12 patties)
1 small onion, roughly chopped
1 tbsp grated ginger
3 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
1 large green chilli, chopped
3 tbsp coriander pesto (see below), alternatively use ½ coriander leaves
2 tbsp thick plain yoghurt
500g minced (ground) lamb
2½ tsp ground cumin
1½ tsp ground coriander
2 tsp garam masala
1 large chilli, chopped
2½ tsp salt
½ tsp ground black pepper3-4 tbsp oil
Blend onion, ginger, garlic, green chilli and pesto (or coriander leaves) in a food processor until they form a paste.
If you don’t have a food processor a mortar and pestle can be used. Just ensure all ingredients are chopped finely.
Add the yoghurt to the paste and mix well.
Put the lamb mince in a bowl and add the paste, using your hands knead the meat until all ingredients are thoroughly combined.
Add all the spices, red chilli, salt and pepper and continue to mix.
Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1-2 hours or overnight, if possible.
To make the patties, wet your hands and roll good handful (approximately ¼ cup) of the mince mixture into a ball. Using the palm of your hand flatten the balls into discs ensuring that the patties do not break apart.
You will have about 10-12 patties.
Drizzle oil over all of the patties.
Place a large heavy based frying pan, or grill over medium to high heat.
When the pan/grill is hot but not smoking, add the lamb patties in a single layer.
Fry for 3-4 minutes on one side and turn them over and fry for another 2-3 minutes on the other side.
Test one kofta by breaking it open, the meat should be cooked through and no pinkness inside.
If meat is still pink, cook for a further 2 minutes.
Remove from pan and place on a warm plate to rest, cover until ready to assemble with buns.
Repeat with remaining patties.
For my burgers, I used Pastabilities Coriander and Chilli Pesto, but if you want to make your own, here is a recipe:
Coriander and Chilli Pesto
(yields approximately 1 cup pesto)
1 bunch coriander, washed and leaves removed, stems and roots discarded
1/2 cup raw cashews1 small fresh chilli, seeds removed
juice of 1 lime
salt to taste
approximately 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
Place cashews on baking sheet and roast in the oven at 200˚C for about 7 minutes or until light golden.
Remove and set aside to cool.Place coriander, chilli and lime juice in a food processor and process until just smooth.
Slowly pour the oil through the spout while the motor is still running until the desired consistency is reached.Add salt to taste.
fresh ingredients are also a must