Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Holy Grail Cooking #4: No Mince Beef Burgers

Warning: this post contains photographs of raw meat! 

It might come as no surprise that I make my own beefburgers, particularly given the recent "equestrian cuisine events" in the UK, but I thought that buying minced beef and making your own was about as homesteady and budget-friendly as burgers could get. Obviously, as author Sue Simkins points out, "you know exactly what  is in a proper home-made hamburger and they are simple and economical to make," but burgers made from minced beef don't stick together very well and are difficult to turn over on the grill. 

Had I not read Simkins' super savoury recipes in Making the Most of Your Food Processor (Spring Hill, £9.99), I wouldn't have dreamed of buying steak and transforming it into burgers. As an ex-vegetarian, I am not keen on preparing raw meat, and I am, foolishly, a bit shy to ask our local butcher whether he has any chuck, blade or skirt steak, especially since I don't know what any of them are. However, I do possess a small food processor, which I was given by my parents for my 21st birthday, and it could stand a whole lot more usin'. Simkins states that it's "much better to process your meat at home in the food processor with the bread and onion and seasoning. This way everything melds together and the resulting burger is firmer - and much more delicious." She had me convinced. It wasn't like I was going to end up with horsemeat from the butcher by mistake...

To make your own Proper Hamburgers like Sue Simkins, you will need: 


50g bread (any type). I used nearly stale bread I found in the bread bin - several slices - and put the excess breadcrumbs in the freezer for next time.

 Tutorial Tuesday 1 - 2 small onions, peeled and sliced. Red or white.

250g chuck, blade or skirt steak (or braising steak, which is all my butcher had)

salt and pepper

I also added half a courgette (sliced), a chopped clove of garlic, and some mixed herbs

 What to do: 
1. Tear the bread into pieces and put into the bowl of the food processor with the onion and courgette and garlic (if using).

2. Cut the braising steak into bite-size pieces. I don't find this too awful as it is not that bloody and there is not too much fat to trim. Season with pepper, salt and herbs, and put into the processor.

3. Mix everything together, stopping the machine from time to time and scraping the mixture down from the sides of the bowl if necessary.

4. Once the mixture has started to clump together, stop the machine and remove the blade. 

5. Using a spatula, bodge the meat mixture down onto a plate, so it is about half an inch thick. Cut into burger shapes using a mug or metal biscuit cutter. 
6. Grill under a moderate grill for about 10 - 20 minutes, turning half-way through. The ones in the photo have not been cooked yet. 

Once again, I have forgotten to take a photo of the final result, but they are very popular with the King, Prima, and myself (Secundus is a fan of sausages only).
As with many of her other recipes, Simkins includes tips about varying the mixture to your own taste - "try adding a good pinch of mustard and a few shakes of Worcestershire sauce to the mix or some Tabasco" - and hints about freezing. These burgers "freeze beautifully: make sure you freeze them with discs of waxed paper or cellophane between them so you can separate them easily", and you can cook them from frozen; they just take a few extra minutes.


I have ignored my food processor since the days of making baby food (Simkins has a section on that too) but now I have access to a whole host of ideas for salads, dressings, sauces, dips, spreads and soups, and, of course: cakes. Simkins' easy-going, clear style, and obvious expertise is inspiring, and has certainly made me want to start making the most of the mini sous-chef that has been hiding in my kitchen unnoticed, for so long.  
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