Gourmet burger restaurants have enjoyed a resurgence of popularity recently, with old-school diners popping up all over the country. (Here’s our list of restaurants serving the best burgers around SA). But making them at home can be even more fun, especially if you gather a group of friends and some craft beers, and get your hands messy.
We give you the top patty-making tips, a delicious basting recipe, and no fewer than 15 ideas for toppings and sauces, ranging from cumin and coffee glaze to peach salsa.
The perfect patty
Where patties are concerned, simple is usually best; you can always fancy it up later with basting, sauces and toppings. As for the patty itself, let the flavour of the meat shine. Buy the best quality meat you can, and plan for 200g to 250g per burger. If possible, ask your butcher to make fresh mince for you. (Click here to find a butcher in your area.) Also, it’s important to have some fat in the mix, so don’t buy the extra-lean mince. Get beef, ostrich, lamb or pork, or go for a mix if you’re feeling adventurous: like beef and veal, for example.
For 1kg of mince, add:
2 tsp salt
1 ½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 medium onion, peeled and finely grated
Hint: You can also add minced garlic, finely chopped herbs, chilli, spices such as cumin or smoked paprika, and mustard powder.
Place the ingredients in a bowl and mix gently with your fingers, trying not to work the mixture too much. Divide the mixture into 4 or 5 balls, and shape each ball into a patty. Make a slight indentation in the middle and leave the patties to rest for fifteen minutes or more – if you rest them for longer than fifteen minutes, cover and refrigerate them and bring them back to room temperature before cooking.
Why not stuff each burger patty with a nugget of cold herbed butter or cheese? Blue cheese, goat’s cheese, taleggio and other softer cheeses work particularly well. When you bite into the cooked patty, you’ll be rewarded with a mouthful of melted, rich goodness.
While the patties rest, prep your sauces, toppings, and buns. If you want to baste the burgers, start with this basic basting sauce:
¼ cup tomato sauce
3 tablespoons chutney
3 tablespoons soy sauce
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon mustard
1 tablespoon treacle sugar
Salt and pepper
Mix the ingredients well, taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary. Some good add-ins are apricot jam, sweet chilli sauce, oyster sauce, spices, herbs and alcohol such as bourbon.
As for the buns, you can technically use any bread in bun form, although softer buns are easier to bite into. Enriched breads that are particularly soft, like brioche or kitka, work very well and their slight sweetness complements the savoury meat. Slicing, toasting and buttering the buns is a good idea to prevent them from becoming soggy.
Instead of butter, you could spread the bun with flavoured mayonnaise such as aioli or wasabi mayonnaise for an extra layer of flavour.
May the sauce be with you
Mustard, tomato sauce and mayonnaise are the traditional sauces, but a fresh salsa is a nice option to have on hand, and is easy to make.
Simply chop, as finely as you can, the following ingredients:
1 large red onion
2 large, very ripe tomatoes (substitute with mango, pineapple or stone fruit)
1 small chilli, deseeded
A large handful of coriander or a few leaves of basil
Mix the chopped ingredients well, add the juice of a large lime, salt and a pinch of sugar and mix well. Taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary.
The heat is on
When all your sauces and toppings and buns are ready, cook the patties. Braaing over wood fire is always best, but failing that, griddle pans or pan-frying over high heat in some melted butter are good options. When braaing or cooking your patties, brush them with your basting sauce.
Cook the burgers about 5 minutes on each side over high heat for a medium rare burger. Add a minute on each side for a more well-cooked patty, or subtract a minute for rarer meat. Then, go wild with toppings and sauces.
Gourmet burger ideas
1. Mustard-glazed beef patty with grilled red onion wedges and pickled baby vegetables.
2. Beef patty stuffed with rosemary-red-wine butter with slow-roasted garlic cloves, sautéed onion and rocket.
3. Beef patty with slow-roasted cherry tomato salsa, jalapeno mayonnaise and a mature cheddar slice.
4. Lamb patty with caramelised aubergine slice and tzatziki.
5. Lamb patty stuffed with soft feta with red pepper mayonnaise, red onion slices and mizuna.
6. Cumin-and-coffee glazed lamb patty with roasted apricots and coriander and almond pesto.
7. Pork patty stuffed with blue cheese with prunes stewed in port and baby spinach.
8. Bourbon, apricot jam and smoked paprika glazed pork patty with whole roasted jalapenos.
9. Hoisin glazed pork patty with aioli, cucumber slices and thinly sliced shallot and watercress.
10. Pork and veal patty with sauerkraut and German mustard.
11. Beef and veal patty stuffed with mozzarella with slow-cooked tomato sauce and roasted red pepper slices.
12. Beef and ostrich patty with aioli, pineapple salsa and guacamole.
13. Ostrich patty stuffed with taleggio with red wine glazed shallots, tomato slices and basil.
14. Brandy-glazed ostrich patty with peach salsa and rocket.
15. Ostrich patty stuffed with thyme butter with dark caramelized onions and gruyere.