BEEF UP THE TASTE For extra umami flavor, add a drop of stout to your burger mix.
Being in the doghouse isn’t such a bad thing if you live in our house. Molly, our Labrador-collie dog, was turning five. Penny and her friends decided she must have a party. There would be food – the best quality. Special dog biscuits and, obviously, a cake – flour, grated carrot, peanut butter, eggs and honey. The girls lavishly iced it with cream cheese and decorated it with dog treats and specially sourced dog-friendly chocolate buttons. (Oh yes, really! Human chocolate, especially the dark variety, is actually poisonous for dogs.)
Dog eat dog
Penny and her friends debated over the main course – hot dogs or hamburgers? The idea of dogs eating dogs felt wrong, so they opted for the burgers. Minced beef, grated carrots, chopped parsley with egg to bind the mix. No onions – poisonous for dogs. Said burgers were then fried and topped with a cheese slice and encased in sesame-topped buns. Our dogs, Molly and Tulip, and three pooch guests guzzled with gusto and then worked off their lunch over a dog obstacle-course competition!
We human parents decided a party was a party, so let’s go for it. My sister-in-law Anita arrived with her two girls, Ellie and Melanie. “Tea, Ribena or Champagne, Anita?”
There were burgers for the humans too – no lesser quality than the dog version, just more seasoned and served with pickles. It’s a simple enough thing, a burger, but a satisfying (and inexpensive) treat if you get it right.
It’s tempting to go for the leanest beef but you actually need fat to make a really flavoursome burger; some chefs recommend up to 40 percent fat. So, buy the fattiest (though not cheapest) mince you can find, or better yet, ask your butcher to mince some chuck steak. If the meat is fatty, you won’t need an egg to bind the mix. For extra umami flavor and to tenderise the meat, you can add a drop of stout to your burger mix (no stout was wasted on dogs!)
As for buns and toppings – that’s up to you. These days, many restaurants favour a soft, faintly sweet brioche bun. The Brunette and the canines favoured sesame-topped bap, while I prefer a brown seed bun. Yum. When it comes to the filling, just add a slice of cheese, ketchup, mustard, a bit of fried onion or crispy chopped lettuce.
Pickle is always tasty with a burger. Use sliced pickled gherkin or have a go at your own cucumber pickle. Take a couple of cucumbers, slice as thinly as possible, add 150g caster sugar, a small very finely sliced or diced red onion, 100ml or white wine or cider vinegar and a tablespoon of fresh dill leaves. Mix and refrigerate for at least two hours before serving.
Doggone Good Burgers
What you need
- 1tablespoon vegetable oil
- 1 large onion chopped
- 1kg minced beef
- 100ml stout
- 1kg of minced beef (remember, the fattier the better!)
- 2 tablespoons of breadcrumbs
- 2 of teaspoons of chopped parsley
- 1 teaspoon sea salt, black pepper to taste
- Burger buns
- Cheese slices (optional)
- Assorted toppings
What you do
Sauté the chopped onions ’til soft. Place the minced beef in a bowl, add in the onion, parsley, breadcrumbs, stout, salt and pepper and mix the ingredients. Do this quickly and lightly; overworking the mixture makes the burgers dry. Shape the meat mix into 12 flat patties. For best results, refrigerate for an hour before cooking.
To cook, place the patties on a hot griddle pan (or barbecue if you prefer), no oil required. Leave the burger on the pan for three minutes without moving to get a good crunchy seal on the meat. Turn over and cook for another three minutes for a medium burger, or up to seven minutes for well done.
The key is to lift the cooked burgers from pan onto a warm oven tray, cover with tin foil and let rest in a warmed oven for four to five minutes. This lets the juices ‘run’ and rests the meat. Serve in a bun with a slice of cheese (optional), a couple of slices of cucumber pickle and all your favourite toppings! One bite, and your tail will be wagging.
Red Cabot is interested in food, nature and small things. He sells his food at Westport Country Markets in St Anne’s Boxing Club, James’s Street car park, Westport, every Thursday, from 8am to 1pm.