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Eating & drinking

Ben’s meat newsletter: Burgers & imminent BBQs

Sometime soon the weather will improve and we’ll all start thinking about BBQs, picnics and al fresco dining. The BBQ meatbox will be reappearing shortly but in the meantime there’s always a place for a good burger. It’s no secret that the best burgers are made from chuck steak; tender enough to fry, it has the perfect amount of fat to keep the burger moist. Years (rather decades) ago, on my one visit to the States, I was blown away by the pink, inch and a half thick burgers they served in New York. Hopefully you’ll be as impressed with the following technique for burgers made from freshly chopped meat.

Instead of buying mince, order a pack or two of braising steak (invariably chuck or feather). Chop into 1cm dice, lay out on a plate and put it in the freezer. When it’s well chilled (about 30 mins), put it in a food processor, add salt (no more than ½ tsp per 400g) and pepper, and pulse until you have the right, slightly coarse, consistency. Check after a couple of pulses to make sure nothing is caught on the blade. You can add other ingredients (I like a little lightly sautéed onion) but get too carried away and it won’t be a burger anymore; add extras to the bun instead. Next, form into thick burgers (about 150g), allow to rest, fry in a griddle pan on a medium-high heat for about 4 mins each side, or to your liking, and there you have it – the best burgers from freshly chopped beef. And as for the bap, I’m sure these uber-trendy brioche baps have their place but they do nothing for a burger. To really let the burger shine, scrape some of the crumb out of a ciabatta of French stick.

A couple of years ago, I came up with versions of the Canary Isles’ iconoclastic mojo picón and verde sauces. My BBQ sauce of the year used to change annually from teriyaki, to smoky piri piri, to vinegary Carolina style, but I think these two will do me again for this year. The picón works with everything while the verde is best with chicken, vegetables and fish. Both are good for dunking things in and will keep for a couple of weeks in the fridge if you jar and pasteurise.

Mojo Picón
Makes 1 jar, prep 15 mins, cook 0 mins

4 large red peppers, roasted & skinned
1 thick slice white bread or ciabatta
4 fresh red chillies, destalked & deseeded
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 tsp cumin
½ tsp sweet smoked paprika
2 tsp sherry vinegar
4-5 tbsp olive oil, plus extra for frying

Fry the bread in a little olive oil until golden brown and crisp. Drain on kitchen paper and tear into pieces. Blitz the roasted peppers and chillies, garlic, cumin, paprika, fried bread and vinegar until you have a smooth paste. Add the olive oil, pulsing frequently, until it’s quite runny.

Mojo Verde
Makes 1 jar, prep 1 h 30 mins, cook 0 mins

2 green peppers
3-4 green chillies
1 bunch coriander
½ a bunch flat leaf parsley
3 large garlic cloves
1 tbsp salt & extra for final seasoning
¼ teaspoon cumin
200ml extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp each sherry vinegar & lemon juice

De-seed and finely chop the green peppers and chillies. Put in a colander and mix in the salt. Leave for an hour to drain – this will extend the shelf life. Remove the stems from the coriander and parsley and roughly chop the leaves. Put the garlic and herb stalks in the food processor and blitz until smooth. Add salted peppers and chillies, cumin, half the vinegar
and lemon juice and blitz again to a smooth consistency. Add the herbs leaves and drizzle in the olive oil while pulsing every few seconds. Check the salt and cumin levels and add more vinegar and lemon juice if you like it a bit sharper.


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