The legendary dish that we know and relish today has come a long way since its original creation, gradually evolving over the decades from its humble roots to being considered as everything from a tasty basic fast food to a gourmet star across many continents.
Although there is some debate about exactly who could be blessed with the title of ‘burger inventor’, the actual history of the good old burger is generally agreed upon.
The burger’s history apparently dates back to the 19th century in Hamburg, Germany. Famous for its beef, inventive housewives in the region spent much time in the kitchen coming up with different and new ways to serve up their tasty meat. One such way was chopping beef into minute bits and then seasoning this and molding it into patties. This actually made the meat more tender and tasty to eat. Because there were no fridges the burger was cooked immediately after making.
Hamburg was also a well-established port and one of the country’s major departure points for German migrants sailing off to a new life in the U.S. Many voyaged to densely populated cities such as Chicago and New York and it was here where a number of immigrants established their own restaurants in a bid to earn a living.
Top of the menu in many was the ‘Hamburg’. This home grown recipe was soon ‘Americanised’ to satisfy the local citizens’ beef cravings with the addition of garlic, seasoning and plenty of fried onions – which more than filled hungry American tummies.
Despite the patty’s early origins in Germany, it wasn’t until it reached American shores that it gained its bread counterparts. In the mid-1800s, food carts served burgers outside factories as well-earned and value-for-money sustenance for industrial workers. However, the juicy meat proved tricky to eat whilst standing, so the next step was to layer the beef between two slices of bread –and the burger as we know it today was born; launching the delicious, yet easy-to-eat, dish into nationwide popularity.
The burger didn’t stop there. The recipe spread across the globe, aided by the distribution of U.S. soldiers serving on various continents during the Second World War. Yearning for a taste of home, the troops recommended the dish to their international friends, mushrooming the burger phenomenon away from home.
Many of the creative cooks in those different destinations also managed to add their own unique culinary touches along the way.
Granny Mouse Country House and Spa culinary artists have also done so and earned many a compliment from hungry diners who enjoyed their luxurious burger treats.
To create a gourmet burger such as theirs, you need:
The ultimate beef patty – remember that the type of patty used is still central to making that juicy burger. Although readymade patties are available from supermarkets and butcheries, homemade always rules and a good quality mince with your own seasonings always comes up tops. Whether you are making beef, chicken, fish or vegetarian patties, make sure that you use quality protein and then add the appropriate seasonings depending on your choice.
Good cooking – There are many ways to cook a burger and both the different methods (grilling, frying, baking or even braaing) will contribute to its taste – as will whether you choose to make sure it is well done or rare. A gourmet burger made with quality beef, for example, shouldn’t be over cooked or burnt to a crisp as it will lose all its flavourful juices and moistness. Chicken, on the other hand, should always be well cooked and can even be marinated to prevent it from drying out.
Toppings – There’s almost an infinite number of toppings that one can add to a burger. The old school and most common way is to add lettuce, tomato and cheese. But a gourmet burger is so much more than that and creative toppings can include anything from blue cheese, grilled onions and mushrooms to avocado, bacon, pineapple and pickles. Add to that, the sauces, which are endless – mushroom, barbeque, béarnaise sauces and so much more.
Remember that the best burgers are those that are made with homemade buns and warmed before assembly. They can be served with or without their traditional companion of chips – this introducing a myriad of different choices here too – from traditional potato fries, to sweet potato chips and even different sides made from kale, beetroot and more.
The perfect Granny Mouse Burger:
Crumbed Mushroom, Beef & Jalapeno Burger
1kg beef mince
½ onion, finely diced
100g bread crumbs
30g parsley, finely chopped
10 brown mushrooms
6 eggs beaten
100g sliced jalapeno
500g mozzarella cheese
100g sliced gherkins
15 slices of tomato
100g mixed salad leaves
In a large mixing bowl, combine all the ingredients for the Pattie. Mix well and allow to rest in the fridge for 2 hours.
Once rested, portion into 5 and shape each one with a burger mold or a large cookie cutter. Ensure that you press down hard, so that the burger Pattie is compact and does not crumble when cooking. Wrap with cling wrap and store in the fridge overnight or for about 12 hours.
Heat up a griddle pan until it begins to smoke. Coat the burger Pattie lightly with oil before cooking on the griddle. Allow to cook for about 5 min before flipping it over, if there is some resistance or it continues to stick to the pan. Do not force it or the burger will crumble, instead continue to cook for a further 2 to 3 min. Repeat for the other side.
Place the burger patties in a roasting tray, top them with the jalapeno and mozzarella. Cook in a pre-heated oven @ 180°C until the cheese begins to melt.
For the bun: coat the mushrooms first in the flour, followed by the eggs, then the breadcrumbs. Deep fry the crumbed mushrooms until the breadcrumbs turn a slight golden brown. Removed the mushrooms, then transfer onto a baking tray and bake in the oven for about 10 min until the mushrooms are cooked through.
To build the burger: place one mushroom inside facing up, layer this with the mixed salad leaves, then the tomato and gherkins. Top this with the beef Pattie and the second crumbed mushroom.
This can be served with either chips or salad, and serves 5.