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Archive for April, 2010

I may have mentioned in the past that the boyfriend is slightly obsessed with that pinnacle of culinary achievement, the burger. This means that when I ask him what he fancies me cooking for dinner, he will often reply: “Something light. Like salad. Mmmmm, lots of salad. Maybe with burgers.”

However, I am a much less daring burger-maker than he is, and require gentle nudging to attempt adventurous recipes, like the divine umami turkey burgers I wrote about last year. So he gets full credit for the fabulous smash-burgers we had last week. You can read the full explanation here, but the general idea is to form your burger mixture (the simpler the better: good beef, seasoning, a little soy sauce, possibly some garlic and/or parsley) into slightly-larger than-golfball-sized spheres, rest them in the fridge, then when the time comes to cook them, place them in a very hot pan, wait a few seconds… then viciously squish them before turning. The result is burgers of a modest size, thinner than average, yet incomparably juicy, crisp without and rare within. Fantastic.

On the subject of rare burgers, a finger-wag in the direction of Cattle Grid in Balham, which has a policy of not serving its burgers pink because “they’ve got raw egg in them”. Now, there are good food safety reasons for not eating burgers rare, but they’ve got nothing to do with egg. Beef and lamb, unlike chicken, don’t harbour bacteria within the meat, only on its surface. This is why you can eat a steak blood-rare – the brief hot sear of the outside is enough to kill any nasties on the surface of the meat, and the inside is bug-free anyway; whereas chicken must be cooked through to destroy the baceria in its flesh. However, mince the meat and the situation changes – any nasties on the surface of the meat are now mixed through the mince, free to multiply at will, and they won’t be destroyed other than by thorough cooking. So it’s fair to say that if you want your burger rare, there’s a risk from the bacteria that will be alive and well in the meat. Eggs, on the other hand, if they bear the lion stamp, are from hens that have been vaccinated against salmonella and are therefore completely safe to eat raw, even if you’re pregnant. So please get your facts straight, Cattle Grid – but kudos to your chefs, who are happy to break the rules in a cavalier fashion of which I thoroughly approve, and serve very rare burgers indeed if requested. Presumably they reckon that if we’ve died of food poisoning, we can’t sue.

You’ll find fantastic burgers, served as pink as you wish, at The Herne Tavern. It’s the sister pub of The Palmerston, where we often have a drink before going to stuff ourselves with meze and barbequed lamb at Hisar, and well worth the trek to the farthest reaches of SE22. If you have children, they’ll love the spacious garden and adventure-playground outside; if, like us, you’d rather be surrounded by the imps of Satan, then go late in the evening. The food here is excellent, sensibly priced and generously portioned. I did have to send my steak back to the kitchen because although rare as requested, it hadn’t been cooked quite quickly enough, so lacked the necessary crust, but the second attempt was perfect, and came with fresh chips. (Anyway, I always send steak back. I am not going to be allowed to order it any more. The burger, as I’ve said, was perfect.) Lovely creme brulee too, and a really imaginative wine list. We’ll be back.

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