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Sunday, 5 February 2012

The Red Carpet

Alrighty folks, so this is the Part II of To Aimee, Bumbles, Max and Erma, Delaware, Ohio and The Great American Bird, where I promised you that I’d follow with some interesting and creative suggestions on how to adorn the Turkey Burgers that we’d previously cooked.

It might sound boring, but I promise to keep you entertained – and well, have I ever let you down?

So, don’t run away please!

And my Vegetarian friends (of which I have many, many) – Stay! Please! Because, a lot of the ideas below can definitely be adapted to go with a whole bunch of veggie fillings. Which of course has just given me some serious subject matter for a Part III of this wonderful series....(Once you get me started, I can’t stop. Such a problem!)

But, let’s do the impossible and try and stay in focus, shall we?

See, here is the conundrum:

The Burger is iconic. The Grand-daddy of all foods, if there were such a thing. Everybody knows and loves The Burger.

But: there is the burger, a dime a dozen, available everywhere for very little. And then, there is The Burger. Of the Gourmet Variety. You want The Burger. Without Question.

Just like the movies, really. There are scores of movies that come out each year, all hopeful of becoming The Movie. But very few do. Most get forgotten, lost in a black hole of movie-hopefuls. And the handful that do? Well, these become Classics. They go down in History. And we use all these fabulous adjectives in the English language to describe them: most loved, most remembered, top 5, best movie, greatest film, all-time favourite, etc.

So, just like a great Movie, what makes a great Burger?
Well, yes – the Director (i.e. the Chef) definitely deserves due credit, but the most important part, the part that is visible and on screen, is that of the lead actor and/or actress. In the case of the burger, this is undeniably, the part of the Pattie. The pattie is the indisputable Star of the Show. And for the pattie to work, the meat needs to be fresh, it needs to be seasoned creatively, and it needs to be cooked just right.  Mess up the pattie, and you’ve lost the plot. So hopefully, from my previous post, we’ve gotten past this bit.

But – and here’s what’s interesting – just like in the movies, no matter how brilliant the performance of the lead star, for the movie to be a runaway success, you need the rest of the cast to perform too. Think about all the great movies you’ve seen. Everyone stepped up. Everyone did a great job with their respective roles.

And so, even though the pattie forms the heart and soul of the burger, there’s really much more that goes into it that simply cannot be ignored. So, a good burger experience, like a good movie, depends not just on the pattie, but also on everything else that accompanies it.

In other words - a perfect pattie alone, maketh not a perfect burger.

The role of these other, less talked about characters – the bread, the relishes, the garnishes – is to enhance, enrich and enliven the flavour of the pattie. These are the supporting cast of characters, without which the leading actor or actress, is less effective. They may be less prominent, but they are essential, nonetheless.

And then of course, there is one other fairly important matter to consider: Who says burgers must always be eaten the same way?

Honestly, why must that poor old pattie just sit there on one half of a boring old sesame-seed bun, while we pile on the usual dull cast of characters on top of it – i.e. an octogenarian shred of lettuce, a lonely slice of beefsteak tomato and a sad looking ring of raw onion?

Doesn’t the burger deserve a little better?


Right then. It’s time to roll out The Red Carpet!
So, without further ado, I present to you, my 5 movie ideas of the year!!

(All quantities below are meant to accompany the 8 Turkey Burgers I made here so if you’re making less of the patties, please adjust everything accordingly.)

1)      Casablanca

My first concept is a Moroccan inspired burger, stuffed into warm toasted pitas, and served with a generous dollop of tzatziki. I love this recipe because it really does redefine the traditional hamburger. Pita bread is wholesome and light, full of flavor (especially when toasted) and goes wonderfully with any kind of dense, cutlet-type stuffing, be it meat or vegetables or chickpeas (like falafel). As for tzatziki, I’ve always been a fan of this cool, creamy, garlicky dip. It’s one of those simple little dips, made in just a few minutes, that can skyrocket the taste of most things you add it to.

Here is what you need:

- 1 onion, cut into thick slices
- 4 wholemeal pitta breads, halved
- 1 tspn Olive oil
- Tzatziki sauce (recipe below)
 - Green salad leaves (please, the leaves should be fresh and young. Withering, eighty year old salad leaves do not taste good)

Heat a little oil in a skillet and cook the onion rounds so they are translucent and browned. The raw onion smell should no longer be there (very important if you want to have a conversation with another human being for the rest of the day).  Remove the onions, and in the same pan, lightly toast the pita bread so you get the heavenly aroma of just-baked bread. Do this for just a few seconds on either side, otherwise you risk the bread becoming hard.

Now, to make the tzatziki sauce, here’s what you need:

- 350g/12oz Greek yoghurt
- 2 tbsp lemon juice
- 2 cloves of garlic, grated finely
- dash of extra virgin olive oil
- paprika, for sprinkling

First, peel and de-seed the cucumber, then grate it finely. Now, squeeze out all the excess liquid from the grated cucumber. This is really important, otherwise your tzatziki will be watery, which is really no good! Combine the yoghurt, cucumber, lemon juice and garlic. Add a dash of olive oil and sprinkle with paprika.

Now, please resist the urge to zip through the whole pot of tzatziki with a basket of fresh bread!! It’s gonna be a hard one to resist, but I know your made of strong stuff!!

Instead, once your tzatziki is ready, go ahead and put your burger together. Simply stuff each pitta half with the burgers, onions and salad leaves and top it all a generous dollop of cool, refreshing tzatziki! Yum!

2)      Breakfast at Tiffany’s

My second concept is dedicated - no, not to the beautiful Audrey Hepburn, but - to a guy who sat next to me for 7 years and ate a variation of this for breakfast, everyday. Yup. You heard me. Every day, for 7 years. I don’t exaggerate.  

(Warning, this one’s rather indulgent, but if you do it once n a while, it won’t hurt. My muse for this recipe, though far from looking like Audrey Hepburn, is still in pretty good shape!!)

Here’s what you need:

- 4 tbsp tomato ketchup
- 4 tbsp light mayonnaise
- 8 Eggs
- 8 slices havarati (or any other spicy cheddar)
- 8 grilled rashers streaky smoked bacon  
- 8 croissants, halved

Here’s how you do it:

Heat a griddle or large frying pan, and without adding any extra oil, first fry the bacon. Remove from pan, when done, and use the same pan to fry the eggs as well. Next, heat the grill, place the croissants halves in it, insides down, so they get lightly toasted. Place the cooked burgers on a baking sheet, put a slice of havarati on each, then pop under the grill to melt. Sit the burgers on one croissant-half, place the bacon on top, and slide the fried eggs on top of the bacon.

Now, mix equal parts of ketchup and mayo together (this is divine stuff folks – try it as a dip for French Fries and you will just die and go to heaven), and spread on the other croissant half. Place it on top and dig in!

3)      The Godfather

My third concept is really where it all began. This is how I was introduced to the Turkey Burger, folks, so in my view, it’s a slam dunk at the Oscar’s – Best Movie, Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actor, Best Supporting Actress, Best Musical get my drift. But sentimentality aside, it definitely gets my vote for “Best Dressed On the Red Carpet!” Try it and let me know if you agree, cause honestly, dressing a Turkey Burger just doesn’t get better than this!

Here’s what you need:

- 8 multi-seeded bagels, halved
- 4 ounces soft cheese (cream cheese or goat cheese should work really well)
- 2 tbsp sun-dried tomato pesto
- 4 tomatoes, sliced
- 3 whole avocados, sliced
- One bunch fresh basil leaves
- Salt, pepper and lemon juice, to taste

Here’s how you do it:
Melt a teeny-weeny bit of butter in a frying over medium heat and toast the inside of the bagels until golden brown. The centre should be soft and the edges should be slightly crisp.
Stir together the goat cheese (or cream cheese) and the pesto until smooth. (By the way, this is an amaaaaaaaazing dip for some toasted pita bread or crackers. I’ve been known to blitz through an entire box in one go!). Spread a generous amount of the cheese spread on each bagel half. Place the burgers on the bottom half, then top with tomato slices and fresh basil leaves. Place the avocado slices on the top half. Sprinkle a little salt, pepper and lemon juice on the avocados, then bring the two bagel-halves together! Really Flippin’ Delicious!

4)      The Italian Job

My fourth concept is Italian inspired and combines roasted cherry tomatoes, mozzarella cheese, caramelized onion and fresh basil. This is a mucho delizioso recipe because it combines the different flavours together to really hit the spot. You have the rich caramel smokiness of the onions, the tartness of the tomatoes, the creaminess of the mozzarella and the subtle aromatic sweetness of the basil. Perfecto!!

Here’s what you need:

- 300g pack cherry tomatoes
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 3 onions , sliced
- 2 tbsp light muscovado sugar
- Bit of butter
- 1 tbsp mayonnaise
- 8 English Muffins, halved

Here’s how you do it:

Place the cherry tomatoes in a roasting tin. Drizzle over 1 tbsp of olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast for 12-15 minutes until just soft

To caramelise the onions, cook them with the sugar and butter over a very gentle heat for 30-40 minutes, stirring occasionally. Set aside. In the same pan, place the rolls downwards, so the insides get gently toasted.

Pepper the mayonnaise liberally and spread a good quantity of it on both halves of the roll. To assemble, place the burgers on the bottom half of the roll, then top with a thick slice of mozzarella, oven roasted cherry tomatoes and fresh basil leaves. Cover with the top half, and take a great big Italian-sized bite!

5)      The Road to Saigon

My fifth and final concept is an Asian twist on burgers, largely on account of the fact that I’ve become obsessed with Viet-Thai food of late. I want it for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and at all times in between.  This is an absolute PITA of course and it’s all thanks to Norav. Hmph. And if that little sentence makes no sense, then, well, you’ll just have to wait for my next post, called Norav’s Adventures with Thai Food, that’s coming up in just a day or two! Stay tuned!

Anyway, here’s what you need:

- Small bunch coriander , chopped
- 1 mango , diced
- 1 red chilli , finely chopped
- ½ lime , juiced
- Little Gem lettuce , to serve

Here’s how you do it:

So, firstly, for all the calorie conscious, no-carb readers out there – this one should get you to jump up and down in high excitement, because it’s a totally breadless burger. All you do is make some mango salsa, by mixing the diced mango, chilli and coriander with the lime juice. To assemble, place the burger on top of some little gem leaves and spoon over some mango salsa. I don’t know about the Road to Saigon, but after getting through this tasty monster, you’ll definitely be on your Road to Nirvana!

Well, that’s all for now folks. Five really simple ideas that will hopefully liven up your burger experience. The beauty of it all of course is that you can mix and match and add and subtract, and make your own little variations and adjustments to my ideas, let the creativity run wild, and come up with your own perfect combo of breads, relishes and garnishes!

Anyway, I started this post at night, and I’ve come back to it this morning, and in the 10 hours in between, my garden’s been blanketed in a bed of snow! It looks pristine and pure and untouched and clean! Of course what this means, is that going out anywhere today is going to be a royal pain. And of course, what that means is that I get a whole day to monkey around my kitchen with a view of my snow-covered garden, and make some great burgers! And then, pile the said burgers onto a large platter, curl up in front of the fireplace, AND?

You got it – watch a Great Movie!


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