Burger Culture


In this gloomy economic climate as one multinational after another announces staggering losses, guess what company has not merely survived but is reporting a staggering increase in business – McDonald’s. The fast food chain started in 1966 by Ronald McDonald has announced plans to open even more outlets this year.

Despite the lambasting McDonalds have had in recent years with best selling books like Fast Food Nation and films like Supersize me, McDonalds has taken stock, picked itself up, dusted itself down and not only survived but prevailed in a way that is the envy not only of other restaurants but many food chains not least Starbucks and Dunkin Donuts whose business it is now affecting with it’s new McCafes express coffee drinks.
The strategic management team at McDonalds heeded well to the criticism, they listened to and observed their customers, they introduced salads, wraps, carefully tweaked the menu but never lost sight of their core product. In this economical crisis they promote their menu outside featuring low cost food. Inside they promote their happy meal combos. Why? Because the French fries and soft drinks make more profit – they are the high margin items. The same basic business principal operates in a supermarket. Low margin commodity items such as milk are far from the entrance where the high margin more profitable sweeties are piled high close to the cash register. Much to annoyance of parents with young children with lots of pester power. McDonalds must be admired for their achievement but with every success comes responsibility. Now that so many are depending on McDonald’s to feel their families in these desperate times, the meal must be truly formulated to nourish as well as fill.
McDonalds doesn’t pretend to be haute cuisine. The public are well and truly voting with their feet. The McDonalds formula of consistency and value is a resounding success. The four factors for their success are speed, accuracy of order system, cleanliness and temperature. Most people like their food hot not lukewarm but too hot either.
Taste is not necessarily a big issue, McDonalds customers have a pretty broad range of acceptability galling though it may be for all the whole foodies.
The concept is brilliant and its performance during these challenging economic times is truly proof of the pudding.

If you like to make great burgers and chips at home here’s how.

Buying Mince

Be really fussy – buy fresh meat that has been minced on the day. If mince is a day or two old it will taste sour and acrid. It doesn’t have to be round steak, flap or flank are fine. It sounds politically incorrect but for real flavour and succulence, mince meat should contain 20 to 25% fat.
Basic Hamburgers

The hamburger, the universal fast food, immortalized by the Americans and enjoyed by the rich and famous, the down and outs and all the rest of the world as well.
It can be a feast or a travesty simply a burger in a bun or an elaborate creation with lots of sauces and pickles.
The secret of really good hamburgers is the quality of the mince, it doesn’t need to be an expensive cut but it is essential to use the beef on the day it is minced. A very small percentage of fat in the mince will make the hamburgers sweet and juicy.

Serves 4-6

1/2 oz (15g) butter
3 ozs (75g) onion, chopped (optional)
1 lb (450g) freshly minced beef – flank, chump or shin would be perfect
1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
1 teaspoon finely chopped parsley
salt and freshly ground pepper
pork caul fat, optional
extra virgin olive oil

burger buns

Melt the butter in a heavy bottomed saucepan, toss in the chopped onion, cover and sweat until soft but not coloured, allow to get cold. Meanwhile, mix the mince, add the herbs. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper, add the cold onions. Mix well. Fry off a tiny bit on the pan to check the seasoning, correct if necessary.  Then shape into hamburgers, 4-6 depending on the size you require. Wrap each one in caul fat if using.  Cook to your taste in a little oil on a grill pan or medium-hot pan or, turning once. I prefer to use a grill pan because I love the way it sears the burgers.

Watch Point:
If the hamburgers are to be wrapped in caul fat, wrap loosely to allow for contraction during cooking.
If the hamburgers are being cooked in batches make sure to wash and dry the pan between batches.

Useful Tip

Use good salt, Maldon or plain cooking salt and freshly ground pepper.
A little finely chopped onion is a delicious addition but it’s best to sweat it in a little butter or olive oil first otherwise raw onion will remain rawish even when the rest of the burger is cooked.
Hamburgers with Mushroom a la Crème and Crispy Bacon

Several people are doing really good bacon these nowadays. Gubbeen (028) 28231 and Caherbeg (023) 48474 have a cult following, but you may not be so familiar with Caroline Rigney from Curragh Chase near Limerick (061) 393988 and Noreen and Martin Conroy from Woodside Farm (087) 2767206 from East Cork who sell from the Farmers Market in Midleton.

Serves 6

6 homemade burgers (see recipe)
Mushroom a la Crème, (see recipe)
6 really good streaky rashers
freshly chopped parsley

Sizzling chips
Green salad and cherry tomatoes

burger buns

Cook the burgers to your taste. Meanwhile fry or grill the rashers until crisp and golden, then cut each one in half.   Heat the mushroom a la Crème.

To Serve
Put a grilled bun on each plate, spoon 2 – 3 tablespoons of Mushroom a la Creme over each.  Top each hamburger with 2 pieces of crispy bacon and a sprinkling of freshly chopped parsley.

Serve with some sizzling chips and a green salad and perhaps a few cherry tomatoes.
Mushroom a la Crème

Serves 4

1/2-1 oz (15-25g) butter
3 ozs (75g) onion, finely chopped
1/2 lb (225g) mushrooms, sliced
4fl ozs (100ml) cream
freshly chopped parsley
1/2 tablespoon freshly chopped chives (optional)
a squeeze of lemon juice
salt and freshly ground pepper

Melt the butter in a heavy saucepan until it foams.  Add the chopped onions, cover and sweat on a gentle heat for 5-10 minutes or until quite soft but not coloured.  Meanwhile cook the sliced mushrooms in a little butter, in a hot frying pan in batches if necessary.  Season each batch with salt, freshly ground pepper and a tiny squeeze of lemon juice.  Add the mushrooms to the onions in the saucepan, then add the cream and allow to bubble for a few minutes.  Thicken with a little roux to a light coating consistency.  Taste and correct the seasoning, and add parsley and chives if used.

Note: Mushroom a la crème may be served as a vegetable, or as a filling for vol au vents, bouchees or pancakes or as a sauce for pasta.  It may be used as an enrichment for casseroles and stews or, by adding a little more cream or stock, may be served as a sauce with beef, lamb, chicken or veal.  A crushed clove of garlic may be added while the onions are sweating.

Mushroom a la Crème keeps well in the fridge for 4-5 days.

Debbie Shaw’s Asian Chilli Chicken Burgers with Fresh Coriander

This is a delicious and healthy alternative to beef burgers, full of fresh aromatic Asian flavours.

Makes: 4 medium sized bugers.

400g (14oz) minced free-range organic chicken (thigh, leg, breast meat or a mixture)
50g (2oz) minced pork belly
50g (2oz) red onion, finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
½ to 1 hot red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped (optional)
1 tblsp fresh lime juice
2 tblsp chopped fresh coriander (substitute basil if you prefer)
1 dessertspoon oyster sauce
1 dessertspoon soya sauce
1 dessertspoon of fish sauce
1 dessertspoon toasted sesame seed oil
1 tspn salt
1 small free range egg

Sweet Chilli Yoghurt dip. (See Fool Proof Food)

Ask your butcher to mince some chicken for you. Alternatively finely chop 400g (14oz) of de-boned and skinned chicken breast/thighs/legs by hand or pulse in a food processor (leaving some texture) Add the minced pork, onion, garlic, ginger, chilli, lime juice, coriander, oyster sauce, soya sauce, sesame oil, fish sauce, beaten egg and salt. Mix well, shape into flattish burgers and chill for 1-2 hours to firm up. If using immediately, use a small whisked egg to bind the ingredients. Heat a grill pan, when smoking hot add a little extra virgin olive oil or vegetable oil and brown the burger for 3 minutes on each side, then reduce the heat and cook the burger through, turning frequently. Serve with crispy lettuce, slices of vine ripened tomato and sweet chilli yoghurt dip in a lightly toasted ciabatta roll or bagel.
Rory O’Connell’s Spicy Lamb Burgers with Yoghurt, Mint Raita and Pitta Bread

Serve in warm pitta bread or mini burger buns, with salad leaves, tomato salad and fresh mint and yoghurt dressing.

Makes about 12

4 tablespoons fresh coriander chopped
2 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
175g (6oz) onions, peeled and finely chopped
1 small red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
1 kg (2¼ lb) minced lamb
2 teaspoon freshly ground cumin
1 teaspoon freshly ground turmeric
1 teaspoon freshly ground coriander
1 free-range egg, beaten
salt and freshly ground pepper

12 pita bread

Heat the olive oil in a pan on a medium heat. Cook the onion and chilli until soft and golden. Allow to cool a little.

Mix all the ingredients in a large bowl, season well with salt and freshly ground pepper. Stir until thoroughly mixed. Divide the mixture into burgers, shaping them as you wish; but it should make about 12.

Cook on a frying pan in a little extra virgin olive oil or on a baking sheet under a hot grill for 3-4 mins on each side or on a barbeque.

Serve each spicy lamb burger in a warm pitta with some fresh salad leaves, tomato salad and cucumber and mint raita.

Hamburgers with Blue Cheese, Sweet Cucumber Salad and Tomato Relish

Serves 4-6

Basic burgers (see recipe)
Little Irish Blue Cheese, eg. Cashel Blue or Chetwynd

Sweet Cucumber Salad
4 ozs (110g) approx. cucumber, thinly sliced
1 dessertspoon sugar
a good pinch of salt
1 1/3 fl ozs (31.5 ml) white wine vinegar

To Serve
Ballymaloe Country Relish* or a good homemade tomato chutney
Green salad
Freshly cooked chips (optional)
Marigold petals (Calendula Officinalis)

4-6 burger buns

First make the cucumber salad. Put the sliced cucumber into a bowl add the sugar, salt and wine vinegar and mix well. Place in a tightly covered container in the refrigerator and leave for at least 2 hours.

Meanwhile make the hamburger mixture. When shaping the hamburgers put a blob of Blue cheese into the centre of each one and seal well.  Cook the burgers to your taste.

To Serve: Split and chargrill the buns, put the base on a warm plate, put a freshly cooked blue cheese burger on top, arrange some cucumber salad on top of the burger and put a spoonful of Ballymaloe Country Relish on the side. Some sizzling chips and a little tossed green salad would also be delicious. If you happen to have a few common marigold petals sprinkle them over the top of the salad for extra posh!

* Ballymaloe Country Relish is available in shops countrywide, if unavailable in your area, contact: Yasmin Hyde, Glanmire, Co Cork, phone: (021) 4354810.
Fool Proof Food

Sweet Chilli Yoghurt Dip

Mix the following ingredients together and chill

2 tblspns Thai sweet chilli sauce
2 tblspns of organic natural yoghurt
4 tblspns homemade or bought mayonnaise
2 crushed cloves of garlic
1 tblspn chopped fresh coriander (substitute basil if you prefer)

Hot Tips

Practical Allotment Gardening Course

Ightermurragh Garden Allotments Ladysbridge, East Cork. Five week course starting
Saturday 7th March, 2009 at 11am. Planning plot, preparation of seed bed, planting early crops, sowing and pruning of fruit bushes. Grow your own fruit and vegetables, you don’t need a garden, precultivated ready to sow plots will be provided. €75.00 for five week course with reduced rates for plot holders.

Course taught by:  Michael Brenock B.Agric (Hort) and Donal Murphy B.Agric and Liam Murphy (Owner) Telephone Liam 021-4667330   Mob 086 3003810
Booking essential.

Spring Lamb at the Nautilis

The Nautilis Restaurant at Inn by the Harbour in Ballycotton have reopened after a winter break. Try their delicious new Moroccan Lamb dish made with locally sourced spring lamb. Booking essential (021) 4646 768.
Reducing your Carbon Footprint

Feidhlim Harty sets out some straightforward and very easy ways to reduce your rubbish by a surprising amount – saving you money and helping the planet with his new book ‘Get Rid of Your Bin and Save Money’
Published by Mercier Press ISBN no 978-185635-626-8
Thrifty Tip

Buy a whole chicken rather than chicken pieces. Then you can use the carcass for stock to make delicious soups and stews. Sometimes you can buy bags of giblets (necks, hearts and gizzards) very cheaply. They add greatly to the flavour of the stock. The cooked gizzards are delicious tossed in hot olive oil, served on tossed salad leaves with a few croutons, one of my favourite starter salads.

About the author

Darina Allen
By Darina Allen


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