Despite being a common take-away food, hamburgers have a long and interesting history. Although we now mainly associate them with America, the hamburger, like it’s fast-food cousin the hot dog, is actually of German origin. It is said that in the late 1800s, German immigrants brought their Hamburg Steak recipes with them to America. These were made with a mixture of ground meat and onions. Over time, this simple combination of a ground meat patty and a bread bun became the major product of a billion takeaway shops the world over. Okay, maybe that’s being a bit hyperbolic… but there are LOTS!
Above is a shot of the burgers we had for dinner tonight. I often make burgers close to a traditional Hamburg Steak recipe which I learnt and adapted from the Larousse Gastronomique. We used hand-ground sirloin for this because it was selling in the local supermarket for less than chuck steak (which is what I usually buy for burgers and meatloaves because it’s amongst the cheapest cuts available). At AU$8.98 a kilo I couldn’t resist making some great quality ground sirloin hamburgers. We topped our burgers with cheese, pickles, sliced onion, lettuce, beetroot, tomato, mayonnaise, homemade ketchup and American mustard. Our bread of choice were some homemade sourdough buns. The result was phenomenal. They were definitely some of the best burgers we’ve ever had – both at home and elsewhere. Here is the recipe I used for the Hamburg Steaks…
450g Sirloin Steak (you could use Chuck, Flank, Round, Rump, Topside, Blade)
2 small onions very finely diced
3 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup dried bread crumbs
1 egg lightly beaten
3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1 teaspoon salt
generous grinding of black pepper
grating of nutmeg (or 1/4 teaspoon of ground nutmeg)
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce (optional)
- Grind meat through a medium to fine mincer plate. Or, pulse in a food processor to a course mince. Alternatively, buy minced/ground meat ready to use.
- Heat butter in a pan over low to medium heat and when the foam subsides saute the onion until translucent and softened (about 5-8 minutes) – avoid browning. Remove from heat and leave to cool.
- When onions are cool add all remaining ingredients, including the onions, to the minced beef. Work in well with your hands until the mix is homogeneous and takes up the moisture.
- Shape into patties using slightly wet hands and a spatula. I made 8 thin patties about 8-10cm in diameter. If you like them a bit thicker make 4 or 6 from this recipe.
- Place in the refrigerator for an hour or two to help them firm up before cooking.
- To cook – heat some oil or butter in a pan and over medium to high heat and cook your patties to your desired level.
- I like to sprinkle on a little more salt and pepper on each side as the burgers cook.
- They should be nicely browned on each side. (Some cooks like to pass their burgers through flour first to ensure they won’t stick while cooking – this works well and makes the burger nice and crusty.)
Note: If you have bought supermarket mince then you should probably cook your burgers till well done as you don’t know how sterile the sellers equipment was. This is the advantage of grinding your own meat – rare burgers made with home-ground mince are generally no hygiene problem at all.
A traditional way of serving Hamburg Steaks – that makes them seem a world apart from the American take-away – is to place them in earthenware serving dishes. Top the Hamburg Steaks with sauteed onions and chopped parsley. Maybe offer a few homemade sauces based on beef stock – like tomato, mushroom, peppercorn, mustard jus or a plain rich brown sauce. Serve with some bread rolls and a salad or two and you would have an impressive meal – served with a beer of course!