Neil Perry’s ‘Hamburger’

Serves 4

Whilst the 2013/2014/2015 Sydney hamburger craze will probably go the direction of the 2013/2014/2015 Sydney dumpling craze, for me at least, it has given me cause to reconsider the roots of a good – a great burger – and what it is all about.

Because if you have a burger at Chur Burger, or Neil Perry’s Burger Project or Sean Connolly’s Parlour Burger (with the one-day viral wonder, the Black Widow Burger), their core burger is about simplicity and quality of ingredient.

And that is perhaps where I have gone astray.

For years, my signature burger dish has been about two things:

  1. The paddy:
    1. 1kg Beef Mince
    1. 1 egg
    1. (Red) online, diced
    1. Handful of parsley, chopped
    1. A number of really good splashes of Worcestershire Sauce (and therefore the flavour)
    1. A heaped teaspoon of Horseradish
    1. Seasoning
  2. The balance:Grilled (BBQ) slices of white toast
    1. Torn cos lettuce
    1. Sliced tomato
    1. Sliced cheddar cheese to melt on the BBQed paddies
    1. Ketchup (not tomato sauce), good egg mayo and American Mustard

And whilst, if really flame grilled over a high heat and served medium-rare, this is a cracker burger, it isn’t the essence of burger. It is like customising mac and cheese when the purity of proper mac and cheese needs no improvement. It is like adding bacon to a Big Mac. There isn’t necessarily a need.

Worst still, I was using crappy mince from the supermarket. And the mince is where the flavour is!

Indeed, reflecting back on all the burgers I have cooked over the years – including the Tuscan Burger than won me a gong at a Wiliam food day – they have all been about stuffing ingredients into the patty. And using crudolla mince.

This burger recipe by Neil Perry is your classic mac and cheese. It will surprise nobody except that freshness of the meat makes the difference. Here, you MUST instruct your butcher to find his finest, most marbled piece of chuck steak. And then to grind it, fresh, on his coarsest setting.

At which point, you need to sprint home to cook it.

Get back to basics, invest in the meat, buy some really good buns (not that crap at Woolies), open a Corona with some lime and eat this bad boy in the sun. Seriously, this is good!

Oh, and if you can BBQ your buns and especially bacon on the BBQ as well, the taste simply gets even better by a factor of 10: Neil Perry says so himself!

I have slightly adjusted his recipe.

Ingredients

1kg of freshly ground chuck steak
½ – ¾ tsp sea salt
Extra virgin olive oil
4 hamburger buns, split and toasted (ideally grilled on the BBQ)
Ketchup, American Mustard and egg mayonnaise
4 slices gruyere (or sliced cheddar if gruyere not on tap)
8 rashes of good bacon
Lettuce and tomato slices
Sliced, picked cucumber (optional)
Freshly ground pepper

Method

  1. The bacon needs to be really, really crispy and this will take time. Depending on timings, start cooking the bacon in a pan or prepare it ready for the BBQ, ensuring that in either event, it is cooked to the point of snapping in two.
  2. Place the meat in a bowl and sprinkle with salt. Mix gentle and divide into 4. Move each portion between your hands for a minute to make a firm, though not overworked patty. Shape into a ball. Gently flatten to form patties around 3cm thick. (If you are refrigerating, cover in cling wrap and ensure that they are bought back to room temperature prior to cooking).
  3. Heat your BBQ (or pan) to very hot. Grill the burger for 2 minutes on one side, flip and another 3 minutes, placing a slice of cheese on top of each paddy for the final minute of cooking. Let the patties rest for 5 minutes and whilst doing so, grill your buns, taking note of your bacon depending on however you are cooking it.
  4. Assemble your bad boy; bottom of bun, mayo and mustard, patty, lettuce and tomato, bacon, ketchup, grind of pepper, top of bun.
  5. Close your eyes and eat.

Roger Verge’s Rib of Beef with Shallots and Vinegar

Serves 2

My parents cooked this for Nat and me a few months back, remarking that it was simply the finest beef dish around.

And it is.

Its genius is in its simplicity and the beauty of its raw presentation; a cut of rare, primal meat on the bone, the butter and shallots heaped on top, some potato gratin and maybe some sautéed beans or asparagus or Brussel sprouts. This dish talks to why Roger Verge was such a genius chef.

This is a dish – commensurate with the relative cost of the cut of beef as well as the generally wonderful occasion that always surrounds itself around standing rib eye – that demands a very good bottle of red and a doubling of the dish to ensure that there are at least four of you to enjoy it.

I have cooked this for six people and it really is just a matter of multiplying the ingredients as need be.

A worthy note, whilst Haverick Meats (or Vics, or some other good wholesaler) will always be the pick for the finest standing rib eye (and the aged, standing rib eye at Haverick Meats is extraordinary: served at Cut, Chophouse and the finest steak restaurants in Sydney), if you can’t make it there or to another quality butcher, Woolworths now sells rib eye. It is vacuum sealed, two servings per bag and it really quite good and of course, really quite convenient.

Do not stop, do not go to jail, collect $200 and cook this, this weekend.

Ingredients

1 rib of beef weighing 800gm – 1000gm (essentially, a two bone thick cut), cut into individual portions (i.e. one bone per person)
3 finely chopped shallots
2 tbs (red) wine vinegar
2 tbs chopped parsley
70g butter
Salt and pepper

Method

  1. Season the beef with the salt and pepper and rub in the seasoning with the tips of your fingers.
  2. Heat a generous tablespoon of the butter in a frying-pan and when it begins to foam, put in the beef. Lower the heat so that the beef does not acquire a hard crust and cook for 5 – 10 minutes per side, depending on the thickness of the meat and how well done you want it; rare to medium-rare I hope, something you should be able to determine by pressing down on the meat in the traditional method.
  3. Remove the meat and keep it hot. To do this, put it on an upturned plate inside a larger one and cover the whole thing with an upturned bowl. This allows the meat to rest without drowning in its own juices, which would spoil the texture.
  4. Pour away the cooking butter and replace it with the remaining butter, together with the chopped shallots. Return to a medium heat and allow to soften for 5 minutes without allowing the shallots to brown. Add the wine vinegar and cook for another 5 minutes, stirring with a wooden spoon. Season with a few grinds of pepper and salt as necessary. Add the chopped parsley and the juices which have run out of the meat. Mix well and pour into a sauceboat, ensuring it remains hot.
  5. Cut the beef in thick slices, giving each person and equal serving of lean and fat. Serve very hot, accompanied by the shallot sauce.

For what it is worth, Mr Verge goes on to explain that the meat really doesn’t need much more than a ‘salad of curly endive seasoned with a mustardy vinaigrette’. In fact, in his recipe, he ‘promises you splendid meal’ if the ‘wine is cool and fresh’.

No doubt, though I served this with sautéed asparagus and scalloped potatoes (potatoes and cream) and we drank red wine.

And with my approach, I also, can promise a splendid meal and afternoon.

Gordon Ramsay’s Slow Braised Beef Cheeks (Ragu) with Pappardelle

Serves 6

Credit where credit is due.

This is an amazing dish; an amazing braise. And I didn’t even cook it.

Nat did. For my 36th birthday.

A good ragu is about the length of the cooking time and this is where Nat nailed it. Six hours in, there was a ripple of fear that the beef cheeks hadn’t broken down, still solid and in one piece each; two hours later and a light tap, and they collapsed into moorish, unbelievably tender meat.

And why not keep cooking on a low heat, right up until dinner? Which is what we did. Time is your friend and beef cheeks love to sit and braise away.

During my childhood and teen years, my mother cooked Pork in Milk for my every birthday; it was my annual request and 20 or more years on, I can still taste it.

This ragu has now replaced my annual pork offering and I can’t wait to cook it – or have it cooked for me – again and again and again.

Ingredients

Olive oil, for frying
1kg of beef cheeks (in this instance, don’t substitute another cut of beef; or try lamb shanks if that is all you can get)
1 onion, peeled and roughly cut
2 garlic cloves, peeled and roughly crushed
1 bay leaf (or two dried if you can’t get fresh)
400ml red wine (you can safely use a bit more here)
1x 400gm tin chopped tomatoes
500ml beef stock
500gm dried pappardelle
Handful of parsley, chopped
Salt and pepper

Method

  1. Heat the oil in a heavy pan; season the meat and brown on all sides. Set aside.
  2. In the same pan, brown the onions, garlic and bay leaf until just softened and starting to brown a little.
  3. Return the meat to the pan and add the wine to deglaze.
  4. Allow it to reduce a little and add the stock and tomatoes; season with salt and pepper. Bring to a simmer and then turn the heat down.
  5. Stir occasionally for the next four hours, ensuring the meat is not drying out and adding water as need be. The meat is ready when it falls apart; keep cooking as long as you want. Time is your friend!
  6. Cook the pasta in salted water.
  7. Gently stir through the sauce with the pasta and garnish with parsley.
  8. Happy birthday.

Neil Perry’s beef tagine with fried cauliflower

Neil Perry’s beef tagine with fried cauliflower

Serves 4

Holy shit, this is a great dish. The beef is so hot and intense, it is also a revelation and much more than your bog standard apricot and beef tagine in stock. It should surprise nobody that for me, Neil Perry is one of the best chefs around.

I thought about adding apricots to the dish to give it sweetness, though the raisins in the cous cous were more than ample. (I should have slightly adapted this recipe to be as I made it.)

Sprinkle with some toasted, slivered almonds and a handfuls of coriander and this is one of those meals where few words will be said.

Ingredients

1.2kg beef chuck, cut into 2.5cm dice
5 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 x 400g tin peeled, chopped tomatoes
1 small cauliflower, broken into florets
½⁄ tsp freshly ground black pepper
Good handful of tast
Chopped coriander

Chermoula

1 medium Spanish onion, peeled and roughly chopped
4 garlic cloves
Sea salt
1/2 tsp ground turmeric
5 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 tbsp ras-el-hanout
1 tsp sweet paprika
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cumin
2 tbsp coriander leaves
2 tbsp flat leaf parsley
1 tsp crushed dried chillies
Juice of 1 lemon

Cous Cous

Cous Cous
Chicken Stock
Raisins

Method

  1. To make the chermoula, puree all the ingredients together in a food processor until relatively smooth.
  2. Marinate the diced beef in the chermoula paste for one hour.
  3. Heat three tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil in a saucepan big enough to fit all the beef. When just smoking, add the beef (shaking off as much marinade as you can, though reserving the marinade) and quickly saute to colour and seal well on all sides.
  4. Add the chopped tomatoes and a cup of water to the bowl the beef was previously marinating in, mix well and add to the saucepan. Bring to the boil then turn down to a simmer, cover with a tight-fitting lid and cook gently for about two to two-and-a-half hours or until beef is tender.
  5. Toast the almonds and prepare the cous cous with the stock and the raisins.
  6. When the beef is nearly ready, bring a pot of salted water to the boil, add the cauliflower florets and cook for one minute. Drain the cauliflower well, allow to dry then shallow-fry the cauliflower in a small saucepan with the remaining olive oil.
  7. To serve, spoon the cous cous into bowls, ladle the beef on-top, sprinkle with the browned cauliflower, give a good grind of pepper and sprinkle with the coriander and almonds.