TGIFOOD

LIGHT IN THE DARKNESS

What’s cooking today: The Super De Ruyter Burger

What’s cooking today: The Super De Ruyter Burger
Tony Jackman’s Super De Ruyter Burger. (Photo: Tony Jackman)

I thought of former Eskom chief André de Ruyter while cooking in the dark on Sunday night and planning to make beef burgers. This is the kind of burger you need after a day of fending off the slings and arrows of those who would destroy you. A no-nonsense burger made of fortitude, resilience and an unwavering conscience. It’s the Super De Ruyter.

When the power is off and it’s supper time, you have to be inventive and use whatever tools you have creatively. So we cook on gas, we light fires, we make a plan. We do our prep while there’s still fair light and we assemble the bits and pieces we will need when it’s time to cook and there’s no light. We’re resilient. We know how to byt vas. To be stoic. So, yes, this is also a vasbyt burger.

It’s Sunday evening. Rolling blackouts have kicked in but you have to cook something, somehow. We’re all finding ourselves in this dilemma more and more, especially if rolling blackouts occur at the time of day when most of us are trying to feed the family.

It was a pleasant evening so I lit a fire and planned to make beef burgers entirely on the grid, or more particularly on a plancha placed on a grid over hot coals. To provide some light I had a common-or-garden solar lamp which I hung on a hook next to the braai. I had sliced onion and tomato while there was still reasonable light in the kitchen. I had mixed the beef mince with onion and tomato and herbs and the like. I’d bound it with breadcrumbs and egg.

My rolling blackout ducks were in a row.

These are things to be considered: cooking in the dark can be dangerous. You could slice a finger off simply because the light is dim. So try to remember to do your vegetable slicing and chopping when you still have light, and store them in the fridge so that you don’t harm yourself by having a go at them in dim or no light. Even if you have one of those overly bright Magneto lamps that you hope no one will shine right in your eyes. (Yes, they provide a lot of light, but would somebody please design one that lights a broad area without blinding you?)

For the burger buns, buy them commercially but try to choose an ideal bun for burgers. That means that the insides should be soft but the exterior needs a bit of crunch. It should be fairly large in circumference but shouldn’t be so thick that it would be hard to bite into, or so soft that it will crumble and fall apart. The simple seeded buns I found at my local Spar did the trick perfectly. The very last thing you need is an overly chewy bread roll.

I have not prescribed a specific sauce. You can choose whatever you like: tomato sauce, mustard, or the two of those mixed; a little chutney; mayonnaise mixed with chutney, or tabasco sriracha mixed with any of the aforementioned. Whichever you choose, smear it on the burger bun before piling the burger and other items on. And of course you can add pickles and/or lettuce if you like. I’m not a fan of lettuce on my burgers but knock yourself out.

(Makes 4)

Ingredients

4 burger buns

For the burger mince:

400 g lean beef mince

1 medium onion, chopped very finely

2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

1 medium tomato, core removed and finely chopped

1 Tbsp dried herbs (I used Robertsons Italian herbs, nothing wrong with that)

2 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce

1 tsp dried chilli flakes

½ tsp ground ginger

Salt and black pepper to taste (be generous)

2 slices bread soaked in a little milk for a few minutes

Flour, enough to bind

1 large egg, beaten

A little cooking oil

To assemble:

Butter for the buns

Sauce/s of your choice

2 extra tomato slices per burger

2 extra onion slices per burger

Method

Soak the bread in a little milk. Prepare the tomato and onion and the ingredients for the mince mixture.

With clean hands, in a bowl, mix the mince with the chopped onion, garlic and tomato until well combined. Add the herbs, Worcestershire sauce, spices and salt and pepper and mix again with your hands. Squeeze out the milk from the soaked bread and crumble it in with your fingers. Add about ⅓ cup plain flour (sprinkle it on) and work it in with your hands. Then add the beaten egg and, yes, still working with your hands, mix it until well combined. Now you’ll have to judge whether it needs more flour. You want the mixture to hold together while still being quite soft, as this makes for a very pleasing burger patty.

Divide the mixture into four and form four round balls with your palms, then roll them in flour to hold them together, and finally push them down on a flat surface, gently, with your palms.

Have everything at the braai side so you can get the job done efficiently. You need a spatula too. Make sure you have lots of super hot coals ready.

Once all the above prep has been done, put a plancha or other suitable flat metal grill or pan on a grid above the coals, not too far from the coals as you need strong heat. You just need something you can cook the onion and tomato on first, followed by the burger patties.

Add some cooking oil and wait for it to get hot. Put the onion and tomato slices on and cook on both sides until the tomato is slightly cooked but not so soft that the slices disintegrate, and the onion until lightly browned. Remove to a side dish.

Check that the coals are really hot (move them around and rake them so they’re right beneath the plancha or pan). If necessary, lower the grid.

Put the patties on and cook for about 5 to 7 minutes on one side, or until they are clearly firm and solid when pushed slightly and aren’t sticking to the pan. Turn them carefully and cook for another 3 or 4 minutes. That should be enough but use your eye and common sense to assess whether they’re done. While the patties are cooking, slice the buns through the middle and put them outer-side-down on the grid to give them a bit of crunch and for the heat to sort of “wake them up”.

Butter the insides of the buns and smear your choice of sauce on the lower half. Add the patty, then the tomato, then the onion. Top it or place the upper half at a jaunty angle, which always looks good. Drink a toast to one of the few heroes we seem to have left. DM/TGIFood

Follow Tony Jackman on Instagram @tony_jackman_cooks.

This dish is photographed on an oval plate by Mervyn Gers Ceramics.

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