Life Food & Drink

Thursday 28 August 2014

Homemade burgers best bet

Published 29/01/2013 | 06:00

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I have a childish sense of humour, and I've been getting a giggle out of the Shergar burger jokes surrounding the horse meat found in supermarket burgers.

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Visiting my family in South Africa, I was convinced it would all be sorted out by the time I returned to Ireland.

And then karma came to bite me on the behind (served me right for being so smug). On Sunday I was served a rotten beef burger in a four-star hotel. It was so rancid I could actually smell it. But I was so hungry by the time it arrived that I just took a bite – and quickly realised there was something wrong. Very wrong. You can imagine how well I brushed my teeth after spitting it out.

As a chef, and a professional who teaches HACCP (a food safety and traceability system), I know the ramifications of spoilt food better than most. Food poisoning is potentially fatal, with small children, the elderly and pregnant women being the most vulnerable.

I threw a Mariah Carey-sized diva strop and the meat was sent off to a lab to be analysed. To date, I am still awaiting the results, but what did emerge from the investigation was that I had been served a lamb burger, not a beef burger.

The kitchen had run out of beef mince, so had used some lamb mince allocated for tapas meatballs. Creative, to say the least. So while it isn't horse meat, I do know what it is like to be deliberately deceived by the food provider. It is a horrible feeling and it makes me very angry as it is so dangerous.

Part of the outcry over the horse meat burger scandal is because many people (except the French and a few other nationalities) are appalled at the idea of eating horse meat. I personally wouldn't like to eat horse meat, but I have a policy of not turning my nose up at traditional dishes, because it is dinner for someone in the world.

The second reason, and the most alarming aspect of the debacle, is that consumers are being grossly deceived by retailers and food producers.

You'll make yourself very angry and sick to the stomach if you dwell on this story. So let's focus on the positive and create our own fresh, delicious (and fully traceable) burgers at home.

THE love affair with the new gourmet burger trend is far from abating. With good quality ingredients and some novel flavour combinations, a well-made burger can be a thing of joy. Add some tasty sides and you have a real treat. My friends and I practically have a brass plaque on our favourite table in Real Gourmet Burger in Dun Laoghaire, a favourite Friday afternoon treat.

Burgers can be tricky to get right, though – and preparing and cooking them poses a whole range of food safety issues. So follow my top tips for the best homemade burgers.

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