Burgers are quick and easy for summer eating and the sky's the limit when it comes to choosing ingredients, says Annabel Langbein.
Are you a Tuk Tuk burger fan, or is it a Sweet Baby Cheesus burger that takes your fancy? How about a Crabalicious burger, an It's Nacho Usual Burger, or a Poutine' on the Ritz? I kind of like the sound of a This Little Piggy Has Seoul burger myself.
At Welly on a Plate last year there were 232 different burger offerings from as many different restaurants in the city, each revealing countless ways to take a burger to greatness.
Martinborough's Cafe Medici was the winner of the WOAP Burger Wellington competition with the Prawn Underbelly — king prawn toast with caramelised pork belly, Asian pickles and house-made sweet chilli dressing in a sesame and buttermilk bun with toffee crackling and Sichuan pepper fries.
Leroy's Bar took second place with their Lucy's Got Dragon Breath burger, a bacon-and-cheddar-stuffed beef patty with chicken, fried onion rings, dill pickles, American cheese, cheddar mayonnaise and barbecue sauce in a milk bun, with homemade barbecue kettle fries and onion dip. And third place went to Sweet Release Cafe for their Jacked Up vegan burger, made with barbecued jackfruit, seitan rib with coleslaw, potato chips and house-made butter and aioli on a brioche bun.
Perhaps more than any other dish, the burger has come to define summer (anytime!) eating, and for so many good reasons. There are no rules in its free-spirited and creative construction beyond the fact that it needs to taste good. The stacked filling allows you to construct your burger just the way you like it: with soft green salad or crunchy slaw; tomato sauce, aioli or guacamole; or with or without that controversial beetroot — you choose. The assemble-your-own option always gets a big tick and is especially useful if you're feeding kids or a crowd.
You can change the flavours of your star ingredient to whatever ethnic profile you fancy, so even though the framework is the same and you can use many of the same everyday ingredients, your burger can taste different every time.
But probably the greatest appeal of the burger is that it's informal, friendly, no-fuss fare you can eat in your hands. No table setting is needed and no plates either, unless you want them. This portable, go-anywhere meal is perfect summer food — easy to make, fun and delicious to eat and an inexpensive way to feed a crowd. And if you need a low-carb option for a coeliac or gluten-free friend or family member, take a cue from Burger Burger and create a bunless-burger using cos lettuce or iceberg as a wrap.
Banh Mi Burgers
Ready in 30 mins + marinating
These patties are infused with aromatic Vietnamese flavours for a fresh new take on hamburgers. You can also make these burgers with slabs of tofu marinated in the flavourings.
500g pork or chicken mince
3 cloves garlic, crushed to a paste with ½ tsp salt
2 stalks lemongrass, outer stems discarded, pale inner core grated, or 2 Tbsp minced lemongrass
1 spring onion, finely chopped
1 Tbsp soy sauce
2 tsp sugar
1 tsp fish sauce
½ tsp ground black pepper
Quick Vietnamese Pickles
3 carrots, peeled and cut into matchsticks
½ large daikon, cut into matchsticks
2 Tbsp sugar
1 Tbsp rice vinegar
2 tsp salt
1 tsp fine white pepper
6 soft buns, lightly toasted; or 2 baguettes, heated and cut into thirds
½ cup good-quality mayo, mixed with
2 Tbsp sriracha sauce, if desired
1 gem or baby cos lettuce, leaves separated
6 big sprigs fresh coriander
To make the quick Vietnamese pickles, place carrots and daikon in a non-corrosive bowl. Combine remaining ingredients in a small bowl and add to vege mixture, tossing to coat. Allow to stand for at least 30 minutes or chill for up to 24 hours. Drain to serve.
To make the patties, combine all ingredients in a bowl and mix well. If preparing in advance, store covered in the fridge for up to 24 hours.
When ready to cook, use wet hands to form mixture into 6 even balls. Flatten lightly to form patties about 2cm thick. Cook on a preheated barbecue grill over a medium heat until very bouncy and totally firm to the touch (4-5 minutes each side).
To build your burgers, spread a little mayo on the base of buns, then top with lettuce leaves, hot patties, pickles, coriander, another dollop of mayo and the bun tops.
Yvonne's pick: Add extra va-voom to the viciously good Vietnamese flavours in this banh mi burger by pairing it with the organically grown awesomeness of the Bostock Wines Vicki's Vineyard Hawke's Bay Pinot Gris 2017 ($32). Deliciously dry and drenched with clean, mineral-driven flavours, it shows class, character and fantastic freshness. Crafted by Rod McDonald, it's named after Vicki, the late wife of Johnny Bostock, the woman who inspired the family's obsession with organic farming, it's a stylish, elegant wine with boatloads of personality. Think nashi, citrus zest and rain-on-hot-rocks.
Pasifika Chicken Burgers
Ready in 30 mins
Use fresh chicken mince for these — if it has been frozen it will release too much liquid.
1kg lean chicken mince
3 spring onions, thinly sliced
Zest of 3 limes or lemons, finely grated
1 long red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped, or ¼ tsp chilli flakes
¼ cup coconut cream
¼ cup chopped coriander leaves, plus extra to garnish
Salt and ground black pepper, to taste
8-10 burger buns
Salad fixings, such as lettuce and tomato
Coriander and cashew pesto, sweet chilli sauce or sriracha (optional)
Combine all ingredients and mix well. Use wet hands to shape into patties about 2.5cm thick and cook in a lightly oiled frying pan or on a barbecue hotplate over a medium heat until golden brown and fully cooked through (about 5-6 minutes each side). To test for readiness, press centre of patties — they should bounce back with no give and have no hint of pinkness in the centre.
Serve in buns with salad fixings of your choice and drizzle with coriander and cashew pesto, sweet chilli sauce or sriracha, if desired.
Yvonne's pick: I love me a chicken burger and, given the chance, I will always opt for a ripe, rumpty, roast peach-packed example to sip as I snack. Right now, the Brookfields Marshall Bank Hawke's Bay Chardonnay 2018 ($35) is giving me all the grins due to its stonefruit saturation, butterscotchy mid-palate, toasty, oak complexity and fresh, frisky acidity. It's a style that'll kickstart even the most flaccid taste buds and perks up the palate with every swallow. Juicy, beautifully structured and showing great tension and poise — it's a star.
Balsamic Mushroom Burgers
Ready in 20 mins
These are, hands down, the best mushroom burgers of all time, inspired by a burger from a food truck.
4 large or 8 medium flat mushrooms
60g butter, melted
2 cloves garlic, crushed
180g halloumi, cut into 1cm slices
4 ciabatta buns, cut in half horizontally
4 Tbsp aioli or chipotle mayo
A large handful of rocket
2 Tbsp balsamic glaze
Salt and ground black pepper, to taste
Preheat oven to 180C fanbake and line 2 oven trays with baking paper for easy clean-up.
Place mushrooms on one tray. Combine butter and garlic in a small bowl and drizzle on to mushrooms. Roast in oven until soft and juicy (about 15 minutes). While the mushrooms are roasting, fry halloumi in a hot, dry pan until golden and crispy (about 30 seconds each side). Set aside.
During the last 5 minutes of mushroom cooking time, place buns, cut-side down, on second prepared tray and toast until lightly browned (5 minutes).
To build your burgers, spread 1 Tbsp of aioli or chipotle mayo on each bun base. Top with mushrooms, halloumi, rocket and a drizzle of balsamic glaze. Season with salt and pepper, then finish with the bun tops.
Yvonne's pick: The second I think of feasting on fungustastic food like these balsamic mushroom burgers, I leap out to my wine shelf to find a pinot noir to pour with it. I don't know how or why pinot noir is the perfect mushroom match but let's not fret over details. All you need to know is that your palate and wallet will love the Young & Co Cherry Bomb French Pinot Noir 2018 ($19) with each bite. Sourced from the upper Aude valley, it's a smooth, spicy, cherry and berry-boosted example that finishes dry and light.
Annabel's duo of Essential savoury and sweet books (Annabel Langbein Media, $65 each) create a beautiful compendium of her best-ever recipes and cooking tips. Alone or together, they make a wonderful gift or treat for yourself, and are on sale now at all good bookstores or online at annabel-langbein.com. Follow Annabel Langbein on Facebook or Instagram to find out more.