Saturday, May 26, 2007


Paul's Big Burger Ballyhoo 2007 - Cumin Burger with Peanut Coffee Sauce

I love Freya and Paul's food blog, Writing at the Kitchen Table. Usually Freya is up to trouble in the kitchen, the curious cat in the family, accentuating unique ingredients with approachable recipes. She always serves up food that is both daring and delicious, matched exquisitely with clever, revelatory, and confessional writing. We struck an early friendship - our common bond: the bold, no-nonsence, and stirring Queen of the Seasons, Tamasin Day-Lewis. Once we even challenged each other to a Tamasin Tart Bake-off: Freya made a gorgeous Spinach and Anchovy Tart, and I made a Bakewell Tart...and then we stopped, so I suppose we should have another round, eh Freya? And then there is lovely Paul, baker par excellence...I don't know what happened to a different bread every week, for it got off to a promising start. He regales his blogosphere audience with anecdotes of Americana and his penchant for margaritas. In addition to these many great qualities, Freya and Paul give me hope, having also once lived bi-continentally, they can now drive each other mad under the same roof...I read their blogs as much to see what they are up to together, to reimagine my quotidien life with my angelheart Eric.

I was going to say "all sentimentality aside", but Paul's Big Burger Ballyhoo concerns a food subject most westerners would bare their soul for: the perfect burger. Having never tasted a burger I thought was unimprovable, I decided it could not hurt to - and that I should - participate in Paul's food blog event.

Of course a problem was immediately presented: What on earth was I going to do that is so different, that is worth Paul and Freya making themselves? The notion of bi-continentalism appealed, leading to thoughts of creating a mongrel/imperial whore burger. I gave up on pulling from all continents and decided to leave out my own heritage (I am only a 3rd generation Kiwi on both sides of the family - a little Irish, Croatian and Swedish here, fused with some English and Spanish there and you get the sum of my parts). I thought back to the Arabic Coffee Pots de Creme I made last year and how I am still in love with the combination of cardamom and coffee. But I had no cardomom pods. This is what I came up with:

Cumin Burger with Peanut Coffee Sauce

For the sauce:
1/2 cup peanut butter
3/4 cup full-fat milk
1 tablespoon coffee beans, finely ground
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1 small clover garlic, finely chopped
1/8 teaspoon chili flakes

For the burger:
1 1/2 tablespoons cumin seeds, toasted and finely ground
500g/1lb ground beef
250g/ 1/2lb ground pork
5 egg yolks
1 tablespoon steak sauce
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
kosher salt
1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter

hamburger buns
toppings of choice (I went with shredded lettuce and slices of processed cheese because that is what my parents had in the fridge at the time)

Begin with sauce because you need to let it steep for at least 30 minutes.
1) In a saucepan, scald 1/2 cup of full-fat milk with the coffee beans and cinnamon.
2) Off the heat, cover with a lid and let steep.
3) In a separate bowl, add the rest of the ingredients except the remaining 1/4 cup of milk.
4) Using a strainer, pour the coffee and cinnamon milk into the bowl with the other ingredients. A strainer is advisable to separate out the clumps of coffee and cinnamon that have bonded while steeping.
5) Combine with a whisk, slowly adding in the remaining 1/4 cup of milk until you have reached a desired consistency. The coffee beans will not be problematic; you won't notice them when you eat. Keep chilled, and bring it to room temperature when you are thinking about spreading it over your buns.

To make the burgers:
1) In a bowl, combine all ingredients but the butter with the tines of a fork. The salt and pepper usage is up to you, for it is only seasoning. I used 1 1/2 teaspoons of kosher salt and 3/4 teaspoon of freshly cracked black pepper.
2) Once combined form into patty shapes in your hands, about the size of your palm.
3) Make an indent at the centre of the patty and inset a little nub of butter, then enclose it. The butter keeps the patty moist, a trick I learned from Ina Garten's television show Barefoot Contessa.
4) Chill for at least 30 minutes to hold together, then bring out for 10 minutes or so before grilling.
5) Grill the patties to your preference, about 6 minutes on one side, then 4 minutes on the other.

You can assemble the burger any way that pleases you, of course, but try spreading the Peanut Coffee Sauce on both halves of the burger buns.

I did not grill these outside, Paul. I'm sorry, but it is raining here in Auckland, so I grilled them in spirit - i.e. in a frying pan in the kitchen. Living in different time zones make the international food blogs a bit trying, but if my calculations are correct, I am submitting this as of 8:35pm on 25th of May PST. And in your honor, Paul, I'm going to scoff these with a good margarita.

Happy Big Burger Ballyhoo 2007!

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You know we would have made an exception for your entry, especially as this recipe is the most unique submission yet! We are very excited to try the burger and if the sauce is as good as it sounds, I think it might end up being used in other recipes.
As for the veiled accusation that I gave up on the weekly bread making too soon, I think that should be directed at Freya. She's the one who allocates me only a small little corner of the kitchen while dismissing my complaints of jars, pots, pans, spices.....falling on my head every time I open a cupboard door.
You're right about the margarita though. I could have one right now, in fact!
P.S. We did say family weren't eligible to win and Freya insists you're part of our family.
They look like gorgeous burgers Shaun! I cannot (and I'm trying!) imagine what the burgers and sauce taste like together! :) Were they lovely to eat? I have a recipe for a roast with coffee cream sauce marked in a book, but haven't done it yet... you may push me into doing it LOL.
Hey Shaun,
Peanut butter can NEVERever go wrong. =) The burgers look so good. I haven't slept in 26 hours thanks to overload of junk food and all sorts. I really need a good burger right about now. =)
Wow! That sounds really different. Can't imagine what it tastes like so might just have to give it a try. Amanda
Now, this is an interesting combination! I wish I was this inventive:)
How DID it the final "product" taste? How did this fab sounding coffee cream go with the burgers?
Paul - I was only having you on about the bread articles. It is great that you and Freya do some sort of baking regularly, and its influence is already felt. I have made the first step: I now have yeast. As for being part of the family, that is really very sweet, and I only wish I wrote to you both more regularly. I hope you like the burger.

Kelly-Jane - The coffee works in the background, giving the peanut butter not only some piquancy but also some depth. With the cumin in the burger, this produces an as yet indescribable combination. I am going to try it again with cardamom, for the sauce will then be more unique and more flavourful.

Victoria - I suppose the all-nighter junkfood overload is attributed to getting assignments done or preparing for exams. As a Master's student, I do not miss those days. The patty is full of flavor but neither overpronounced nor deliberately tricky.

Amanda - I think it worth a try, especially if you like peanut butter. I would next use slightly bashed whole coffee beams and a few cardamom pods to get a richer, fuller flavor.

Vonsachsen - The flavor was almost what I had hoped for, but the coffee was not as pronounced as I would have liked. I will use whole beans next time, as I did in the Arabic Coffee Pots de Creme. I think I had a good idea, especially when paired with the cumin in the burger patties. Overall, it was very earthy what with the smokey lemon of the cumin, the deep berry qualities of the coffee, and the sweet pepperiness of the cinnamon. All of this worked well with the main star, the peanut butter. It was an interesting experiment.
What a fun burger! Very inventive. I have always wanted to try the pat of butter in the centre of a burger but I always forget. Maybe soon!
Salut, I like this blog too ! Thank you very much for your french comment on my blog. I speak and understant English (ce qui ne veut pas dire que je n'aime pas qu'on me laisse un commentaire en français), you could leave me comment in French if it is easier for you. I'm reading scientific litterure in english all the day, it is good sometimes to use it alos in my kitchen ;-) Nice burger !!

have a nice day
Sara - The pat of butter really works, but only a small amount is necessary as it excretes in the pan a little, causing too much moisture to appear. Too much liquid in the pan is not good for frying; it steams the meat instead, which is not cool for burger patties.

Claude-Olivier - Merci bien pour ton commentaire. Laisse-moi les messages en anglais, et je t'ecris en francais, comme ca nous pouvons tous les deux ameliorer nos abilities de communiquer en les deux langues. J'adore bien ton blog, c'est un voyage comme tu me transportes a n'importe ou.
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