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This week the Evening Standard approached me to see if I’d knock up a couple of horse meat burgers for review in the paper. Once a supplier was found the request quickly extended to include bison, camel, crocodile and zebra meats. I of course said yes – I don’t believe there’s anything wrong with eating ‘exotic’ meats per se – and on an extremely nippy Wednesday night journalist Nick Curtis and I settled in for a culinary romp through the animal kingdom and a nice bottle of red.

Nick gets his first taste of horse meat © Matt Writtle

Nick gets his first taste of horse meat © Matt Writtle

Before we get to the recipe there are a few things to consider:

  • The Standard article, although prompted by the Tesco horse meat burger scandal, is quite far removed from that argument. That was clearly an issue of broken trust and I’m not going to undermine it by prattling on about how horse meat is fine etc.
  • Horses are beautiful, useful creatures capable of instilling great happiness in human beings. Breeding horses for food is a waste of an animal that has so much more to give than its flesh. However, there are undoubtably situations where it would be a wasteful to recommend not eating perfectly good, readily available meat. Horse meat is an affordable source of protein for much of Europe.
  • If you really want to eat horse meat – do the animal justice – don’t turn it into a burger. If there’s one thing I’ve learned about ‘exotic’ meats it’s that they all taste like a burger when you add mustard, ketchup, diced onions, a slice of gherkin and a sesame seed bun.
Spot the root beer © Matt Writtle

Spot the root beer © Matt Writtle

Horse meat burger recipe (works with any lean red meat):

Ingredients (makes four burgers):

  • 500g horse fillet steak
  • 150g smoked bacon fat (trim off the fattiest back bacon you can find)
  • 4 sesame seed buns (like Ol’ Dirty said)
  • 4 Dairylea Singles. Dairylea cheese slices have the got the perfect balance of milkiness and saltiness. Don’t get the own brand versions. They’re all awful.
  • French’s American mustard
  • Heinz tomato ketchup
  • 1 tsp Lea & Perrin’s Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 pickled gherkin, sliced by hand into discs about 2mm thick. Just like you get at McDonald’s.
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • Salt

Method:

  • Hand chop the steak(s) to a fine mince and place it in a large bowl. Mincing your own meat might seem daunting the first time but your homemade burger game is about to earn 500 EXP. 
  • Cut the bacon fat up into pieces small enough to be easily incorporated by the mince and place that in the bowl on top of the horse meat.
  • Add 2 tsp of ketchup and a tsp of worcestershire sauce to the meat and bacon fat and lightly mix together. Take care not to overwork the mix as this will result in dense patties, which are hard to cook perfectly medium and have a poor mouth feel.
  • Shape the mix into four patties. If you have time, cling film each patty individually and leave in the fridge for a few hours. If you haven’t don’t worry. The most important thing is that the patties are at room temperature by the time they hit the pan.
  • Toast your sesame seed buns, ya big dummy!
  • Season the sides of the patty with a pinch of salt just prior to cooking. Seasoning the patty mix too early will result in an inferior burger.
  • Get your frying pan really hot and add a tiny – really tiny – drop of cooking oil before setting the patties down. It takes a few seconds for the bacon fat to render so you need a drop of oil to stop the patties sticking. Any excess fat will stop your burgers from achieving a good Maillard reaction. If you’re making regular beef burgers with an ideal 80:20 visual lean (20% fat) you won’t need this oil. Cook patties for 2-2.5 minutes on each side, turning once.
  • Place the patties on the toasted bottom half of your buns and top with (in this order): 1 cheese slice, a ring of ketchup, a ring of mustard, two slices of gherkin and a tsp of diced raw onion.
  • Add the top half of the bun to your burger and give it a little squish.
  • Enjoy, my little greasemonkeys.
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