N: To me, a burger is not a convenience food – not something that has been robbed of all character by the food industry. For me it conjures up a story of the aspiring and confident American – the worker who after a long days work, or, the travelling salesman who at the end of a day’s journey in a greyhound bus walks into the diner and demands in no uncertain words how he likes to have his burger – how many times it ought to be flipped, how greasy the onions ought to be, or how much gherkin would spoil it. For me it is the bun. I have failed to find an off-the-shelf bun that has been an adequate partner to a good venison burger. It does sound a bit indulgent but I decided to make my own buns and yes there was some industry involved. However, when I had it I felt like one of John Steinbeck’s characters who always knew that their way of eating a burger was the only right way of doing so.
The recipe is for giant baps (burger buns, hamburger rolls) to go with a big piece of patty. If you have smaller patties you will need to adjust the quantities accordingly.
For each bap you will need 90 gm of flour, 3.5 gm of yeast, 1 tbsp olive oil, 1 sprig of rosemary and 1.5 gm of salt. I used a mixture of plain and wholemeal flour for a wholesome texture to go with the rich venison meat. Notice the amount of yeast is slightly more than what you would use in a bread because you want to make it more fluffy than ordinary bread. I made two giant baps and used 7 gms but if you are making a bigger batch you should probably add slightly smaller quantity of yeast per bap.
You will also need some planning to get the best results. For example if you are planning to make some burgers on Saturday then start on Thursday.
On Thursday chop the fresh rosemary, soak them in olive oil and leave in the fridge.
On Friday you are ready to knead. You will need about 60 ml of water per bap. But this is a rough estimate as the amount of water will depend on how finely the flour had been ground. Mix the flour, water, salt, yeast and oil and knead for 15 to 20 minutes until you get a smooth and elastic dough.
Leave the dough in a well oiled container, cover it and prove overnight. If you are making a lot of dough then make sure that you have enough space for the dough to rise.
On Saturday punch back the dough for a few good minutes. Divide the dough into equal sized balls and shape them like burger buns. Wheat flour expands upwards so shape them into baps that are almost the same base diameter as the finished product.
Let it rise for another hour or so and then bake in batches at 220°C for 10-15 mins. Once baked, allow to cool for about 30 minutes.
A: Of late, we have shifted allegiance to venison from beef burgers. Venison is a much leaner meat and has a gamey taste that we enjoy more. To complement the rosemary taste in the buns, I baked some sweet potato wedges. These wedges are not crispy on the outside. In another recipe to follow, I will share my tips on how to make a crispy outer layer on the soft potato.
For the soft wedges, cut the sweet potatoes into thick wedges with a very sharp knife. The potatoes tend to break at random if your knife is not sharp enough. I use a Japanese fruit knife which is very very sharp. Soak the wedges in olive oil and sprinkle a pinch of sea salt, sweet paprika and some chopped fresh rosemary. I have started using an oil sprayer which helps me distribute the olive oil uniformly over the potatoes in a very thin layer.
Spread the potato wedges on a roasting tray so that they are not crowded together. Gaps within the pieces ensure the wedges are not soggy when baked.
Bring down the temperature of the oven to 200°C and roast in the pre-heated oven for 40 minutes. Switch off the oven and allow the wedges to cool down inside the oven with the oven door ajar. This allows to keep the wedges tender while giving the edges a crispy feel.
I have served this venison burger with the freshly roasted sweet potato wedges and some wild rockets. The wild rockets have a sharp taste that goes well with the sweet taste of the potato wedges and the gamey taste of the venison.