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What I decide what to cook for dinner depends on two things: what I am craving and what is in the fridge.  The problem is that my cravings can be rather long-lived and it doesn’t help that I’m both fickle and forgetful.  I don’t always remember that I was craving avocadoes the day before when I am shopping in town – but it all comes flooding back as soon as I turn the key in the door.

I can’t remember what triggered the ‘burger’ craving.  I’d like to blame panda-in-crime, but it probably had something to do with that damned avocado.  I am rather partial to a rareish burger topped with avocado, stilton and crispy pancetta.  Mmmmm… Anyway, it must have been at least two (annoying) weeks of sporadically remembering that I was longing for an avocado-topped burger when I spotted a glut of local avocados in the market.  Purchase happily made, I went on to buy potatoes, tomatoes, lettuce, pumpkin, eggs, tea leaves, garlic, etc… well, to cut a long story short I forgot the meat.  Oops.  A few meditative moments later, I grabbed the salmon trimmings from the fridge and pretending I’d planned it all along set out to make a salmon burger topped with avocado salsa.

Salmon trimmings are fantastic for burgers as the fatty pockets of omega-3 goodness are bursting with flavour.  As with steak, I like my salmon rare so I barely slap them on the griddle – just enough to crisp the exterior that encases the tartare-like innards.  I think it’s as fresh and light a burger as you can get, but I’ll let you be the judge of that.

A citrusy avocado salsa is the perfect match, with a dollop of lemony mayonnaise and oven-roasted rosemary and garlic infused chips.  I always make my own mayonnaise as it is pretty straightforward, once you know how.  I’d say the most important pointers to a foolproof emulsion are to (1) beat the egg yolks until light and fluffy BEFORE adding the oil (2) add the oil drop by drop at the beginning – I know it seems like it will take forever but once the mayonnaise has started to thicken you can be more liberal.  I reckon it takes less than ten minutes to whip up a 250ml batch of mayo with a bit of elbow grease, but I’m sure it’s even speedier with a food processor.   You can flavour your mayonnaise with whatever you fancy, but as it was being dolloped onto a salmon burger I used the juice and zest of a lemon.

RECIPE: SALMON TARTARE BURGERS TOPPED WITH AVOCADO SALSA AND LEMON MAYONAISE

Makes 2 burgers

INGREDIENTS:  

For the salmon burgers

     300g of of sashimi-grade (i.e. super-fresh) salmon trimmings 

     1 deseeded finely chopped red chilli

     A  spring of finely chopped flat-leaf parsley or dill

     A finely sliced spring onion

     The zest of a lemon and a squeeze of juice

     A grinding of pepper

For the avocado salsa

     The chopped flesh of an avocado

     The diced flesh of a tomato (seeds removed)

     The juice of one lime

     Half of a very finely chopped red onion

     A couple of sprigs of finely chopped flat-leaf parsley, mint and dill*

     A sprinkling of salt and a grinding of pepper

*You could use coriander if you wish but I prefer the milder flavour of parsley     

For the lemon mayonnaise (contains raw eggs)

     2 egg yolks

     225 ml of groundnut of sunflower oil

     25ml of olive oil

     The juice and zest of one lemon

     A sprinkling of salt and a grinding of white pepper

For the oven-roasted rosemary and garlic chips

     2 large floury potatoes, chipped

     Two sprigs of rosemary or two teaspoons dried 

     3 whole cloves of garlic

     1 dried red chilli

     A generous glug of olive oil

    A generous sprinkling of salt and grinding of pepper

INSTRUCTIONS:  

For the chips:  Leaving the skin on, chip the potatoes and throw them into a roasting tin with the unpeeled garlic cloves, dried chilli and rosemary.  Drizzle a tablespoon or so of olive oil over the lot and mix with your hands to make sure that everything is coated with oil.  Pop into a medium-high oven for thirty to forty minutes until crispy.  For a quicker cooking time, but extra washing up, you can par-boil the potatoes for five minutes before roasting.  Oven chips will brown faster and more evenly if the pan is not overcrowded.

For the burgers: Chop the salmon flesh into chunks and mix in the chilli, herbs, spring onion and lemon zest.  Season and form into patties.  The patties should stick together, but if you prefer you can purée a third of the salmon to act as a binder.  Leave to chill in the fridge for  half an hour or so.   Bear in mind that when you add the lemon juice, it will start to ‘cook’ the fish, so sprinkle the patties with the lemon juice just before cooking and fry for just a minute or two each side in a hot griddle pan.  The idea is that the salmon in the middle is ‘rare’, like in a salmon tartare, encased in a crispy crust.  If you don’t like the idea of raw fish, cook the burger for three to four minutes each side, but be careful not to overcook it or it will be dry.  You should be able to see the colour change as the heat penetrates the burger, so flip it just as it reaches halfway to the top.

For the avocado salsa:  Prepare the salsa whilst you’re waiting for the burgers to firm up in the fridge.  It’s as simple as it gets, just mix up all the ingredient in a bowl and voilà. 

For the lemon mayonnaise:  Whisk the seasoned egg yolks until they are light and fluffy (I think this helps along the emulsification).  Add the oil ONE drop at a time, whisking briskly so each drop is incorporated into the mix before adding the next.  Don’t be tempted to add the oil too quickly at this stage or the mayo may curdle.   Patience is key.  After about ten drops the mayo should have started to thicken so you can add a splash of oil.  Keep whisking until the oil is mixed in and then add another splash.  Before long, the mayonnaise should be thickening up nicely so you can progress to glugs of oil as the risk of curdling is passed.  When you’ve whisked in about half of the oil, add the lemon juice and finally you can begin adding the oil in a slow, steady stream – of course whilst whisking continuously – and you should end up with a thick, glossy mayonnaise.  I’m sure it’s even easier to make with a food processor or with an electric whisk, but unfortunately I am lacking in modern conveniences.  Season again with salt, pepper and the lemon zest, adding in a touch more lemon juice if you prefer a little more acidity.  The mayo should keep in the fridge for a week.

To assemble the burgers:  By now the chips should be crisping up nicely, so all you have to do is lightly toast the halved buns in the frying pan you cooked the burger (ten seconds should do it), spread the lemon mayo on the bottom half, add a leaf of crisp cos lettuce, the burger and a spoon of salsa and another dollop of mayo before topping it off, piling on the chips and enjoy a guilt-free burger and chips experience – er, maybe hold back on the mayo more than I did…

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