Over the years, Yom Ha’atzmaut has become known as the BBQ festival or “Chag Ha’mangal” in Israel. The large clouds that form over Sacher Park in the center of Jerusalem every Yom Ha’atzmaut, and over all other Israeli public parks, gardens, parking lots and even traffic islands, are proof. Israelis, who, on average, consume 9,500kg of beef per month, guzzle down 15,000kg in the month of Yom Ha’tzmaut. Sounds crazy, but Israelis are still nowhere close to meat eaters in other developed countries: Israel is last on the list of developed nations when it comes to meat consumption per person per year with 14kg – lagging far behind world leaders Argentina (of course) with 54kg; Australia with 46kg; and the US with 41kg.
But enough with the stats. I too am guilty of upping our meat consumption in the month of Iyar, and enjoying a good, meaty BBQ along with the rest of Am Yisrael. It makes perfect sense – the weather in this pre-summer time of year is perfect for being outdoors, so BBQs are the meals of choice.
In my family, there’s no such thing as having a BBQ without my home-made hamburgers. I started making my own burgers years ago. With a little advice from the guy at the supermarket meat counter, I set off on my odyssey to create the ultimate burger. I do make my own breadcrumbs, and I definitely believe that this makes a difference. I don’t add anything green to the patty, and my kids are grateful.The result is a burger that goes back to basics, and keeps things simple. And as opposed to those awful factory-made pieces of fake meat that go by the name “hamburgers” these shrink very little when cooked as they are not pumped full of water to increase the volume and make them look bigger in the store.
Of course, the BBQ chef is an essential part of the process, and I am always happy to hand off the cooking side to my husband, who does an amazing job every time. He can’t give a real time on how long they need to cook, rather watches them turn a nice hamburger brown before he takes them off the flame.
Before you BBQ your perfect burger, don’t forget to prepare some fun condiments to go with it. Take a little extra time, and fry 4 large onions slowly in a little oil until they are really caramelized and brown.You can also saute mushrooms, which make another delicious addition to your burger. Uou can also thinly slice eggplant and fry those for the ultimate Israeli topping that will give your burger a special Yom Ha’atzmaut flavor. These are in addition to the fresh tomato and lettuce and pickled cucumbers that you’ll serve, along with mustard and ketchup, or course.
MY “SECRET” HAMBURGER RECIPE
1 kg (2 lbs) ground beef (make sure it’s not the lean beef – you need the fat in the meat to keep it from getting dry)
1 tablespoon ketchup
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
½ teaspoon meat spice mix (any one you like). Note: If there are spices you like in your meat, go ahead and add them – you can add paprika, cumin, garlic, freshly chopped parsley, etc. Whatever suits your taste will work.
½ tablespoon chicken soup powder
About 1/3 cup breadcrumbs (or more if needed) – preferably freshly made*
How to do it
1. In a large bowl, beat the eggs, ketchup, seasoning and chicken soup powder together.
2. Add the meat and mix together well. Then start adding the breadcrumbs, and keep adding and mixing until you get a firm consistency – the meat needs to be firm enough to easily form into a patty. Don’t add too many breadcrumbs though.
3. When you have the right consistency, start forming your patties. Line a tray or oven pan with baking paper. Take a large serving spoon and scoop up a spoon full of the meat, You can use the shape of the spoon to smooth out the one side of the patty. Create a ball and then start patting the meat down until it forms a patty that is round and about 1½cm (½ inch) thick. Place it on the paper, and keep going until all your meat is used up. 1 kg of meat should yield about 7-8 patties. You can store them in the refrigerator until you need them, or you can prepare them a couple of days ahead of time and freeze them.
4. Cook on a hot barbecue until brown on both sides.
*Fresh breadcrumbs: Slice 3-4 thick slices of day-old+ bread into cubes and put them in the food processor using the large metal blade and process for about 1-2 minutes until you get crumbs. You can store any leftovers in the freezer. (Because you aren’t using these to fry with, you don’t have to dry them out in the oven, so it really is a quick process)