Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Bifteki - Hamburger patties (Μπιφτέκια)

The day after making my regular monthly batch of bifteki (hamburger patties), I opened the freezer tray where I had laid them close to each other side by side to save space, placing a few meatballs in the spaces in between, made with a ball of mixed mince that wasn't quite large enough to turn into a meat pattie. I tapped the tray to unstick the frozen patties from it, and was expecting to see a few patties break off. But this didn't happen: the whole tray of patties came unstuck, creating a stained glass window effect as I held up them up over the kitchen sink.

It takes a certain kind of person to appreciate meat when used as an art form. Some people are open-minded enough to label the use of a dead animal as a medium in art work as a form of expression. We have seen meat in its raw form used in fashion - remember Lady Gaga's dress? - and as a decoration on a building (does anyone remember that one? I have searched the internet in various ways for a link, but it seems to be well hidden in cybersphere), both of which caused a global outcry and utter outrage at all levels.  

The revulsion was sparked mainly by the ethics and morality issues involved in the killing of animals that were not used to feed people, while at the same time people die of hunger, starvation and malnourishment in various parts of the world.  

I'd always wanted to post my own raw meat art work, but could never think of a good reason why I should do this. The only reason I took the photo of the frozen biftekia was because i thought it looked nice. I wasn't sure if anyone else would agree. With the present outcry and outrage that the horse meat scandal has caused, I'm sure there will be many people that will appreciate this photo, together with the recipe.

In Greece, pork mince is much cheaper than beef mince: the former costs half the price of the latter, whether imported or local meat is used. I never buy frozen mince to make biftekia because of the dangers of refreezing a frozen product. I always buy non-fat meat which is minced before us after we choose the piece that we want. Lean meat is used not just for the health aspect, but also because I believe I am getting more value for money: if there is no fat in the meat, the bifteki are very lean and they do not retain juices when cooked. A little olive oil, some tomato paste or wine usually make the bifteki a little more tender. By adding olive oil, I am adding some kind of fat to the meat, and this is now being done by sausage/ham/cured meat producers (MAICh has tested this in our laboratories and our M.Sc. students have written theses about it - they are healthier according to the tests done on them.

For about 25-30 hamburger patties, you need: 
1500g or ground pork or beef (I always use a mixture of the two)
half a loaf of stale bread pieces soaked in wine or water, then strained by hand (you can use 1 cup dry breadcrumbs if you don't have any stale bread)
1 large onion, minced
2-4 cloves of garlic, minced
a few sprigs of mint and parsley, finely chopped
1 carrot, grated (this is optional - it toughens the patties a little)
1 finely minced green bell pepper

1/2 cup olive oil 
salt, pepper, oregano and/or cumin

Mix everything together really really well. You can only do this with your hands. Shape into patties. Place in the freezer in separate layers. That's it. 

If I want to pan-fry the patties, I need to defrost them. If I want to cook them in the oven (with potatoes, vegetables and/or tomato sauce), I don't defrost them. You cannot cook them in the microwave (at any rate, I NEVER microwave raw food for immediate eating - the microwave oven is used only for re-heating food). 

At various times in the past, I have tried ready-made fresh and frozen hamburger patties, and have never been satisfied with them. I once grilled them till they were nicely dark on the outside and was absolutely shocked to see how pink they remained inside (I did not give them to the family - I was revolted by the pink and black uneven look of the final product). Another time, I was put off by the amount of fat that congealed around them as they lay in the pan after they had completely cooled down. 

I never question the food I buy because I have to believe what I'm told, which may be a lie anyway. For all I know, the beef I buy could actually be horse, in the same way that pork traces were recently found in the halal meat of a UK prison. If you don't grow/raise/produce it yourself, you will never really know what you are eating. If you don't have any other choice, you rely on lying, cheating profit-oriented, market-driven suppliers. It's a fact of life that you can never get away from. 

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