Lisa’s Letters Home: Burgers Two Ways

Lisa’s Letters Home: Burgers Two Ways

Ten years ago, we moved into this house. It was very 80s, and not in a good “retro vibe” kind of way. The kitchen was usable but dated and poorly designed. Having doors on three walls plus a large window meant a severe lack of cupboard and counter space. As a temporary fix, I painted the tiles and cupboards. We’ll replace the kitchen soon, we said. We’ll redecorate the house, we said. We’ll replace that hideous floral wallpaper in the hallway, we said.

And then we had three babies and nothing ever got done in the house ever again.

Fast forward to a few months ago, when we finally decided enough was enough. As our kids got bigger, our house seemed so much smaller. The time was right to renovate or risk driving each other to madness. So now, I’m living on a building site. It’s been a real bucket of fun.

Most of it has been bearable (especially as the upstairs floor is a construction-free haven), but I never appreciated how tricky it would be without a kitchen. I imagined maybe 2 weeks without it while it was being replaced. In reality, it’ll be 6 weeks with half a kitchen/no kitchen, dust sheets on everything, a bunch of sweaty guys doing messy things in or next to the kitchen, and so much stress that the thought of trying to make a meal amongst the rubble makes me hyperventilate.


We’ve put the BBQ to good use lately which has forced us to be a little more creative. There are only so many hotdogs, chicken pieces, and sausages you can eat before you lose the will to live. I wrote recently about the discovery of barbecued pizza, which is great but WHERE AM I GOING TO MAKE THE DOUGH? So our mission is to make simple but interesting things that doesn’t necessarily require a kitchen.

A good burger is hard to come by, and like many things, I just end up doing them myself. For me, the best burger requires the least amount of work – good quality beef, a little seasoning, and don’t mix it to death and/or mash it into a perfect patty. I don’t use breadcrumbs because I’m certain that just comes from the post-war era when you had terrible quality meat that you needed to stretch out to feed 20 people. (It is also the only logical explanation for bread sauce. If you don’t know what it is, go look it up. You’ll be horrified if you’re not English.)

We don’t have buns with our burgers so we invest a lot in the toppings. The combination of toppings are limitless, but here are a couple of ideas to get you started. We serve the burgers on salad leaves or with remoulade (a very lovely salad made of celeriac/celery root and good quality mayonnaise), or something classy like potato wedges, or “wedgies” as my 6-year-old calls them.

Lisa’s Letters Home: Burgers Two Ways


  • For the burgers (makes 6 big fat burgers)
  • 800g of ground steak or meat you’ve ground yourself (chuck or sirloin works very well)
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 2 tsp oregano
  • 1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
  • Salt and pepper
  • For the toppings
  • Guacamole (homemade or store bought)
  • Sour cream
  • Bacon
  • Cheddar or Montery Jack cheese
  • OR
  • Sauteed onions and mushrooms
  • Swiss cheese
  • Mayonnaise


If you are cooking these right away, remove the meat from the fridge ahead of time to get it to room temperature (about 30 mins – 1 hour.)

Otherwise, you can mix this all together, form into patties, and refrigerate until you’re ready to cook (but again, remove from the fridge before cooking to let it come to room temperature.)

In a large bowl, add the meat and the remaining burger ingredients, and mix with a fork until combined.

Form into patties, loosely, as messing about with the meat too much and packing it together too tightly makes for a sad burger.

Turn the BBQ up as high as it can go and grill the burgers for about 4-5 minutes on each side, depending on how well done you like them and how thick they are.

During the last minute of cooking, add the cheese.

Let the burgers rest while you put together the toppings.

Top with either the TexMex toppings or the mushrooms, onions, and mayo.

Eat with cutlery if you want to be posh about it.

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