Regardless of the weather or the date on the calendar, the first barbecue of the season speaks of summer. Whether it’s Victoria Day, Memorial Day, or simply a sunny Sunday afternoon, the day when the neighbourhood grills are cleaned off, restocked with fuel, and commissioned with the year’s first outdoor meal—that day marks the beginning of slower days.
When you go out for a stroll around the block on this first barbecue day, you can tell exactly what everyone is making. Even if the grills are sequestered away in the backyards, the unmistakable scents drift around the house to the public walkway. Neighbours grilling in adjacent yards start chatting. A small traffic starts in the small, easily-forgotten necessities of grilling. Everyone squints nervously at the sky and hopes that the day isn’t spoiled by rain.
The ice of winter has finally melted, literally and figuratively.
Every family has its own traditions about grilling, its own secret recipes for burgers, grilled vegetables, and condiments, which it stubbornly maintains to be The Best. My family is no different, but the Ten-Hove Burger’s provenance is a little out of the ordinary.
When my mother emigrated to America, she had several good friends who were Indian. Over the years she picked up a number of recipes, cookbooks, and tips on Indian cooking: she became quite adept, and I grew up with a major spice addiction. (When I started university, I took along a bare-bones collection of two and a half dozen different spices.)
Among the recipes copied out in the well-worn recipe journal my mother has kept since she was nineteen is a recipe for “Indian Meatballs,” beef koftas bound together with red onion and garam masala and served with a spiced tomato sauce. One day the sauce was abandoned, and the meatballs became burgers, and a family tradition was born. I don’t expect them to replace your own family recipes—tradition, after all, is the tastiest of all spices—but try them someday when you are out on your back porch, chatting to your neighbour and filling the air with the smell of summer.
Mum’s Indian Burgers
- 1/2 red onion, diced
- 2 tsp garam masala
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 lb ground beef
Preheat your grill on high.
Mix together the onion, garam masala, and salt in a medium bowl. Pat the beef with paper towels to remove excess moisture, then mix it well with the onion and spices. Divide the meat into four equal portions, and form each of them into a patty a little over four inches in diameter and of even thickness. There are all sorts of tools to help you do this, but you can use your hands.
Has your grill been heating for 10 minutes? Okay, good. Turn the burners down to medium and grill the burgers for 3-4 minutes per side, depending on how well-done you like them.
Serve hot off the grill with all the fixings—buns (I prefer pita bread), lettuce, tomatoes and corn on the cob in season, mustard, chutney, pickles, whatever floats your boat. Eat with your hands and enjoy!