I love Argentina. When I went to visit there a couple of years ago, I learned to make chimichurri salsa, empanadas de carne and milanesas. I got to see an asado (OK, quite a few of them) and ate at a parilla – a restaurant that serves grilled meats and offal, all cooked in front of you on griddles and coal fires. The people were warm and friendly (hugs and kisses everywhere) and although it was the beginning of their autumn, and they were busy piling on jumpers, the weather was dry, sunny, and a balmy 29 degrees.
This would be a great burger to serve at a barbecue this summer, as the charcoal would give it that authentic smoky flavour that works so well with the salsa.
When I got back home, I wanted to capture some of the flavours I experienced there, but I came up against a few barriers here in the UK. Restaurants here love to serve chimichurri salsa quite spicy, with chopped fresh chillies stirred in. People, the traditional stuff is not spicy. Visit a family asado in a back garden in Lanús – just outside Buenos Aires, and you’ll find it grassy, pungent and flavoured perhaps with a pinch of paprika – but you won’t find it spicy in the least. Mention to them that you always thought Argentine food was spicy and they’ll wrinkle up their noses, shake their head and take another sip of mate (green tea).
While here, a barbecue almost definitely means a few beef burgers thrown on the grill, at an Argentine asado you’re more likely to get chorizo – a meaty sausage (again not spicy), chicken portions and steaks. There are also things like grilled intestines, kidneys and morcilla – a type of black pudding. But still, I couldn’t resist giving the good old burger a bit of an Argentine and Paleo makeover.
So. Here’s my Argentine-inspired burger. The ‘bun’ is just made up from two big, flat mushrooms (genius, right?) with a home-made beef burger (it had to be beef, didn’t it?) stacked up with a rasher of crisp, streaky bacon for smoky saltiness and a good spoonful of that grassy, green chimichurri. Roasting the mushrooms makes them quite juicy, but it’s all good – the savoury juices trickle into the burger and give it more flavour. Eat with a pile of napkins alongside. This would be a great burger to serve at a barbecue this summer, as the charcoal would give it that authentic smoky flavour that works so well with the salsa. The burger is paleo and also strict autoimmune protocol (AIP) compliant.
Did someone say asado? I’ll be right over.
- 8 large flat mushrooms (de-stalked)
- drizzle of avocado oil
- good pinch of salt
- 400g beef mince
- coconut or avocado oil (for frying the burgers)
- 4 rashers of smoked streaky bacon
- handful of raw spinach leaves (to serve)
- a large handful of fresh parsley
- 1 garlic clove, peeled and chopped finely
- 1-2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- pinch of salt
- small splash - about 1 teaspoon - of apple cider vinegar
- Heat the oven to gas mark 6/200ºC/400ºF. Get out a small roasting dish and lay the mushrooms in it, the underside facing up. Drizzle with the oil and sprinkle over a small pinch of salt. Slide into the oven and roast for about 10-15 minutes, until cooked through, dark and softened. Take out of the oven and leave to rest on a plate to cool - turn them so the underside is facing down to try and drain off some of the excess juices - cooked mushrooms release a lot of liquid.
- Next, make the burgers. Add a pinch of salt to the mince and form the beef into 4-6 patties. Heat a little oil in a frying pan and fry the burgers for about 5 minutes per side, until well cooked through.
- Take them out and leave them to rest, while you add the bacon to the pan and cook gently, until crisp. While that’s cooking, make the chimichurri. Chop the parsley very finely with a sharp knife and transfer to a bowl. Add the chopped garlic, a pinch of salt and the vinegar and oil. Stir together and set to one side.
- Once everything’s cooked, assemble the burgers. Place one cooled flat mushroom on a plate, underside facing up. Arrange over a few spinach leaves, then one crispy bacon rasher and then the burger. Top with a spoonful of the chimichurri and then place the other mushroom on top, underside facing down. You can eat these with a knife and fork or your bare hands, but if you’re eating with your hands, you’ll need a napkin. The juice from the mushrooms will trickle out and down into the burger, providing lovely savoury flavour - but it’ll also get a bit messy. This is good. Enjoy.