James Bond food hamburger

Flat beef hamburger

Today, the hamburger is readily dismissed as junk food, a highly processed, homogenised and globalised meat patty. In the 1950s, however, the hamburger was still sufficiently exotic and regional, at least to visitors to the USA, for Ian Fleming to include it in James Bond’s quintessentially American meal, along with soft shell crabs and ice-cream with butterscotch sauce, at New York’s St Regis Hotel in Live and Let Die (1954). In the text, Bond consumes what are described as ‘flat beef Hamburgers’. He clearly has more than one, but how many (two? three?) is uncertain. And are Bond’s burgers encased in buns? Again, we don’t know, although I suspect that the burgers are presented without the usual trimmings. The recipe here is adapted from Mary McBride’s Harvest of American Cooking, published in 1957, just a few years after the publication of Live and Let Die. It’s possible that Bond’s burger or, rather, the burgers that Fleming is likely to have eaten during his visits to the country, tasted something like this.

Makes 3-4 burgers

  • 450g beef steak mince
  • 1 tbsp grated onion
  • 1 tbsp tomato ketchup
  • 1 tsp mustard
  • ½ tsp horseradish sauce
  • A pinch each of salt and black pepper

Put all the ingredients in a bowl and mix until they are well combined. Divide the mixture into three or four portions, depending on how large you like your burgers; the mixture comfortably makes three thick burgers. Mould each one by hand into a burger shape or press into a chef’s ring to create a neat disc. (On removing the chef’s ring, gently press the burger to make it thinner and wider if necessary.) Refrigerate the burgers for about 20 minutes.

Place the burgers under a hot grill or, better still, on a charcoal grill or barbecue and cook for 4 minutes on each side (for medium rare), or a little longer if preferred. Allow the burgers to rest for a few minutes before serving.

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