Burger recipes: Top Edinburgh chefs share secrets

The Smoke Stack burger. Picture: Greg Macvean
The Smoke Stack burger. Picture: Greg Macvean
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A LUMP of protein stuffed inside two slabs of carbohydrate and smeared with a dollop of ketchup. It may well be otherwise known as a burger, but as we’ve come to discover, not all beefburgers were created equal.

The ones confirmed as having been masquerading as all-beef when really they include leftovers from Dobbin’s paddock have now been removed from supermarket freezer cabinets. And as consumers rethink their approach to burger and chips, sales of frozen burgers have crashed through the stable floor.

Figures out this week showed that the number of frozen burgers sold since the horsemeat
contamination scandal erupted in January
has plummeted by almost half. So, what if you really fancy a good old burger but can’t quite stomach the idea that what you’re sinking your teeth into may not be all it seems?

The solution? Head to the kitchen, roll up the sleeves and get making some DIY burgers ...


MANY a foody will tell you that Bell’s Diner in St Stephen Street, Stockbridge, serves the best burgers around.

Staff are coy when it comes to revealing what goes in their burgers, other than it’s simply 100 per cent Aberdeen Angus beef, onion and no more than two mystery ingredients. Manager Micky Marr says as long as you use good quality meat you can then play around with the toppings to create something really special:

“We do a range of flavoured butters – garlic, blue Roquefort cheese, green peppercorn, one with mustard,” he says. “Add some good cheddar cheese, a slice of bacon, a good sesame seed bun – toasted – and that’s it, pretty simple! And we fry onions and serve them as a side order – that way they can be piled on top or you can have just a few.”

His personal burger heaven?

“It’s not on the menu, but I love a TexMex-style burger with jalepeno peppers and salsa.”


Burger doesn’t have to mean slaughtering the fatted calf. Henderson’s in Hanover Street is celebrating 50 meat-free years – and burgers are definitely on the menu. Chef Mike Black has two tasty options for non-meat-eating burger fans.

Cashew Nut and Smoked Tofu Thai Burger with Tamarind Date Sauce

(Serves 4 – vegan friendly)


Red Thai curry paste

120g pinhead oatmeal

240ml vegetable stock

120g cooked potatoes – mashed

60g oven roasted cashews

125g smoked tofu diced

Gram flour and water batter

Breadcrumbs and sesame seeds for coating


Lightly fry off diced tofu and set to one side. In a medium pot place curry paste to suit (approx 3 dessert spoons), add pinhead oatmeal and stock, cover and cook until stock has evaporated. Fold in potatoes, fried tofu and cashews. Form into four balls and flatten into cakes. Dip in gram flour batter, coat in breadcrumbs and sesame seed mix. Deep fry in hot oil until golden brown.

Serve in burger buns.


200ml vegetable stock combined with

1 dessertspoon of tamarind paste

1 dessertspoon of red Thai curry paste

60g dates

Fresh coriander

Bring to boil and blend


Head chef at The Huxley in Rutland Street, David Haetzman, says: “We let the meat talk for itself. We use chuck steak which comes from the shoulder of the cattle. We trim it to remove the fat and sinew and mince it by hand so we know exactly what is going in our burger. A good butcher will be able to supply you with chuck steak and the beef fat.”

Huxley burgers

(makes four)

500g trimmed chuck steak

100g beef fat

10g salt

2 good grinds of a pepper mill

4 good quality burger buns


Roughly chop your meat and fat and mix together. This will make it easier to mince.

Put through the mincer and add the seasoning.

Shape into patties – you can either serve two smaller patties per bun or one larger one – this can be done by hand, giving a lovely rustic feel, or by using some kind of mould or press. Then refrigerate for 20 minutes or so to allow the burgers to firm up.

Lightly oil your burgers and cook in a griddle pan or on a barbecue for 2-3 minutes each side for a medium to medium-rare burger or 4 minutes each side if you like your burgers cooked through.

To give your burger a kick, add barbecue-style chipotle sauce. Simply use equal measures of smoked paprika, cayenne pepper and chipotle chilli and rub the burger in it before cooking.


LEITH-based personal trainer Tracy Griffen’s approach to fitness doesn’t stop at workouts. In her Healthy Living Yearbook, she suggests ditching the meaty burger for a healthier quinoa version. “Quinoa is gluten-free and considered easy to digest,” she points out. “Unlike wheat or rice, quinoa contained a balanced set of essential amino acids for humans, making it an unusually complete protein source.”


(Makes six burgers)

300g cooked and cooled quinoa.

2 organic free range eggs

35g plain flour

2 shallots, chopped (or any onion)


Handful of chopped fresh herbs (ideally coriander)

Any other seasoning you like – cumin, for example

Some grated cheese

Coconut or olive oil for cooking


Combine all the ingredients, except the oil, in a mixing bowl. Add as many breadcrumbs as you need to make the mixture sticky but not dry. Cook on a medium heat in a non-stick frying pan with a smidge of oil. Turn carefully after two minutes. Serve with a salad and lots of chilli sauce.


SUZANNE O’Connor at the Scottish Cafe and Restaurant at The Mound has a unique take on the traditional beef burger – lamb burgers.

Best Ever Scots Lamb Burger

(Serves four)

300g Peelham farm lamb shoulder minced

Sprig of fresh thyme

50g breadcrumbs

2 egg yolks

Sprig of mint

Half of lemon zest

125g white onion (grated )

Dash of Worcester sauce

Hebrides sea salt and white pepper


Grate the onion, chop the thyme and mint. Mix lamb mince in a bowl with egg yolk, Worcester sauce and season.

Bring all together and make into four patties.

Heat pan or griddle, oil the burger on both sides and seal in a pan until golden brown. Place in a preheated oven 180 degrees for 10-12 mins until cooked through the centre (all the juices need to run clear from the burger).

Serve on a warm toasted bun, with tomato relish, some mint creme fraiche and washed rocket leaves.


Chef Jason Wright of Steak Edinburgh in Picardy Place suggests a burger with a surprise extra ingredient – truffle.

Truffle and tarragon burgers

(serves four)

500g of beef cuts

50-100g bone marrow

50g tarragon

Good splash of truffle oil


For best results, mince the meat yourself or ask the butcher to do it for you. You will probably also need to ask your butcher for the bone marrow (ask for the bones cut lengthways and not cut into sections, it makes it easier to get the marrow out). Prise the marrow out with your fingers or a spoon.

Chop the marrow into cubes then mix it with the meat by hand. Add the tarragon finely chopped and a good splash of truffle oil.

Don’t salt the meat until the meat is ready for cooking, as it will start curing the meat, making it taste more like sausage.

Divide the meat into four and shape into equal rounds. Press the meat firmly together.

With your thumb make a slight hollow in the middle of the burger, this will stop it raising up whilst cooking, and looking like a meatball.

Place in a hot pan with a little oil. The bone marrow melts away and bleeds through the burger leaving a beefier flavour. Cook for around four minutes each side.

Serve in a bun with grated Isle of Mull cheddar and red onion marmalade.


FORMER Scottish chef of the year Neil Forbes swaps steak mince for an unusual alternative – venison.

He suggests using a quarter of a pound of venison mince to make four hearty burgers.

“Go to a game dealer, like Bowers in Stockbridge. They can mince the meat for you if they don’t already have some ready.

“Stick the mince venison in a bowl with some salt and freshly ground pepper. Then I’d add some crushed juniper berries or some chopped sage or a sprig of fresh thyme from the garden, maybe some rosemary, and mix it up.”

He suggests using a heavy grill pan to cook the burgers and garnish with homemade cucumber pickles: “Just add sliced cucumber to equal quantities of water, white vinegar, some sugar and salt, bring to the boil and then allow to cool”.

Neil suggests serving with potato wedges – chunky slices of potato drizzled with cold pressed rape seed oil and seasoned before baking in a hot oven for 40 minutes. For extra kick, sprinkle on some chilli or cayenne pepper before cooking.

For an “ultra posh” burger, serve the venison on homemade sourdough rolls.


You can’t whack a good, classic beefburger – once you’re sure that it is definitely beef. The Smoke Stack in Broughton Street is a member of the Scottish Beef Club, no foreign cuddies to be found on their menu.

Owner Richard Forbes says customers had already been showing increasing interest in learning where their food comes from before the latest horsemeat scandal. “This is adding an extra level of concern for people – many were already a bit sceptical about some areas of food production.”

Classic beefburger

(Serves 4)

0.25 kilo of good quality Scottish steak mince, preferably bought from a butcher or minced at home.

1 teaspoon of salt

0.5 teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper.

0.5 small onion, finely chopped

0.5 teaspoon tomato puree

0.25 teaspoon mild curry powder

0.25 teaspoon English mustard

0.25 teaspoon wholegrain mustard.


First fry off the onion until soft. Then simply mix all the ingredients together in a bowl and shape into burger patties. If possible, chargrill the burgers or use a very hot, heavy griddle pan with a rippled base.

Richard suggests serving the burger with strips of bacon and melted cheese. “A floury bap or a traditional morning roll is perfect. I tend to avoid sesame buns.

Serve with strips of bacon and melted Cheddar cheese.