Main course: serves 4. Total time: 30 minutes
Burgers are the ultimate success story of modern street food. Popularised by merchants from Hamburg, Germany, in the 18th century, they crossed the Atlantic early in the 19th century. In New York, German sailors who patronised stalls along the harbour made their request for what became known as Hamburg steak, a bunless forerunner.

For the burgers

450g best minced beef
1tbsp finely chopped shallots
sea salt
black pepper
4 hamburger buns, slit in half

For the garnish

1/2 red onion, peeled, halved and thinly sliced
8 cocktail gherkins, sliced
English mustard
tomato ketchup
1/2 beefsteak tomato, sliced

Blend together the mince, shallots and seasoning in a bowl. If you want an especially professional finish to your burgers, shape the mince a quarter at a time inside a 10cm pastry cutter with smooth edges. Or, if you are happy with something more rustic, form the meat into balls using your hands, and then flatten them between your palms. Bear in mind that the burgers will shrink and fatten when you grill them. If you want you can make them in advance, then cover and chill them in the fridge.

Either heat a ridged griddle over a medium-to-low heat or under a conventional grill on a high heat, and cook the burgers for 4-5 minutes on each side. Combine the sliced onion and gherkins. Then toast the buns either on the griddle or under the ordinary grill. Place a burger in each of the buns, smear over some mustard followed by plenty of tomato ketchup. Next add a slice of tomato and season, then scatter on some sliced onion and gherkin.

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