How to make a perfect burger. And how not to make a burger.

To make the best burger, Delia Smith says it has to be 20% fat. John Torode says 40% fat. Heston Blumenthal’s epic burger recipe has a formula of 2:1:1 of chuck, short rib and brisket.

Donna Hay put this in her burger recipe: mince, garlic, tomato paste, sauce, parsley, salt and pepper.  Jamie Oliver’s burger recipe suggests adding 12 cream crackers, parsley and an egg to minced beef.

No one suggests a dash of horse meat.

A burger with oyster sauce - surf and turf

We thought we’d try a few different ways to make a proper burger.

Tim’s a bit of a purist when it comes to burgers. Actually, he a bit of a purist concerning lots of food. So his first method contains 100% meat. Well, meat and fat. He used one lean cut, one fattier, and some fat.

three ingredients for the burger

Three ingredients, meat, meat and fat

He recently found this brilliant beast of a machine, to hand-mince the meat. A food processor could overwork the meat making it sausage-meat like.

The Beat - a hand mincing machine for burgers

The Beast in all its guises

The Beast minces the meat for the burger

The Beast does its work

After mincing the meats and fat, he laid the meat out and seasoned it. Then he fried a little sample to check the seasoning. He formed the beef into patties using an earthenware tapas dish, which produced a nice round 190g patty.

Three burger patties

Three burger patties

For the first burger he topped it simply and traditionally with a grated cheddar – Montgomery is a good strong traditional one. He browned it under the grill, before adding the bun ‘lid’.

A cheese burger with Montgomery cheddar.

A cheese burger with Montgomery cheddar.

For a second version Tim went for a ‘surf and turf’ effect, making an oyster sauce.

A burger with oyster sauce - surf and turf

Burger with oyster sauce – surf and turf

Another topping variant was bacon and celeriac slaw.

Burger with bacon and celeriac slaw

The burgers were good, but for me, I felt they were a bit dense. So we did another version, adding finely chopped onion, a couple of spoons of  breadcrumbs and an egg to bind it. The egg actually made the mixture fall apart, so we added a touch more breadcrumbs until it held together again.

Whichever way you prefer your burgers, homemade is definitely best, particularly now we have all these Unidentified Frozen Objects around.

How not to make a great burger:

Larry Goodman of ABP Food Group, which owns Silvercrest Foods, said, “DNA will pick up molecules and something in the air.” If it’s the case that horse DNA floats around in the air, why haven’t more horses been mistakenly convicted of violent crimes and ram-raiding jewellers?

Paul Walker of Iceland, who’s the spitting image of the bloke that runs the hilarious and disastrous ‘The Hotel’ on TV  (and inspires just about as much confidence) said,  “OK, you can say we haven’t been testing for horse – well, why would we? We don’t test for hedgehog either.” He clearly didn’t give a flying horse about the issue.

I’m shocked that a massive supermarket doesn’t look into who they deal with a little more carefully. A quick google shows that one of the Irish meat suppliers they use has been previously caught out for less than squeaky clean activities.  They’ve been found out using illegal growth hormones in their cattle more than once, prosecuted numerous times for polluting the environment, and fined for evading tax on several occasions.

http://www.thefreelibrary.com/IFFY+LIFFEY%3B+Horse+meat+firm+has+previous+convictions.-a0315548059

Gressingham duck with blackcurrant and cassis sauce

A Gressingham duck is rather like a Hoover. By that I mean a it’s a brand name that has become a noun. Tim and I were wondering about this the other day – whether Gressingham was a breed, or a brand name. Or a place of origin.  It turns out it’s all three. Gressingham duck is a wild mallard crossed with Pekin duck – known as a Long Island duck in the USA. There’s a lot of breast meat on it, and it’s know for its gamey flavour. It was bred in Gressingham, Lancashire by the Buchanen family, who later bought exclusive rights to breed the ducks, hence it becoming a brand name.

I was wondering about ducks and what they eat, when walking in the park. The ducks in the park here are also like a Hoover – for different reasons. They hoover up a lot of rubbish factory-produced bread that’s thrown to them. It can’t be good for them to eat stuff that’s so so nutritionless. I was chuckling at the thought that the ducks and swans on the river at Richmond where we used to walk probably live on discarded Poilane bread.

Duck with blackcurrant and cassis sauce

Gressingham duck with blackcurrant and cassis

I’ve fed the ducks and Canada geese here a few times with some sourdough, but having looked on the intertubes just now, it seems feeding them any kind of bread isn’t really a good idea, and not necessary for their survival – even in the coldest weather. If you’re going to feed ducks for the fun of it – and it is nice seeing them waddling up to see what’s in the bag, seeds would be better for them.

I love the colours of this dish, how the the blackcurrant and cassis sauce bleeds into the whiteness of the celeriac mash. I like the way the duck skin catches a little, offset by the softness of the mash.

This is an adaption of a recipe from ‘Ripailles’ by Stephane Reynaud.

Ingredients

2 Gressingham duck breasts

Blackcurrants 150g

1 whole celeriac, chopped into 1 inch cubes

110 g butter – 40g for the blackcurrant sauce, 70g for the celeriac.

120 ml Creme de cassis

300 ml red wine

2 shallots, finely chopped

1/2 a lemon for juice

Salt & black pepper

Make the sauce first. In a hot pan, pour in the red wine and reduce by half. Add the finely chopped shallots. Add the creme de cassis. Add the blackcurrants. Tim had some blackcurrants  in the freezer from a foraging day, he put them in frozen. Reduce down to a syrupy consistency. The blackcurrants will break down a bit, but you’re not looking for a completely smooth texture – in this case lumpy is good. Add the 40g butter. Check the seasoning – add a touch of salt. Put aside and turn to the celeriac.

How to make the blackcurrant and cassis sauce

Blackcurrant sauce

Put the diced celeriac into a large pan of cold water, and squeeze in the lemon juice. Tim’s note: anything grown below the ground (root veg) start in cold water. Anything grown above the ground, drop into hot water. It will take approximately 15 minutes to cook – test with a knife – it should be completely soft. Drain and put aside, keep warm.

With a very sharp knife score the skin of the duck breast in a criss cross pattern – don’t go into the flesh. Season the duck breast on both sides. Place in a hot pan, skin side down, no oil needed. Render the fat (melt down) on a low to medium heat, for 10 minutes. Turn over and cook for another 5 minutes. Rest the duck for 10 minutes before plating up. During this time, go back to the celeriac – mash and add the butter, season.

Panfry the duck

Panfry the duck

Slice the breast into 5 or 6 sections, lay out the celeriac and place the duck on it, then spoon over the blackcurrant sauce.

Duck with blackcurrant and cassis sauce

Panfried duck with blackcurrant and cassis

None of these ducks were harmed in the making of this dish

None of these ducks were harmed in the making of this dish.

Perhaps we should have gone for old ladies’ knickers.

When we set up the deli we were burning with all sorts of ideas about food. Many locals thought we were crazy to attempt to create good food, from good ingredients, in what was an old junk shop.

As Tim was doing the premises up locals gave us plenty of suggestions of what the shop should become. Some wanted a launderette. One old lady wanted a knicker shop, specifically for her and her friends, to save getting on the bus to Hounslow to buy big pants. It was an idea we dismissed.

We started off wanting to make everything organic, but as we were trying to keep it local, and were on the edge of London, we struggled to find the right suppliers. In the end we settled on the idea that everything in the deli had to be there for a reason.

Our old leaflet: We love small producers - organic - freerange

Call us picky. Or piggy.

Juggling free range, organic and local

Juggling free range, organic and local

We also started to get very interested in cheese. We became cheese spotters, cheese anoraks. We spent a morning in Bath tasting cheese – by lunchtime we’d tasted over 50 cheeses. We were cream-crackered.

We became cheese anoraks

We became cheese anoraks.

Our weekly cheese bill was massive. And cheese is surprisingly hard work to keep tip top – it needs a lot of babysitting. Running a deli unit to keep it creates humongous electricity bills.  The crunch time for cheese came when we noticed some people from one of the big 4 supermarkets came in to our second deli in Twickenham.

Would you like a plasma TV to go with your olives?

Would you like a plasma TV to go with your olives?

They had the name of their supermarket, which was just round the corner, on their clipboard. They had coffee, and took notes. A week later all the unusual cheeses we stocked, ones we’d never seen before in that particular supermarket were in stock. Plus all the chutneys, biscuits etc from our small suppliers. And of course, the supermarket buys by the pallet. So, we were very ‘knowingly undersold.’

We gave up cheese. Goodbye to the Stinking Bishop, Colston Bassett, Finn, Little Wallop. Au revoir, Epoisses. Arrivederci, Asiago.

The funny thing was, people would come in a year later, and say something like, “Oh, you don’t stock Comte anymore? But I always get my Comte here. I came in last December and you had it.” We’d probably make more money selling old ladies’ under-crackers.

So, things moved on. Tim started focussing on food to eat in, and dinner parties, which – truth be told – was what he always really wanted to do. We still had fabulous coffee, and classics like our gorgeous beetroot cake. We sold the Twickenham deli, as Tim couldn’t be in two places at once – I guess we should have worked that one out earlier. Duh.

Out of the blue, somebody wanted to buy the deli, the original one, at the end of our street.

Tim was tired, wrung out. We’d had four years of fighting against the recession, spats with the council about pavement licences that were 10 times the cost of those in neighbouring Richmond. There’d been issues with a trade waste company that put their prices up by 30% every 3 months – and picked up and charged for phantom bin bags.

So, the deli was sold. And now we’re here, out in the Chilterns. And there’s a new project on the way.

Looking back on our ‘manifesto’ as a chum called it – it’s clear we still care about the same things.

give_us_back_our_daily_bread

Give us back our daily bread


Our old Syon leaflet about bread

Give us back our daily bread

Now, we can achieve organic AND local. We can be closer to the animals that are behind it all. Tim can achieve the kinds of things he was trying to do when he was voted a ‘Local Food Hero’ on TV with Arthur Potts Dawson and Gary Rhodes. We can grow our own. Organically.

A rare breed sheep looking right back at you

Who’re ewe looking at?

New born rare breed piglets

One day old

A brace of pheasants

A brace of pheasants

A lop eared pig and...er... a ginger one.

A lop eared pig and…er… a ginger one.


It’s funny, filming the show took us to Devon, where we spent a lot of time searching out good produce.

But moving here, to Buckinghamshire, which is ‘going home’ for me, we’ve found there are lots of great suppliers of real food.

The new project will be up and running by the spring, we hope. It’s a bit quirky, a bit handmade, and on a shoestring. But we’re used to that. It will be working with those little producers who really care. And we won’t be competing with supermarkets. Or purveyors of senior lingerie.

A proper British pig

 

A British Lop Pig, with ears that protect the eyes when foraging

A native British Lop Pig. The ears cover the eyes to protect them when foraging.

A couple of weeks ago we moved out of London. Today was our first weekend of not shifting boxes about. So, when I asked Tim what he’d like to do today, on our first free weekend together in the country, he suggested we go and see some pigs. Very romantic, but hey, we’re in the country.

After a brief discussion about appropriate footwear (my scruffy ones let in water, but I don’t want to ruin my warm and dry ones with pig poo) we set off to see some young, rare pigs on a farm.

We had no idea that there are pigs that are so rare that they are almost endangered species. One of those breeds is the Lop Pig, previously known as the National Long White Lop Eared Pig. It’s one of the original, native British pigs.

It seems, much like the way the Milk Marketing Board buggered up British cheeses in the 70s, wiping out a huge selection of our traditional cheeses, the government waded into in the subject of pigs in 1955. British artisan cheeses have been recovering gradually since the 90s, to the point that we now have a fantastic selection of cheeses again. Sadly, some native pig breeds have been lost forever.

The Government’s Howitt Report recommended that in order to increase profitability and compete with imported bacon, farmers should concentrate on the Landrace – imported from Sweden, and the Large White and Welsh breeds.

This led to the extinction of native pig breeds such as the Cumberland, Lincolnshire Curly Coated, Ulster White, Dorset Gold Tip and Yorkshire Blue.

A group of British Lop eared pigs in a stall

Tea time

Tea time

A lop eared piglet looking out the pigsty door for his mother pig

Mum..?

Piglets - lop eared pigs under a heat lamp

Is it hot in here, or is it me?

Chef Tim Zekki on the rare breed Hazeldene Farm

So these little piggies are rather special, as there are currently only around 200 Lop sows left in the country.

A chap in the farm shop gave us a bag of something that the pigs like – not entirely sure what they were – some sort of pig food pellet – the pigs were certainly keen to get hold of them. And I wouldn’t want to be amongst these pigs when they are hungry – they are enthusiastic eaters.

A dandy of a cockerel

A dandy of a Cockerel

Free range rare breed chickens

Free ranging chickens

The farm also keeps rare breeds of chickens, such as Marsh Daisy – apparently only a hundred of those left. The pure white Ixworth chickens are slightly less rare, with around 500 left. No wonder they were so upset a fox got one of their rare chickens recently. It’s so nice to see the chickens wandering around wherever they want, and funny to see how they sheltered in various places, under their houses, under a bench, under a raised drinking water can, when a sudden downpour of rain came.

Chef Tim Zekki and a traditional Hereford cow

This is the pork shoulder Tim cooked a few weeks back, after one of our visits to the farm. The crackling was cracking, and it was perfect.

A gorgeous shoulder of organic raised rare breed pork from a lop pig

Shoulder of pork. 

A trivet made from the bones of the lop pig raised by organic principles

A trivet made from the bones

free range pork with excellent crackling

In the oven

Cracking crackling from lop pig pork

Cracking crackling

Excellent crackling from lop pig

Postscript: I saw the other day that the lovely Philip Dundas of the pop up restaurant Pip’s Dish at the Garage in Islington did a shoulder of lop pork recently. Can’t wait to go and try Pip’s Dish. It’s here: http://www.pipsdish.co.uk/2012/07/stuffed-british-lop-shoulder

Succulent, sticky and cheaty.

Barbecued ribs in the garden

Barbecued ribs in the garden

Barbecued ribs – local pork and a cheating, store cupboard sauce

 I’m quite fond of the standard skinny ribs, but Tim prefers more meaty (I guess I prefer more sauce!) so we went for a test with 4 of each type from a local butcher here in Totnes.

 Ingredients:

 4 belly of pork ribs

4 pork spare ribs

4 dessertspoons of tomato ketchup

1 dessertspoon of Worcestershire sauce

2 dessertspoon of brown sauce

1 dessertspoon of set English honey

1 teaspoon of vinegar

fresh coriander

olive oil

salt

black pepper

Two types of pork spare ribs

Pork ribs, times two

Spoonfuls of ingredients, and the made up sauce

The ingredients- the usual suspects.

Tim salted the pork to start, as he does with all white meats, usually he’ll salt for at least two hours, or overnight. Just before putting on the barbecue he basted them with a couple of tablespoons of olive oil.

Meanwhile, he made a cheat’s barbecue sauce by mixing together the store cupboard sauces and honey. Runny honey would have been easier, but the only English honey in the local co-op here was set.

As he happened to have a saucepan of water on the go (for a Dulce de Leche recipe to follow) he decided to reduce the sauce down over the pan, like a bain marie.

Spare ribs cooking on the barbecue

Spare ribs cooking on the barbecue

He cooked the ribs over the barbecue, and and took them off half way through, to rest, and to prick with a fork. The juices that came out of the pork in the resting process went into the barbecue sauce mixture. He then poured the barbecue sauce over the ribs.

After about 20 minutes he finished the ribs off on the barbecue, and serviced sprinkled with coriander. For him, the jury’s still out.  For me, hmm, belly of pork great, but I do like the skinny ones a little bittie bit more – more barbecue sauce for square cm.

Both succulent, sticky, and slightly cheaty.

Easter lamb.In search of family history, we find a fantastic local butcher.

We’re still not back in town, as we’ve things to do in Buckinghamshire. So today we had a wander further out past Amersham. We went in search of family history, in the Churchyard at Princes Risborough. I’ve generations of family from here, but I don’t remember ever visiting here.  It was quite an odd feeling to find the gravestones of a great grandfather, and other long gone relatives.

Then we went on to a fabulous smart looking, family run local butcher, in the High Street. They source their local lamb from Thame, and Pork from Princes Risborough, so we bought both, and some local eggs.

For this dish, Tim decided to caramelise some lemons. of course lemon and lamb are a classic combination in Kleftiko, which apparently means stolen lamb. caramelising the lemons gives a result that is much smoother and sweeter. the caramelised onion went into yoghurt to make a dressing for some charlotte potatoes. Tim roasted pepper and onions with thyme, for a side vegetable.

The lamb was tender and flavourful, really good. We’ll be back again.

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Princes Risborough butchers. A family run business.

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Caramelising lemons.

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Having a butchers.

Easter Lamb

Black pudding with hummus, pinenuts and dried fruit

Coriander.
Marmite.
Black pudding.

Like coriander, black pudding is one of those ingredients that divides people into two camps. And I, (Linda) am in the camp with the people with the bargepoles. Whilst Tim is in the camp with the frying pans at the ready.

I remember a version of this recipe that Tim used to do as a tapas with minced lamb, based on a Moro recipe, which I loved.

I also remember Tim doing this for friends in the deli with crumbled black pudding, and seeing some people tuck in happily thinking it was mushrooms. At least this way people know it’s black pudding. The rest of the dish I love. I love the mixture of toasted pine nuts with hummus, and the odd burst of sweetness from the dried fruits.

Tim likes to make his own hummus, but he says that’s for another day. This black pudding came from a butcher in Totnes, with big white pieces, and not overly spiced with cinnamon and cloves etc.

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Black pudding and hummus notes

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Black pudding & hummus

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Which goes well with Leffe.Ah, Leffe.

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Do the Butter Walk. Totnes.

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Black Pudding & Hummus going down well.