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

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 post Mayan End of Days supper

Well, it didn’t happen did it? Although the way people were descending on the local supermarkets it looked as if many people were stocking up for the apocalypse. Or maybe just Christmas. We headed off to the local farm instead.

Freerange chicken crossing the road to Hazledene Farm

Why did the chicken..

We spent some time with the chickens there – they are so relaxing, the way they cluck about happily. They are given complete freedom to potter about, the gates to their enclosures are open doing the day; they wander up and down the long drive way, in and out of areas of pasture, and around the farm shop.

No one here but us chickens

No one here but us chickens

In the farm shop one of the chaps working there spotted our crestfallen looks when we saw the fresh eggs tray empty. (They do stock other free range eggs when theirs aren’t laying, but we wanted the rare breed ones.) He slipped out of the shop and returned a couple of minutes later with a plastic container of muddy, but fresh eggs. He was apologetic about the mud – there’d been a constant deluge recently, and the some of the chicken were looking like they’d been having fun in the mud.

Freerange chickens including Marsh Daisies and Ixworth

Freeranging

Tim crouching down with the chickens

Chicken whisperer

 Free range Rare breed chickens on Hazeldene

Rare breed chickens freeranging

Rare breed chickens

I had to chuckle at Tim’s recipe-making in the kitchen today. The plan was that he’d make one of my favourite dishes – a perfectly poached egg with Halloumi and Puy lentils. Perfect for the post apocalyptic supper.

But Tim went free-range himself – with the Halloumi, poached eggs, the lentils cooked with a hickory smoked chicken stock, a salsa of chargrilled tomato and and a truffle infused cream sauce. And pickled red cabbage made the day before.

The chicken stock was made earlier with a free range Label Anglaise chicken – the farm doesn’t sell their rare breeds to eat.

Chargrilling the tomatoes

Chargrilling the tomatoes

Peppers chargrilling on the hob

Chargrilling the peppers on the hob. Otherwise known as making a mess.

14dish

Halloumi, eggs and smoky puy lentils

You can see from the pic below the difference between a fresh free range farm bought egg, and the supermarket free range. The egg with the thicker, more gelatinous white is the fresh farm egg, the one with the thinner is a free range supermarket egg, about a week old, and the one that collapsed at the back of the picture was also a free range supermarket egg – it’s probably about 12 days old.

Eggs comparison - free range and supermarket bought.

The one on the left is the pasture fed freerange egg

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

Totnes, twinned with Narnia

Totnes twinned with Narnia

This sign, ‘Totnes twinned with Narnia’,  first appeared in 2006. I don’t know whether every so often the council change it back to the French town it’s meant to be twinned with. But apparently this version of the sign reappeared March this year – I know we saw it then.

Totnes is a fascinating place – it seems to welcome all forms of belief, encompassing traditional and alternative churches to the most whacky pseudo sciences – and loads of holistic stuff in between. No one would bat an eyelid at courses on consulting your angels, discovering your planetary soul group or healing through unicorns. Well, some might.

And it seems the range of food is just as all encompassing. The Totnes Food Market is held regularly – it was such a busy, buzzy market I assumed it must be a bit of a special occasion, but it’s on every month.

Save water, drink wine.

The tapas man.

On our latest visit we bought beautiful skinny, multi-coloured carrots, the muddiest maris pipers, English saucisson sec, all manner of smoked meats, a pheasant, veal and vension. We took home a fabulous coffee flavoured vegan cake made with sweet potato, potted mackerel pate, and two types of specialist bacons – one without added nitrites – but more on that later.

There were several street food stalls – tapas with seafood, Thai dishes, a guy selling from a vat of some kind of French casserole, and endless slightly hippy forms of food. Plus the occasional waft of skunk – coming from customers – not a stall.

Thai stall

Thai stall

Garlic, and street food.

The egg man.

I am the eggman.

A fish stall.

A meat stall

A cake stall

There were sugar-free cordials, Himalayan and Cornish salts, local cheeses, habanero peppers, handmade chocolate truffles and puffy meringues. We bought elderberry wine (14%) and Kiwi and chocolate wine – sadly there’s no corkscrew in the house so we haven’t opened those yet.

We were going to try some rabbit, but we made the mistake of leaving it until we’d looked around, and when we went back the chap had sold out. Seems people have been listening to Clarissa!

It’s well worth a visit.

The last cake

The last cake. They did well.

Hand churned butter

Tomorrow Tim will wake up next to an Olympic Shot Putter. Well,  someone who looks like one. Because today we made hand churned butter.

How to make butter

Tim of course did the technical bit. He opened a carton of double cream, and poured it into a meticulously clean jam jar, with a little bit of salt.

Then we both did the leg work. Or the armwork. We shook it for about 18 minutes. It’s really quite amazing how the butter starts to separate from the milk, as the cream warms up with the friction – and the amazing yellow colour that develops.

“I can’t believe it’s not butter.” Or rather, I can’t believe how easy it is to make butter. And cheap, too. Half a 600 ml carton of ordinary double cream has resulted in a slab of lovely home made butter. Later, in a supermarket (hiss boo) I saw Jersey double cream in bottles for 2 for £2. Apparently this butter freezes well, so that could be the next experiment.

Online there are are several recipes that involve mixing machines, sieving, muslin and massaging the last bits of milk out of the butter.

The fluid, not sure if that’s simply skimmed milk, or buttermilk, will turn the butter quickly if left in. This no hands, no machine, method feels more like the traditional churning method, and is what Tim remembers doing as a kid in Cyprus with his Gran. Whether it was just to amuse a young boy and keep him quiet for a bit, who knows?

To make the coriander butter, just chop up and handful and mix into the butter, then level off the top. The coriander will probably spoil quite quickly, even in the fridge, so it’s worth using up asap. It went down very nicely on a roast chicken.

What I loved about making butter is that it has he same miraculous quality as making soap – fascinating how a little heat, produced by the ingredient(s) itself and movement, create the result.

Double cream, shaken not stirred

A bit of shakery-pokery, and voila

Coriander mixed in

Of course, any other herb would be lovely too – coriander is one herb that divides people dramatically, apparently it’s genetic whether you love the stuff or run screaming at its mention.

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.