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

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

Local pork & foraged juniper. And smoked salmon ice cream.

It’s our last day in Devon for a bit. So it’s a final push to find local stuff to cook and eat. The other day Tim wanted to do an oyster dish, but when we spoke with the fishmonger he said there was an ‘oyster drought’. We both looked concerned. Then he added, “I haven’t seen an oyster, since, when was it – Thursday.”

We felt we’d neglected the meat side of things (we’ve got lots of veggie barbecue dishes done here that we haven’t had time to post yet.) So, today it’s rolled rib of pork, from within 6 miles, from one of the excellent local butchers.

When Tim goes into a butcher’s shop he tends to be there quite a while. In our local one at home he’s been known to spend a day there, getting involved and learning to butcher lamb, pork, and beef – separating topside and silverside, and boning a leg of lamb. This gives him the ability to say mysterious things on the phone to me when I’m at work, such as, “I’ve got to go – I’ve got to cut a pig in half.”

Local butchers

The local butchers

Tim will use the juniper from our foraging walk a couple of days ago. And local apples.

Locally foraged juniper

Rolled rib of pork

Cracking crackling

A special variety of blurry apples, with juniper

As a starter, he’s doing an old dinner party favourite – smoked salmon with ice cream and pea shoots. Pea shoots have suddenly become very trendy – they even have their own website: http://www.peashoots.com. And now you can get them in places like Morrison’s down here, and Tim says he’s seen them in Waitrose in Richmond. When he started doing this dish we had to get them from the allotment. Our very short-lived allotment, near Syon park. But that’s another story.

Smoked Salmon ice cream

Smoked salmon, ice cream, avocado puree and pea shoots

Smoked salmon & ice cream

I love pea shoots. All the essence of freshly picked and shelled peas, compressed into a delicate twirly shoot, with a burst of pea freshness when you bite. Though, these supermarket bought ones don’t seem to have the twirly, sprirally ends to them.

Blimey, according to peashoots.com, these little blighters have more vitamin C than blueberries. And 4 times more vitamin A than tomatoes. Though I’m not sure I eat tomatoes for their vitamin A.

After all this healthy antioxidant blueberryness and pea shoot healthiness, I think it’s time to go and re-tox.

Pork loin cooking notes