Cookery Corner: Cidery Cheeseburgers with a Warm Salad

Happy bank holiday everyone in England! I hope you lovely Discussers have had a great time. We didn’t do all that much, but for today I did rustle up some home made burgers and a warm salad for tea. We don’t have a barbecue so it was all cooked on the cooker, but even so it was a good meal.

I’m funny about burgers. I love them, but I’m fussy about them. For me a burger needs to be a rustic affair; I can’t stand uniform pressed burgers and in this area of eating I can’t stomach frozen/re-heated ones. I always make my burgers from scratch.

023  It starts with a pack of mince; use your judgement for the amount you’ll need to feed the people in your party. Mix it with whatever you want to flavour it and anything goes– I’ve used mushroom pate before now! Today I mixed in a good sprinkling of Italian herbs, some garlic and a generous glug (or three) of Magners Irish Cider. Other varieties of cider are available, but personally I don’t much care for these sub-par ciders! Add to the mix an egg to bind the stuff all together and then dig in. Remember to remove any rings or you might end up with a greasy ring and I’m telling you now that nobody wants one of those. The image to the left is of the meat concoction once I was satisfied that everything was mixed and that the meat was suitable tender.

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Next, form the meat into patties. Fun fact: the patties will shrink during the cooking process so aim to make your uncooked patty larger than the burger bun or you’ll wind up with a wonky looking burger! I make my patties by rolling the meat into a ball then placing it on a floured surface and pressing the heel of my hand onto the meat. I owned a burger press once, but your hand will do just as nicely. I then put the patties on a plate with greaseproof paper on top and chilled them in the fridge. The longer you chill the better, but today I started late so the patties only got half an hour (and that’s pretty long for me!) so its not crucial. Just be gentle with them when you flip them, kay?

My husband, Tony, is very much a no-salad guy. He’ll eat it if he has to, in other words, if he feels that whoever lovingly prepared it will be offended if it’s left uneaten. In a flash of inspiration once upon a time, I decided to make a warm salad. It’s nothing fancy, just peppers and mushrooms softened in garlicy butter over a low heat, then served atop of a bed of lettuce leaves. Easy peasy and Tony loves it. So, while my burgers were chilling in the fridge I did just what I mentioned above.

031 028 I tend to cook the burgers and the salad at the same time as the veg doesn’t take long and I like pinkish burgers. I made two much smaller and thinner burgers for the little Gavellors so they were cooked more thoroughly and quicker, leaving them time to cool before serving them. I had requests for cheese, so I sliced up some cheddar with herbs and laid it over the cooking patties so that the cheese melts into the meat properly–I hate the idea of cold cheese on a hot burger.

I made some potato wedges to go with the rest of the food, or rather I heated some frozen ones up. I do fancy having a go at making my own, but today was a lovely sunny day and we spent most of the afternoon in the garden instead helping my son garden, read: cover themselves in soil and bang pots together, while my daughter helped her dad clear out the shed and ride her bike. Frankly there are more exciting things to do than make everything from scratch, but we enjoyed the bits I did do! Now you can enjoy the picture below. So I hope you all put your bank holiday to good use, because we’ve got ages now until the next one in August, although I always enjoy that one as my birthday happens during that week and Ali Gaveller and I have exciting plans for that week. For now though: burger.

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Cookery Corner; Mum’s Macaroni Cheese

Welcome to our first ever Cookery Corner! I will be taking the first recipe, showing off the meal I made for my fellow Gaveller, Alison, my husband, Tony and my two children. My kids are pretty good with food; my son is 10 months old and as long as he’s hungry he’ll eat most anything, my daughter is 3 and a half and so sometimes decides she just doesn’t want to eat the thing she’s happily eaten for years tonight, no sirree! Both of them ate this meal, plus Alison and Tony scoffed it too, so I declare this a winner of a meal!

So, onto the actual food. The mum in the recipe title is not mine. My mum tells me that when she was pregnant with me she was addicted to macaroni cheese, but she’s never been fond of any sort of pasta so its not one my sister and I grew up with. In fact I had never eaten mac’n’cheese before this meal. A truly monumental occasion. When Alison and I decided to expand to add cooking (and baking, two things we both love to do) to our blog I decided to choose a recipe book to use throughout the year. I have millions of the things you see, many of which I rarely ever use. The book I chose to use is brilliant for this purpose as it’s divided into months of the year. The macaroni cheese is credited to Lotte Duncan, who in turn credits it to her mum, hence the title. The book I will be using this year (although I will dip in and out of others, too) is Lotte’s Country Kitchen. I used to work with Lotte’s neighbour and they have since gone into business together opening a gorgeous cafe where my daughter is particularly partial to their “yellow cakes”. If you ever find yourselves in Chinnor look them up here Lotte’s Kitchen .

So to the recipe:

225g/8oz Macaroni

40g/1 1/2oz butter

4 tablespoons plain flour

570ml/1 pint semi-skimmed milk

pinch nutmeg

1 tablespoon wholegrain mustard

1 tablespoon English mustard

1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

200g/7 oz Cheddar cheese, grated

50g/2oz Gruyère cheese, grated

salt and pepper

I was a little intimidated by the types of mustard and the Worcestershire sauce. I have always thought I’m not a fan of mustard or the W. sauce, although I have no idea where this came from. Could be I tried them as a child and didn’t like them, or could even be that I was just told as a child I wouldn’t like them. Whatever the reason I didn’t think I liked them and was worried that I wouldn’t like the recipe. Nevertheless I trusted Lotte’s recipe or Lotte’s mum’s recipe so I charged on ahead.

It’s a simply put together dish; cook the macaroni (instructions will be on the packet no doubt, but its the same as any other pasta) then make a cheese sauce which is where the milk, flour and cheese comes in of course. I’ve made cheese sauces for lasagnas before so this was no different: melt the butter, stir in the flour to make a paste, then add the milk until it thickens. At this point, add the cheese (although always keep some back to scatter on top of whatever the cheese sauce is for).

Cheesy saucy goodness

Cheesy saucy goodness

 

The difference with this cheese sauce was that I mixed the nutmeg, two types of mustard and W. sauce together in a small dish and then stirred the (disgusting looking and strong smelling) combination into the cheesy concoction. Lotte doesn’t mention in her book to mix them first, she simply instructs to add them, so you probably don’t have to mix them first.

Looks...interesting, but added so much flavour!

Looks…interesting, but added so much flavour!

The final stage of putting the dish together is to stir the pasta into the sauce. I also cooked some bacon to layer on top; Lotte mentions this in the recipe although bacon isn’t on the list of ingredients. She also mentions tomatoes, but I am personally not a huge fan, so omitted those. I feel pretty confident in say whatever you choose to put on top of this dish will be tasty!

The dish is baked in an oven at 180 degrees/gas mark 6 for 20 minutes until it goes that beautiful colour of perfectly cooked cheese!

All cooked!

All cooked!

I admit here that I had put aside some Cheddar to sprinkle on top and completely forgot until I was dishing up. Not one to waste good cheese I bunged it on top of the hot food and it melted nicely! I served the macaroni cheese with garlic bread and a green leaf salad.

Ready to eat

Ready to eat

Everyone declared it delicious and I discovered that while mustard probably won’t make it onto my plate in its natural form, I will gladly use it in recipes. And as for Worcestershire sauce? Where have you been all my life, you yummy thing, you?

I think this could be the start of a beautiful friendship...where I eat you

I think this could be the start of a beautiful friendship…where I eat you

…probably in Worcestershire…