I can’t really remember the last time I wrote a recipe so quickly. The problem is not the recipe itself; it’s the intro which gives me grief many times. The thing is I just cannot bring myself to publish anything, in this case a recipe, without saying something about it. It does happen sporadically – I just start to ramble on, and after that you may get a teeny weeny paragraph at the end. That’s called writer’s block. Oh, those dreaded words…a creative slowdown, the loss of a deadline or the ability to produce new work, as Wikipedia defines it. The nerve! In my case, listening to Ed Sheeran isn’t helping. (Fans please note: this is not his fault. Of course.)
I don’t know about you but we haven’t used the BBQ in this house yet. I bet you guys are cooking up a storm and grilling to your heart’s content, but I’m doing nothing of the sort. I’m cooking yes, but only because we have to eat, but during these hot days there’s no enjoyment to be found in the kitchen.
Earlier this week, on one of my regular visits to the greengrocer, I spotted a small amount of artichokes in one of the crates. I remained calm on the outside, but inside I was dancing my happy dance! And they looked too lovely not to buy. Some ladies in the shop gave me so many strange looks, as in are-you-mad-they-are-still-so-expensive kind of looks. What they don’t know is that I missed them so much when we were still living in the UK, where they cost double the price and most certainly they didn’t look as beautiful as the ones we get in Malta. Anyway I certainly don’t regret having them for dinner later that day! I mean, would you?
Continue reading Mediterranean Stuffed Artichokes
I love a good burger. Don’t you? I don’t know what it is but the thought of one just screams of summer barbecues. I find one challenge with making my own though, and that’s coming up with new ways of turning a good burger into something more special. Now I would never bash the ol’ beef burger. Never, but finding a really good one is tough.
A few weeks ago I bought some pork mince on a whim on one trip to the butcher’s. I didn’t know what to do with it until I saw Gill Meller from River Cottage whip up some gorgeous-looking burgers on YouTube. I like how simple they are to make, and the combination of pork, sage and apples is, of course, a classic. So I decided to give this recipe a go. I looked through my herb stash and found that I didn’t have any sage. OK. No biggie I said, and allowed myself some leeway and used my trusty za’atar instead. (At the moment I’m using up some of my dried herbs and spices so that I can replenish with fresh ones.) I also ran out of seeds so I couldn’t toast my own. So I used some ground cinnamon to counteract the tartness of the apples. (I was tempted to add some honey in the mix but in the end I decided to leave it out. It would have given the burgers a more golden caramelised look but then got stuck on how much I would need. The taste would have been great.) It worked. This amount will give you around 8 small patties. Keep me posted if you make these for your next cookout.
I am a planner. Well, whenever I can that is. I look for interesting recipes, write grocery lists and plan weekly meals. Usually. Though there are times when I just can’t be bothered. Stuff just happens. It’s been almost a year since moving back to Malta and we haven’t stopped. Feeling overwhelmed and stressed out doesn’t even begin to describe. So for the past few months I have given up on planning meals all the time. Giving this up for the most part has not been as hard as I anticipated. I know – I’m surprised at that myself to be honest but I gradually learnt not to fuss over the little things. To an extent. Cooking and baking are meant to be stress-busters for me. Whereas lately they were completely stressing me out! And I was letting them do that. I almost made my kitchen my enemy. Say what?! The fact that I’ve been running this blog for four and a half years now has somewhat increased the pressure, even though it remains my beloved hobby and my rock. Phew.
So I decided that when it comes to buying fresh produce I was going to relax. My thought process for the past few weeks has been something like this: deep breathe, let the notepad go, let the pen go, make the journey to the veggie truck, pick the best fruit and veggies you can buy, think of some recipes while you linger, chat to the nicest people there, pay for the stuff and walk away slowly. And it’s working. It is. I feel freer and I cook whatever I want when I’m home. The kitchen is not my enemy anymore. At least for now!
In Surrey you mean…? Err…nope! It’s so dreary today I could cry! I really don’t know if there will be a summer here, but till it arrives (perhaps *if* is a better term) here’s a recipe which reminds me of the warmer months. Grilling (with a good extractor in the kitchen: very important) cheers me up. I don’t know why but it makes me feel better. Most probably because it’s quick and really easy if you can deal with some splatter. If that bothers you, you can get one of those grilling contraptions. But you don’t really need one. The less gadgets, the better.
One of my favourite things, especially when I’m really hungry is a good burger. I like to make the mixture before, place the patties on a tray, cover with cling film, put them in the fridge to cool before any cooking is done. I found that this one of the best ways to keep them intact while on the grill. I add chilli in mine. If you don’t like chilli or are allergic to it just season with a little salt and pepper; you will definitely need some seasoning in this. You can play around as much as you like with a recipe like this, depending on what you love best. As far as the breadcrumbs go, I always keep some handy in the freezer. I hate waste so whenever I have some two/three-day-old bread I whizz it up in a food processor. I either divide the quantity into containers or freezer bags*. Very very simple. This recipe will give you approximately 5 burgers (150g each). But sometimes I make smaller portions which will or course give you more. (For a niftier version, you can make sliders – a trendy name for little hamburgers.) You need:
- 500g lean minced beef
- 1 small onion, finely chopped
- 6 tablespoons breadcrumbs*
- 3 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
- 1 – 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce (optional but I love it)
- ½ teaspoon paprika
- ½ teaspoon chilli powder (for a spicier version try 1 teaspoon chilli flakes)
- ¼ teaspoon mixed spice
- salt and pepper for extra seasoning (especially if you omit the chilli)
- 1 egg, lightly beaten
- flour, to bind
Throw in all the ingredients, except the flour into a large bowl and mix. The easiest is to use clean hands.
Form the mixture into 5 to 6 patties, about 125g-150g each. (You will eventually eyeball it with practice, but I used to weigh them and still do sometimes.) Bind them on a large tray using some flour, and remove any excess by tapping them lightly between the palms of your hands.
Cover the patties with cling film and place the tray in the fridge to cool. You will find this useful while cooking on the grill. I’ve learned this the hard way!
When you’re ready to party, make sure that the grill is nice and hot and cook the burgers for about 6 minutes on each side. Serve on baps with tomatoes, lettuce, any relish you prefer and/or a thick slab of cheese!
A classic. Enjoy…outside…