While apologising profusely for not posting a recipe, or anything else really during the past few days, I can say that the busiest time of the year for me has officially started. It began a few weeks ago to be honest, but only now I am feeling it. It – as in what-the-heck-I-don’t-know-what-I’m-doing type of thing. What’s worse is that Christmas food is at the bottom of my list, and that almost never happens. I have, with the help of my lovely mum, put up some decorations, tree and all, but as much as I have decided not to stress about the trivial things, I’m stressing more as a result. Does that happen to you too? Mind you I cannot complain too much you know – I am prepping for a simple meal and I just have to see that I have all the ingredients I need. That’s all. However as much as I’m trying to put on my Nigella anxiety-lessening supercape, I’m failing miserably. But things can only get better. (No, I’m not quoting D:Ream.)
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.
For my lovely Maltese readers who have been asking me about Beefburgergate (I’m calling it so) you can find all the details in this article by Ben Quinn on the Guardian. Perhaps, from now on we can finally decide on whether it’s a good idea to make our own. Pass it on.
We’re finally getting a taste of summer here in Surrey and just like that, I don’t feel like spending loads of time in the kitchen. We got so little sunshine these past few months. So staying indoors all day is definitely *not* an option. That doesn’t mean no cooking obviously, but realistically it’s too hot for lengthy meals. The shorter the time, the better. This is my version of a quick stir-fry. I love food which is full of flavour and lately I have been trying a number of Chinese recipes. Why opt for a takeaway when you can make something like this at home?
Here’s some hopefully helpful tips for this dish – I don’t want to sound patronising. (I remember the first time I tried to cook a stir-fry some years ago and I made a mess!) Please bear with me:
- Always remember to switch on the extractor!
- Using a wok is best. Borrow one if you have to.
- I use pork here but you can either leave it out altogether or substitute it with a meaty vegetable such as aubergine if you like. Use less salt if you use aubergine though. Remember that salt extracts water from everything, making your ingredients drier.
- When slicing the veggies make sure they are approximately the same size. Don’t faff too much about this, but if you do they will take the same amount of time to cook through.
- Don’t be afraid of the amount of ingredients needed; it’s easier than you think!
- As with all stir-fry recipes make sure you prepare all the ingredients beforehand and start with a very hot wok. Serve with jasmine rice.
Quantities for 4-6 hungry people. You will need:
Meat and spices:
- 400g pork, sliced into strips
- 1 tablespoon plain flour
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon pepper
- ½ teaspoon dried chilli flakes or 1 fresh chilli thinly sliced
- 1 teaspoon coriander seeds
- 1 red pepper & 1 yellow pepper, cut into strips
- 250g sugar snap peas
- 1 large carrot, thinly sliced
- 1 pak choy, chopped
- 1 red onion, thinly sliced (preferably in half circles)
- 2 garlic cloves, sliced thinly
- 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
- 1 tablespoon dark soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
- 1 tablespoon pomegranate molasses
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar
- Prepare and slice all the vegetables. Set them aside until needed. Place the wok on high heat and tip in some vegetable oil – around 4 x 15 ml tablespoons.
- Cook the rice (I would suggest around 16 ounces for 4 people) by placing it in a medium pan, cover with water and 1 star anise and let everything come to a boil. Let it simmer until the water is absorbed by the rice. Leave the star anise in the rice until you are ready to serve.
- In the meantime place the meat, flour and spices in a large bowl and make sure to coat the meat all over. Tap the pork to remove any excess flour and carefully place the meat in the wok. Brown the meat till golden and set aside on a warm plate.
- Fry the veggies until crunchy/al dente. Remember to stir, stir, stir.
- Add the meat once again into the wok with the vegetables, add the ingredients for the sauce until the meat is totally cooked – around 5 minutes.
You will need a bit of practice here, but take a deep breath and if needed get help, especially for the stirring part! I know that this takes a bit of prep but it will be worth your time. I promise. Enjoy!