The Bourdain Burger

For years, I have been trying to cook and assemble the perfect burger. I’d experiment with different seasonings in the patty, adding finely diced onion, chilli, herbs and even blue cheese on occasion. The number and combinations of toppings, and sauces, are endless, and everyone has their own favourite. Often, my experiments resulted in interesting and great tasting burgers, sometimes the combinations were not so great. However, the more “creative” I got, the more I felt I was moving away from the basic simplicity and flavour of what a burger should be. I then came across a video of the late (and great) Anthony Bourdain where he shares his views on what makes a great burger (you can watch it here – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BZwyLVUAS5Y ). My burger recipe below includes a lot of his suggestions (and I include his name in my version, as a small tribute to the great man). I prefer to use cubed beef chuck for the patty, and grind it myself, as I find the meat to fat ratio perfect for a burger. Of course, you are entirely free to include whatever toppings and sauces you wish. Personally, I think the simplicity of the toppings and sauces I use in my version, allow for the full beefy flavour of the patty to really shine through. But ultimately, the choice is yours. Whilst many people label the burger as  “junk food”, I prefer the term “fun food”, as one really should enjoy the process of cooking, building and eating this iconic food.

Ingredients

  • 720g Beef Chuck, cubed
  • 4 large round burger buns. I use sesame seed covered ones but again, this is your choice
  • Pickled Gherkins – sliced lengthways or into rounds
  • 4 processed cheese slices
  • Tomato sauce
  • Mayonnaise
  • Lettuce
  • Olive oil

Method

  • Grind the meat using the course grinding wheel. If you don’t have your own meat grinder, simply ask your butcher to do this for you.
  • Divide the meat into four 180g portions
  • Shape each portion into a burger patty, taking care not to compress the meat too much. The patty should resemble an ice hockey puck.
  • Season the patty’s well with good sea salt and cracked black pepper
  • Heat a good splash of olive oil in a pan, over a high heat, until just starting to smoke
  • Add the burger patty’s making sure not to crowd the pan. You can cook them in two batches if necessary.
  • Fry the burger patty’s for approximately 3 minutes on one side, turn over and fry for a further 2 minutes on the other side. This timing will produce a burger which is med-rare to medium. However, you can cook longer if you prefer yours more well-done.
  • You are looking for the burger patty to have a nice crust on the outside but take care not to burn.
  • Remove burger patties from the pan, lay a slice of processed cheese on each, and set aside, resting whilst you prepare the buns. The cheese will melt from the residual heat
  • Cut each bun in half, and lightly toast.
  • Put a thin layer of mayonnaise on the base of a bun.
  • Add the sliced pickled gherkin
  • If you like extra cheese (as I do) you can add another slice on top of the gherkins
  • Add a burger patty, topped with some lettuce and tomato sauce.
  • Top with the other half of the bun and get stuck in!!!

Nice! and Tasty – Chris

The Human Touch

“At the touch of love, everyone becomes a poet.” – Plato

Babies who area left unattended and unloved at birth do not thrive and that has been a fact which has been verified over and over again through research and long term studies. The modern way of thinking is that, even prior to birth, the unborn child can benefit by the mother talking to the baby, playing soothing music to it and generally trying to keep a calm and positive frame of mind during her pregnancy. This is proving to be a big challenge in a world where many mothers are leaving the reproduction process until their career is well established.

It would appear that in many instances, the higher the achiever, the more stress their career usually generates. We land up with a catch 22 situation with a highly motivated mother to be who is bombarded with masses of available data informing her of how to handle her pregnancy in order to have as healthy a new-born as possible. Sometimes one has to wonder whether the saying “while ignorance is bliss, ‘tis folly to be wise” doesn’t actually have some merit. The more information which is available, the more the poor future mothers have to worry about.  It’s don’t do this, don’t eat that, avoid the following but, make sure you take the time to enjoy your 9 months gestation period!Print

The reality is that many new mothers have to work almost up to their due date, so the luxury of taking things easy is often only enjoyed by a privileged few. However, once the baby arrives it is the love and nurturing that is of utmost importance for the future well-being of the baby. This is not always easy to achieve when you find yourself with a niggley, colicky baby who doesn’t feed well, and cries a lot. Then the feelings of guilt may kick in whereby a new mother starts worrying that it is due to her having pushed herself so hard at work to meet all her deadlines before commencing her maternity leave.  This is when the support of a friend or a family member is so important as it is easy to become depressed and riddled with anxiety. The lack of sleep after having a baby is absolutely horrendous and has to be experienced to be fully appreciated. Being zombie like for weeks on end doesn’t make bonding with your baby any easier either. This is the time for a special kind of human touch.

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A partner who is understanding of the new mother’s need for emotional support can make all the difference.  Modern fathers in many cases are way more hands on when it comes to helping with a newborn than men were in years gone by. However, a female friend, sister or mother can be invaluable in helping in the early weeks after the baby’s arrival. Once a woman feels that she is coping with her new role it becomes far easier to give the baby the loving attention which it so badly needs to thrive.

The upside of the above is that, in most instances, a new mother has had the best part of 9 months to prepare for the baby’s birth. How much more difficult is it when, often quite out of the blue, a phone call comes in saying that you are now at the top of the adoption list and your longed for child has arrived, and can be fetched very soon! There have been none of those irritating trips to the toilet during the night for the past few months, to prepare you for broken sleep. It’s now a case of sink or swim and your nights are no longer your own.

When all is said and done, the human touch prevails in most cases and millions of children benefit from being nurtured and cared for despite the concerns and worries of their over-worked, over ambitious but extremely loving mothers.

“The only creatures that are evolved enough to convey pure
love, are dogs and infants.” – Johnny Depp

Salted Macadamia Buttercrunch

Ingredients

  • 250g raw unsalted Macadamia nuts
  • 200g granulated sugar
  • 45g light brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 114g salted butter cut into pieces
  • A big pinch of good salt, such as Maldon
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 150g Dark or milk chocolate, chopped
  • Additional flaky sea salt (optional)

Method

  • Toast the macadamia nuts in a large frying pan over a medium heat for a few minutes taking care not to burn them.
  • Remove from pan, allow to cool and chop somewhere between finely and coarsely
  • Form half the nuts into a rectangle about 20 x 25 cm on an ungreased baking sheet or a Silpat mat.
  • In a medium, heavy-duty saucepan, heat the water, butter, salt, and white and brown sugars.
  • Cook, stirring gently if necessary, until a sugar thermometer reads 150ºC degrees.
  • Remove from heat and immediately stir in the baking soda and vanilla.
  • Quickly pour the mixture over the nuts on the baking sheet. Using a small offset spatula, or similar utensil, spread the warm mixture over the nuts. (If you want to sprinkle additional sea salt over the buttercrunch mixture, do it at this point.)
  • Let set for about a minute or two
  • Sprinkle the chocolate pieces over the top and let stand 2 minutes. The residual heat in the caramel will melt the chocolate.
  • Spread the chocolate in an even layer.
  • Sprinkle the remaining nuts over the chocolate and gently press them in with your hands, or a spatula.
  • Cool completely and break into pieces to serve.
  • Store in an airtight container.

Nice! and Tasty – Chris

Just Another Day

When I woke up this morning, I could hear the rain was still coming down and it seemed to be dark outside so I shut my eyes and went back to sleep. Not for long though, as one of the people with whom I share my home decided it was time for me to get up, have breakfast and go out for an energetic run. Honestly, no peace at all for the wicked in this neck of the woods.

The constant rain of the past few days has really made me very anxious, and my behaviour has left a great deal to be desired. I find that I want to eat anything and everything I can get hold of, and this must be to do with being inside more than I would really choose to be. Still, I heard someone say that on Sunday the sun will start to shine again, so I will be able to carry on with my usual outdoor activities.

My housemates seem to have a total obsession with toilet habits. They worry about the number of times I have to relieve myself, and I hear them discussing this all the time. Can’t be normal, but I am starting to think that I am the only really normal soul in this house.  What is that saying about not being able to choose one’s family as they are foisted on you, but you can choose your friends? I don’t have any close friends at the moment, but I do interact with a bunch of like-minded individuals on a weekly basis, but this is coming to an end next week, sad to say. After that I have no idea of how my social life will continue.

I love sleeping – this could be a sign of depression perhaps? I think that it has more to do with the amount of food which I consume. I eat, do the necessary toilet things if needed, have a bit of a run, and then it’s time for another nap. I have a very high IQ and hope that I don’t sound too big headed by mentioning this. My mother was quite old when she had me, although my dad is a lot younger than her and is known as a real stud. Mum didn’t have too much patience with me right from the start and, as an only child, I suppose I have been rather spoilt by good friends of my mum. Anyway they do say that the brighter the child, often the more challenging they can be.

I looked in the mirror the other day and got quite a shock to see how my appearance is changing. My hair seems to be getting coarser and no longer as dark as when I was younger. My teeth bother me a lot and I just hope that this problem is temporary as I have the desire to chew things all day long – I don’t think this is acceptable judging by the reaction it gets from those around me. I also get so excited at times (an adrenalin rush perhaps) that I have been known to jump up and down like a deranged individual and it cannot even be blamed on a sugar overload.  I really must try to control myself or I might just end up in an institution.

I have excellent eyesight and my hearing is tops but it is my sense of smell that causes me the most concern. I can identify scents from months ago in my home and outside too and this seems to irritate people an awful lot. They just don’t appreciate how finely tuned my nose seems to be.  What would appear to be a great benefit to me is not perceived as such by anyone else. A pity when one’s talents go unnoticed or unrewarded, but that’s life isn’t it?

Although it has been pretty chilly these past few days, there have been several times when I have hovered on the edge of the swimming pool contemplating jumping in for a dip. The trouble is that, although I plan on improving my swimming skills next summer, right now I need to stay on the top step as my legs aren’t long enough to get out of the water without a helping hand – so embarrassing having to accept that kind of assistance as I am very independent by nature. I am capable of giving a great deal of affection, but I do have a tendency to often break the rules and give people a bit of a run for their money in their dealings with me. I do try to please people but it can be a lot of fun to see the frustration when I refuse to toe the line.

I can hear those wretched birds chirping outside my window, and if I weren’t so sleepy I would get out there and chase them all away. They have no respect for my garden and I just cannot understand why one of my housemates insists on feeding them all the time. I feel a bit jealous sometimes of the attention they get as I like to be top dog around here.

You probably realise now that, although my name is Kelly and I really am the most beautiful creature with an amazing intelligence, I am just a 4 month old German Shepherd puppy with a rather bad attitude much of the time!

Mind Travel

The sun was beating down, the seagulls were circling overhead making their raucous sounds, children’s excited voices could be heard coming from the distant beach but she was blissfully unaware of anything that could detract from her glorious feeling of aloneness.  Floating over the gentle waves, totally relaxed, this was the most incredible therapy. The past few months, and even years, if she was honest, had been extremely difficult in many ways. Some old friends had moved to distant shores and several had died. There had been the stress of coping with huge financial losses as well as certain health issues. On top of this, there were always decisions to be made and she loathed making decisions especially as they always tended to involve money, or the lack thereof. So very difficult to switch off and relax, but today was different.

Right now all these complications were of no consequence. She was experiencing the most incredible form of relaxation and she managed to clear her mind of every thought as it threatened to creep into her state of semi consciousness. Peace, calm, floating, floating, gently over the waves without a care in the world. This was something she should have done months before instead of trying to relax through the usual methods such as watching a movie, chatting to friends or reading a good book. Those activities used too much energy. What was needed was a mindless drifting form of relaxation. Today was absolutely perfect-just what her inner voice had been nagging her to do. Far better than trying to lie back in warm, essential oil infused bath water surrounded by fragrant candles – the persistent background noises caused by the other members of the family destroyed any true feelings of peace and harmony. Floating in the ocean away from the trials and tribulations of the real world – this was the closest thing to heaven.

What’s that ringing sound interfering with her feelings of calm? It’s going on and on. She forces herself to become aware of her surroundings and with feelings of dismay realises that she is lying on an inflatable mattress in her pool in the back garden and not floating in the ocean at all! It’s that wretched mobile phone that’s causing the disturbance to her tranquillity. Darn it – she should have turned it off, but with the possibility of business calls and potential problems with family and friends, it was usually left on twenty four hours of the day and night.  Oh well, that’s today’s mind travel episode over she says, and feeling cheated, clambers out of the sun-warmed water and forces herself, reluctantly, to get back to reality and answer the call.

“There is no need to go to India or anywhere else to find peace. You will find that deep place of silence right in your room, your garden or even your bathtub”- Elizabeth Kubler Ross

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Short Stories

Imagination is the divine body in every man – William Blake

So often it is a short story which catches the imagination and there will be times when some of my posts are really short and, I hope, enjoyable. However, at other times I may divide a writing into several separate posts. Time seems to be the enemy of many of us, so I trust that the short writings will be received favourably by you, the valued reader, if you find there just don’t seem to be enough hours in your busy day.

Thai Green Curry

You could make your own green curry paste for this recipe. Personally, I think life is too short for that. Besides, in my opinion, you can get great curry pastes at virtually any supermarket these days. You could substitute this with a red or yellow paste if you so wish.

Ingredients

  • 750g firm white fish fillets (monkfish, dory, swordfish, yellowtail), cubed
  • 500g green beans chopped
  • 1 medium onion finely sliced
  • 250g fresh shitake mushrooms sliced
  • 2-3 Tblsp green Thai curry paste
  • 500ml vegetable stock
  • 1 can full cream coconut milk
  • 1-2 tsp fish sauce
  • 2 Tblsp oil
  • Fresh coriander

Method

  • Heat the oil and gently sauté the onion until golden and soft
  • add the curry paste and fry gently for a minute or so.
  • add the mushrooms, green beans, coconut milk, stock and fish sauce and simmer gently until the beans are cooked to your liking (I prefer them with a bit of crunch)
  • Season the fish pieces, add to the sauce.
  • Poach gently until the fish is nearly cooked all the way through (approx. 2-3 minutes)
  • Taste, and season if required
  • remove from the heat, add a handful of fresh chopped coriander and stir through

serve in bowls on top of steamed rice (Jasmine or basmati works)

Nice! and Tasty – Chris