Cook-Along Friday

#CookalongFriday – Burgers

Nothing finer than making your own burgers.  You get to choose your own flavours, how much chilli you want to add in, the meat you want to use – and given the range of stuff that’s become available in my local butchers it could be anything from Buffalo to Zebra!

Anyway, this is a great one for getting your hands dirty.  Squidging the mix between your fingers is very, very satisfying. and it makes the kids happy!

So, for the burgers, you’ll need…

  • Meat. About half a kilo of whatever meat you like should make enough burgers for your average family.
  • Onion.  1, large, finely chopped (okay, put it in the Magimix and blitz the damn thing. How’s that for finely chopped?)
  • Flavourings.  This is where you get to have some real fun…
    • If you’re using lamb, then mint is essential.
    • If you’re using pork, you can try apple, chilli, or apple and chilli…
    • Beef goes with just about everything.  Chuck some spring onion chunks in, maybe some ‘shrooms,
    • Egg, 1
    • Breadcrumbs, about 1:5 with the meat, so 100g breadcrumbs for 500g meat.
    • Philadelphia or similar brand of soft cheese.


  • If it’s a coarse mince, blitz it a bit to make it finer.
  • Chop your flavourings finely
  • Mix everything except the Philadelphia evenly, really working everything together with your fingers (or your kid’s fingers).  Treat it like Christmas cake and get everyone to get their (washed and clean) hands in and make a wish!
  • Grab a handful a bit bigger than a golf ball and flatten it.
  • Place a teaspoon of the Philadelphia into the middle of the flat bit, grab a handful a bit smaller than a golf ball and make a lid
  • Squeeze the edges together to make sure there are no gaps that the Philadelphia can ooze out of.  It will happen while you’re cooking, but if you minimise the problem now you’ll save a lot of fuss.
  • Dust with a little plain flour on both sides.  My local butcher makes some excellent burgers, they roll the edges of lamb burgers in a mix of mint and chilli, the edges of pork burgers get breadcrumbed.
  • Leave to chill for half an hour before cooking.


  • Put a little oil into a heavy-based frying pan, medium-high heat
  • Cook until done.  This obviously depends on the size and thickness of your burgers.  Turn them regularly while cooking to stop one side from burning too much.
  • When the Philadelphia starts to ooze out (that’s when, not if), they’re pretty much done.  When it’s starting to ooze, that means it’s hot right through to the centre.
  • Serve with bread rolls and suitable condiments.  My kids swear by tomato ketchup, I prefer a strong mustard or chilli sauce.
  • If you’re a fan of unnecessary garden, serve with a salad of your choice.
There’ll be one more Cookalong Friday next week, then I’m off for 2 weeks and you’ll be left to your own devices.  Unless, of course, anyone’s wanting to step up to the plate and write me a guest recipe?
Cook-Along Friday

#CookalongFriday – See you next week!

Nothing spectacular as I’m off the rock this Friday and the week’s been damn hectic.

A challenge for you readers instead – You’ve got an egg, some bread, some milk, some smoked salmon (and the usual kitchen cupboards hand-wave you get on Ready, Steady, Cook!).  You’re not allowed to make scrambled egg on toast.  What are you going to do?

My answer next week!

Cook-Along Friday

#CookalongFriday – Slow Roast Pork Retaliation

Keith had his way with a moderate-sized slab of pork a week or two ago.  Now it’s my turn…

This is pretty much the ultimate in fire-and-forget cookery.  It goes into the oven one day, you get it out later.  Much, much later.  The following day, usually, although if you get it in before breakfast it can be ready for dinner time depending on the size of the slab.  I’ve had 12 for dinner with this dish, everyone’s eaten until they’re fit for exploding and there’s still been leftovers to make sandwiches with later in the week.

I can’t claim credit for this dish, it comes from the absolutely superb Hugh Fearnly-Whittingstall book, “The River Cottage Meat Book”.  This book is known in our house as “the big book of meat” and is pretty much exactly that. There’s chapters in there on buying the right meat, what to look for in the assorted meat groups, what to do with the different bits (including heads and knuckles!).  It’s an enjoyable read (assuming you’re not vegetarian) and has some fantastic recipes.

The Paste.

For the spices…

  • 2 star anise
  • 2 teaspoons fennel seeds
  • 1/2 a cinnamon stick
  • 4 cloves
  • 1 teaspoon black peppercorns

Grind, mix, keep in an air-tight container.  You’ll need 1 tablespoon of this and the rest will keep happily for another day.

For the paste itself…

  • 5 large cloves of garlic
  • 5cm fresh root ginger, grated
  • 2 teaspoons dried chilli flakes (for the kid-friendly version, substitute paprika or dried bell pepper)
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon sunflower oil (Hugh recommends groundnut oil if you’ve got it)
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon of the spice mix.

Mix everything together into a wonderful aromatic paste.  If using chilli flakes do not, repeat do not scratch your eyes/nose after mixing the paste.  I do these things so you don’t have to.

The Pork

  • 1 whole shoulder of pork, on the bone.  5-8kg depending on how many people and how hungry you expect them to be.  Buy generous here, the smell will be driving you mad by the end of cooking and if you’ve got to make pork sandwiches with the leftovers (or rissoles), then quel domage!
  1. Oven to 230°C – Very hot.
  2. Score the rind of the pork shoulder to a depth of 1/2 – 1cm, lines about 1cm apart, with a very sharp knife.
  3. Place the shoulder, skin-side up, on a rack over a roasting tin.  Rub a generous half of the spice paste into the scored rind.
  4. Place the joint, on the tin, into the oven for a half-hour blast at this high heat.
  5. Take the meat out, (very carefully, it’s hot) turn it over and use a knife or spoon to smear the rest of the spice mix into the underside of the joint.
  6. Pour a glass of water into the roasting tin, put the oven heat down to 110°C, replace the joint.
  7. Wait.  16-24 hours is a good wait (though it can be done in less with a smaller joint).  We tend to do this first stage the night before we’re going to eat, turning the oven down at about 11PM, midnight, thereabouts.  If you’ve got a really big joint, and are wanting to eat the following evening, you can bring this forward to 6 or 7 PM, providing someone’s an early(ish) riser who will…
  8. About halfway through the cooking, turn the joint skin-side up again and baste with the fat and juices that have accumulated in the pan.  The smell when you open the oven for this bit is just heavenly.
  9. 45 minutes before you want to eat, jack the heat back up to 230 to crisp up the crackling.  Keep an eye on it now to make sure it doesn’t burn.

To serve…

  1. Remove from oven.
  2. Remove the crackling and break into pieces for everyone to nibble on.
  3. Place in the centre of the table.  Let everyone admire.

We tend to serve this with mashed potatoes or roast veg.  We have been known to serve it just with bread rolls and an assortment of mustards and chutneys.  The trick is to keep it simple.  This is not a roast that requires “all the trimmings”.

If you have enjoyed this, I exhort, plead and nigh-on beg you to purchase a copy of The River Cottage Meat Book from whichever source you find most convenient.  And then pay a visit to The Reluctant Housedad to see what Keith’s cooking today.