Burgathon edition #2: The big pig

This week I have got a simple burger recipe for you that packs a real punch. Sometimes, as this recipe shows its not all about how complex you can make the dish, its the quality and integrity of the ingredients you use in it.

Britain has a great farming culture to call upon when we want to make great food and we have a great variety of choice when it comes to one of our most popular meat products, pork. Not many people are aware of just how diverse our livestock is, especially when we talk swine. There are a lot of different breeds available and it isn’t limited to the little pink babes that are the go to mental images when we say the word pig. There are a host of different shapes and sizes bred in Britain, for example; the Berkshire is black with some white markings, the British lop is the famed pink piglet we know and love, the lovable looking ginger Tamworth and the black speckled Gloucestershire old spot, all of which have different attributes to bring to your cooking, be it superior bacon or a better quality rack of pork ribs, your butcher will guide you in the right direction.


This recipe in particular for me is a winner, I am a big lover of pork. I love the fact that you can utilise everything a pig has to offer, and the diversity of those products. For this tip of the hat to the noble pigs that feed us so regularly I use a good quality pork mince, ask your butcher for the best he or she has and just see what breed it is from if your interested, it might surprise you!

M favourite pig breed. the Tamworth.

M favourite pig breed. the Tamworth.

so what you’ll need to make 2 burgers:

  • 500g of pork mince
  • 5-6 well sized fresh sage leaves, finely sliced
  • 2 tspn minced fresh garlic
  • large pinch fine sea salt
  • 2-3 grinds of black pepper
  • 2 Portobello mushrooms
  • Handful of baby leaf spinach
  • 2 thick slices of Claxton mild blue cheese
  • 2 burger buns of your choice, halved
  • Dijon mustard
  • 2 tbsp Olive oil


  1. In a large bowl, combine the pork mince, sage, garlic, salt and pepper and mix with clean hands until you can make one large ball with the mixture.
  2. Split the mixture into 2 evenly shaped balls and pat down into large discs.
  3. Cover with cling film and pop in the fridge for 20 minutes.
  4. Place a griddle pan on a medium heat, and apply a little oil to each side of each burger. Preheat your grill on medium/high.
  5. Place the burger on the griddle and cook for 6-7 minutes on each side. then remove from the heat to rest in a warm place, check the middle of the burger by pressing it with your thumb, it should be as firm as the outside if it is cooked all the way through.
  6. Place the mushrooms under the grill and cook for a few minutes on each side until it starts to flatten. remove from grill.
  7. place your bread rolls under the grill until browned, repeat for both sides.
  8. place a teaspoon of Dijon on the bottom of the bun, followed by some spinach, rest the burger on the spinach and place a slice of the blue cheese over the burger, followed by a mushroom and cap it with the remaining side of the toasted bun.

I loved this one, and I hope you do too. Coming up for edition 3 we have something a little more American coming your way, an ode to the food culture and diversity of flavour available in the one and only New York city. The maple steak burger!

Influence in the kitchen: the formative years of a budding cook

This week I have been pondering what started it all for me. What was it that really got me into my kitchen and fuelled my intrigue? Why did I start cooking and what drives me to continue? I am going to talk about these things in this article and see if i can retrace my steps a little bit to see what made me really develop my greedy streak.

I believe it all started when I was around 8 and in junior school, I used to watch ready steady cook and things like that but not really understand anything that was going on, I just used to think Ainsley Harriot was funny! I also watched a TV show with Gary Rhodes on CBBC (the name escapes me) where they used to make all manner of strange and freaky dishes with a few children taking part in the process. I always wanted to go on that show. So the interest was there from a young age but I didn’t really get up and want to try anything further than cupcakes from a DIY kit until I started watching the early shows from Jamie Oliver. Jamie’s boyish enthusiasm and fresh take on cooking opened my eyes to a new world of possibility in the kitchen and really gave me a will to get in there and do it myself. This led to a few over cooked pasta dishes and a new found reliance on smoke alarms, but it was all an essential part of the learning curve in my (culinary) formative years. I came through this period not really taking much in, but the genuine passion for it was starting to seep through and grow within me. You should have seen my face when I cooked my first fry up for my Nan when she stayed over one weekend; it was like I was singing for Simon Cowell. The judgement meant the world to me it really did. Part of me feels the same to this day when I get somebody to try something new I have made.


My first real inspiration was a certain Mr. Oliver.

My first real inspiration was a certain Mr. Oliver.

This brings me to between the ages of 14 and 16 where I was becoming aware of the effect of herbs in dishes. Our new and increasing reliance on the internet and search engines at the time meant learning became easier; I was starting to understand what I was seeing on the TV now and able to translate those things to the plate. I was able to understand the importance of timing and the scientific aspect of how cooking effects ingredients too, which provided a better platform with which to increase my actual skills and the techniques I was using. By this time Jamie was starting to move into the whole food revolution stage of his career and concentrating on really making a difference in young peoples eating habits, which was admirable but not as interesting for me at that time. So I started branching out a bit and watching shows and reading books by other chefs I wasn’t as aware of at the time like the Hairy bikers, Rick stein, Gennaro Contaldo and Antonio Carluccio, who all became some of my more favoured influences. These new takes on cooking introduced me to other aspects of the gastronomic journey like baking, making fresh pasta, filleting fish and working with fresh shellfish to name a few.

I believe in the 20th century the modern budding cook is, like me, mainly influenced by what they see on their television. This is good in one way as it makes cooking more accessible and less out of reach for some people who believe it is impossible to even comprehend reading the recipe for a lovely homemade burger or a simple pasta dish. This brings me to thinking about what inspired the TV chefs we already know and love? The media had less coverage of the food side of things up until the last decade or so. So was it just their parents cooking that they talk about during their shows and in their books or were they inspired, like me, by the available media at the time? Or was it, even though there were less food orientated presenters on TV, the high quality of the small amount of them that were on the box, a good example would be the late, great, Keith Floyd. Only they will know what really started them cooking of course, But Keith Floyd cannot be ignored as one of British television’s major totems for the foodie revolution we see on our screens today. He was and always will be the godfather of UK TV chefs.


Keith Floyd. An unforgettable part of British TV culture

Keith Floyd. An unforgettable part of British TV culture

Nowadays people are inevitably shaped in lots of ways by what they see on their TV, and as I have said it played a major part in getting me to where I am today with my adoration for food. So I could say I owe a lot to the television for giving me these seemingly one to one sessions with such phenomenal chefs and their books for providing me with an insight into their notebooks. Today I admire a huge amount of people that send my creative juices flowing into over drive, most notably the lasting impression a certain Valentine Warner has had on not only the way that I cook but the way that I look at food. Val has that spark for food just as Jamie did the first time I saw him but conveys a much deeper understanding of where the food comes from, he is a modern chef who embraces old practices like hunting your own rabbits and fishing for your own fish, that some people see as pointless due to the convenience of their supermarket. I can honestly say I share his enthusiasm to be part of the whole process, to catch, create and enjoy. He is credited with giving me a much better understanding of this and really inspiring me to push on and get my hands dirty. Along with Val, the hairy bikers, Gennaro and all of those amazing people continue to inspire me every day, but not just through their shows and books but the work they do to create them. The boundaries they push and the amazing, beautiful food they create with their individual styles serve to inspire us all.

One of my personal favourite TV chefs, Valentine Warner

One of my personal favourite TV chefs, Valentine Warner

To conclude I think I have made it clear how important the good old TV cooking show was in my early years of cooking but I can honestly say the thing that drives me on today is quite simple. Its the people who live and breathe it. The people who go out every day to bring people the best of the best, the writers, the unknown home cooks, the chefs, the farmers and the butchers. I have a vast amount of respect for every part of the system that manages to come together, so we can have such a fantastic range of things to choose from on a daily basis. I hope that the present line-up of TV chefs, bloggers, magazine article writers, cafe owners and street food vendors can inspire the next wave of great professionals beyond what is available today as the standard just keeps getting better with every passing year.

So that’s it really, a touch on what really inspires me and a hope that others, no matter how it comes about, fall in love with food just like I did.



Burgathon edition #1: Southern american soul meets british beef

Hi everybody,

This post marks the beginning of a series of 3 recipes in celebration of the Burger, be it lamb, beef, pork or chicken as long as it is tucked up nicely in a bun of your choosing with a few tasty accompaniments it can really make your day tucking into a wholesome, home made burger.

The reason for this trio of meaty creations is my truly amazing experience in September competing in the grand final of the battle of the burgers competition… What more would somebody need to inspire them to carry on making something than to do what you love with some really great people. The smells, the taste and the textures always get me exited when it comes to any food but nothing brings out my inner child like a big, juicy burger.


My experience in London was bordering on life changing, I met some fantastic people and felt like I came away a better cook. I took my A game and I came away proud of how well I had done, now having cooked for JB Gill from the boy band JLS, also wasn’t too shabby to put on my culinary CV. I made two appearances on local radio, one of which was back to back with an interview with JB, so that was interesting to listen to! My 15 minutes of fame did not go to my head though I promise.

So really quickly here is a picture of the final Bengal Burger, I was incredibly proud of it and will be back next year for sure to try and take the top prize.

Battle_of_the_Burgers (97)

That brings us to the new recipe I have written for the first recipe of the burgathon. I call it the Mardi Gras burger and it is a tip of the hat to the bustling streets of New Orleans and the zingy kick of the Cajun and Creole styles of cooking that give southern America its soul and heart. I have combined the warmth of Louisiana style liquor with the zap of tangy tomatoes to create a sauce that is the perfect blanket for the spiced up beef burger. I hope every bite takes you straight into bourbon street, the trombones and whistles ringing in the background of your mind while the Cayenne crackles away, warming your inner Cajun!

The Mardi Gras burger


The Mardi Gras burger sauce

  • 1 White onion, Diced.
  • 2 Tbspn Olive oil.
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced.
  • 125ml Southern comfort/ Spirit of Louisiana liquor.
  • 1 tin of chopped tomatoes.
  • 2 tbspn brown sugar.
  • 3 Tbspn Worcester sauce.
  • 1 heaped tbspn good tomato ketchup.
  • Large pinch of sea salt.
  • 1 Tspn white pepper.

The burger

  • 600g lean steak mince.
  • 1 1/2 tbspn Cayenne pepper.
  • 1 tbspn Smoked paprika.
  • Large pinch sea salt.
  • Large pinch black pepper.
  • 2 Tbspn olive oil.
  • 4 slices of smoked cheddar.
  • 4 Good quality seeded buns.
  • Handful of mixed salad leaves.


Firstly you will want to get cracking with the sauce.

  1. Put the oil into a large frying pan and bring to a medium heat and spread the oil out evenly.
  2. Add the onions and garlic and cook until the garlic starts to soften and becomes fragrant.
  3. Add the Southern comfort and simmer for 5 minutes until it reduces to half its volume, cooking out the majority of the alcohol.
  4. Add the tomatoes, sugar, Worcester sauce, ketchup, salt and pepper. Cook on the medium heat for an additional 10 minutes, stirring regularly until the sauce thickens and the tomato juices reduce and begin to emulsify.
  5. Take off the heat and leave to cool, then drop the contents of the pan into a food processor and pulse a few times. This will give it a thicker consistency and thicken it up a little.
  6. Empty into a small container and put to one side to await its meaty vehicle.
Before and after... Father and son.

Before and after… Father and son.

For the burger…

  1. Combine the meat, cayenne, paprika, salt and pepper in a large bowl and mix well with clean hands.
  2. Split and roll into 4 evenly sized balls.
  3. Pat the balls down into approximately 2 cm thickness and lay on a plate, cover the plate with cling film.
  4. Refrigerate patties for 20 minutes.
  5. Preheat a griddle pan on a medium heat. Pre-heat your grill too.
  6. add a dash of oil to both sides of each burger and gently rub it in.
  7. Place 2 patties at a time on the griddle and cook for around 6-7 minutes on each side.
  8. At the end of the second sides cooking period, add the cheese to the top of the burger and leave to melt for a further 2 minutes.
  9. Take the Burgers off the heat and leave to rest in a warm place for 3 minutes.
  10. Cut the buns in half and grill each side until slightly browned.
  11. Add the mixed leaves to the bottom part of the bun, followed by the burger, top it with the sauce and cap it off with the top half of the bun.
This sucker got soul!

This sucker got soul!

Now tuck into the zingy little beast and enjoy with your friends and family. This baby has real soul!!… Can anybody hear a brass band!? I look forward to next week as number #2 is certainly a porky little number!


Introducing our new contributor!

Hello Gecko readers, I would like to firstly thank Phil for asking me to be a guest blogger and secondly I’d like to introduce myself.

My names Naomi and I have had a passion for food ever since I can remember; my dad often tells me that as a little girl I’d be asking what was for dinner whilst eating my lunch.

I grew up spending a lot of time in the kitchen with my grandma, who is from Jamaica, cooking was always based on using fresh ingredients and putting love and care into the food, not just throwing something in the oven or microwave. Cooking wasn’t about just about filling the hunger; it was about getting together as a family and sharing the love put into the food. The pleasure I got from watching my grandma put wonderful food together and the enjoyment I had from tasting the food and sharing the experience with my family was what really drove my passion for food in general.

My passion for baking (especially cakes) came when I was in primary school and I entered a Halloween cake competition; I made a cake that looked like Medusa, even down to the snake hair and I guess this is when I figured that baking was my thing.

The Skittles cake

The Skittles cake

What do I love about baking? EVERYTHING! I especially love cupcakes, maybe because I’m a girly girl and they can be made to look very cute. To me baking cakes is firstly about the taste, but they also have to look good, as they say we eat with our eyes first. The main thing I enjoy about baking is the enjoyment it gives to others. I love the reaction I get when people see something I have made then I wait for the reaction on their face when they bite into it.

I would like to share some of my work with you and hope that you enjoy it. I would like to show you how easy it can be baking for yourselves, its much more satisfying that buying from the supermarket and trust me, it will taste much better.

One of the first recipes I will be sharing is one of my favourites for this time of the year. Gingerbread and Nutmeg Cupcakes! The warmness of Ginger and Nutmeg is perfect for these colder days. Keep an eye out for the recipe… coming soon.