The hog-mornay

For the first real recipe post of 2016 I thought I might as well do something I am known for and share a seasonally appropriate burger recipe with you all, starting as I mean to go on with something a little different while also keeping it totally achievable for cooks of any level.

As the title suggests I cooked this recipe on new years eve as a final seasonal blow out before the dark cloud of January rolled in from afar to rain on our festive parade. I am not a fan of January. I just find it comes across as the killjoy of all 12 months, hitting you faster than a speeding train it takes you from the festivities of Christmas and the week that follows and shoves you straight back into the harsh light of reality. A month long Monday. The seemingly eternal dark until the post Christmas payday! It’s not all bad but I love Christmas and all the build up that comes with it so when January takes that away from us I get a bit of a grump on the first week or so.

All this considered though, I do enjoy getting together with family and celebrating new year with good food while watching the Jools Holland Hootenanny until Big Ben chimes. As I have stated previously we have just bought a new house so we were determined to have people round as much as possible as we love entertaining and cooking for people, so I developed this recipe specifically for new years eve and it was a great success.

What is it? 

Pork – three ways. A burger with a giant pig in a blanket, topped with a rich Mornay sauce on a wholemeal bun with a touch of rocket.

What do I need?

  • 500g pork mince
  • 200g diced sweet potato
  • 1 heaped tbsp. Cajun seasoning
  • 1 grated apple
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 red onions, finely diced
  • Rocket
  • salt and pepper
  • Olive oil
  • 4 Wholemeal rolls

For the giant pigs in blankets

  • 4 97% pork sausages. I used Heck.
  • 4 large rashers of Smoked back bacon

For the Mornay sauce

  • 2 1/2 tbsp. butter
  • 3 tbsp. white flour
  • 2 cups of warmed milk
  • 2 big handfuls grated Gruyere cheese
  • Salt and pepper

What do I do?

  1. To start with you need to bring a saucepan of lightly salted water to the boil and cook the sweet potato for 10-15 minutes, or until soft enough to slide off a skewer or fork. Then drain them and put them aside to cool, then mash them thoroughly.
  2. In a hot pan with a little oil, lightly fry the onions until soft then put aside to cool fully (Do this alongside cooking the sweet potatoes).
  3. In a bowl add the pork, apple, garlic, Cajun seasoning, onion, mash potato and season generously with the salt and pepper. Bring together well and split into 4 evenly loaded patty shapes. (If you have any left over they make great little meatballs for a pizza!) Cover in cling film and place in the fridge to chill.
  4. In a small saucepan on a low heat add the butter and wait for it to start to melt, then pop in the flour and stir until it comes together into a lumpy texture. Slowly add a little milk at a time while continuously mixing to bring together and thicken. Repeat until all the milk is used up then add the cheese and keep stirring until you get a thick cheese sauce, then season well. Add more cheese if you want it to thicken up a bit more.
  5. Heat up a grill, griddle pan or in my case I used a George Forman health grill. Butterfly the sausage and wrap it in the bacon. Place it on the hot griddle and weigh it down, either with another pan or close the lid of the health grill to avoid any major curling when the sausage starts to cook. Cook for 4-5 minutes on a medium heat and then turn over and repeat until crispy.
  6. In another hot pan, fry the burgers for 4-5 minutes a side until browned off and cooked all the way through. Serve immediately on the wholemeal rolls, on a small bed of the rocket, followed by the burger, then the pig in blanket, topped with a good helping of the sauce. Cap it with the top half of the roll and get them served before you go at them yourself!

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Rub me up the right way… visiting Rub smokehouse and bar: Birmingham

Living in Wolverhampton and loving food provides you with a bit of a problem. With the odd exception of a few gastro-pubs there aren’t really any stand out places to eat out and have the option to order something out of the ordinary, just the usual chains and a few knock offs of those chains. This doesn’t apply universally as there are a few cafes and things that are pretty good but Wolverhampton does have a habit of leaving you stuck for places to go. That is however unless you hop on the train to Birmingham.

Birmingham city center is luckily only a 20 minute trip down the line and offers a lot more choice when it comes to food and drink, so this week my friends invited us out for a wander and a bite to eat at the new ‘Rub’ restaurant on broad street. To give you a bit of background, Rub is a small chain of American style diners that seem to be very much focused on bringing an authentic experience to the high street with their huge portions, sweet/savory combinations, slow cooked meats, burgers and fried chicken that US cuisine is famous for. It looks like a recipe for success doesn’t it? the question is does it deliver?

We got there at around 6:50pm and walked into the foyer where we were greeted by two staff members and shown to the lift that takes you into the restaurant, the decor as you enter the building is modern and interesting, with artificial grass style carpeting and chip board walls that lead you into the elevator. The lift (which also has artificial grass in it) took us up to the top floor and opened its doors to reveal a booming hive of activity that graced my senses and notified me that I had most certainly arrived!

First impressions were that the place was buzzing with activity and it had a real fun factor without feeling too juvenile. the intriguing decor from downstairs was continued with tables and chairs that looked like they were made from pallets and painted intermittently, yellow and blue. The place has a great aesthetic and I really liked it. Sitting down and looking at the menu was a little bit of a task as the menu is so huge, this combined with my large appetite creates a bit of an issue, as being so spoiled for choice can be frustrating at times. The contents of the menu however did offer a good range of everything you would want from an American inspired restaurant including things like corn dogs, ribs, mac and cheese, hush puppies and slaw.

After much deliberation we decided upon a large sharing starter called ‘Born in the USA’ to begin with that we could share between the four of us, which consisted of a bowl of pulled pork nachos in the center of a platter that held four chicken wings, onion rings, pork crackling, garlic bread, mozzarella sticks and a selection of dips, finished off with four potato skins filled with bacon and cheese. Needless to say that if you were to order a few drinks this could easily sustain you all night on its own between two people, between four it was just enough. The potato skins were good, not too filling and not overdone as I cannot stand skin on potatoes that have shriveled up and dried out due to waiting to be thrown lazily out to a customer for hours upon hours in an oven. Everything else was pretty textbook really although the nacho’s stood out as the party piece. At first you don’t actually realise they have any pulled pork anywhere near them as it is buried deep within a cheesy, guacamole smeared corn chip crust. Only upon digging do you strike gold, or in this case, low and slow pulled BBQ pork that melted in the mouth and really set everybody up for the next part of the meal, which seemed to bode well so far.

It took me the entire time we sat eating our starter for me to choose my main and I still changed my mind when the waitress took my order! I ordered the ‘Rub burger’ which is the bog standard house beefburger but added a few extras to turn it into something a little bit more special and interesting. The beef burger came in a brioche bun branded with the Rub smokehouse logo and was filled with the following extras: beef brisket, caramalised red onions, bacon and blue cheese and I switched the fries for sweet potato fries, this turned it into a little bit of a mouthful to say the least. Upon receiving it everything looked great and it delivered in terms of its aesthetic, however the actual burger itself wasn’t by any means the best burger I have ever had. I ordered the beef medium rare but it was fairly dry and the texture wasn’t as good as I would have hoped, but it wasn’t a bad burger, just a few minutes past how I like it. The brisket was the star though as it redeemed the meal some points that the burger had lost, very much like the pulled pork it just wilted away when it was given the slightest tug and almost completely gave up on having any sort of resistance the moment you started to chew it. Finishing the burger off nicely was the blue cheese and bacon which gave it a much needed salty richness that elevated it a few levels and gave it the extra dimension that it needed, paired with the crunchy sweet potato fries it was a very enjoyable experience indeed.

Given all that I am sure you can understand dessert was not really an option this time but the menu looked interesting enough, including an item called the ‘Kitchen sink’ which you guessed it… come out in a small aluminium kitchen sink. extra points for having a sense of humour! speaking of which Rub doe not seem to take itself too seriously which is nice, the atmosphere is relaxed throughout even if it can get a little bit loud sometimes, you never feel overwhelmed or claustrophobic. There are little quirks to found like the sign to find the toilets that reads “for those that tinkle and for those that sprinkle” with the corresponding arrows to men’s and ladies bathrooms, the quirky cocktails and desserts that come out of the kitchen with what can only be described as fireworks hanging out of them (literally). The only downside is that it’s the type of place where the staff seemingly maul people on their birthday with the raucous rendition  of ‘Happy birthday to you’ while serving their dessert, and I kind of hate that. But that is more down to me being a miserable old fart at the ripe old age of 26.

So in summary the staff treated us well and were attentive to our needs, the food was not by any means perfect but it was a thoroughly enjoyable meal on the whole. The time that we spent in there on a busy Saturday night didn’t feel like we were being rushed out of the door while the food was hearty and satisfying, it was pretty good value for money at the same time too as including drinks between four of us it came to around £90, which, in Birmingham city center is pretty much about average. It was a restaurant that needs to be visited really to see if it is your type of thing but it is certainly mine. This place is a must visit in a big city with lots of really good restaurants that provide great food, and that is high praise in itself.

Ratings:

  • Aesthetics and feel – 4/5
  • Service – 4/5
  • Foods ‘wow’ factor – 5/5
  • Food quality – 3.8/5
  • overall satisfaction -4/5

Total = 20.8/25

Birmingham’s new rising star is a must visit and I encourage anybody to give it a go

Super sunday meatloaf

America has gone through quite the renaissance in terms of the worlds perception of their food in recent years, they are now supremely fashionable due to the popularity of their incredible barbeque recipes. Not a day goes by that I don’t see a new pulled pork product or a BBQ 20 hour beef option added to another menu at the bigger chains or even some of the smaller, more independent cafes and restaurants and for good reason.

America knows how to utilise great meat very effectively and create some incredible food. One dish in particular that I have always admired is the quintessential stateside family meal, the meatloaf. As somebody who grew up in the United kingdom watching shows from the USA I had always heard about meatloaf but never fully understood what it was until a few years ago when I put some effort into research. I have been working on a recipe since then and found a few pointers along the way to get the best from it and to be fair I am very happy with how it turns out now when I make it, as the first ones that I made were dry and a little bland. I didn’t really feel like I had captured the essence of the homely experience that the meatloaf represented to so many families across the pond, until now. I am happy enough with it to share the recipe for you to try at home!

What you’ll need:

  • 400g lean minced beef
  • 400g lean pork mince
  • 6 good quality pork sausage, removed from skins (I used pork and red onion sausage with 85% pork)
  • A handful of flat leaf parsley, chopped
  • 1 carrot, diced
  • 1 celery stick, diced
  • 1 red onion, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic finely sliced
  • 1 medium egg
  • 75g wholemeal breadcrumbs
  • 100g smoked streaky bacon
  • 4-5 tablespoons of maple syrup
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Olive oil

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What to do:

  1. In a frying pan, add 1 tablespoon of oil and add the celery, carrots, onion and garlic and fry until slightly softened and the onions start to become milder in colour. Take it off the heat and leave it to cool.
  2. Preheat the oven at 180 degrees or equivalent.
  3. In a large bowl mix the beef, pork and sausage meat with the breadcrumbs, egg, parsley and season well with the salt and pepper. Add the now cooled veg from the pan and mix well to combine.
  4. In an oiled loaf tin pack the mix in to the top and turn out to reveal a nice uniform shape onto a lightly oiled baking tray.
  5. Wrap in the bacon so it is tightly packed in around the sides, leaving both end pieces exposed.
  6. Brush the maple syrup over the top of the bacon and around the sides and top with a bit of pepper.
  7. Bake in the oven for 45 minutes to an hour. until crispy on the outside or it reads around 77 degrees on a skewer.
  8. Remove from the tray carefully, and slice into even slices to serve to your family and friends! Best served with gravy or like I do with a sour cream and chive sauce, roast sweet potatoes and a big salad. Heaven.

As always play around with it and see what you can make of it yourself, this is but a blank canvas to get your juices flowing but it does certainly work as it is, so I implore you to give it a try.

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Thanks for reading and enjoy!

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Simple cod burger with gnocchi sardi salad

So, its now April apparently and it very much seems like March was one of those months that disappeared faster than a horse running at the national. The months seem to fly now that the clocks have changed and even though it is incredible to be having some lighter evenings to relax outside, it just seems like time goes a little bit faster when your enjoying yourself in pub gardens and having barbeques at home.

All the more reason to make the most of all this sunshine were currently having! The bank holiday was an absolute beauty weather wise and there certainly was no shortage of people taking their chance to have a pint by the canal at my local, the Fox and Anchor near Coven.

It is not very often I rave about a chain pub but I do love the Fox as it has a great ambiance in the winter when they light the log fires and even more so when they are buzzing with summer beer garden seekers. I even got a little bit sunburned. Which is not exactly hard as I burn like an ant under a blow torch.

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Now that we have all emerged from our wintery cocoons its time for some lighter food to compliment the bottles of Corona on the lawn (slice of lime optional but advised). White fish comes to mind as its quick, fresh and light on the pallet while being full of protein and really satisfying, paired up with this pasta salad which is the true star of this dish,makes a great meal. Enhanced further by the fact that its full of all the good stuff you can fit in without it becoming unbalanced, you’ll be feeling very pleased with yourself afterwards. No guilt. No hastle.

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Try this recipe on for size next time your feeling lazy on one of these warmer evenings.

Serves 4

For the burger:

  • 2 cod loins. Both halved.
  • 4 wholemeal buns.
  • Tartar sauce.
  • Soy sauce.
  • Pepper.
  • Few salad leaves of your choice.
  • Olive oil.

Pasta salad:

  • 400g gnocchi sardi.
  • 1 small box of cherry or small variety of tomatoes, all halved.
  • 1 courgette, diced.
  • 1 red and 1 orange pepper, diced.
  • 1 small can of sweetcorn.
  • 3 spring onions, finely chopped.
  • handful fresh parsley, finely chopped.
  • 5 tablespoons of zero fat Greek yoghurt.
  • 5 tablespoons light mayonnaise.
  • 1 tablespoons dijon mustard.
  • salt and pepper to taste.

Method:

  1. Cook the pasta to pack instructions.
  2. Add the pasta to a large mixing bowl and stir in all of the other ingredients apart from the courgette.
  3. Preheat a frying pan on a medium heat, add a tiny bit of oil and fry the courgette until it starts to brown a little, then remove and mix into the salad.
  4. Give a good few turns on a salt and pepper mill.
  5. Chill for 20 minutes.
  6. Use the preheated pan and add a little more oil.
  7. Add the cod loin halves and fry on a medium heat for around 4 minutes. Turn over and repeat.
  8. Turn the heat up to high and add a tablespoon of soy sauce, give the pan a shake so it reaches all of the fish, do this for around 30 seconds and repeat on the other side.
  9. Cut the rolls and put around a teaspoon of tartar sauce on both halves. Lay a few leaves on the bottom half, followed by the soy fried fish, along with anything else you want to add. (Go crazy, its a blank canvas).
  10. Finish with one big sprinkle of black pepper, cap it off with the top half of the bread and serve with a big spoon full of the pasta.

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Its another very simple but very effective recipe to fill a void after a hard day at work when the evening is best spent enjoying the sunshine outside!

The Honu burger

As some people are aware I am very much associated with burgers. Everybody always asks me if I have any new burger recipes or if I still cook the recipe I took to the battle of the burgers final in 2013, this in fairness is completely justified as I do love making and eating a nice burger! There are so many flavour combinations that can be slotted under an equal amount of buns or breads, its the gift that keeps on giving.

 

I have a huge passion for food as you can guess, but I also have an equal amount of passion for animals and wildlife. Birds and sea life in particular. I have been reading for the past few years about the decline in the sea turtle or “Honu” population and it was heart breaking to come to terms with the fact that they had got to a point where they were near extinction. Such a gracious, docile and beautiful creature driven to the precipice of oblivion, not surprisingly accelerated by the western world starting to haunt the shores of Hawaii. However there is an upside, populations are making a gradual recovery thanks to designated conservation sites and a huge effort from the sort of people who don’t want to see the beautiful gifts the earth has given us disappear.

You can read more about this here if you wish: http://www.wildhawaii.org/marinelife/turtles.html

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So its for this reason I have decided to write a recipe and name it in honour of an icon of Hawaii. A symbol of conservation in the western hemisphere and a wonderful creature that deserves our attention to keep it around for the next generation to appreciate. The fact it is slightly easier to pronounce than the Humuhumunukunukuapua’a burger also is a contributing factor! (The Hawaiian state fish)

Which brings me onto the ‘Meat’ of this sandwich. The recipe. It uses the zingy fresh tang of tropical pineapple to cut through the luscious beef patty and salty smoked bacon, creating an all round enjoyable experience that should hopefully bring a little bit of sunshine to meal time! Recipe should cover approximately 4 people.

What you’ll need:

  • 4 medium wholemeal buns.
  • 600g beef mince.
  • 12 pieces of smoked streaky bacon.
  •  4 rings of canned pineapple, chopped.
  • Your choice of salad leaves.
  • 4 slices of Emmental cheese.
  • Worcester sauce.
  • Salt and pepper.

Method:

In a bowl combine the mince with a tablespoon of Worcester sauce, 1 teaspoon of salt and 1/2 a teaspoon of pepper. Mix well with clean hands until well combined however try not to overwork it as the burgers will become tougher to eat. Get both hands in the bowl and work into a ball.

Break the ball of mince into 4 and squash into round shaped patties of equal size (around 1cm or so thick). Leave in the fridge for a minimum 30 minutes to rest. Make a small thumb print in the middle of the burger to stop it popping up too much during cooking.

pre-heat a frying pan and a griddle pan on a medium heat, lightly oil both sides of the patties. Add the burgers to the pan 2 at a time and fry for around 4-5 minutes a side. Pop the bacon in the griddle pan and dry fry until crispy on both sides (or to your own preference).

On the last turn of the beef, add a tablespoon of chopped pineapple, toped with the cheese. Turn the heat off and allow them to rest for a minute or two in their own juices. The cheese will relax and spread over the fruit, locking it to the top of the patty.

Remove the bacon and leave on a piece of kitchen paper to absorb any unwanted grease or fat.

Cut the buns, add a dollop of mayo or ketchup on the bottom half (your choice, go wild!) and a few of the leaves. Cross 3 pieces of bacon over the salad and sit the burger on top.

Pin it with a skewer so it doesn’t all try and escape…And your done! I served mine with roasted new potatoes for a healthier option to chips or fries.

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So there you have it. The “Honu” burger! A burger that in my opinion makes meal time a little sunnier. A tip of the hat to an ancient and very awesome member our oceanic heritage. Here’s to you turtles!

Welcome to 2015!

Good day to you lovely readers, and a happy new year! This is the first official post of ‘The Hungry Buck’ and I would like to start by filling in the blanks from 2014. As some of you may know my previous domain name was http://www.foodgecko.com, which I held for a year and gained a lot of experience in how to manage and write a blog. I had lots of positives coming from the comments section and a smattering of inevitable negativity which is to be expected and ignored. This is the internet after all.

The reason I had to close it was that I unfortunately ended up being made redundant from the company I was working for due to my department being essentially moved to Manchester, this meant the site had to fall behind finding gainful employment and dedicating myself to filling my financial void in my list of priorities. Timing is sometimes a wonderful thing brings unexpected surprises and joy, chance encounters and amazing experiences, however in this instance it brought a domain name renewal which I had to put on hold!

Fast forward to November 2014, I found a job and I am in a position that eclipses my previous one ten fold, meaning I am in a position where I can start up my favourite past time again and get the site on its feet. Over the next few weeks there will be a few write ups in regards to my activity last year partnered with various recipe cards and kitchen tips, so I hope i can meet the high standards expected of me. The site is currently a work in progress and i am working on the new logo and layout so bare with me on the aesthetics. In terms of the name change I felt it was quite apt that a fresh start came with a new name and layout, that paired with the fact it comes with some wicked wordplay (at this point I would be winking suggestively while giving you a slight nudge).

So some of the things you can expect this month are:

BBC good food show, winter: Quick rundown on the event with a countdown of the top 3 products and companies that I found.

Mugs of joy: Specialist and artisan teas, why you should be looking past PG tips.

The return of the “homemade” army.

Save your local butcher.

..And plentiful amounts of recipe cards such as homemade pasta, slow cooker trio, Lunch tips for the new year and some other really great (In my opinion) recipes for this time of year!.

So thanks for baring with me if you are a returning reader and if you are new to the page Hello and I hope you stay around for the duration of 2015.

Guinea fowl thighs with bacon

Again and again I walk into my local supermarket and straight to the meat and fish section to find something to make something worth writing about. This time I saw the guinea fowl thighs, I rarely see them as they mostly just stock full birds, so I snapped them up.

I rifled through the isles to find something to go with it, I picked some thick cut bacon lardons and an onion squash. Here was the resulting recipe!

Ingredients:

4 Guinea fowl thighs
200g bacon lardons
Dash of white wine (50ml)
Rapeseed oil
Pepper

1onion squash, peeled and chopped
A little oil
Salt
Pepper

prep:
preheat your oven at 180\gas mark 7

Method:

Place the squash on a tray and sprinkle with salt and pepper. place in the oven.

Add 1 tablespoons of rapeseed oil to a large non stick frying pan on a medium/high heat, followed by the bacon.

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Fry the bacon until it starts to brown, then add the wine. Stir the bacon and wine to lift the sediment from the bottom of the pan and simmer for 2 minutes.

Add the guinea fowl, and fry gently on each side for a few minutes until browned.

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Remove everything from the pan and place in an oven proof tray, sprinkle with a little pepper, then place in the
oven for around 20 minutes.

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After 20 minutes check the squash has softened in the middle. browned nicely around the edges and that the guinea foel thighs juices are running clear, then serve with your favourite green vegetables and enjoy.

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