Burger science – What makes the perfect burger?

Burger science – What makes the perfect burger?

I have been meaning to write this for some time however work has been somewhat hectic in light of a recent role change, luckily I am staying away tonight and there are limited distractions now I have finished my daily follow ups. So for the first time in what seems like forever I am able to pontificate about one of the biggest problems in our society. An issue so controversial it divides people daily, creates arguments among friends, family and even work colleagues. When looking at this conundrum objectively even Brexit seems easier to solve… at least that has a rough timeline. This particular argument is timeless and could go on forever – but for today I am wading in with a keenly placed size 8.5 to cut through the confusion and give clarity to anyone reading this post…

What makes the perfect burger?

I know. Heavy right?…

Is it multiple patties? exotic additional toppings? certain types of bread or 4 different types of cheese? Well I have a theory about this but I am going to tackle it by looking at the common problems that I feel ruin a burger and then tie it up with a solution. There are a few things that royally ruin any marriage of bread and meat and to me it feels so simple! So the most common ways to ruin your burger are…

  • Shit bread

There is nothing worse than ordering a burger and receiving it in the wrong vessel. It can define the experience just as much as the meat or cheese, while also being able to cancel out any positives those two essential pillars might bring to the meal. The most common bread faux pas is a style that is too tough or structurally solid, meaning when you bite it, all of the contents just fly out onto the plate or into the paper if your a hipster king at a food truck. You cannot reinvent the wheel with shit bread so just accept that brioche buns were made for a reason. There are exceptions to the rule, as with the right meat and cheese combo a fresh pretzel roll or toasted wholemeal roll can be a beast of a beef holder but generally the brioche reigns supreme. Oh and if it’s in a wrap it’s not a burger. Not having it.

Solution: Stop trying to be niche and use French bread etc. It doesn’t work. Softer breads create better burgers.   

 

 

  • More than 2 type of cheese

I will accept 2 applications of the same cheese but if you are served or are considering putting multiple type of cheese on one burger your making a mistake. Especially if they just don’t go together in texture or in taste such as brie and cheddar. Not only will you ruin the stability of the upper part of your burger but you will also be setting yourself up for an overly messy catastrophe that doesn’t really know what it’s going for. Now I like a messy burger like anyone does as when its good. It’s good. BUT if it’s sliding all over the place and becoming a case of annoying rather than enjoying, you have a problem. The taste of confusion is not pleasurable. Oh and stop using raw cheddar. I asked for a burger not a cheese sandwich with a hot beef add on. MELT IT AT THE VERY LEAST. Match your cheese to the meat and topping combo.

Solution: 1 type of cheese based on the other contents. Fast melting creamy cheese such as American, Monterey Jack, blue or Brie for your average burger, spiced cheese for a beef/ pork spiced patty, rarely use cheddar unless it’s melted to the top bun but just make a decision and stick to it. Commit to your cheese choice.

  • Open burgers

….

Solution: Stop.

  • Overcomplicating your patty

I learned this pretty early on while I was competing in Battle of the burgers way back in 2013. Over seasoning or over spicing can be a weight that your burger simply can’t break free from and it’s strongest properties will simply not be able to come to the surface. My personal mistake was over spicing a lamb burger which I still believe to this day is the only reason I didn’t hit first place and it bugs me to this day. If your patty is made from lamb, beef, pork or a mixture of meat you need to be able to taste that within it, not just a handful of paprika you threw into the mix last minute or a double shot of harissa you tried to get clever with. If I am using 500g of meat I will only add a tablespoon of additional flavourings maximum, not including salt and pepper. I also have a secret binding agent to guarantee a great, juicy burger even after freezing and defrosting in sausage meat. However you obviously wouldn’t want to be cooking them medium rare!

Solution: Keep your seasoning simple. Don’t get excited and pour in your spice cabinet. A dash will do and a hint won’t hinder… but a shit load will ruin your burger.

  • Overloading toppings

Very similar to the multiple cheese issue is banging everything you have left in the pantry on top of the burger and sending it out looking like someone has already started chewing it or just spooned out the U-bend of a sink. There is a limit to a topping line up in my opinion and it’s 2. One additional meat and a none meat option. For example: Bacon and pickles to add contrast, balsamic onions and slices of cooked chorizo, freshly sliced chilies and pulled pork, a runny egg and crispy onions… you get the idea.

Solution: Slow down a bit and just give it some thought. Which additions work well and pull it all together ?

 

The simple way of summarising it is the best way to make your burger to best it can be is to keep it simple. The science is simple and it gives us an easy to understand formula to follow which is:

 

Soft but well structured bread

PLUS

Well balanced and seasoned patty

PLUS

One type of cheese

PLUS

A maximum of 2 topping. One meat and one none meat

OPTIONAL

1 sauce

=

A perfect burger

 

 

So just keep it simple and you can’t go wrong! It isn’t a complicated problem to solve just don’t get too clever or ambitious as the star of the burger is the burger in it’s entirety. Keep this in mind and you can create true harmony between bread, calm between cob and won’t fall into a trap in a bap.

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FLASH BACK FRIDAY: Bayeux Burger

FLASH BACK FRIDAY: Bayeux Burger

 

Happy Friday all – Being as the majority of my domestic readers will be snowed in, here is something for you to chew on and warm your cockles… a few years ago I wrote this recipe and to this day stands as my favourite burger design I have ever come up with. Go to your local co-op and get some bits in, give it a go this weekend and I’m sure it will cheer you right up. Serve with fat wedges of roasted sweet potato or just go mad with a pile of fries, just don’t forget the Dijon mustard.

Beer matches: A cold Camden Helles, a bold Belgian such as La Chouffe or a beast of an IPA like ‘Go to IPA’ by Stone.

 

To make four burgers….

Ingredients:

  • 350G ground beef
  • 2 95% pork Sausages, removed from skins
  • 1 teaspoon dried Tarragon
  • 1 teaspoon herb de provence
  • A jar of large sliced pickles
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • 150g wedge of Pont l’eveque cheese (or Brie) sliced into thick pieces
  • 2 finely sliced red onions
  • 1 single measure of Calvados (or good brandy if you cant get it)
  • 4 brioche burger buns
  • 4 teaspoons of Aioli or just add minced garlic to your favourite mayonnaise
  • Olive oil for frying

Method:

  1. Add the beef and sausage meat to a bowl with the Tarragon, Herb de provence and season well with the salt and pepper. Mix well to form a patty mix with an even consistency.
  2. Split into four even balls of meat mix. Roll, pat and press them into four burgers. (Quick tip: Size them to the buns!) Cover with some cling film and leave them in the fridge for 30 minutes.
  3. Remove them from the fridge and preheat a griddle pan on a medium heat, lightly oil both sides of the burgers and place onto the pan. Cook for 3 minutes.
  4. In a preheated frying pan on a medium heat, add a tablespoon of oil and the onions. Season well and stir regularly until translucent and soft. Should take roughly the same time as the one side of the burger.
  5. Turn the burgers in the griddle and cook for a further 3 minutes.
  6. Turn the heat up on the onions and add the Calvados. This will simmer down really quickly, lower the heat again and leave them ticking over on a low heat stirring regularly.
  7. Turn the burger once again and add at least two large slices of cheese across the top of the burger, cover if you can and add a touch of water to create some steam. Don’t cook for longer than another minute or so as the cheese wont take much melting. Rest the burgers in a warm place for a few minutes.
  8. On the bottom part of each bun, spread the aioli and place onto the bun, cross two of the pickle halves across the cheese and top with a spoonful of the onions.
  9. Cap with the other half of the bun and serve with herby roast potatoes or sweet potato fries for a treat.

There we have it… the Bayeux burger. An oral tapestry of contrasting flavours and my own little dedication to a great part of the world.

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Homemade pasta

Some may argue that the fact that you can go and buy hundreds of varieties of pasta off the shelf in any supermarket, is motivation enough to not bother getting flour everywhere and getting your hands dirty to make your own. This is a fair logic however opening up a plastic bag doesn’t come close to the feeling of achievement you get when you are looking at a plate of fresh pasta that you made yourself from scratch, be it tagliatelle, spaghetti or a filled variety it feels great and is incredibly therapeutic.

I am, unfortunately, a known sufferer of health anxiety. Not something I tend to shout about but it stands to reason when I have an episode or period of health anxiety that sometimes I need something to give me something to focus on, take my mind off it and realign my state of mind. Making pasta is brilliant for this as I get so involved in it I do feel relief from my stress and anxiety symptoms for a time.

 

To make a Butternut squash and goats cheese filled Ravioli

What you’ll need:

  • 600g Tipo/00 flour
  • 6 large eggs
  • 1 peeled and diced squash
  • 150g soft goats cheese
  • Fine salt and some cracked black pepper
  • A little water
  • Pasta machine
  • Ravioli cutter
  • Pastry brush

Method:

  1. Put the flour into a bowl with a teaspoon of salt and make a well in the middle. Crack the eggs into the well and mix the eggs with a fork until thoroughly mixed.
  2. Slowly start to include some flour when mixing, going until the egg is combined with the flour.
  3. Now, get your hands in there and don’t be scared to get a bit messy. Start to combine the mixture with your finger tips and try and combine as much of the remaining flour as you can (Don’t worry if you don’t manage to use it all). When it starts to look less floury and more dough like, flour your work surface and place the dough on the flour.
  4. Knead, knead, knead. I can’t stress this enough. Give the dough a good bashing. Folding, pounding and stretching the dough until it starts to look smooth and silky. Form into a ball and wrap with cling film, pop into the fridge for a minimum of 30 minutes.
  5. In a pan of boiling, salted water, add the squash and boil until soft enough to slide off a skewer or fork. Drain of all water and leave to cool, then mash up and add the cheese. Mixing well with a bit of seasoning.
  6. Now for the next part I do use a pasta machine, you can hand roll the pasta but technology is there to help us after all. Cut off about a quarter of the dough and flatten it out a little. Pass through the pasta machine on the widest setting, folding at the top and bottom (A bit like an envelope) then passing it through the opposite way. repeat this about 7 or 8 times. You will notice the pasta change in texture as you do it, this might seem a little bit monotonous but it gives the pasta a much better texture and mouth feel or rather ‘Al dente’ as the Italian’s would say.
  7. Now put the pasta dough through the machine working your way through the settings until you get to the bottom or penultimate setting. If it gets too long don’t hesitate to cut the dough in half to make it easier to manage, as long as the finished piece of pasta allows you to see your hand on the other side (or read a paper through it as they say) …it should flap when you blow under it, just don’t blow too hard and loose it!
  8. The next step is to make sure you have a good piece of pasta in front of you that you are able to fold over horizontally. Simply take your filling with a teaspoon and place it around 1 inch inside the bottom left hand corner, leaving a similar gap in-between each filling right to the end of the pasta, again leaving around 1 inch remaining at the end of the pasta. Brush the bottom edges of the pasta with water and slowly bring the left hand top corner to the left hand bottom edge. Lightly press around each side of the filling to ensure no air remains before working your way along the pasta, repeating the process until finished.
  9. Take the ravioli cutter and trim the edges of the whole piece, then go between each filling, making sure its pressed down well.
  10. Repeat the process how ever many times you need to with the remaining dough. Each quart should have between an 8 or 10 ravioli yield.
  11. In a shallow pan of lightly salted, boiling water, add the pasta and cook for minutes. Pop onto a plate and drizzle with a little oil and sprinkle with a touch of salt and pepper.
  12. Enjoy with a salad or on it’s own… but they are a lovely little treat.

Tip: Any extra dough left at the end,  you can slot on the cutter to your pasta machine, roll it out 7 or 8 times as stated above, working in down to the 3rd or 4th lowest setting and put through the cutter to make tagliatelle or linguine!

 

The Hungry buck’s ultimate 12 hour lasagne

As you might guess from the title this one is a big recipe for me as it takes one of my favourite dishes and elevates it to a whole new level. A level in which a simple lasagne becomes an experience that warms the soul and soothes whatever worries you may well have… sounds dramatic right? wait until you try it! Beef that melts away from the fork in a rich tomato sauce paired with enough cheese to give a cartoon mouse a migraine and a silky bechamel sauce to glue it all together.

The problem is it all sounds a little run of the mill in terms of lasagne as lets be fair, that’s what they all have going for them and it is the reason everybody tends to love it. The thing that differentiates this lasagne from any old chucked together pasta dish is the ragu… a 12 hour labour of love that makes all the difference!

What you’ll need:

  • 1kg beef brisket/ roasting joint
  • 500ml vegetable stock
  • 2 tbsp dried oregano
  • 1 can chopped tomatoes
  • 1/2 jar of red pesto
  • 3 tbsp tomato puree
  • 2 sticks celery, finely chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 large red onion, diced
  • 4 smoked streaky bacon rashers, diced
  • Large handful of basil, roughly chopped or torn
  • 2 mozzarella balls, diced
  • 100g grated red Leicester
  • 100g grated strong cheddar
  • 16 lasagne sheets (I use wholemeal but not essential!)
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and pepper

and for the white sauce:

  • 25g butter
  • 30g tbsp plain flour
  • 1 pint milk
  • Salt and pepper

Method:

  1. First of all prep the beef by removing any string or packaging and preheating your slow cooker on low. (You can use your oven on a low equivalent temperature but a slow cooker uses less energy and is so much easier to monitor)
  2. Put the beef in the slow cooker and add the stock and dried oregano… walk away and leave it for 12 hours.
  3. After 12 hours remove the beef. In a tray or bowl, gently tear the meat apart with two forks until it is all shredded. Leave to stand for a minute.
  4. Preheat a pan on a medium/low heat with the olive oil and add the bacon. Fry until browned then add the garlic, celery and onion and keep on a low heat until softened.
  5. Add the beef to the pan with the tomatoes, tomato puree and 2-3 ladles of the cooking broth from the slow cooker, making sure the ragu doesn’t get too loose then stir to combine, turn the heat up slightly and simmer for 10 minutes. If the mixture starts to dry up add more cooking broth.
  6. Preheat the oven to 160 degrees or gas mark 4 and in your chosen lasagne dish spread your pesto evenly across the bottom and layer your first four lasagne sheets across the bottom of the dish.
  7. Put another saucepan on the hob on a low/medium heat and add the butter, when it just starts to melt shake in the flour and whisk well until it comes together completely (it will look a bit lumpy but don’t worry) then slowly start to add the milk, about a quarter at a time until it thickens then add more. Once it has all combined season to taste but I would recommend plenty of pepper!
  8. Take the now bubbling molten ragu and put a thin layer all the way across the pasta. Sprinkle a few little bits of the red Leicester and cheddar across it and drizzle the bechamel evenly to create a thin quilting across the meat. Repeat this to create four even layers and finish off with the last of the white sauce and scatter all of the cheese across the top of the lasagne. Put into the oven for 45 minutes or until the cheese has browned and the pasta has cooked through.
  9. Eat it and forget about any kind of calorie counting for the duration of the meal! I recommend serving with a glass of red wine, a few slices of garlic bread or like I did with some baked stuffed gnocchi and a salad.

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Serving suggestion: Lots of garlic bread, some baked filled gnocchi and a glass of Cabernet Sauvignon.

The Bayeux burger

As you may have seen in my recent post ‘Moyaux than meets the eye’ I went to France in July of this year and to be frank, I adored every second of my journey around the region of Normandy and found inspiration at every turn. The local produce was such good quality I actually left Normandy disappointed that I couldn’t stay longer and learn more about how everything was made and just sit one more time in the summer sunshine with a few different bits of cheese and some fresh bread, slicing tiny slithers of soft cheese away and pairing it with locally sourced cold meats and a cold beer. It really was bliss.

While I was there I was inspired to write quite a few recipes as there was plenty of ideas flying in and out of my head when we were exploring the local area but as ever, I am known for my burger recipes so it is only right I try and combine the flavours that Normandy is famous for and fit it between two halves of a bun for you all to experience at home. There are three things that stand out as essential ingredients to this burger and they are Pont l’eveque cheese, Calvados and Brioche. As long as these three things are present then you are onto a winner!

So here’s the recipe that screams out Normandy loud and clear to me while celebrating everything I miss about this beautifully wonderful place.

To make four burgers….

Ingredients:

  • 350G ground beef
  • 2 95% pork Sausages, removed from skins
  • 1 teaspoon dried Tarragon
  • 1 teaspoon herb de provence
  • A jar of large sliced pickles
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • 150g wedge of Pont l’eveque cheese (or Brie) sliced into thick horizontal pieces
  • 2 finely sliced red onions
  • 1 single measure of Calvados (or good brandy if you cant get it)
  • 4 brioche burger buns
  • 4 teaspoons of Aioli
  • Olive oil

Method:

  1. Add the beef and sausage meat to a bowl with the Tarragon, Herb de provence and season well with the salt and pepper. Mix well to form a patty mix with an even consistency.
  2. Split into four even balls of meat mix. Roll, pat and press them into four burgers. (Quick tip: Size them to the buns!) Cover with some cling film and leave them in the fridge for 30 minutes.
  3. Remove them from the fridge and preheat a griddle pan on a medium heat, lightly oil both sides of the burgers and place onto the pan. Cook for 3 minutes.
  4. In a preheated frying pan on a medium heat, add a tablespoon of oil and the onions. Season well and stir regularly until translucent and soft. Should take roughly the same time as the one side of the burger.
  5. Turn the burgers in the griddle and cook for a further 3 minutes.
  6. Turn the heat up on the onions and add the Calvados. This will simmer down really quickly, lower the heat again and leave them ticking over on a low heat stirring regularly.
  7. Turn the burger once again and add at least two large slices of cheese across the top of the burger, cover if you can and add a touch of water to create some steam. Don’t cook for longer than another minute or so as the cheese wont take much melting. Rest the burgers in a warm place for a few minutes.
  8. On the bottom part of each bun, spread the aioli and place onto the bun, cross two of the pickle halves across the cheese and top with a spoonful of the onions.
  9. Cap with the other half of the bun and serve with herby roast potatoes or sweet potato fries for a treat.

There we have it… the Bayeux burger. An oral tapestry of contrasting flavours and my own little dedication to a great part of the world.

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VIVA LA FRANCE!…Apart from in relation to the Rugby World Cup of course…. not even a little bit.

COME ON ENGLAND!!

Chatsworth country fair 2015

Deep within the Derbyshire Dales sits a house of great stature and architectural beauty. It sits yards from the banks of the river Derwent that runs through the grounds and is situated within one thousand acres of sloping grassland that acts as home to hundreds of deer and sheep, completing the backdrop of quintessential British countryside that lends itself so well to this historic building. The house in question is considered as a real jewel in the crown of tourism in the East midlands and has been voted as the UK’s favourite country house several times in its history. It is of course Chatsworth house that I speak of and it stands as a totem of country life in the UK in the most beautiful of settings and has done for literally hundreds of years.

What better place to hold an annual country fair that showcases local produce, country sports, clothing and a celebration of rural British family values than the grounds of Chatsworth? Being my second year attending I can think of no better place to organise such a festival of British country life. My fiance and her family have been attending the show for over 30 years and I have now been absorbed into the tradition, almost like a little bank holiday designated just for us at the tail end of the summer that we use to wave farewell to the warm weather and summery produce and welcome the Autumnal turning of the leaves and the bountiful harvest to come, it really is something special to us. For example the little things like leaving extremely early to try and catch the hot air balloons rising into the air (weather permitting) in the morning and eating breakfast outside the car while waiting for the gates to open in the nipping early September breeze, just becomes part and parcel of a lovely little family tradition that has been almost ever present for my new extended family and many more families that have made this show their annual haunt.

The gates open to the public at around 8:30AM and you will find yourself wandering around as some vendors are still setting up their stalls so it can take a while to get your bearings in terms of what you want to see and what is going on if like me, you refuse to use the program for fear of it taking up valuable swag space… Although I feel it is possibly a touch of the same part of my psyche that doesn’t allow me to use instruction manuals that come with flat packed furniture. There were two main horseshoe shaped food courts this year in addition to a large food orientated tent that was located around a hundred yards away. Like any food festival or show this little outdoor food village housed many different options to please any palete including the usual offerings of cheese, meats, beer, spirits, chocolate and cakes.

Foody pics of the litter

Firstly a pair of vendors stood out for me and to be honest they are the guys that always stand out for me at these kind of events and they were The Cheshire cheese company and Supreme sausages. Cheshire cheese company seem to make an effort to have a presence at most food festivals and shows of late and offer an incredible array of cheeses from the strong mature Black Bob to the superb yet bizarre sticky toffee cheese that I tried at one of the BBC good food shows. They always do well out of me at these sorts of things however I restrained myself from purchasing any as I will be seeing them at the food show in November so I figured it would be best to wait and stock up closer to Christmas, although their range is as diverse as ever and their quality still unquestionably great. Thanks for the samples!

Supreme sausages make my favourite sausage. I am not even remotely hesitant in writing such a bold statement as their Toulouse is literally the best I have ever had and I have eaten a lot of sausages in my time! They make a great range of sausages that include wild boar and apple, pork with venison and mushroom, pork with honey and mushroom (recommended) and the good old Cumberland to name a few. They have around 20 years experience in sausage making and it certainly shows in their stellar produce, some of which did come home with me in the form of a few packs of Toulouse and some of the wild boar and apple. These two food festival veterans aside there were more sights for the culinarily inclined to see at the show but listing them all would take forever to be honest, so I will give you two of my favourite new discoveries that I feel really deserve a light shining on what they are doing.

Super cakes and blooming breads

Upon exploring the inner food tent I discovered more vendors selling cheese, fudge, ciders and a few other stalls selling gadgets and utensils. One that really caught my eye was a stand near the middle of the outer side of the tent pretty much submerged in pastries and cake, and that is genuinely not an understatement as the picture below shows. They were selling brownies as thick as a dictionary and tear and share breads that you could serve an actual meal on. I think they were called something like ‘The Foccacia company’ but do not hold me to that, they made some really incredible stuff so I am disappointed in myself that I didn’t make a proper note of it. Whoever they were they deserve all the plaudits in the world for their extraordinary creations, including the halloumi wrap which was rammed with the salty Greek goodness and was absolutely superb for the £5 we paid.

Never ending baked goods

Never ending baked goods

Hops and a half wheel

My final stall of note was the Staffordshire brewery who was actually my last stall of the entire day before returning the the car for our dinner. They produce some great beers that range from their ‘Gold beer’ that runs at 3.8% ABV and answers the current high demand for golden/light ales to the severe looking Black grouse that’s peaks at 4.5% ABV and will satisfy the stout lovers among us. Funnily enough though they have combined two of my favourite things in their business plan… beer and cheese! they produce cheese under a sister company called ‘Staffordshire cheese Co’ so the chap that was running the stall offered us three 500ml bottles of beer and a wedge of the remaining cheese to take home with us. Frankly it would have been rude not to take him up on his most kind offer of beer and cheese for such a generous price, especially when my Fiance was insisting on paying. Double win.

I went for the award winning Gold beer, Double sunset amber ale and the Black grouse stout complimented with a wedge of their Cheddleton cheese that was blended with whole and split mustard seeds. A great offer with some great produce that I could take away with me and enjoy at home, good job Staffordshire beer/ cheese! The gold beer offers an unsurprisingly golden colour with a light citrus fruit, hoppy palate, citrus notes in the scent and a nice lingering bitterness with a reasonable ABV that completes the experience and rounds off a very honest, good local beer. The cheese I haven’t actually tried yet but the taster they had available on their stall was the self titled ‘Staffordshire cheese’, very much like a good debut album it made an impression that invoked a need for more. The creamy taste and crumbly texture means it is certainly destined to be a vital part of many a Christmas cheese board as this cheese is a strong contender for best discovery of my day at Chatsworth.

And the balloons start to fly…

Feeling rather pleased with the days exploration and the discoveries that we made while traversing the rows of stalls, we spoke about the other things we had seen during the day on the way back to the car. So much had happened outside of the ‘food village’ that it was hard to keep track of really, so much so that it would take forever to write about every little detail of the show therefore I have limited this to the consumable highlights. To properly get a feel for the show I encourage you to make an effort to visit in 2016 and see for yourself, load the family into the car with a picnic and your wellies and have yourself a fantastic great day out. Everything was happening throughout the day from falconry displays, aircraft displays, craft stalls, celebrity book signings, shooting competitions, the opportunity to ride a Harley Davidson on a rolling road (which I totally took advantage of) and of course the great food and drink on offer all culminated in us agreeing that Chatsworth 2015 was a roaring success. To make things even better we closed out the day sitting as a family as the light started to slowly dissolve into evening, enjoying a homemade chicken cacciatore while we watched the hot air balloons rise above the tree line and over into the Derbyshire countryside, a great and fitting end to a thoroughly enjoyable day.

Thank you Chatsworth, we will see you next year.

The Hungry Buck Cuban sandwich

A little while ago I watched a film called ‘Chef’ on Netflix starring John Favreau where he plays Carl Casper, a head chef at a major restaurant in California. He hits a snag when the owner of the restaurant tries to shackle his creativity and tie him down to cooking ‘classic’ proven dishes instead of being free to innovate and create something edgy and special. A high flying blogger and critic Ramsey Michel is heavily critical of Carl’s menu which starts a Twitter war between the two, Carl unfortunately being quite aggressive in his retaliation, not realising that Twitter is a very public forum to start a war of words. Ultimately this triggers a sequence of events that ruin his credibility and essentially ruins his career.

This gives Carl the opportunity to strip everything back and make something beautifully simple, tasty and fun. Traveling the country in a food truck making a huge impact with his iteration of the Cuban sandwich, he tries to rebuild his career and rebuild his fractured relationships with his family along the way. Its a brilliant film and I would recommend anybody watch it whether you are a food lover or not its a great ‘Feel good’ movie to watch on a Sunday night to help battle those lurking Monday blues.

Naturally I have spent a lot of time since watching the film researching the Cuban sandwich in its different iterations and disputed guises in and around the USA, making notes on equivalent ingredients to substitute the less available items on UK shores. Traditionally a Cuban sandwich is made from ‘Cuban’ bread which is baked in long, baguette style shapes with a crisp outer crust and a soft flaky middle, Ham, roasted pork, yellow mustard, Swiss cheese and pickles which is then pressed in a sandwich press called a Plancha. The bread being the main sticking point over here in the UK if you don’t have time to make it yourself.

In terms of the roast pork I wanted to give the sandwich a quick and easy alternative so slow roasting for hours for the sake of making one sandwich was never really a viable option for me! So I switched it up for some pork loin steaks and made a quick spice rub from salt, garlic, cumin, cinnamon and lime juice. So as blasphemous as this may be to the purists this is my homage to the iconic Cuban sandwich.

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Ingredients:

  • 1 Panini roll
  • Honey roast ham
  • 1 Pork loin steak
  • Large pickles, thinly
  • 4 slices of Swiss or Emmental cheese
  • Half a lime

Sprinkle 1/2 a teaspoon of each of the following onto a plate

  • Cinnamon
  • Cumin
  • Garlic powder
  • salt

Method:

  1. Preheat a griddle pan on a medium heat, cut the bread and lay the cheese onto the bottom half.
  2. Place to pork loin steak onto the plate and press into the spice mix, flip over and rub into the meat. Repeat for both sides.
  3. Add the pork to the pan, squeeze the juice of the lime directly onto the meat and cook for around 4 minutes each side. Remove and rest. Keep the pan on a low heat.
  4. Add the pork loin to the sandwich (you can slice it if you want) and layer the ham, pickles and any remaining cheese onto the sandwich. Add a good spread of the mustard onto the remaining bread and place on the top of the sandwich, Lightly butter the top and bottom of the bread.
  5. Turn the heat up on the griddle and add the sandwich to the pan, press down with a spare frying pan or plate to keep it compressed and on the heat. Keep it like this until browned and then flip it over to repeat.
  6. Remove your crispy Cuban from the pan and enjoy! Cut diagonally for really authentic detailing!

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