Meat. Do it right.

I have something that has been bothering me for years now, something that seems so trivial to most people that it would come across as a none issue if not brought to the table with a little context. This particular gripe is the incredibly average but irritatingly widespread, supermarket meat.

Now I know this is a sweeping generalisation and that is one thing I don’t like to do, but the quality and level of complacency that people are willing to accept is unfathomable. My granddad worked at a butcher shop in Wolverhampton in his later years and seeing the level of skill and care taken by Graham and Alan has always stuck with me. In supplying the local area with fresh, good quality cuts of meat they were conducting a dying service and I never realised until I got a bit older. Our system doesn’t seem to support the level of demand we have put onto it and this provides the supermarket and its ‘one stop shop’ approach an opportunity to throw plastic boxes of mass produced cack at every Tom, Dick and Harry that walk through their doors.

Image result for diced venison

Now this is a vicious circle really because the more supermarkets that pop up, the more local butchers that fall flat on their faces and years of experience and knowledge goes down the pan. It infuriates me as you have no idea the level of artistry and experience it takes to make the most of an animal in the way a real butcher can. Sainsbury’s will never give you the option to take home the type of meat you want, you have to make do with what they had. I remember a time a few months ago when I lived at my old house, there wasn’t a local butcher and I wanted to make BBQ pork ribs. Naturally I went to the nearest supermarket to fetch a rack as I knew I had seen them before, however, when I got there I was told that they hadn’t put them out today because they had been sent more pork steaks and they had to sell them. I can kind of understand this to a certain extent but when I asked them to go and try to find me some out I was told ‘No, unfortunately not as they will be at the bottom of a container somewhere’. It took me a week to actually get some ribs and the amount of shiners on them easily qualified them to sit in a sodding jewellers window. (For those who don’t know a shiner is when the rib is cut too close to the bone and the bone penetrates the meat… I am talking at least half of the entire rack was showing bones. dire.) Not only this but not too long ago I was in there getting some bread after work and saw an elderly customer at the meat counter who asked for 800g of fresh mince. One would assume that she is asking this so she doesn’t have to simply settle for the mildly greying brain fart excuse for beef mince sitting on the shelves. What she got however was exactly that. The guy only had 100g or so to hand so he told her he would go and get some more… he went to the shelf, got 2 packs of the aforementioned mince and simply emptied out onto the scale.

The supermarket butchers counter is a front. It presents the illusion of freshness and the real butchery experience when in actual fact it is just the same stuff that is served on the shelves. It just has a man in a hat.

I recently moved house and now live in a village with possibly one of the best butchers I have ever used and the contrast is just on another level. On my first full day living here I went in and had a chat with them to feel out what I was dealing with and to see what was available to me. I had a laundry list of cuts I wanted to know if I could get my hands on that I have struggled for in recent months…. Beef short ribs, whole brisket, game birds and venison steaks, all of which were greeted with a wry smile and a definitive yes. I left with 500g a freshly diced venison to get me going. Now if you can tell me a single supermarket that offers that kind of offering with the quality of product I received I will go out into the currently snow filled streets stark bollock naked and do a Chris Ashton swan dive into my neighbours garden. Not going to happen.

The moral of the story is this. There are some truly talented, under appreciated masters out there and they are being wasted. I was guilty of it as most of us are but we need to stand up and realise that they need our support. Every time I turn on the TV or radio people are talking about supporting local business and yet at every turn we seem to be able to avoid the butcher or the green grocer as an inclusion. I do not give a single shiny toss about another t-shirt company starting in Wolverhampton or a crowd funded start up to develop apps down the road. I care about the kind of sustainably sourced meat and poultry supplied by Astons butchers, Coven, South Staffordshire, WV9 5DB. I may have been a bit harsh on the supermarkets, not all of it is that bad…  but compare the beef or lamb you get there to a cut of native bred livestock that was looked after locally and hand picked to give you the very best experience possible… go to somebody who cares about what they are giving you and not just how much of it they can sell. Your local butcher cares about you coming back through the door and your satisfaction is a priority, not just the yearly profit differentials of 160 different stores.

There is an Astons near you somewhere. Find them. Support them. Enjoy them. Before it’s too late.



2013 recap: The burgathon recipe sheets

2013 has been a crazy year and the blog has gone from strength to strength over the months, I can only thank everybody who reads the blog for helping it get up an running. Its been a fun start to a life of online food writing.

The highlight of the year for me food wise was battle of the burgers in London, which triggered the Burgathon series. A trio of recipes aimed at getting people to make their own, homemade burgers to enjoy rather than buying shop bought ones, while satisfying my perverse adoration for burgery goodness. So below find all of the Burgathon recipes together in one place! Thanks again for reading. 2014 is going to be huge!

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!


the big pig burger

  • 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.



The maple bagel burger

For the burger

600g lean steak mince
3 tablespoons maple syrup
large pinch cracked black pepper
1 tablespoon mild chili flakes
pinch fine sea salt
4 fresh white bagels
8 slices pastrami
8 slices good Swiss cheese
chopped salad leaves of your choice, sliced tomato and a splash of olive oil.

For the dressing

1 tablespoon sour cream
1 tablespoon good quality mayonnaise
1 teaspoon Worcester sauce
1 teaspoon English mustard
pinch white pepper.


  1. Combine the mince, chili flakes, maple syrup, salt and pepper in a bowl. With clean hands mix well until all seasoning and the maple syrup is evenly distributed.
  2. split into 4 evenly sized balls and pat down into discs around an inch thick.
  3. Cover and leave in the fridge for 10-20 minutes to firm up.
  4. preheat a griddle pan on a medium heat and add a little oil to each side of the burgers.
  5. Add the burgers to the griddle 2 at a time and cook for 7 minutes on each side. Preheat your grill on high.
  6. Grill the bagels on both sides until they start to brown.
  7. cut up 2 pieces of pastrami per burger, top with a few pieces of cheese and slide under the grill for a few minutes. then remove and rest for a few moments.
  8. Mix all of the dressing ingredients together and add it right the way around the base of the bagels, followed by the salad, the burger with the pastrami and now soft Swiss cheese, capped off with the top half of the bagel and press down a little to push it all together.
  9. Then enjoy it! it really is a show stopper!

Maple steak burger

So that’s it, 2013 is over and 2014 has begun, I wish you all the very best and hope it is a truly great year for all of you.