Cooking: Cutting through my anxiety

Cooking: Cutting through my anxiety

Lately I have found myself wanting to write things that are more meaningful to me while also sticking to what I love and talking about food. With this in mind I feel like it is a good time to talk about something quite close to my heart and I assume this may even surprise a few people that know me. Since a very young age I have had two constants in my life which are a love of food and a constant, crippling anxiety that can sometimes make my life incredibly difficult.

In recent years I have felt the stigma surrounding depression and anxiety slowly lift away and I have seen a certain amount of understanding starting to develop within our society. I think there is an element of people tweeting and sharing posts on ‘World mental health day’ without really considering what it means and how much of this is genuine I am not sure – but what it has done is allow people like myself to feel more comfortable in talking about it. Many people spend their nights hoping they wake up the following morning feeling less exposed and vulnerable than they went to sleep only to wake up in the same vacuum of dread, while not allowing themselves to talk to their closest friends and family for fear they will not understand. I have always been one of those people.

Mostly my anxiety is tied to a constant and unrelenting awareness of my own mortality which has more often than not manifested itself as health based anxiety. What this does is completely preoccupy you with thoughts of long term or life threatening illnesses and makes every day life almost impossible to deal with – I think that in isolation this would lead some people who haven’t suffered with a similar problem to think something along the lines of ‘Just get over it’ or ‘ Don’t worry about it’ but unfortunately the reality is this isn’t possible. Health anxiety alone often isn’t the culprit. Obsessive Compulsive disorder also likes to get involved and I am not talking about the cliché tropes of cleaning the house constantly or tapping my foot 3 times when I close a door – these problems do exist for some people however OCD very often comes in the way of obsessive and compulsive thought. To put it into context someone who functions in a very matter of fact way might watch the news and see something about a foreign country’s aggressive rhetoric towards another and take it at face value, maybe even ignore it completely and change the channel. However what someone with anxiety or compulsive thoughts may jump to are thoughts of world war 3, conscription and the idea of being sent against their will to fight a war and dying in some trench somewhere in the desert.. or worse yet nuclear war and mutually assured destruction. I know as that is something I myself had during the build up to our involvement in the Iraq war in 2003. I was 14 at the time.

Nowadays though my problems almost exclusively hit home due to the aforementioned health anxiety and to put that into context at a fairly young age I had a cancer scare. I had some discomfort in my groin for near enough 2 years and liked to put it down to a rollerblading injury externally while worrying and having panic attacks every single day during the year of my GCSE’s internally. I was worried about testicular cancer but in my naivety was too terrified to get it checked out, of course after a certain point I didn’t go for fear of being told I was terminally ill. I just couldn’t face it. Until one day when I actually found a lump. That was the day everything changed. I had always run on the logic that if I couldn’t find a lump then I was probably ok (Disclaimer: Do not adhere to this logic. It is the logic of a teenager too scared to face up to the possibility something may be wrong, If in doubt GET CHECKED) …But there it was. I was hysterical. I spent the next 4 days leading up to my doctors appointment unable to eat, sleep or even talk to people about how I felt. The panic attacks got worse and I felt like I was under water 90% of the time – my hearing came in and out, I went from cold flashes to hot sweats, involuntary muscle twitching and tremors to wave after wave of extremely painful headaches. It was the culmination of 2 years of utter panic, denial and an inability to deal with the cards I believed to have been dealt. I was checked out by the doctor who wasn’t particularly concerned but I refused to believe her and was booked in for an ultrasound. Long story short the scan came back fine and I have it checked every now and then to make sure everything is ok. The point is no matter what the ailment is I have at least 2 of these episodes a year about one thing or another. In 2017 It was an absolute fact I had MS, then Leukaemia and subsequently finished the year with Motor Neuron Disease, which in itself I find a dark humour in looking back on it as I must have felt really unlucky having all 3 at once.

2018 though was different. I find myself a lot more equipped to deal with this after many, many years of trying and failing. I feel like I am finally winning the war. A war that I know will never truly be over but nonetheless one that I have never felt more ready for. Every day when I wake up in bed, staring at the emptiness presented to me by the ceiling I try to conduct a certain level of mindfulness about my position in the world, what I am and what is around me. The tastes and smells of life and the joys to be found within them… it is within this that my personal cure is rooted. The first brief sip of coffee that alerts, hydrates and prepares us for the 12 hours to come, the heat and texture of the liquid. The finer details available to us in this world can make all the difference if we allow ourselves to take a brief moment to really appreciate and savour them. That is where my tonic comes from and my ability to shut out the unhealthy noise of my inner demons comes from the creation and consumption of food. I never really appreciated it during my time at school but I have an insatiable hunger to learn and create, which isn’t necessarily satisfied by my work life. I love my job I really do but I am a firm believer in having an escape from the pressure and the up’s and down’s of your 9 to 5, for me that is coming home and cooking a meal for myself and my family. It has been that way since I first started working.

I think it is important to mention at this point I am not talking about compulsive eating or gorging but rather the method and the principals of cooking that can take my out of my ‘bad place’. What it enables me to do is take me away from a place where the only thing I can consider is ‘Insert health concern here’ and take me to a place where I have to solve a problem. When done correctly, cooking is simply problem solving with incredibly enjoyable consequences and what I love about this is that it is so subjective and malleable. When looking at an open fridge I find myself doing equations, adding and subtracting items from a mental image of the prospective dish I want to create. Shopping is not something we simply have to do so we have food in our house it is an event of inspiration and promise for the week ahead. The fishmonger is my muse, The butcher my influence and the green grocer is my insight. This passion can be so much stronger than the darkness that dwells beyond logical thought and it allows me to cut through it and be myself, as we are never more ourselves than when we are doing something that we truly love.

The key thing for me is that I had to embrace who I was and what I loved doing to tread on the neck of my anxiety and not allow it to ruin my life. It inevitably still bubbles from time to time and there is no silver bullet for this ailment unfortunately, however this shouldn’t stop us from looking for answers. Whether it is exercise, cooking, playing an instrument or drawing there is sanctuary to be found there and within that sanctuary are the weapons and armour you need to fight the battle. For example when I had my rough patch in 2017 I got my pasta machine out and made at least 9 different types of pasta and copious amounts of it at that, but it was a physical and mental challenge that allowed me to escape the continuous loop of negativity and thoughts laden with impending doom.

My advice for anybody who struggles is to be mindful of the smaller joys in this life and don’t allow the demons to steal away your opportunity to enjoy this life we have been given. The world is an incredible place and we have the ability to do incredible things be it on a canvas, a plate or a stage. Never let it steal away from who you are. It will never truly go away but neither will a chronic physical injury – but yoga could help that…So make your passion your ‘mental yoga’ and keep yourself stretched and prepared to allow yourself to be yourself every day.

There’s nothing wrong with struggling and not being ok – but it is a fight you can win if you sharpen the right tools. It just so happened my tools are a smoker and a set of knives.

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Christmas Hits Hard At The Yard

Christmas Hits Hard At The Yard

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TALKING SHOP

Every now and then there is a person or a group of people that some how manage to start right in the middle of an over populated and saturated market and somehow manage to not only wade through it to the front, but charge forward and tear through the restraints of recent clichés and deliver something truly special. It has now been just over a year since Wayland’s Yard opened its doors on Foregate Street in Worcester and they have done exactly that. I couldn’t be more impressed by how it has gone for Sam and his team as they seemingly just gets stronger and stronger, punching above it’s weight class when situated 50 yards from a newly opened Seattle based sugared bathwater shop it is a truly impressive feat that quality and care are maintaining peoples interest better than big brand corporate coffee. This is an exciting prospect as it means people are willing to stick with real produce and have an honest, genuine experience rather than just wanting to Instagram a take away coffee cup with your name written on the side in sharpie pen.

Wayland’s Yard represents something. 12 months ago it represented Sam’s own life after rugby and his own passion, now it stands for his whole team. You get a feeling it is all about the collective now (It always was in essence but you can feel how established it really is today) the controlled chaos of a busy moment where you have sporadic blasts of food walked past you from their impressive menu, silky hand shaped latte art, smiles on the faces of all the staff and the excitement and instant fuss and joy a new dog gets when walked in through the front door. It’s a spot where you can truly be safe, comfortable and happy in an environment that sets you up to do exactly that. The best part about this is that not only is the environment that surrounds you but the stuff that is getting dropped off before you. The food is to such a high quality I honestly don’t think I am capable of eating anywhere else in Worcester anymore. Seriously man this place just ticks all of my boxes and they look after everybody so well why would you want to go anywhere else?

FESTIVITIES

This visit was to have a look round their Christmas event which I believe was orchestrated by Polly, a friendly and attentive member of the team who looked after me while I was there. The festivities were marked by stalls from local hand made gift companies and crafters, which included things like hand made jewellery, Christmas cards and organic soaps. I managed to cop some soothing foot balm for my dog as he struggles with itchy paws so that was a life saver! There was some really interesting and talented people on show which really tapped into the philosophy of the whole business. Support the proper, honest and local people trying to make their way in the world against the constant incoming tide of mass produced mediocrity. I also got a few hand made Christmas cards for my family to add a bit of a unique twist to my gift giving this year, I can attest to this being a lovely little addition to Worcester in general not just to Wayland’s Yard. Almost the definition of ‘keeping it real’ without wanting to use too much a dead phrase from the early 90’s.

In the now fully developed Victorian high walled Yard mentioned in the name, was not only the mini festive market but also a showcase of local musical talent too. Throughout the weekend there was a variety of brilliant local solo artists and groups that added to the atmosphere and collective buzz of the event and it was a really nice touch. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to attend the Saturday which Sam said was possibly the busiest day they have ever had, however, following on their Instagram story while I was helping to cater a family event allowed me to tap into the fun from afar. Again an element of the whole package that makes a difference to people. Even when I am not there I am still constantly connected to the comings and goings at the shop and it keeps people truly invested in the long term success of their favourite coffee shop.

FOOD

I might have to make a slight apology on this one actually. Upon finishing my meal Sam asked me how it was and I shook my head. I wasn’t shaking it in a negative way at all. It was just a little big ridiculous how good they managed to make 2 crumpets. Genuinely I am not just gushing for the sake of it here they were f***ing silly good. I don’t even usually like crumpets! so to start at the beginning, I was greeted by Polly and given a quick down-low of how the weekend was working and immediately directed towards the special board which had the words ‘eggy crumpets’ sitting on it. Not usually something that would bother me at all but upon really getting my eyes in a few keys words flew into my eye holes. Halloumi. Chorizo. Smoked Chilli Jam. ermmm… yes, yes and yes. I ordered this accompanied by my usual decaf white chocolate latte (Next level. regardless of its unleaded nature) and the Mrs had the ‘Fry up’ which I have touched on in a previous write up so I won’t review that again apart from saying its worth it for the sausages and the sweet potato hash alone.

The food came out really quickly and what I was presented was a vibrant looking dish that even made the humble crumpet look like a bit of a star. What graced my plate were two, soft and fluffy, eggy crumpets (think French toast with a crumpet) with 2 grilled pieces of halloumi, scattered with crunchy fried chorizo, finished with finely sliced red chili and lashings of rich smoked chilli jam. It was bloody ridiculous. Hence my initial head shake. The textures of the crumpet, cheese and chorizo just made it a constantly changing experience that you never really got settled in to, which is great as you don’t become complacent. You pay attention for the entire meal and then from the background the chilli jam gives you a sweet heat to melt away the saltiness from the cheese. Obviously this is followed by a size 8 fresh chili shaped foot up your arse but the best way to describe it is a comfortable heat that compliments the dish. Think of a size 8 jelly shoe rather than a size 8 steel toe cap. Subtle… Its certainly present but it could be a lot more aggressive! I like my heat anyway, so more of that please. Wicked good. Overall and as always, bang on. Only major draw back is that is currently a special and not on the main menu. Petition goes live Monday and the picket line outside the shop on Tuesday guys.

Finish

To end this visit to Wayland’s Yard I want to be open and say just how much they continue to impress me. As a business, as a team and as a coffee shop, it feels like so much more now. I address this to everybody there now when I say: You all clearly live and breathe the ethos Sam wanted to create when opening the shop and made what started as his personal next step into a real landmark on Worcester’s high street. The atmosphere and quality is down to all of your hard work and I hope that you continue to do what your doing as you all contribute to the heart and soul, which lots of your competitors lack. The soul of WY is what keeps people coming back for more and I am proud to say I contributed at the very beginning however little, in the crowd funding campaign. Sam, If you and the team keep doing what your doing, whatever comes next for Wayland’s Yard is going to be a big success. Keep it up and I and many others will keep coming back.

Overall a great morning was spent enjoying proper food and proper coffee… provided by proper people. Thank you Wayland’s Yard and Merry Christmas to all of my readers!

 

 

Moyaux than meets the eye…

Travel broadens the mind. Travel provides us with the opportunity to see, hear and most importantly eat things that we wouldn’t be able to experience at home, making it as far as I’m concerned a very important part of life. So why is it then that I have not been abroad since I was 12? The simple answer being I am terrified of flying and cannot bare the thought of getting on one of those tubular winged terror machines.

Luckily France is not too far away and a ferry can get me there in no more than a few hours dependent on which port you arrive at. Huzzah! And I must say that driving off the ferry and onto the somewhat alien road system was an interesting experience but one that now seems like easy work after staying there for just shy of two weeks. We stayed in a small town called Moyaux, not too far from Lisieux in Normandy, on a a site called Le Colombier which was situated on an old apple orchard. The French countryside provides a really lovely base of operations for an exploration of the north western part of the country and Normandy provides a brilliant source of local produce to explore. Moyaux is a small town or even a village that doesn’t seem to have a lot going on in it but provides a true look into how French people really live, as opposed to a place that is hopped up and bloated to keep up with a bloated feeling tourism demand that pushes it’s inherent “Frenchness” onto the back burner to conform to what people want to see. It represents quintessential Normandy life and is a place build around its Church where everything closes from around 12pm until at least 2pm. For help with the mental image see the village in the film ‘Chocolat’ but without the pouting, pony tailed and guitar brandishing Johnny Depp and replaced with a fairly average looking food blogger in a Vauxhall Astra.

There were a few things that really stood out to me that seemed to represent the produce of the area that included but were not limited to; apples, which they used to create tarts, ciders and a distilled cider brandy called Calvados.  The local cheese’s and dairy produce such as the thick and rich creme fraiche, camembert which is said to have originated in Normandy in 1791, Pont-l’Eveque which is very much like a squared brie which I find slightly firmer and Neufchâtel which boasts a smooth, creamy texture with a flavour that lands somewhere between a young and fairly well aged taste. It is certainly a region worth visiting for the cheese-o-philes among us, great with fresh bread and a selection of cured meats that are not so good for the waistline but extraordinarily super for the soul!

Lisieux offers a market on a Saturday that really doesn’t seem to hold anything that special when walking into it from the side of the Basilique where we parked, as it seemed to just be full of clothing and cheap watches which tend to not really interest me if I am really honest. However when you turn the corner just to the left of the library you see just what you need to see in France. Wall to wall food. Vegetables, fruit, seafood (Not a cloudy fish eye in sight) including some lovely Moule/mussels that we enjoyed that night in a paella, fresh crepes, bread, some awesome fresh, cured and very living meats, preserves and pretty much anything you could think of that you would want to see in France when looking for a feed.

I wandered around for a few hours in awe of just how good it was and feeling very lucky to be able to see it frankly as at the time we visited the farmers of France were on strike in relation to the price of meat and milk being paid to them by the large supermarket chains. I had heard about the French supermarkets as something to behold in comparison to what we have in the UK and unfortunately it took a few days for us to get to the closest one due to the roads being closed due to farmers parking their tractors all around the hypermarket. We got around to it somehow one day before the strike moved on to Le Havre and found burning piles of cow feces, agricultural waste strewn all over the place and angry farm workers waving us off the exits which led to the store. An interesting experience to be in but if I am honest I totally support their cause and wish them luck in their endeavor’s, farms work damn hard to keep up with supply in countries all over the world and they deserve to be fairly reimbursed for their incredible amount of hard work.

Drink. Something that you need to cover when giving a run down of Normandy it seems as they are famous for their production of Calvados brandy, which is a really smooth drink for even me who is not in any way shape or form a Brandy drinker. It is actually very good when added to fried onions and put on top of a heftily loaded burger, however that is an expensive and wasteful practice to a true connoisseur! I basically lived off Grimbergen while I stayed there which seems to be a staple beer in France, It is available in some really tasty varieties such as poire/pear, kriek/berry, ruby, blonde and white to name a few that I can remember.

In summary, France offered some incredible experiences and I can’t wait to go back again. While there we visited the Bayaux tapestry, the landing beaches, Monet’s garden and the camp site was a wonderful place to relax offering a lovely little creperie just past the pool that offered take away food which I have to be honest, wasn’t perfect but it certainly filled a void if needed (heres to you Croque monsieur). Normandy is somewhere that I would recommend visiting to any person who loves food, drink and culture to visit as it has all three categories covered in droves, just don’t be scared to run off the beaten track and go somewhere other than the hypermarkets as Normandy in particular has so much to offer to reward your exploration. So if travel really does broaden the mind, consider my mind broadened.

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!

Chicken and chorizo stew.

Over the course of 2014, I had found myself doing a lot of new things and being inspired to create new recipes, make dishes that can take me away from the everyday trudge of mealtime and keep eating after work just as enjoyable as eating at the weekend. Monday blues are no excuse to stick to beans on toast (not that there’s anything wrong with beans on toast!) purely through a lack of inspiration.

I have a few stalwart recipes that come to mind that tend to remedy this, however, This one in particular is fast becoming a favourite for me and my family! I have cooked this for a fair few people now and its always met with the same positive reaction, which makes me feel pretty confident that its something you guys will love.  Its hearty, its healthy, and its full of ingredients that when put together, create a great ‘feel good’ kind of meal that is quite suitable for battling Monday blues, getting over the Wednesday hump or any day of the week you need a bit of a pick me up. Oh and don’t worry about not having time. It doesn’t take more than 5o minutes in total, So get somebody to help with the prep or chop your ingredients in advance to save time.

Ingredients:

  • 1 tbspn rapeseed oil.
  • 4 Chicken breasts. Diced.
  • 1 Chorizo ring.
  • 200g Diced butternut squash.
  • 100ml Red wine.
  • 1 Tin chopped tomatoes.
  • 300ml Good chicken stock.
  • 1 tbspn Dijon mustard.
  • 1 tbspn Paprika.
  • 1 tbspn Turmeric.
  • 2 Chopped sticks of celery.
  • 2 tbspn Worcester sauce.
  • 1 Can butter beans.
  • Salt and pepper to taste.

Method:

  1. Add oil to a large cast iron dish or saucepan on a low heat, add the oil, chorizo and celery. Fry for a few minutes until the chorizo releases its own oil and starts to brown.
  2. Add the chicken a move around the pan until the chicken starts to also take on the reddish brown colour from the chorizo. (About 3-4 minutes).
  3. Splash in the red wine, followed by the squash, tomatoes and chicken stock. Stir and simmer for 5 minutes.
  4. Next pop in the Dijon mustard along with the paprika and turmeric. Leave on a medium heat for 30 minutes, stirring regularly.
  5. A few minutes before serving add the butter beans and give them a good stir around. Put the lid on if you have one and leave them to warm through for a couple of minutes, turn the heat up if you wish to finish it off nicely. (Putting them in at the end retains their form better as they seem to escape their outer casings and disintegrate into the abyss otherwise)
  6. Serve with rice and enjoy being hugged from the inside. I use the easy micro bags of rice to save time and as a bit of a cheat.

 

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There you have it! Its as easy as that to make and its worth every second. Packed full of all the good stuff you need to feel full and satisfied without neglecting your vegetables. The chorizo is just an added bonus to reward your obvious dedication to giving yourself something healthy to eat!

 

Give it a try, get creative and add your own twist to it and add fresh chilies or olives. Go crazy!

Winter warmer – Wild boar sausage casserole

I tend to eat relatively healthy for the most part of the year, but when the winter slowly slides its cold, harsh, grasp around us I do crave something that makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. I love a good soup or stew, especially when it’s on a lazy snowy weekend and its left in the slow cooker or the hob bobbing away like a tasty molten treasure chest waiting for me to discover it in all its bubbling loveliness. This time I’m using a different kind of meat, in the form of wild boar sausage, to give it a little bit of something different.

There are nearly an endless amount of possibilities when it comes down to stews and soups, you can put anything in them! Any vegetable you can think of can be paired with all sorts of meats and pulses that can create some really hearty, cockle warming fare to keep your lunches interesting throughout the week or feed the whole family on a chilly December night.

This week as always I’m bringing you a recipe that can be cooked and enjoyed by anybody. The essence of real home cooking is keeping it simple, enjoying what you’re doing and being happy with the end result when you create something fantastic! The recipe is adaptable enough, so if you fancy giving it an extra dimension drop some chopped chillies in there or add some diced chorizo for a little Spanish flare, but here’s the recipe for my ideal winter sausage casserole.

Ingredients:

  • 6 wild boar and apple sausages or good quality sausage of your choice                                                           (Try www.supremesausages.co.uk they are amazing!)
  • 1 can chopped tomatoes
  • 300ml good chicken stock
  • 150g butter beans
  • 2 medium sticks of celery (finely chopped)
  • 4 rashers of smoked streaky bacon (cut into small chunks)
  • 200g diced butternut squash
  • 1 whole diced white onion
  • 4 cloves garlic (finely chopped)
  • 2 tbsp. tomato puree
  • 3 tbsp. red wine
  • 3 tbsp. Worcester sauce
  • 1 tbsp. smoked paprika
  • 2 tbsp. rape seed oil
  • 1 heaped tbsp. brown sugar
  • Sea salt
  • Black pepper

Method:

In a large saucepan add the rapeseed oil on a medium heat and add the sausages.

Lightly fry the sausages until browned on all sides, remove the sausage and add the garlic, bacon and onions, fry until it softens, around 2-3 minutes.

  1. When the garlic becomes aromatic and the bacon starts to brown (don’t let the garlic brown, keep it moving), add the red wine, Worcester sauce, tomatoes, tomato puree, paprika, brown sugar, beans, celery, squash, seasoning and the stock and stir well.
  2. Slice the sausage into even chunks and stir back into the mixture, keep the pan on the heat and partially cover. Leave to simmer for 30 minutes stirring regularly.
  3. Serve in a bowl with some toasted crusty bread, and a good helping of rice or pasta, topped with a few sliced black olives to make this crowd pleasing dish even more pleasing. Its good for the soul in these winter months to feed yourself some simple, fantastic food that makes you smile, with minimal effort to keep you in front of the TV watching your greys anatomy box set, sitting near the fire with the dog at your feet and the rain lashing the windows outside of your house. Whether your life runs at 500 miles per hour or you just want a quick fix, the recipe is perfect for you. Hope you enjoy it!

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Burgathon edition #3 The maple steak burger

This week brings a whole different kind of animal to the burgathon table to finish the series. It brings together two sides of the spectrum and mashes them together to create something so moreish, I struggle to not eat it every day. This is easily my favourite burger so far. The Maple bagel burger is a congregation of sweet and savoury flavours joining forces to excite the taste buds and whip your senses into frenzy.

This one is inspired, just like the mardi gras burger, by the cultural melting pot that is the USA. The blend of flavours and culinary diversity that comes together to create some truly unique food. The soft bagel, the sweet, warm, spiced burger and the mellow, mustardy undertones of the dressing complete the package and create something truly fantastic.

 

So to get us started youll need:

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.

Method:

  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!

that completes my trio of simple but effective burger recipes for you to try, I hope you enjoyed them! Keep your eyes peeled for new burger recipes and more on food gecko!

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