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!

Burgathon edition #1: Southern american soul meets british beef

Hi everybody,

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

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

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

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

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

The Mardi Gras burger

Ingredients:

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.

Method:

Firstly you will want to get cracking with the sauce.

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

Before and after… Father and son.

For the burger…

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

This sucker got soul!

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

Phil

Changing of the seasons

It has been a while since my last proper article and I am very sorry!. Preparation for the trip to London took over my schedule in between work.

Normal service will now be resumed with plenty of things in store in the coming weeks to get your taste buds squeaking with excitement and your empty belly impatiently grumbling for your next feed. Today had a very Autumnal nip to the air and it really started to hit home that summer is fizzling out quicker than anybody would like to admit. The abrupt change in the weather shifts my focus from the bright and colourful al fresco lunches in the garden to hearty, warming soups and huge roasts with beautiful crisp root vegetables and thick, rich gravy. The conkers are preparing to drop and the leaves are slowly making the transformation from their emerald green to their rustic, golden brown and that means a change in direction for everybody interested in seasonal culinary adventure. Put the kettle on and dust off your casserole dishes. Its going to be good!.

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Autumn is a great time to break out your crock pots or slow cooker. As I always say, never be afraid to try new things, and now is as good a time as any to make a change. A great suggestion for a seasonal alternative to the norm is rabbit. There are over 40 million rabbits in United Kingdom and we seldom use them in our modern day cooking, Which is a shame as now is the perfect time to get them. It’s just after mating season has passed giving them chance to feed and recharge so they are back in prime condition around now. Don’t let the image of them being a pet put you off, they were once a staple in this country and usually at under £5 for a whole rabbit, it can really save you some money too. Ill be developing a rabbit stew recipe for you very soon.

What’s new?

This coming month (October) will be Burger month on Gecko, celebrating my amazing experience with the www.simplybeefandlamb.co.uk battle of the burgers competition where, even though I didn’t win, I felt I did myself and the blog justice in showing the passion I have for cooking and food in general. It was an amazing experience where I met some incredible people and also learned a few things too from some talented cooks. I will be writing a full run down in the next 24 hours about my experience but thank you to everybody who made my presence there possible and supported me along the way.

So I hope everybody is still enjoying the last of their summer creations and prepared for all of the delights that the transformation into easily my second favourite season of the year.

Phil

Self grown greenery: A brief look.

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Lately, I have started taking an interest in the difference between eating shop bought produce and doing it at home.  My father has been doing a small scale grow every year in a greenhouse at the bottom of the garden, growing tomatoes and cucumbers mainly but sometimes making a foray into other areas like red and green chili peppers.

The cucumbers are sometimes a little hit and miss but you cant beat a tomato straight off the vine, whether it be cut up into a salad or turned into a sauce. Now this little taste of it has given me inspiration to take a lot more of an interest in the next mini crop at the end of the garden. Were in August now and coming up to the end of the summer, the tomatoes we have are about to start the end cycle of their growth and the cucumbers are nearly ready to be pulled off, so I will be planting some  late in the year seeds once the next harvest has finished. I can see a big opportunity to grow some really great herbs and veg. Garlic is something I am certainly going to try to produce as I tend to use a truck load of it, same goes for basil and coriander.

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Now why would you want to?

In the current financial climate that is referred to over and over in modern media ( I guess I’m part of that now too) its more important than ever that some people look after the money they earn each week or every first of the month. While it seems like a lot of bother to grow anything yourself it can be really rewarding and can save you money if you put it into perspective. For example; in my local supermarket a bunch of Basil is priced at around 80p, whereas a potted basil plant is £1.85. So by buying the plant (or two, like id advise and keep them in rotation) can over time, if you look after it properly, produce a constant conveyor belt of beautiful, fragrant basil for you to toss into your salads or use in your next pasta dish sitting on the windowsill in your kitchen.

Here in Britain we can never rely on the elements to help us, sometimes even our summers can be cold. Don’t leave it to chance, grab yourself a greenhouse and even heat it if your aiming for something a little more tropical. Otherwise just do your research and move with the seasons. Our green house was second hand and apart from the elbow grease to put it up and prep the area where it was going, only cost us what the seeds were to buy as we tend to move with the seasons. After the initial graft, its only a few months of care and attention and it can save you a whole heap of money. Here are just a few options of what you can use a green house to grow; Tomatoes, cucumber, oregano, basil, parsley, aubergines, chillies, various varieties of pepper, beans, peas or courgettes. And that’s just a small amount of the possibilities.

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They say food tastes better when its free, I think it tastes better when you create it yourself.

Summer collection (MKT repost)

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What an amazing few weeks were having here in the UK. The sun is beaming down with such intensity I cannot go inside for fear of missing out, but even then cant go from under the shade due to me burning like a rose petal in a furnace with the slightest lick of a UV ray!. It even smells summery in the garden most days with the humidity and the flowers, the only draw back being the mammoth sized bee’s flying around the flower beds, but I can deal with that.

I have a few things I have done this week to post all together in what I am calling the Gecko summer collection. Both super easy, One is for my friends at ‘forever’ and the other one is just purely indulgent on my part. Lovely, full flavoured beauties that can compliment your barbecue or give you something to pick at after you have finished watching the rugby highlights, Wimbledon or the German F1.

First up, for the ‘Forever together’ detoxers and healthy people among us:

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My ‘Sunshine salad’ Approx 400 calories per serving give or take

3 eggs, boiled.

3 Basil leaves

Big handful of mixed leaves of your choice.

3 spring onions

1 Medium sized red chili

4-5 sundried tomatoes

6 thin slices of cucumber

Vinaigrette of your choice. (I used a raspberry one that I picked up at the food festival last week)

Method:

1) Put your handful of leaves in a large bowl, tear up any big ones roughly. keep it comfortably bit sized throughout!

2) chop the chili, basil, spring onion, cucumber and sundried tomatoes and add to the bowl.

3) Lightly drizzle with your vinaigrette and gently toss .

4) Place the salad onto a plate and slice to eggs in nice thin sections.

5) Scatter the egg around the salad and top with a slight, waist friendly hint of cheese to add an alternative texture to the dish.

…Now I don’t care where in the world you are, you shouldn’t resist at least trying this!. Its super easy but very satisfying when the modd doesnt allow you the motivation to make something too taxing. Salads are a quintessential part of summer eating and this is a fresh, tasty way to spend lunch in your garden.

Number two, Another fairly healthy one but this one will make your mouth feel as hot as it is outside.

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My ‘Oriental noodles with grilled salmon and firecracker sauce’.

To serve 2 you’ll need:

4 small Pak choi

handful of button mushrooms

4 baby corns

1x dried noodles. (usually flat packed in packs of four)

mixed peppers, sliced length ways.

4 spring onions

2 decently sized pieces of salmon fillet

Pinch sea salt

for the Firecracker sauce:

1 cup vegetable stock

2 tablespoons red cooking wine

1.5 tablespoons of soy sauce

1 teaspoon garlic

1/2 teaspoon ginger

2 long chili’s (I used 1 green and one red)

1 tablespoon of honey.

This is a beautifully aromatic sauce that smells amazing and provides intense taste while providing a real punch. If you aren’t a fan of the spice just leave the fresh chili’s out and add a touch of mild powder or none at all even.

Method for the sauce:

1) Add the stock and wine and bring to a gentle simmer. Chop the chili’s finely.

2) Once at a simmer add the honey, garlic, ginger and chili’s (including the seeds!)

3) Now leave on a medium heat for around 15 minutes until it reduces a little, then take it completely off the heat.

Method for the noodles:

Preheat your grill at a medium to high heat. (mines goes from 1-4 I put it on 3)

1) Add the salt to some water in a saucepan and bring to the boil. Then add the noodles and leave for approximately 5 minutes on a high heat.

2) Pat dry then add a little salt and pepper to one side of each salmon fillet and place under the grill. grill for around 4-5 minutes each side. the flesh should release a milky, mayonnaise sort of looking fat into the grill pan and will flake really easily once cooked. (Keep an eye on it and don’t over cook it as it really is key to the dish to have that lovely salmon on top!)

3) Chop the corn into thirds, the mushrooms into halves and the Pak choi into quarts.

4) When the noodles start to loosen and separate in the pan, add the corn and leave for 3 minutes to simmer on a medium to high heat.

5) Add the Pak choi, mushrooms, spring onions and the peppers and cook for a further 3 minutes. I prefer my veg a little crunchy so cook for a little while longer if you need to.

Serve a decent grasp of the veggie noodles onto a plate, top with the grilled salmon and serve the sauce on the side to top as much as your brave enough too!

Now my advice is to get in the kitchen real quick while somebody else grabs the garden furniture, run outside with this pair of fabulous summer platters, and smash it with a nice cold glass of ginger beer or elderflower cordial before it starts to rain again!

Phil