Posts Tagged ‘Galloway’

How To Prepare The Meat For Your Burger

Tuesday, July 12th, 2011

But the key to the recipe is the meat. You should not just get the nearest pack of mince that you can find, but should go to a proper butcher and get the mince made for you using the right types of meat.  The best beef for a burger comes from the top, so you are looking for neck, chuck & blade (in the US, this is chuck), rump (in the US, this is sirloin), silverside and topside (in the US, this is top round, i.e. from the top of the hind leg rather than towards the base); for UK cuts, you can see the attached website or in the US.  Each cut has different characteristics and pricing, but they are all great for burgers.   If you are going to buy your meat from the supermarket or preminced, try and get minced steak rather than minced beef, and organic or free range beef over factory farmed, so you are more likely to get a better quality cut and more ageing.  However, good mince and braising steak often comes straight from chuck so you could just go straight for these, then mince the braising steak yourself, but check with your butcher if you can. 

What you are looking for is a beef from the top of the cattle with a good level of marbling of 15% – 20% of the total meat.  A good level of marbling (the little veins of fat running through the beef) is vital as it melts as you cook, helping the beef to baste itself while cooking, so keeping the beef succulent and flavoursome.  Then you are looking for muscles that are worked and so have good flavour as in the hind leg or neck, rather than the soft, but less flavoursome cuts from the ribcage area, which are forerib and sirloin in the UK and rib and short loin in the US, however on the other side you do not want the overly tough meat from the lower round or brisket.  Then you are after an aged beef as this overcomes any possible issues from extra collagen from being worked hard.

As for breeds, the best beef comes from hardy Border and Scottish breeds, like the Aberdeen Angus and Galloway lines or Blue Grey, which is a Whitebred Shorthorn crossed with a Galloway.  Then for global beef afficionadoes there is Wagyu beef from the Japanese Wagyu cattle, which has intense marbling.  One thing I feel is that the best beef comes from hardy cattle that have been farmed in tough conditions where the beef has been grown properly rather than becoming flaccid and dull from easy living.

Heston Blumenthal goes into some detail and consideration of the types of beef to use in the perfect burger.  He uses a mix of chuck, aged short rib and brisket in a ratio of 1:2:1, with a 6 hour presalting of the chuck before grinding.  Personally, I think this is too complex, but agree that a mix of chuck and short rib (or rib eye) or rump, using 21+ day aged beef if you can get it, is a great idea, but you must still look for the right fat:meat ratio, i.e. marbling.  The idea of presalting the beef at this stage is interesting, but does not actually make any difference as I always suggest that you season the minced beef for at least an hour before you grill the burgers, so you draw the moisture out at that stage.  Some blog views on his burger can be found at http://www.mrmenu.net/discus/messages/18/61023.html and http://aht.seriouseats.com/archives/2008/05/the-blumenburger-the-most-laborintensive-hamburger-in-the-world.html.

Cutting through all this, I go for a 1:1 ratio of chuck steak to either ribeye steak or rump steak, with the picanha cut being a great rump cut to use.

Chuck Steak (left) And Rib Eye Steak (right)

Chuck Steak (left) And Rib Eye Steak (right)

No 8 Stainless Steel Hand Mincer

No 8 Stainless Steel Hand Mincer

The next thing to consider is the grind size for the beef.  The best way is to get your butcher to do this as they have the right equipment and good hygiene.  You should ask for the beef to be minced through a medium (4.5mm; 3/16 inch) setting, not finer like industrial pre-ground mince.  At home, I grind the meat once with the 4.5mm blade then again either with the same blade or a 6mm blade, as I find the double mince creates a smoother and less tough beef.  If you are going to do this at home, you must ensure that all the equipment is really, really clean and should scald the blades in boiling water to kill all the bacteria or use food grade cleaners and rinse off afterwards thoroughly; then refrigerate the equipment for 30 minutes to help to prevent the meat from sticking to it.  Once again, I would recommend Weschenfelder for a manual mincer and would plump for either the No 8 or No 10 stainless steel mincers on their site.  Heston Blumenthal suggests that you grind the meat then align the strands in parallel, but this is not worth the effort and also means that the burger has much less bindability and can easily fall apart.  The key is the quality of the meat, not in being overtly particular to align the strands of minced beef this way, i.e. don’t bother as it is a pain in the butt.

Mincing Beef Steak At Home

Mincing Beef Steak At Home

Maldon Sea Salt

Maldon Sea Salt

Having minced the meat, you should season it right through.  To do this, grind the salt to a fine powder in a mortar and pestle as you want this to be all the way through the beef.  You must use a sea salt for this and not an industrial salt.  For this, I would suggest either our fleur de sel, or be more British about it and use one of the wonderful crystal salts from Anglesey, Cornwall or Maldon.  The salt draws out some of the moisture in the beef creating a greater succulence and binding the beef together more, while subtly enhancing the umami tones within great beef.  Next get some coarsely ground good quality black peppercorns, which you can either do with your grinder on a coarse setting or buy a cracked black pepper (called crushed black pepper in the US and butcher’s cut in Germany).  This brings the characteristic warm, piperine flavour that wonderfully offsets the richness of the beef.  I think that you want bursts of flavour in this case rather than an even heat throughout, which would come from a ground pepper, essentially the opposite flavouring style to the sea salt.  I think our Steenbergs TGSEB from Kerala is the best pepper you could want, so that is what I use.  Finally, I add a small amount of fried grated onion, which is really my own personal preference – it is only a small amount and complements the meat nicely with a hint of sweetness.  For really good beef, you can, and I often do, drop this and rely on the salt and pepper, but I do like a little bit of fried onion in the burger mix, but this is optional.

Put the minced beef into a stainless steel bowl.  Having prepared the fine ground sea salt, the coarse ground black pepper and the grated onion, you should sprinkle these then mix through the ground beef as well as you can.  Use your hands here, making sure they are scrupulously clean.  Then cover the stainless steel bowl with a clingfilm and leave in refrigerator for at least one hour.

To make the patties, you should either shape them with clean hands or use a burger press like the ones I suggested from Weschenfelder or Scobies in East Kilbride.  If doing them by hand, shape them to 10-12cm (4 – 5 inches) in diameter and 4cm high (1½ inches), which is roughly palm-sized and about two fingers thick.  Place these burgers into the fridge until you are ready to fry or grill them.

Shaping The Ground Beef In A Burger Press

Shaping The Ground Beef In A Burger Press

Having explained the basics for making a burger and some of the kit to use, I will review some possible sources for where you can get great meat for making your burger at home, both through the supermarkets, local to the North East, some online speciality stores and a few other great places that are worth tracking down if you have the time and money to reach for greatness.  From there, we will go to ideas for sauces, burger buns and so on.

Of Fish In Dumfries And Galloway

Friday, July 23rd, 2010
Cairnsmore Of Fleet

Cairnsmore Of Fleet

(17/7/2010) We are on our annual family holiday, which as for the last three years has been in Dumfries & Galloway near Gatehouse of Fleet; no overseas travel or glamorous trips for us – in fact, the Steenberg family has been holidaying around here for many, many years with my childhood spent around Gatehouse of Fleet and at Rockcliffe while my father would stay around Castramon Wood (see note i below) around the second world war.  It is a part of the world that time, and the scourges of modernity, have passed by with its untouched and beautiful valleys and hills, full of ancient woods and gushing, roiling streams with brown, peaty water.  It is part of the world that has hardly changed since it was immortalised in John Buchan’s “The Thirty-Nine Steps”.

There are red squirrels feeding off the bird feeders outside the kitchen window, as well as a family of six baby jays – I do not think I have ever seen so many jays in one place ever before as they are usually the bossy, but pretty, crow that spoils the feeding party around a bird table.  Oh and there are loads of sheep; black faced sheep in the hills and others on the salt marshes near Creetown, with magnificent, one-and-a-half foot long twisted horns on the tups.  But it is quiet and there is no light pollution and still very few people; it’s a bit like North Northumberland, a place where people drive through on the way somewhere else, so leaving it unspoiled.  Real, ancient Britain.  Here, people drive on to Stranraer and to Northern Ireland or the Isle Of Man or on to the Highlands and Islands, while in Northumberland it’s a journey through to Edinburgh.

There is, also, a lot of sea.  And so fish.  In Kirkcudbright Harbour, it is good to see a proper working fleet of fishing boats, as well as the Solway firth still full of traditional fixed fishing nets along the shoreline and a few fisherman still fishing with coble and nets.  Both of the latter are types of fishing stretching back to the Vikings and beyond.  On 14th July, even the Queen and Prince Philip came to see the fishermen in Kirkcudbright which is famed for its scallops, visiting on a rainy thundery afternoon between visiting Dumfries and onwards to Edinburgh (for the annual dinner of the Order of The Thistle and to award the Duke Of Edinburgh medals last week).

Fishing Boat In Kirkcudbright Harbour

Fishing Boat In Kirkcudbright Harbour

Traditional Fishing Nets In Solway Firth

Traditional Fishing Nets In Solway Firth

The Queen Visiting Kirkcudbright in 2010

The Queen Visiting Kirkcudbright Harbour Square

In the harbour square at Kirkcudbright, there is a fishmonger and grocery shop, attached to a traditional fish and chip shop called Polarbites.  The fishmonger side is good for vegetables (there are not actually that many decent places for veg around here), as well as selling great scallops, prawns, salmon and Loch Fyne kippers amongst other things.  On one day, we bought Loch Fyne kippers, prawns and some salmon steaks, which I poached in rosé wine and we all ate with new potatoes and freshly picked salad leaves from friends of ours who live in the middle of nowhere outside Dalbeattie. 

Traditional Fish And Chips At Polarbites In Kirkcudbright

Traditional Fish And Chips At Polarbites In Kirkcudbright

On 15th July, we supped on haddock, chips, mushy peas and a seafood platter (battered prawns, scallops, squid, cod and potato wedges) at Polarbites, and it was a feast of fresh fish tastes and good batter.  It was welcomly warming on the cold, damp first night of the Kirkcudbright Summer Festivities, where Scottish music and dances are performed every Thursday evening in the Harbour Square to the glorious backdrop of MacLellan Castle and the Harbour.  I love the sound of a proper marching pipe band and the Kirkcudbright & District Pipe Band is really good and is growing in popularity, now even boasting a full youth band this year for the first time.

Kirkcudbright Pipe Band

Kirkcudbright Pipe Band

Galloway Smokehouse Near Carsluith

Galloway Smokehouse At Carsluith In Dumfries & Galloway

But the best fish experiences are from two fantastic smokeries on the road between Gatehouse of Fleet and Creetown.  We went for a short trip to both – the first is the Galloway Smokehouse which operates a fantastic fishmonger as well as smoking fish, seafood and some meats on site, and the second is the Marrbury Smokehouse at Carsluith Castle, which is at such a romantic location beside this simple, small castle overlooking the sea across to Whithorn that it ranks as one of my favourite places for anything anywhere.  My daughter and I bought various things including smoked wild salmon from both, as well as kippers from Marrbury SmokehouseEn famille we did a taste test and, while both smoked salmons were of great quality, the Marrbury Smoked Salmon is a damn fine smoked salmon and won hands down, having a deep orangey-pink hue and a delicious, dry and rich meaty taste, made of fantastic chunky pieces of muscle giving a great texture and a delicate smoky, piney-junipery taste.  The smoked salmon from the Galloway Smokehouse was a bit sweeter, slimier and the colour pinker and less orange in colour, with much smaller muscle structure and so a soggier, softer texture, but still way better than your usual, mass-produced stuff that you find on most supermarket shelves.  We also did a taste test on the kippers and we think that the Loch Fyne Kippers and those of Marrbury Smokehouse are up there amongst the best I have ever tasted (those from Seahouses are still, for me, the epitome of smoked kippers).  Costs are £51/kg for the Marrbury Smokehouse Wild Smoked Salmon and £50.00/kg for the Galloway Smokehouse Wild Smoked Salmon, and that extra £1 is worth a million.

Marrbury Smokehouse At Carsluith Castle

Marrbury Smokehouse At Carsluith Castle

Scottish Smoked Salmon On Spelt Bread

Scottish Smoked Salmon On Spelt Bread

Scottish Kippers From Loch Fyne

Scottish Kippers From Loch Fyne

Also, I love the commitment and love that goes into the Marrbury Smokehouse.  Vincent Marr goes out in his coble and nets the wild salmon himself from pools between Newton Stewart and Wigtown, then he smokes the salmon and other things himself (allowing no-one else into the smoker, except his wife sometimes) to his own special recipe; the ingredients include salt, whisky and juniper smoke whereas the Galloway Smokehouse also uses some sugar syrup and an oak smoke rather than juniper.  This means that his smoked fish and seafood is only available in small quantities, with no corners cut, but on the downside there is no-one to pass his expertise on to.  He has a step daughter who lives in the Cayman Islands, which will not help us for the future.  It’s a hard life that few will really want to follow in the future.

If you can get hold of smoked salmon or other things from either of these smokeries it is well worth the effort, but go for the Marrbury Smokehouse out of preference as it’s worth going that extra mile.  I will retry the salmon poached in rosé wine again when back in Yorkshire, as I reckon that it would be great finished off with a pink peppercorn sauce, don’t you think?

(i)                  Castramom Wood is an ancient woodland on a steep slope on the east bank of the Water of Fleet.  We always imagine it full of tigers to urge the kids along through its dense bracken.  Castramom Wood is chock full of old, native trees like mighty oaks, birch, mystical alder and ash and there are charcoal burning stands at various points through the woods.  This is an old, spiritual wood with a great, life giving aura.