The Big Mike (An Attempt to Cure the Winter Blues)

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I have a confession to make. At one time I worked for a large fast food hamburger chain. It was a matter of necessity rather than choice. It lasted about six months. For myself, I generally found the patties bland and rubbery. I found the sauces sickly and uninspiring. As for the restaurant decor, which looks designed for hose down, I find it, well, pointless of not insulting. For many, many years I couldn’t face a hamburger. Then I watched Hugh make a burger in one of his River Cottage programmes. My recollection is that his point was that there is nothing wrong with the hamburger so long as it is properly made. It’s true. Just because a food has been horribly abused that doesn’t make it bad. So if a respectable restaurant should choose to rescue such a dish with a high brow version then more strength to their elbow! This is something the world needs! Not only that, but something to praise, be thankful for and to encourage. For some of us the sheer volume of this kind of stuff hitting the scene at the same time could become boring and tedious. One persons boring and tedious is another’s fun and exciting. It’s a matter of personal choice. After all, there is more than one item on the menu and more than one eating establishment around. A restaurant has to pay its way. At the end of the day, the way I see it, is the thing that makes junk food junk is the ingredients and how it’s put together, not the dish itself.

THE BIG MIKE

What follows is all my own work. If it should just happen to look a bit similar to a fast food high street version it’s just coincidence.

I love making Big Mike’s but I haven’t made one for years. We all have our own version of the hamburger and this is mine.

First, make a patty using ground beef, onion, beaten egg and dusted with some flour. It does kind of look pink and slimy doesn’t it?

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Next add a dollop of mustard to the bottom slice of a large bap. The surfaces of the bap are best carmalised. This helps stop the condiments and the juice from the patty making the whole thing a bit soggy.

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Next a dollop of tomato ketchup.

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The Pattie on top of that.

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Some onion.

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Some grated cheese.

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Voila! Doesn’t that look good?

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Next a pint of beer and sit down to eat whilst watching Magnum PI. This is how to cure winter blues!

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Steak with a Red Wine Pan Sauce

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For me one of the highlights of a day out and about on the Lake District fells is when I stop for a light lunch. I like to find a quiet, out-of-the-way spot off the trail where I can relax, contemplate and connect with the landscape. But mostly to eat. In this case it was, pretty much, a straight lift from my good friends at Dear Martini. I’m doing this on the trail, on a small gas burner. So I’ve had to adapt. For you to do this properly, don’t do what I do, instead, you should check out this posting Steak… With Benefits.

I have no pretence about my cooking knowledge and skills which are, shall we say, lacking. You see, for me food and cooking is a happy distraction from my main line of work. This is the reason why I love it when someone puts in front of me something which is both fantastic and bullet proof simple. This is one of those things.

The Dear Martini version uses The New York (Kansas City) cut of steak. I reckon our (UK) nearest readily available equivalent is Rump. A respondent from the River Cottage website suggested Porterhouse. My butcher said “I can give you any kind of cut you wan,t from anything you want, prepared in any way you want, it just ask me the day before you need it”. Hooray for our high street butchers! Just try getting that service in a supermarket!

So, steak, red wine, stock, butter. I don’t have any shallot but I do have some garlic and some leek (one has to adapt sometimes). I had a scout around the area for some thyme but couldn’t find any.

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Fry off the steak, as you would, and put aside to rest.

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Deglaze with red wine, add the garlic and leek, stock, reduce, add butter to thicken.

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And serve. Thank you Dear Martini I hope I did your efforts some kind of justice. It was a memorable lunch!

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Finally a message to those sad people who stick a pre-prepared microwave wave thing in their microwave oven: If I can make something like this here, on a camping stove, then you don’t have any excuse not to cook properly do you?

Chicken and Chorizo Arrabbiata

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You would do this with penne pasta or those pasta twists (spirella?). For dietary reasons I cannot. For my purposes, here, a couple of slices of bread will do just nicely.

Rightly or wrongly, I always associate arrabbiata with Italian cooking. I do know that this is a great sauce that goes so, so well with grilled and fried meats. This time I’m using chicken and chorizo. Chicken and Chorizo is a magical combination. The strong flavors of the sauce and the chorizo work so well in outdoor cooking. I’m told that most taste is actually smell. Outdoors, the aroma get dispersed unlike the confines of a kitchen or dining room and so strong flavors tend to work much better than bland ones.

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For the sauce I’ve got tomato, onion and garlic into which I will stir in a hot sauce. You might use fresh chilli. I really wish I had some basil with me. I think a small amount of pesto would be good. I’ve put the chicken and the chorizo with some green bell pepper on to skewers. I’ve done that because is makes them easier to handle in this environment.

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Fry off the chicken and Chorizo. I like to get mine quite well cooked off so the outside is slightly crispy.

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I’ve put the skewers on one side and put all of the sauce ingredients in to the pot in one go.

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And here we are. I have no doubt that proper chef types out there could do a lot to refine and sophisticate this. But I really like this. For fast, easy on the hoof eating this is definaltely a winner!