My life in hamburgers

Turkey Burger 2

There are some things that follow you through your life and so it is with what we eat.  We might cast some aside if they become dated or our tastes change, for instance I don’t miss the Vesta Chop Suey, Smash or Instant Whip.  A Crispy Pancake has never graced my table and I must admit to not being a fan of the Arctic Roll….  Others though follow and accompany you.  One such friend that I am always delighted to come across is the burger, slider or hamburger as they used to be called.

I remember the excitement of my first Wimpy, enthralled by the red restaurant on the side of the road and this funny little patty in the soft, slightly sweet bun.  Then, a real childhood treat, the Hard Rock, that noisy rocking joint on Piccadilly in London with the waitresses dressed as proper American diner gals and guitars on the walls.  The burgers were big and juicy and the milk shakes so thick your straw really did stand up in them.

As I got older we would frequent a place on the Fulham Road called Parsons which had a monster called an All the Way, and I’ve enjoyed many Tootsies burgers with that real flame grilled flavour.  The veal burger at The Boxwood, the superb GBK and the likes of Dirty Burger bring us nearly up to date.

During these years there were of course the hamburgers at home.  Regular patties, usually beef were (and still are) a favourite lunch.  The table would groan under plates of tomato, lettuce, pickles and cheese so you could build and create your own bespoke masterpiece.  There was ketchup, American mustard, mayonnaise and do you remember Cubits pickles, green, red or yellow.

The burger remains on my party list to this day.  Now though it might be lamb or turkey mince, salmon and tuna can make a fine fish burger too.  Chopped herbs and spices are added, various chutneys, salsas and mayos offered on the side.  It might be a normal two handed number or one of these new fangled little sliders.  It doesn’t matter,  the principle remains unaltered and why shouldn’t it, a good burger is pretty much perfection.

Turkey Burger 1

Turkey Burger with Harissa and Garlic Mayo

Turkey, rather like a puppy, is not just for Christmas (does that sound a bit wrong? You know what I mean).  Yet for so many that is the only time it makes the table.  Turkey is good for us, not too expensive and makes a very good burger – give this one a try.

500g turkey mince

2 teaspoons harissa paste (add more if you like, this is just right for my children)

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

Black pepper, a good few grinds

Small bunch parsley finely chopped

A handful of breadcrumbs

Mix everything together really well, your hands are best for this.  Fry a very small amount and taste.  You may need more seasoning or harissa if you want things a little more fiery.  When you are happy with the mixture, divide into 4, roll into balls and then flatten into the traditional patty shape.  Heat your griddle or frying pan and cook – the ones you see pictured took about 8 minutes on each side, you can make a little cut into one and check if it is done.  Serve with the garlic mayo and any other accompaniments you want.

Garlic Mayo

100ml mayonnaise

1 clove garlic, crushed

Juice of half a lemon

Mix it all together in a bowl and serve with the turkey burgers.

Turkey Burgers



Cakes and Chutney

Green Tomato Chutney

I know, I know, it sounds as if I have become the embodiment of the WI and will shortly start belting out Jerusalem whilst stoveside.  The reason behind my tweed clad, pearl strung transformation is twofold.

Macmillan Cakes

This morning I hosted a Macmillan Coffee Morning.  You don’t need me to say what an amazing job Macmillan do and I hope all the other events today were fantastic and raised a huge amount.   A big thank you to all my fabulous friends who came and ate cake and bought chutney and biscuits and more cake.

Chutney and Biscuits

At the same time as my baking frenzy was taking place I found the garden full of green tomatoes which are now unlikely to turn scarlet red.  So a plan was hatched, make some chutney to sell in addition to all the sweet goodies on Friday.  I must tell you that whilst surrounded by all this chocolate, sugar, golden syrup, buttercream etc the one thing I have been craving is a cheese and chutney sandwich, the perfect salty savoury antidote.

Green tomatoes

My green tomato chutney will have to wait 6-8 weeks until suitably matured (although initial tasting is very promising) but that should make it tip top for Christmas and meanwhile I will have to rifle around the larder for something else to put in my sandwich…. oh for a red tomato.

Green Tomato Chutney

As with all chutneys you can play around a little with this recipe.  In the past I have used 3 eating apples but also once used 1 enormous bramley.  This time I only had green tomatoes but in the past I have used all green or a mixture of red and green.  Go with what you have.

1.5 kg tomatoes (see above) cored and chopped

3 eating apples, cored, peeled and chopped (you don’t have to peel but I prefer to)

3 onions, peeled and chopped

1 red chilli, finely chopped

1 thumb ginger, peeled and finely chopped

1 tablespoon mustard seeds

4 cardamom pods, split

100g raisins

400ml cider vinegar

250g sugar

Good pinch of salt

Put everything into the biggest pan you have, bring to the boil then simmer gently for 4 hours stirring occasionally.  It will reduce by more than half and become dark, thick and pulpy with no excess liquid.  You may need a little longer, it rather depends on the size of your pan and the surface area simmering/evaporating etc.   When it is done you should be able to draw a wooden spoon across the bottom and see the base of the pan clearly before it slides back.  Decant into steralised pots, I find it easiest to put these through the dishwasher, label and put away for 6-8 weeks before tucking in .  Makes 5 jars.


Macmillan Balloons

The vanilla and chocolate biscuit recipe can be found in a previous post of mine,  Biscuits du Jour (November 2012)

Cosy Beef Stew and Parsley Dumplings

Anna May everyday Beef stew close

This summer has been fantastic, I have loved the sun, the heat and eating a lot of salads.  Whilst basking in all this however, there was a tiny bit of my happy in the knowledge that come September it might cool down a little and I would be able to light the fire and make some cosy autumn food.

Now, I realise I seem to have dived right into ‘freezing outside, possibly even snowing winter food’ but you know what I couldn’t resist.  It has been months since my last stew (I feel that should have been confession) and it was time for a fix.  Added to that my little boy asked earlier in the week when we would be having stew and dumplings.  Sooner than you think my little treasure I thought to myself.

Here it is and it is a beauty.  Very simple, 30 minutes work tops and then a few hours in the oven.  What you are rewarded with however, far exceeds that brief effort you put in.  Tender falling apart beef, soft carrots, crispy and fluffy dumplings with masses of glistening savoury gravy.  You can then sit around the table, enjoy this with some greens and perhaps raise a glass of good red wine to the fabulous summer of 2013.

Beef and Carrot Stew with Parsley Dumplings

1 kg braising beef, cubed

1 tablespoon oil

1 onion, chopped

7/8 medium carrots, peeled and halved lenthways

1 heaped tablespoon plain flour

500ml beef stock

200ml red wine

1 teaspoon redcurrant jelly

Sprig of thyme

A bayleaf

For the dumplings –

100g self raising flour

50g suet

A handful of parsley, finely chopped

5 tablespoons cold water

Pinch of salt

Preheat the oven to 150c.  Heat the oil in a large casserole (that has a lid) and brown the meat in batches and set aside.  Then fry the onion (you may need a little more oil) until softened.  Return the meat to the pan, sprinkle over the flour and stir it in well.  Pour over the stock and wine and redcurrant jelly, give it a mix then add the carrots, thyme and bay leaf.  Put into the oven for 3 hours.

Just before the time is up, mix the ingredients for the dumplings and form into little balls about the size of a walnut and turn the oven up to 180.  Remove the pan from the oven, quickly (and carefully) check the seasoning and then place the dumplings onto the surface of the stew.  Put the lid back on and return to the oven for 20 minutes, then remove the lid and cook for a further 20 minutes to crisp up the outside of the dumplings.  Enough for 4.

We followed this with a fabulous custard tart (I know, I know, bikini appropriate food clearly now forgotten) and it made me proud of British Food!

Anna May everyday Beef stew empty


Chorizo, tomatoes and beans

Chorizo beans and tomatoes

Chorizo, choritzzo, schoreetho, however you say it I love it.  That red spicy warmth pervades any ingredients that get in its way and frankly makes most things taste that little bit better.  Usefully it has a great shelf life and as such I often keep it in the fridge and that is how this lunch started out.  Our plans changed the other day and I found we would be home rather than out for lunch and that the fridge was looking pretty bare but fortunately contained a pack of chorizo.   The beans, both runner and French, have been very successful in the garden this year and we haven’t done badly for tomatoes or potatoes.  So following a rustle around I had one of those serendipitous moments when although completely unplanned, the ingredients I had available went together fabulously.  So much so that I made this again a couple of days later with the addition of boiled new potatoes.

Whilst barely a recipe I offer it here in its original form which we had with a lovely loaf of   bread which managed to be both crusty without and squidgy within, a perfect combination.  On the second occasion I added boiled sliced new potatoes to the mix and they worked a treat too so go for whichever you prefer.

By the way, not only does it taste magic but it looks fantastic as well piled up on a white plate – a feast for the eyes as well as the tummy (if that is not a bit cheesy)?!

Chorizo, tomato and green bean salad

180g-200g chorizo (the cooking sausages rather than the thin sliced salami type) chopped

200g green beans, you can use French, runner or bobby or a mixture, topped and tailed

200g tomatoes, halved or quartered

1 tablespoon good olive oil

1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

Bunch of parsley (optional)

Fry the chorizo in a large pan until cooked and a little crispy in places.  Cook the beans in boiling water until just (I mean just) cooked but retaining crunch.  Tumble the tomatoes and beans into the pan with the chorizo, add the oil and vinegar and turn gently until thoroughly mixed and then put on a large serving plate.  Sprinkle salt and pepper and with chopped parsley if you have some.  How quick and easy was that?

Enough for 4.

Chocolate and beetroot cakes


Beetroot and chocolate cakes

I made these before the holidays but didn’t get a chance to pass the recipe on.  My son’s class at school were having a Food Festival and parents were asked to contribute cakes that had been made with a vegetable as an ingredient.  I made these, some little courgette and vanilla cakes and also some blackcurrant and avocado cakes.    The beetroot and chocolate were not only the favourite of the ones I made but also won the first prize out of all entries – the children loved them, even those who professed not to like beetroot (quite a few).   I was delighted and very proud.  To keep me in my place however, one little girl did stop eating her cake the moment she heard it contained beetroot and could not be persuaded to continue with it……

I don’t think it is a new thing baking with vegetables, carrot cake has been around for a while after all, but it seems to be enjoying a boost at the moment.  The veggies do add a delicious moistness to cakes and in most cases reduce the fat content.  Perhaps it also eases our conscience that there is veg in our treats, a cunning way to increase that five a day and I am all for that.

So you could try these because they are maybe a little better for you than the usual chocolate cupcakes or just because they are extremely good to eat.

Chocolate and Beetroot Cakes

160g beetroot, cooked and peeled

40g cocoa

120g plain flour

160g caster sugar

2 eggs

140ml oil

1 heaped tsp baking powder

Pinch of salt

Preheat the oven to 180.  Line a bun tin with cup cake paper cases .  Sift the cocoa, flour, baking powder and mix with the sugar and salt in a bowl.  Puree the beetroot, add the eggs and oil and whizz again.  Mix with the dry ingredients, put into the paper cases and bake for 18-20 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.  This made 12 and I had a little mixture over for some mini ones which I only cooked for 10 minutes.



Courgette, feta and mint salad

Anna May courgette salad

One year the courgettes I grew in the garden seemed endless.  Everytime I went out there were two or three ready to pick.  This year I have had two – one, small and perfect which I chopped up raw into a salad.  The second had been missed beneath the leaves and was enormous, a small marrow in fact.  Courgette and mint soup for that one.

Fortunately though, courgettes are plentiful and cheap in the shops at the moment and this salad is one of my favourite things to do with them.  The slight charring can be achieved on the barbeque or griddle pan, whichever suits you.  It is this cooking process though that seems to transform the flavour of the courgettes into something delicious that my children will happily eat whilst a steamed disc of the same would fill them with dread.

The combination of the salty feta and fresh mint with the lemony dressing completes the picture.  We ate this with chicken thighs marinaded in a bit of chilli and garlic then cooked on the barbeque (sorry South African husband, the braai) and new waxy potatoes dug from the garden just before supper.

The treat of the brand new freshly dug potatoes makes up for this years disastrous courgette crop!

Anna May courgettes

Courgette, feta and mint salad

6 courgettes, thinly sliced lengthwise

100g feta, cubed

A handful of fresh mint leaves

Juice of one lemon

A clove of garlic, crushed

4 tablespoons good olive oil

Mix the sliced courgettes with one tablespoon of the oil.  It seems very little but they only need the merest coating then griddle or barbeque until lightly charred and floppy.  Put aside on a large plate.  Mix the remaining oil with the lemon juice, crushed garlic, some pepper and a little salt (remember the feta with be salty).  When you have cooked all the courgettes, tumble them onto a large serving plate along with the feta and pour over the dressing.  Mix it carefully together and then top with the mint leaves.  Enough for 4.


Nectarine and Cherry Galette

Anna May everyday Nectarine and Cherry Tart-2

So, not a fantastic photograph I’m afraid but this was last nights pudding, it was on the table and I had to get a picture before it got eaten.  I have to share it though because it was the simplest, as these freeform tarts or galettes always are, and just fabulous because of the combination of fruit and crispy sweet pastry.  Immediately I have to admit that it was bought shortcrust (come on, it is the summer holidays) but that doesn’t matter.  I chose nectarines and cherries because I had some a little soft and in need of eating up.

I rolled the pastry, my daughter put the fruit on and folded the crust up, we popped it in the oven and it was done.  As luck would have it, a chance putting together of ingredients produced something wonderful.  I can’t take any credit – it was simply what was in the larder and I needed to make a pud.  Serendipity.

Nectarine and Cherry Galette

2 nectarines, sliced

A handful of cherries, stoned and halved

A handful of raspberries

1 dessert spoon plain flour or ground almonds

250g sweet shortcrust pastry

2 dessert spoons caster sugar

Preheat the oven to 190 and put a flat baking tray on the shelf to heat.  Put the fruit into a bowl with one dessert spoon of caster sugar, give it a mix and leave while you get on.  Roll out the pastry into a rough circle or oval.  Transfer gently to a tin lined with baking parchment.  Sprinkle the middle of the pastry with the flour or ground almonds (this will absorb any excess juice and stop the base of the galette becoming soggy).  Top with the fruit, fold the pastry edge over the fruit, sprinkle the whole thing with the remaining dessert spoon of sugar.  Put the tin into the oven directly onto the baking tray – this will ensure the base gets cooked properly and will be crisp and lovely.  Cook for 30-35 minutes until golden.  Some juice may leak out which matters not.   This was enough for 4 and we had it with cold cream.  Vanilla ice cream would be good too.

If you have pastry left, make mini versions of this or my lemon and raspberry tarts (June 2013) or just good old fashioned jam tarts.  Alternatively of course you could just make a bigger one of these and up the amount of fruit.



Tomato Bruschetta (summer on toast)

Anna May everyday Tomato bruschetta

Is this the taste of Summer?  I think it might be.  It is also one of the simplest and most rewarding.  All you need is a loaf of sourdough (or similar), a pile of tip top, super ripe, full of sun juicy tomatoes, some really good olive oil, garlic and a few herbs if you have them.

My family love these and we eat them several times a week when the tomatoes are on top form.  I toast the bread, chop the tomatoes and then set up a production line – a plate full of these bruschetta are always greeted with delight and never hang around.

I urge you to make these.  The toms in my garden are still a little small and green but the ones at my local farm shop are perfect right now (Washingpool Farm Shop in case you are near the coast on the Dorset/Devon border this summer, superb shop and worth a visit).

Surprisingly these also work for a picnic, just toast the bread at home and then take the tomato mixture in a tub.  When you get where you are going rub some garlic over the toasts (undressed sourdough stays crispy for ages) then top with tomatoes and drizzle with a little of the oil.  Tuck in with your toes in the grass or better still the sand and remind yourself what summer tastes like.

Anna May everyday Tomatoes

Tomato Bruschetta

It is difficult to be exact as I don’t know the size of your sourdough but this is a guide.  This amount would serve 4 with drinks before lunch or dinner but I bet they will want more.

1/2 loaf sourdough

Tomatoes, around 300g

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 clove of garlic peeled and halved

A splash of red wine vinegar

Pinch of salt

Fresh marjoram or basil of you have some to hand

Slice and toast the sourdough.  Finely chop the tomatoes and put in a bowl with the oil, vinegar, a pinch of sea salt and some black pepper if you like, stir.  Rub the toasts with a cut side of garlic, top with the tomato mixture.  Pour over any remaining oil and sprinkle with the herbs.


Ginger Cake

Anna May everyday ginger cake sliced

This cake has been to the beach (several times), to the cricket and to London.  Not the same cake of course, what I mean is that I make it often as it is always goes down well and travels happily (useful when it is hot and sunny).  It is heady and spicy with the ginger, rich and slightly damp (in a good way) and keeps well.  At least I think it keeps well, it never has the chance with us.  Children love it despite (or because of ) the gingery heat and the current record holder is George with 4 slices in one sitting.

To make it is the matter of minutes, some melting, weighing and mixing and then it sits happily in the oven for an hour.  This is the cake I mentioned in Summer Lunch (Part 1) as it is perfect for a picnic.  However,  should the weather disappoint it makes a fabulous pudding and, with the addition of a quick butterscotch sauce and some vanilla ice cream becomes the thing of dreams.

Anna May everyday Ginger cake whole

Ginger Cake

110g butter

110g brown sugar

110g golden syrup

1 egg

Pinch of salt

175g plain flour

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 tablespoon ground ginger

1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

150ml milk

Preheat the oven to 140 and line a loaf tin with baking parchment.  Melt the butter, brown sugar and golden syrup in a small pan.  Measure the flour, cinnamon and ginger into a large bowl.  Add the butter mixture to the flour and beat well until combined and put the milk into the pan to warm. Beat the egg into the mixture then put the bicarb into the warmed milk and then add this to the batter.  It will seem rather liquid but don’t be alarmed.  Pour into the prepared tin and bake in the middle of the oven for an hour or until a cake tester comes out clean.  Leave to cool.

Anna May everyday Gingier cake Minty 1



Fresh Herb Sauce

Anna May everyday Iced tea Grenita-3

I cannot rave enough about this sauce – it is simply beyond useful and thoroughly delicious.

We have it with grilled or roast chicken and I wouldn’t contemplate a barbecue without it.  Smoky charred chicken wrapped in a soft flatbread with this fresh herby sauce is a lunch supreme (see Summer Lunch Part 1 last week).  With roast lamb I add mint to the parsley base and it becomes a modern twist on a traditional mint sauce.  With some marjoram or oregano and a pinch of chilli flakes it is the perfect accompaniment to a steak which makes sense as it is a simplified version of an Argentinian chimmichurri.

You can fiddle around with the ingredients to suit your taste, change the herbs as suggested above, add more garlic (or less), substitute lemon juice for the vinegar if you prefer.  Really it  is up to you, the only thing I would urge is that you try it.

Green Herb Sauce

1 bunch parsley (around 30-40 grams)

6 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

1 clove garlic, chopped

1 teaspoon sugar

1 pinch of salt

1 pinch of dried chilli flakes (optional)

Put all the ingredients into a jug and blend with a hand held blender.  Alternatively blend in a liquidiser.  Taste and adjust, you may need a splash more vinegar or a pinch more salt or sugar.  Enough for 4.