Thursday, 27 August 2015

National Burger Day- what makes the perfect burger?

Now let me tell you - my family takes making and eating burgers VERY seriously so you can trust me when I say it is worth while taking the time to get it right when it comes to what is frankly much more than ground meat and bread.

Since it's apparently National Burger Day this week (August 27 2015) I thought I would give you my top recommendations on where and how to eat burgers to get the full sensory experience a good burger deserves.

Firstly - eating out. I thought burgers were those things you get in High Street global chain burger joints. I will eat them for convenience. Then I discovered ThaT Burger in Watford High Street. The venue was draughty and a bit tacky but ohhhh the burgers. And the sauce. And the skin on fries which were to die for. I told my friends. They too fell in love with drippy juicy ThaT burgers nestling in crunchy waxed paper.

I'm beyond sorry to tell you that ThaT Burger inexplicably closed and despite teasing social media messages and a brief but glorious spell as a pop-up it seems to be gone forever. (There is a rumour they serve ThaT-style burgers in Delisserie, a London deli chain, but I have not visited so can't comment.)

Never fear though folks because if you are true devotee of the burger there is a restaurant in Portswood, a student suburb of Southampton, 7Bone Burger Co. which creates a fabulous range of dirty sexy burgers (their words not mine) to make your mouth water.

7Bone Burger Co.
Ok so a two hour drive from our home to the tiny venue (they also have a site in Bournemouth) seems extreme but since my son is a student in the city it's worthwhile. Not sure who we are visiting, him or 7Bone.......

Be prepared to queue (we wait in the pub over the road) and squish into the noisy industrial styled room and when you get a seat choose from an extensive menu or go off menu and ask for the Ronald's Revenge. Tell 'em madmumof7 sent you.

As the ultimate accolade I must tell you we took my mum there. She hates burgers and burger joints generally but tried their buttermilk chicken burger and ate the lot! High praise indeed! The beef ribs are good too.

Too far from the south coast? I have the perfect solution for you. The actual scientific method of creating your own perfect burger. Apparently it must be multi-sensory.

Here's the science in brief:
Sensory formula for the perfectly balanced burger revealed:
30% smell + 25% touch + 15% sound + 15% vision + 15% taste

Studies show taste is only one component and the perfectly balanced burger involves listening to chewing and atmospheric sounds, focussing on burger width over height, never serving it on a plate…and giving it a name

OK - says who?

Says Charles Michel, who has worked in Michelin-starred restaurants and is Chef-in-Residence and researcher on flavour perception at Oxford University’s Crossmodal Research Laboratory.

Working with Asda, Charles has this week revealed the following five findings that dispel many burger myths that just focus on ingredients:

1)   Taste is just one element – the perfectly balanced burger is actually a multisensory experience

Taste needs to strike the right balance on our tongue for an enjoyable perfect burger, which Charles Michel has calculated as: 35% umami (our fifth taste, which is a sweet and salty enhancer) + 25% saltiness + 20% sweetness + 15% sourness + 5% bitterness. 

2) We ‘eat with our ears’ - atmospheric and crunching mouth sounds can enhance the overall enjoyment of a burger

Both the sounds produced by chewing foods, and the background sounds of where you’re eating, can impact how a burger tastesPrevious scientific studies show atmospheric tinkling high-pitch sounds (such as piano or wind chimes) have the potential to accentuate the sweet notes of burger sauces, whilst the texture and crunching sound of bacon is just as important, if not more important than its taste and smell

3) Burger width is more important than height with the perfect burger standing at 7cm tall to hit all your taste buds at once

To taste all the different layers at once and with every single bite, the burger should be ‘mouth-sized,’ which is 5cm on average. The extra 2cm corresponds to the fluffy bread that can be squeezed with both hands to enter the mouth. It is therefore better to extend burger width rather than height so you can fit and taste all the different layers in your mouth for the perfectly balanced burger.  

4) Never serve a burger on a plate. Instead put it in food wrapping and eat with your hands to stimulate the senses

The feeling of food in the hand can change the perception of what we taste in our mouth. Eating a burger served in food wrapping allows you to sense the warmth of the bun as it maintains moisture and heat, whilst holding the structure together for mouth sized bites. Hearing the crisp sound of the paper can also enhance the sonic experience of the burger.

5) Giving your burger a name can change how much you enjoy eating it

A descriptive name can change what people perceive about the food. A good story and name can set the expectation of what is about to come, and enhance our enjoyment, just like the first sight of the burger.

Charles Michel has designed a science-based, nine-layer, 7cm tall ‘multisensory perfectly balanced burger,’ which he believes stimulates all of your senses at once.

And here is the finished burger although I have to say I would have to leave out the cheese as I irrationally hate the stuff in any of its forms from spreadable soft to stinky or blue. It's practically a phobia! You can "hold the tomatoes" on my perfect burger too!

I quite like the new fad for Brioche burger buns but have to say one of the nicest burgers I ever ate was created by my son featuring a burger (obvs!) bacon, red onions, pulled pork and BBQ sauce all nestling in a gently toasted Kripsy Kreme glazed ring doughnut. Don't grimace 'til you've tried it.

       Neil Moorcroft, Asda's beef buyer said: "Burgers have come a long way from a humble beef patty in a bun to a great British favourite and gastronomic dish. It’s important to us to support food innovation and offer customers something new. We want people to listen to the sounds and appreciate all of their senses when biting into their perfect burgers this National Burger Day!” 

      He added: “Wagyu burgers are full of flavour, texture and have a decent amount of fat to ‘carry’ burger smells to our nostrils making it the ideal key ingredient for the perfectly balanced burger. "

Asda apparently expects to sell over 10,000 Wagyu burgers (Asda’s Extra Special 2 x Wagyu beef burgers pack from £3.75) this August bank holiday weekend. Blimey! That's a lot of burgers!

In case you were wondering: I was not paid or rewarded in any way to mention any of the brands in this post. I just like burgers!

Wednesday, 26 August 2015

Styling outdoor spaces. Bringing the Indoors Out- Dining Al Fresco with style

Most people do their best to bring the outside into their homes, using real or fake plants and flowers and echoing the colours of nature to bring calm and beauty into their rooms.

But since when did I do anything the "normal" way? I definitely do not have green fingers and the only thing I have really succeeded with in my garden is my grapevine - planted after a lovely holiday in Cyprus- which grows so madly the neighbours all get to share it too.

grapevine in UK garden

No, I prefer to bring the inside out and guests at our regular barbecues have grown used to cushions, rugs and even lamps being brought out to add a touch of genuine comfort to our more than rustic benches.

We like eating outside so much a few years ago my husband built a giant wooden gazebo under which we can fit a table for at least 8. We have spent many a happy hour under there watching the sun setting over the fields behind our home and watching Red Kites circle and bats swoop around in a typically batty fashion.

sunset red sky rural england

Think vintage, think shabby (very shabby!) think things painted white badly and you have my style. Piled mismatched floral cushions and cosy fleece blankets for when it turns chilly and we are waiting for the flames to really get going in our Chiminea and fire pit. And yes - that is a disco ball you can see hanging in the Gazebo waiting for my occasional Abba-esque moments.

dining al fresco under gazebo

We like bunting and mismatched vintage china (well I like it and my husband tolerates my eccentricities) and occasionally I will throw out a tablecloth topped with as many candles as I can find to add to the light coming from the sparkling lights wound all round the rafters of the gazebo.

I am a sucker for lanterns too - metallic, glass, Morrocan style....if I can bung a tea light in it I'll buy it!

multiple lanterns outside with tea lights

Even cheap solar lights from that shop where everything costs £1 look magical at dusk, especially after a glass or two of Prosecco.

Nothing tastes better than food from the barbecue if you turn away from bangers and burgers. We love venison steaks (provided by local friends who shoot), marinaded chicken and fish served with couscous or cauliflower rice, sweet potato fries or asparagus shoots and my favourite, a warm potato salad with sweet mustard and bacon.

We don't shy away from all BBQ traditions though - there has to be at least one big bowl of crisps to snack on (served in my favourite Cath Kidston enamel bowls) to be dipped in my homemade fresh but exceedingly garlicky Tzaziki which comes with a health warning for vampires.

And hiding in a dark corner of the table you will probably find some bright orange cheese puff things too which my children munch on until their fingers and faces are stained.

My main problem now is that having turned my back on gas barbecues a couple of years ago I stupidly skimped on what I spent on a charcoal BBQ and my supermarket model gets hot fast but burns out too quickly meaning you end up feeding it coals like you'd feed a grumpy toddler breadsticks to keep it going.

It doesn't have a variable grill height either which is vital to cook food at the right temperature. You can see my daughter looking quite glum in the picture below as she waits and waits.... and waits for her supper.

BBQ and English fields

I'd love the Ibiza Deluxe Charcoal BBQ from Direct Stoves - it has handy shelves, variable grill heights and a large cooking area. Perfect for family suppers in the garden and parties with friends.

This post is being entered into a competition to win it so wish me luck! In the meantime if you are the judge of the competition please gaze into the hypnotic flames of my fire pit pictured below and imagine me chanting gently "give the BBQ to madmumof7, give the BBQ to madmumof7......"


Littlest Pet Shop-Little Pets, Big Adventures, new movie #review.

My younger daughter has a passion for things in miniature- anything that's the right size to hold in the palm of your hand will have her squealing with delight, especially if it is some form of animal.

This makes vacuuming something of a nightmare- the sight of a tiny penguin whizzing round the transparent dust-container of my hoover with its teeny bemused face rapidly becoming covered in dust is one which still makes me shudder.

And of course you have to fish the darn things out otherwise it would definitely mean tears before bedtime as she realised one of her precious pets is missing.

Because they are like pets to their owners - cue the aptly named Littlest Pet Shop brand by toy makers Hasbro whose products can always been found in my children's Christmas stockings.

Of course we are nowhere near Christmas yet (insert hollow laugh here) but the good news is that to keep children entertained during the wetter days of summer there is a new movie out featuring a world of tiny marvels.

Littlest Pet Shop- Little Pets, Big Adventures was released onto Digital Download and DVD this month (August 2015) featuring Blythe Baxter and her dad Roger who move into a new apartment in Downtown City above the Littlest Pet Shop. 

Remarkably Blythe discovers that can she can speak to the animals that live in the Pet Shop and beg her to help them save the Pet Shop from going out of business.

Blythe races against the clock to save the Pet Shop, not only for her new furry friends but also for the Pet Shop’s eccentric owner, Mrs. Twombly. Using her talents as a fashion designer Blythe organises a fashion show featuring the animals modelling her original designs.

Can Blythe’s fashion flair save the business? Well you'll just have to get hold of th movie in your favourite format and find out!

I can tell you that the DVD proved a big hit in our house entertaining children from age 4-10. My teenaged daughter watched it too but of course she is far too cool to admit she enjoyed it too! The story is told in episodes featuring different animals which means you can let the children watch for a short while if there isn't time for  a full movie before bed/going out/dinnertime.

It proved particularly successful with my friend's almost 5 year old daughter who was frankly overtired and a bit whiny but within a minute or so of us putting the DVD on settled calmly down with her head on a cushion and watched enthralled until the end. 

It was quite tempting to put it on again so we could carry on chatting in peace to be honest but her mum did take her home for an early night instead!

The special edition DVD we were sent to review came with a Littlest Pet Shop toy - a red panda in this case- which delighted my daughter. The great thing about the toys is it's easy to pop a few in a bag for easily transportable play in the car, on trains, on holiday or in restaurants. 

Littlest Pet Shops- Little Pets, Big Adventures is rated Cert U and runs for 147 minutes.

Disclaimer: We received a free copy of the DVD for the purposes of this review. Views and Opinions remain honest and my own.