In Japan, one of the first things you should learn is just because a word sounds like a borrowed English word, or indeed is a borrowed English word, does NOT mean it is in fact that word.
Let’s get straight to the important difference between “hanba-ga-” and “hanba-gu”. The former is indeed a meat patty wedged in a bun; the latter a meat patty minus bread, often served on a sizzling hot plate with some kind of sweet sauce. For the sake of being easy to understand, let’s call them “hamburgers” and “hamburgs”.
It took me over 35 hours to reach Madrid from Tokyo and three flights. The plus side was I got to hunt down noodles and night markets in China en route. But despite these indulgences I was starving by the time I arrived.
To make matters worse, little sister who kindly came to meet me at the airport was brain addled due her “sleep is for the weak” campaign. It took her nearly 25 minutes and several wrong transfer buses and escalators later to meet me at arrivals.
Burgers have undergone a transformation in the past couple of years. From an unhealthy option associated – understandably – with greasy fast food chains, they are now so gourmet that Gourmet Burger Kitchen is considered fairly low-end.
As well as touting quality, newly-founded burger joints are fighting to distinguish themselves through their creativity. At one end of the scale, there is Haché Burgers. Their branches are decorated with fairy lights and flowers to add a soft, ‘feminine’ touch and boast an extensive menu with burgers ranging from the ‘Steak Mexican’ (cajun spices, salsa, guacamole, jalapeño peppers, sour cream) to the ‘Steak Louisiana’ with crunch peanut butter. At the other end of the scale, there’s Honest Burgers with its simple aesthetics and a simple menu offering just three kinds of beefburger, and one monthly special.
Of course, any meat-oriented restaurant with an eye on the market will understandably jump on the bandwagon and get their menus on trend. The Seven Dials branch of Hawksmoor, the legendary steak restaurant with four branches across London, offers three burgers – a classic beef version, a kimchi burger that taps the current popularity of Korean cuisine, and a special.
And there have been no holds barred on their most recent offering: the Five Pork Burger. If you’re a self-respecting carnivore who lives in or will visit London in the near future, take yourself to Hawksmoor Seven Dials for a proper pig-out.
I had the Five Pork Burger (£15) last night. I have narrated my experience several times over to everyone in the Wozedu office. And so here I am, sharing it with all of you.
The first thing you should know is tha,t although it’s pitched as the Five Pork Burger, the version I had was a SIX Pork Burger. Oh yes.
The burger begins with a base layer of greenery and mustard mayonnaise – a variation from the homemade apple ketchup usually served. It then has a succulent Tamworth pork patty topped with smoky, salty pulled pork. Next up is a patty almost as large, which is actually sausage stuffing. This is then topped with rashers of bacon and draped with melted cheese. All this meatiness is contained in a brioche bun and served with beautifully crispy pork crackling and peppery pork gravy. I elected to continue with the gluttony and ordered Hawksmoor’s triple cooked chips on the side.
This burger was delicious in a crazy kind of way. It was a porky flavour explosion, and very decadent and incredibly messy. Each pork product came through at different stages of the mouthfuls and at different stages of the entire eating process but, underneath it all, the subtle sage tones of the stuffing were always present.
For me, the mustard mayo didn’t quite strike the right contrast with the burger; I believe the apple ketchup would have been preferable. Also, the salt content was almost off-the-scale: the Five (or Six) Pork Burger must be consumed with at least 2 litres of water – although this definitely makes it moreish.
One final point – does anyone really need a burger this big? As my co-diner pointed out, he’d happily have paid two-thirds of the price for half the burger. And just as our waiter warned us, consuming this burger will basically write off the rest of your night – the resultant food coma is too intense to be fought.
I’m sure Hawksmoor wouldn’t encourage this, but my advice is to share the burger and order a couple more sides. That way, you can still enjoy plenty of pig and walk out of the restaurant, rather than waddle.
All things considered though, I would definitely pig-out again.
I was throwing a dinner party for Cambridge chums (yah yah) and needed to make a bit more effort than usual. To be fair to myself, cooking is difficult when you only have two electric hobs. It limits your options. A student budget also limits your options. I knew my friends weren’t expecting a feast, but I couldn’t bear the embarrassment of being a food blogger who fails at cooking. The pressure was on; I had to impress.
Little did I know that my evening was to be marked by my mother.
My mother – hero and villain.
She kindly suggested a recipe from Waitrose.com that had gone down a treat at home. Pork and sweet potato casserole. It had the right amount of sweetness, and depth from smoked paprika, which was balanced with sour cream and wonderfully finished with parsley.
It was a winner. My cooking skills didn’t desert me, and a delicious dish was born. My guests proclaimed it the best dish they’d eaten all week. I was so proud.
We had good conversation and wine. We were tucking into our plates with gusto when my phone dinged. A text message.
I’d like to pretend that I’m incredibly popular, but the fact is that I don’t get texts all that often. I believe in functional texting; I only use my phone in order to organise something.
The text was from my sister and read something like:
“Mum says you should look at my Facebook now xx”
Now, Mum knew I was having a dinner party. What could be so interesting or so important? I went on Facebook to see this:
That’s our dog Tiptoe, who, in my absence from home, had reached adolescence. She was in season. AND SHE WAS WEARING A NAPPY.
My guests looked quizzically at me.
“Um, well, that’s my dog having a period. Let’s go back to dinner, shall we?”
Like I said. My mother – hero and villain.
Pork and Sweet Potato Casserole
Recipe from waitrose.com
Prep time: 15 mins Cooking time: 1 1/4 hours
2 tbsp olive oil
500g Diced Pork Leg
1 large onion, finely sliced
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 large Sweet Potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp sweet smoked paprika
2 tbsp chopped fresh oregano
150 ml dry white wine
400g can chopped tomatoes
170 ml pot Soured Cream
2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
Heat oil in a large casserole and fry the pork until brown.
Add the onion and fry for 2 mins, then add the garlic, and fry both until softened.
Add the sweet potatoes, cumin, paprika, oregano and seasoning. Stir for 1-2 mins.
Pour in the wine then add the tomatoes to the pan with 100 ml cold water.
Bring to the boil and then cover the pan and simmer gently for 1 1/4 hours until the pork is tender and the sauce has thickened.
Stir in the soured cream and scatter with the chopped parsley.
Serve with steamed rice and a large green salad or steamed cabbage (personally, I found sweetheart cabbage went well).