Having more time at home does come with some unexpected benefits. A much shorter commute (yes, I am still showering and making it downstairs each morning. Although the trousers have been jettisoned...). There seems more time to go online and spend ridiculous amounts on hipster wines and beer that looks like orange juice. And, of course, far more time for cooking.
There's been #selfisolation sourdough bread; obviously. Made to rise using Keith, my yeasty starter. Yeasty sourdough starter. There's been buttermilk-brined chickens, and southern fried chicken (who need the Colonel anyway?). And there's been some fermenting. A project I pretty much undertook solely in order to make the famed Hawksmoor kimchi burger.
While there is a recipe in the book, I went slightly off-piste with my version, picking suggestions up, magpie-like across the internet. While the traditional uses napa cabbage and Korean chilli flakes (gochugaru), I used a bog standard white cabbage and red chilli flakes I bought from a market in Palermo, on our last trip to Italy.
Having tried a reasonable amount of Kimchi (sadly on these shores as we haven't yet made it to Seoul) I was very happy with my effort. While not entirely authentic, it tasted salty, hot, crunchy and a little bit funky; perfect to cut through the fatty beef and oozy cheese in a burger.
Kimchi, my way
1 cabbage chopped into large chunks (traditionally Chinese or napa, but I used an ordinary white one)
1/4 cup rock salt
1/2 cup of fish sauce
1/2 cup red pepper flakes (Korean gochugaru if you can, but I used some I bought on holiday in Italy)
1 tbs light soy sauce
4 cloves of garlic, peeled
1 knob of ginger, peeled
a bunch of spring onions or chives, washed, trimmed and chopped into chunks
2 carrots, peeled and julienned
Place the cabbage in a large bowl, add the salt and massage in.
Leave for at least three or four hours, turning the cabbage every hour. (I got distracted and ended up leaving mine in the fridge overnight)
Place cabbage in a colander and wash thoroughly with cold water to get rid of excess salt,
drain and dry cabbage very well, place in a large bowl and add spring onions and carrots.
Whizz the ginger, garlic, soy, fish sauce and chilli flakes in a blender until it becomes a smooth paste.
Tip the paste into cabbage mixture and massage in (use rubber gloves to stop the chillies irritating your hands).
Pack the cabbage into sterilized jars or a clean plastic box, put the lid on and leave at room temperature for about 48 hours, undoing the lid each day to release any gases that have built up.
When you can see small bubbles, store in the fridge, where it will keep fermenting and should keep for at least a couple of weeks.
As I frequently say to my wife (to her displeasure) if you're going to get wet, you may as well go swimming. So, as well as fermenting the kimchi, we also grew the lettuce at the allotment (well, it had already been growing, but we harvested some fresh for the purpose); I ordered some Ogleshield (a kind of English raclette, made on the same farm in Somerset as Montgomery Cheddar); and we hiked to the butchers for some freshly ground chuck to make the patties. The Ewing even made the Dan Lepard brioche bun recipe from the book.
If you find yourself with free time then the buns are well worth a bash; she also shaped some into finger rolls which are the perfect vehicle for a sausage, also picked up from the butchers. Well, would be a shame to walk all that way without stocking up on some extra pork products. And the burgers themselves? Well worth the wait.
Hawksmoor brioche buns
50g custard powder (or potato starch or cornflour)
25g unsalted butter
2 tsp sugar
750g strong white flour
1 (7g) sachet of instant dry yeast
2 tsp salt
A beaten egg for glazing
Whisk the custard powder into the milk and pour into a saucepan.
Bring to the boil, stirring all the time. Remove from the heat, stir in the butter and sugar until melted, then pour into a mixing bowl and leave until barely warm.
Add the flour, yeast and salt, mix well and leave for 10 minutes.
On a lightly oiled surface, lightly knead the dough until smooth, then return it to the bowl and leave covered for an hour and a half.
Divide the dough into pieces (the Ewing went with 90g, but I'd recommend about 120g) and using a little flour, shape them into balls. Place them on a lined baking tray and flatten slightly with a rolling pin. Cover and leave to rise for about an hour or until they have doubled in size.
After waiting for the buns to double in size, brush with beaten egg sprinkle with sesame seeds, and bake at 200°C for about 20 minutes until lightly golden.
Leave to cool before using.
Kimchi burgers serves 2
Adapted from Hawksmoor at Home
2 burger buns
200g minced beef (I used chuck containing about 20 per cent fat)
Ogleshield cheese - one thick slice per burger
Lettuce (romaine or baby gem)
Divide the meat into two and shape into rounds about 12cm-14cm in diameter. Press the meat firmly together. With your thumb make a slight hollow in the centre of the burger – this will prevent it from rising up while cooking and looking like a meatball.
Season the burgers with salt and pepper.
Preheat a ridged grill pan over a high heat until almost smoking.
Lay the burgers in the pan and cook for 2-3 minutes. You don’t need to oil them first, just don’t be tempted to turn them too soon.)
Flip the burgers and repeat the process until they are nicely charred. This will give you a pink interior. Cook them longer if you prefer them more well done.
Preheat the grill to melt the cheese. While the burger is still in the pan add the slices of cheese and place under the hot grill for a few seconds until melted.
Remove the burgers from the grill and allow them to rest for at least 5 minutes.
To assemble the burger, toast the cut sides of the bun and spread with mayonnaise. Place the lettuce leaf and kimchi on the bottom of the bun. Place the cooked burger on top and sandwich with the top half of the bun.