Rozanne Stevens writes about her BBQ experience with a twist in Clonakilty.

Tune in to Today with Pat Kenny on Radio One this Tuesday, August 7, to hear Rozanne chat about all the wonderful things you can do with black pudding.

I was at a BBQ recently, but a BBQ with a difference! Taking a trip to Clonakilty with my parents who were visiting from South Africa, we decided to go along to Scannall’s Bar, where Clonakilty Rugby Club where holding a BBQ to raise funds for businesses and homes that were affected by the recent floods. We thought we were supporting a good cause – little did we know we were going to experience such foodie delights as well!

If you drive through Clonakilty today, you will see very little evidence of the devastation caused by the recent floods. And this is down to the incredible efforts and team spirit of the Clonakilty community. Everyone has pitched in with whatever resources they have, and it really shows. The weekend I was there, the Random Acts of Kindness Festival was on, which is an additional feel good community initiative. Ranging from poetry readings, theatre tickets to cups of coffee and hair braiding, anyone roaming the streets got a lovely surprise.

In this same spirit, local businesses donated everything needed for the BBQ fundraiser, so that every single cent from the ticket sales could go to the flood relief funds - everything from printing and bunting to food and the venue was donated. But it wasn't the normal burger and banger BBQ, as Clonakilty is the home of infamous Clonakilty Black Pudding company, who donated sausages and burgers with a twist-the new Clonakilty Black Pudding Burger.

I persuaded Colette Twomey, the dynamo behind the Clonakilty Black Pudding Company and her son, Edward, to join me in Scannell's that night to BBQ some of her new black pudding burgers. However, I don't think they were expecting me to mould 3 quarter-pound burgers together to form enormous Man v Food monsters! They took quite a while to BBQ, due to their size, but the black pudding in them kept the burgers moist and deliciously spiced. Topped with Clonakilty rashers, blue cheese, tomato, grilled red onion and lettuce – they were quite a mouthful!

But it just goes to show, how the ordinary burger can be elevated to something special. The love affair with the new 'gourmet burger' trend is far from abating, and I say, long may it last. With good quality ingredients and some novel flavour combinations, a well made burger can be a thing of joy. Add some tasty sides and you have a real treat.

Burgers can be tricky to get right though, not just the flavourings and seasonings, but preparing and cooking them poses a whole range of food safety issues. Here are my top tips for the best homemade burgers at your next BBQ.

• Bacteria on beef mostly sits on the outside of the meat, so if you sear a steak for instance, you can still enjoy it rare inside. Mincing beef exposes a much greater surface area to the air and bacteria, so needs much more careful handling. I prefer to buy my beef freshly minced from my butcher and use it within 24 hours. Also a reason to cook burgers through properly, no pink bits!
• Freezing beef mince is a bad idea as it poses food safety issues when you freeze and defrost incorrectly. The meat can also become very tough, grey and flavourless.
• Not so lean beef mince is a better choice for burger patties as you need some fat to keep the burger moist when cooking. Adding the Clonakilty black pudding also helps retain the juiciness and flavour.
• Eggs work well to bind the burger patty, breadcrumbs are too dense and more suitable to meatballs. Raw egg can be unsafe, so make sure you have clean hands and cook the burger through properly. Commercially, pasteurised egg is used, which is safer.
• Moulding beef burgers should not involve kneading and pounding the meat. The more you handle mince, the tougher it becomes as you work the protein the fibres. Use clean wet hands, which helps to prevent sticking, and handle the burgers just enough to form firm patties about 2 inches or 5cm thick.
• Fresh or dried herbs add great flavour and punch to burgers. I love finely chopped fresh parsley, oregano, marjoram and chives in homemade burgers. If you don't have fresh herbs, a good pinch of dried Italian herb mix will do the trick.
• Onion can be delicious in a burger or served as a filling. I prefer red onion as it's sweeter. If using in the burger patty, grate it or very finely dice it. Big lumps of onion wont cook and will cause your burger to fall apart.
• Seasoning a burger can range from simple salt and pepper to a little splash of Tabasco sauce, Worstershire sauce, English mustard or soy sauce. To test if you have the correct amount of seasoning, fry off a little of the raw seasoned beef mince and taste it to check. Do not eat raw beef!
• Cheese is a great topping but how about hiding a melting nugget of cheese inside the patty? Try mozzarella, blue cheese or goats' cheese.
• Sunflower oil is handy to lightly oil the burgers before grilling for a golden crust and help make them non stick. A good sprinkle of course sea salt on the outside of each burger also forms a good crust.
• Metal spatula or fish slice are essential for flipping burgers, do not use tongs or forks which can break up the meat. The burger is ready to turn when it is properly sealed and moves easily on the grill. Do not try to flip it too soon as you will just break it up.


My Favourite Toppings for the Clonakilty Black Pudding Burgers:
• Bacon and blue cheese: I use grilled Clonakilty rashers and Cashel Blue cheese
• Pickled cucumber: Thinly slice 1 large cucumber, cover with ½ cup white wine vinegar, 2 teaspoons sugar, 1 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon mustard seeds, 1 clove peeled garlic, 1 bay leaf, 2 tablespoons fresh dill. Bring to the boil, allow to cool and serve.
• Pickled or roasted beetroot: Grate fresh, peeled raw beetroot and cover generously with balsamic vinegar and season with salt and pepper. Add a few fresh rosemary sprigs. Allow to 'pickle' for 20 minutes.
• Blue cheese mayonnaise: Mash together 4 tablespoons of mayonnaise, 1 tablespoon of blue cheese, 1 clove crushed garlic and black pepper.
• Horseradish crème fraiche: Mix 4 tablespoon of crème fraiche with 1 tablespoon of horseradish sauce, good squeeze of lemon, 1 clove crushed garlic and salt and pepper.

Useful contacts:
Clonakilty Black Pudding Company www.clonakiltybalckpudding.ie Twitter: @ClonakiltyBP

Scannell's Bar www.scannellsbar.com Twitter: @scannellsbar

Clonakilty Flood Relief www.clonflood.com Twitter: @ClonFlood

Craft Butchers Association National Pudding and Sausage Competition Winners
www.craftbutchers.ie

Supreme BBQ Champions 2012 Michael O'Crualaoi www.ocrualaoi.com Twitter:@OCrualaoi

Black Pudding and Thyme Sausages James Whelan Butchers www.jameswhelanbutchers.com Twitter: @Pat_Whelan




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