Burger Love

Burger Love

Thanks to the author of Tinned Tomatoes blog, Jacqueline Meldrum, for the creation of her article exclusively for First Home News. 

Jac is a food writer and recipe developer who specialises in vegetarian cooking and more recently vegan cooking. Her interest in food began when she became a vegetarian 24 years ago, and she’s been trying out new recipes since then. 


Everyone loves a good burger. We eat them in restaurants, from burger vans, hot from the barbecue, baked in the oven or slapped into a frying pan.

The trouble is that bought burgers aren’t always healthy or all that tasty. In fact there have been reports that say some of the poorer quality bought burgers can cause asthma in children.

The good news is burgers are easy to make, healthy and they taste amazing!

You can bind your homemade burgers together with egg, but mashed potato, mashed sweet potato and mashed beans are also good binders. Black beans are particularly good and they have a great flavour.

You could make your burger from mince, veggie mince, mushrooms, peppers, spinach, sun-dried tomatoes, courgette, beetroot, aubergine, sweetcorn, a range of different cheeses, nuts, herbs and spices. Its up to you.

To make burgers with your favourite flavours, simply grab your meat, choose your binder, bulk them out with porridge oats, spice heavily, as burgers lose a lot of flavour while they are cooking, chill before cooking and remember to toast the bun for a better end product.

Top your homemade burgers with:

• burger relish
• mustard
• a fried egg
• mozzarella
• sautéed mushrooms
• caramelised onions
• hummus
• feta cheese
• slices of pickled beetroot
• melted cheddar
• slices of ripe avocado
• brie and grated apple
• pesto
• roasted peppers

Here are my absolute favourite home made burgers. They are quick to make and my family and friends love them.

Cajun Spiced Black Bean and Sweet Potato Burgers


• 200g (1 medium) sweet potato, baked
• 400g tin black beans
• 100g spinach
• ½ cup / 45g porridge oats
• 2 tsp Cajun spice
• 2 tsp flaxseeds (optional)
• 1 clove garlic, crushed
• a good grinding of black pepper


1. Rinse the beans and add them to a mixing bowl. Mash, but leave half of the beans whole for a bit of texture.

2. Scoop the flesh out of the baked potato with a spoon and add to the bowl.

3. Rinse your spinach in a colander then pour a kettleful of boiling water over it to wilt it. Rinse with cold water to refresh, then squeeze as much water out as you can. Chop and add to the bowl.

4. Next add the seeds, oats, spices, garlic and black pepper and mix until well combined.

5. Shape your mixture into 4 hearty balls, then flatten out into burger shapes.

6. Pop the burgers on a plate until you are ready to use them. You can bake or fry them in a little oil. I fried my burger in a little cold pressed rapeseed oil, for a few minutes on each side until brown and crisp.

7. These burgers will also freeze well. Layer them between sheets of greaseproof paper in a tupperware tub and pop in the freezer.

8. Enjoy!

Makes 4 burgers

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Pancake day perfection: A guide to cooking pancakes

Pancake day perfection: A guide to cooking pancakes

Whether you’re looking to treat your children with a mountain of pancakes, or you just want to follow tradition and enjoy a simple evening meal, pancakes are a must om 4th March. Whilst the link may seem tenuous, historically pancakes are associated with the day preceding Lent as a means of eating up dairy products prior to the 40 days of Lent fasting. Whilst milk, flour and eggs might not seem like the ultimate of Lent breaking temptations, many cultures prohibit the consumption of meat, dairy, and eggs over the fasting season, meaning making pancakes is the the perfect way to use up those unwanted ingredients. Whilst these customs don’t particularly translate to the modern day, pancakes are still enjoyed by many households across the UK on Shrove Tuesday. If you’re wanting to indulge, but need pointing in the right direction recipe-wise, here is our quick and easy cooking guide.

To start, make sure that you have all your ingredients at hand. To serve four, you’ll need to make sure that you have the following quantities:

  • 200g/7oz plain flour
  • 350-400ml/12-14fl oz milk.
  • 2 large eggs, lightly whisked
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • Pinch salt
  • Vegetable oil for frying

To begin, tip all your flour into a large bowl, with mounds around the edge and ensuring that there is a visible dip in the middle of the bowl. In this well, pour your milk and eggs. Give the mixture a relatively short whisk, starting with the liquid elements and then proceeding to mix the flour in. Continue to whisk until you have a smooth batter. Alternatively, if you’re making the recipe in larger quantities for a greater number of eaters, tip the mixture into a blender to quicken the process.

Next, simply add a tablespoon of vegetable oil and whisk thoroughly until it is no longer visible.

Select your pan – preferably something that is non-stick, so it can either be a specialised crêpe pan, or large frying pan. Swab the bottom of your pan with kitchen roll dipped in oil and, taking care to not cover any areas in excess. Heat the pan over a medium heat for a minute to warm the pan up, and then move on to the cooking process.

For a traditional crispy and thin pancake, add between three quarters and a full ladel of the batter to your pan. Immediately begin to ‘swirl’ your pan, in order to level out the mixture and cover the base of your pan.

Cook the pancake for approximately 30-40 seconds. After a quick flash cooking, check the underside of the pancake to ensure it is cooking and not beginning to blacken.  Cook until golden brown and then proceed to flip. Cook the other side similarly for around 40 seconds, before checking to see if cooked.

Photo Credit: chestnutgrey via Compfight cc

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Cooking for a dinner party

Cooking for a dinner party

When hosting a dinner party, your mind is occupied with hundreds of thoughts, doubts and worries. It’s only natural to panic and want the whole experience of cooking to be over; however don’t fret, as these three quick and easy recipes are sure to leave your guests impressed come the end of the evening.

Super tasty Spanish roast chicken with chorizo and potatoes

Chorizo is so versatile it can be utilised in an abundance of recipes, but we’ve just picked out one for you. This dish is sure to get everyone salivating and, as an added bonus, it fills the house with fantastic smells.

Ingredients include:

1.6 kg potatoes, 4 lemons, 1 handful fresh flat-leaf parsley, 2 kg higher-welfare chicken, sea salt, freshly ground black pepper, chorizo sausage, olive oil, 2 cloves garlic.

The Method

Preheat your oven to 220ºC and proceed to place potatoes and 2 lemons into a small pan of water before boiling for 5 minutes. After this, drain and then prick the lemons with a knife so that when you put them inside the chicken later, the juices will be released. Remove the parsley leaves from their stalks. Fill the chicken with the stalks and the hot lemons, then season the chicken and potatoes with a pinch of salt and pepper and slice your chorizo.

Lay out a piece of grease proofing paper on a baking tray. Place the potatoes in the centre of the tray followed by the chicken on top and sprinkle the chorizo with some of the chopped parsley. Put in the oven and leave for just under an hour and a half.

While you are waiting for the chicken and potatoes to cook, finely chop the two remaining lemons and mix them with the chopped parsley and garlic. You can also season this with a pinch of salt and pepper to create a fragrant, seasoning garnish. Remove the tray from the oven, take the chicken out and put to one side to rest. Give the potatoes a shake about and put them back in the oven for a few minutes until they are crispy.

When everything is cooked, carve the chicken and enjoy the smoky paprika flavour from the chorizo. Rocket salad goes well with this aswell.

Chilli Con Carne

There are many myths and rumours about the origins of a classic chilli, but all we can be sure of is that the classic dish that will have everyone asking for seconds. You can alter the portions of chilli depending on your taste. This recipe will make enough for six people.

Ingredients include:

2 medium onions, 2 cloves garlic, 2 medium carrots, 2 sticks celery, 2 red peppers, olive oil, 1 heaped teaspoon chilli powder, 1 heaped teaspoon ground cumin, 1 heaped teaspoon ground cinnamon, sea salt, freshly ground black pepper, 400g tinned chickpeas, 400g tinned red kidney beans, 800g tinned chopped tomatoes, 500g quality minced beef, 1 small bunch fresh coriander, 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar, 400g basmati rice, 500g natural yoghurt, 230g guacamole, 1 lime


Peel and finely chop the carrots, onions, garlic and celery. Halve the red peppers, removing the seeds and stalks along the way. Place your largest casserole type pan on a medium to high heat. Add two swigs of olive oil and all your chopped vegetables. Throw in the chilli powder, cumin, cinnamon and a pinch of salt and pepper. Stir the pan every 30 seconds for 7 minutes or until the mixture is softened and lightly coloured.

After this, add the drained chickpeas, kidney beans and the tinned tomatoes. Then add the minced beef, breaking up large chunks with a wooden spoon. Add a small cup of water to the pan.

Place the coriander leaves in the fridge and finely chop the washed stalks and stir them into the pan. Add the balsamic vinegar and season with a good pinch of salt and pepper. Bring the mixture to the boil and turn the heat down to a simmer for about an hour. Don’t forget to stir every now and then.

Divide the rice and chilli into bowls or serve the two in the middle of the table and let everyone help themselves. Instead of rice, you can also try fresh, crusty bread or a jacket potato.


Fish baps with mushy peas and tartare sauce

This special twist on a fish finger sandwich is a recipe that will surprise and delight any guest.

Ingredients include:

For the baps

4 nice soft whole wheat baps,4 large (halved) or 8 small (roughly 480g in total) flat-fish fillets (such as plaice, lemon sole, megrim or dab), 1 pinch cayenne pepper, ½ a mug plain flour, olive oil, 25g Parmesan cheese, 1 punnet cress, 1 lemon

For the peas

1 medium potato, 500g frozen peas, ½ a bunch of fresh mint

For the sauce

6 gherkins, 1 tablespoon capers, 1 little gem lettuce, 250g fat-free natural yoghurt, ¼ a bunch fresh flat-leaf parsley, 1 lemon


Preheat the oven at 130°C/250°F/gas ½. Put the baps in the oven. Slice the potato to half centimetre thickness, place into a small pan with boiling water and place a lid over it and let it come to the boil.

On some greaseproof paper, season the fish with salt, pepper and the cayenne. Then sprinkle flour over it as a coating.

Pour 2 tablespoons of oil into a frying pan and add the fish. Cook the fish until golden and grate the Parmesan finely over the top when you flip it over. Tip the frozen peas into the small pan with the potato and then add in the leafy top half of the mint and replace the lid.

Put the gherkin, capers, lettuce and yoghurt into a food processor. Add shreds of half the parsley, squeeze in the lemon juice, blend and pour into a bowl.

Drain the peas and potatoes. Once the fish is cooked, get the baps out of the oven and serve with the peas and tartare sauce alongside pinches of cress and lemon wedges.


These three recipes can easily be made by a cooking novice, and are sure to leave your guests impressed. If you have a favourite ‘go-to’ meal for a dinner party, let us know in the comments section below.


Photo Credit: such pretty things via Compfight cc

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