The use (or misuse) of the English language to promote food provenance makes it hard to choose. Is that chicken ‘barn raised’ or ‘free range’? Why is my pork not ‘Dry Aged’? Where is the Local of ‘Locally Produced’? What does ‘Natural’ mean? Do you really want my beef to be ‘Grain Finished’?… What do all these terms mean? Do they mean anything?
So, when my butcher friend James Lawlor told me that I had to try some Belted Galloway, I was intrigued. What is a Galloway and who belted it? Is it locally produced? What makes it special? Is it barn raised, pure, natural, grass-fed? What is it for crying out loud?
“Beef” he tells me, produced on a farm in Kilkenny. It’s a rare breed, smaller than the Angus or the other popular breeds. It also tends to be fatter. This is a good thing. Because, as anybody who knows anything about beef knows, fat equals flavour. Particularly if the cattle have enjoyed a lifetime grazing the rich grasslands in the heart of Ireland. So, I collected two kilos (4 lbs) of Belted Galloway mince (from the neck of the animal) and decided to prepare something delicious.
A burger (or twelve) was an obvious decision. If he was right about the quality and flavour of the beef, I shouldn’t need to adulterate it with anything I might have used previously when making burgers. Before the Belted Galloway, I would have suggested adding some breadcrumbs, some egg, possibly a bit of mustard, a teaspoon of tomato paste, maybe some freshly crushed cumin seeds or possibly any of a range of other ingredients. But, now I know, if you want a premium quality beef burger, you only need three ingredients. Beef, salt and pepper.
There is very little more to say about the burger making. I mixed it by hand and used a pastry ring to get a decent shape and a 200 gramme burger.
I let the burgers rest for about ten minutes before shaping them. After that, it was onto the barbecue. They will do almost as well on the frying pan or griddle pan.
Side note on cooking burgers: If you buy a ready-made burgers, unless you know the butcher who made them, and can be sure of its age, you need to cook them to medium at a bare minimum. Don’t be fooled by the meat looking a bright red colour. It could be kept that way with sulphites. I cooked these medium rare. But, I saw this meat being minced.
The burgers held their shape incredibly well. No binder, no egg, no breadcrumbs, just beef.
I served them very simply with a bit of salad and some sea-salt. This was all about the beef. The flavour of the Belted Galloway was amazing. I have never eaten a burger as nice as this. If you get a chance, give these a go. This is language you can trust – Rare Breed, Full Fat, Full Flavour, Belted Galloway.