I will not be spelling January with a “v”, nor preceding it with “dry” – not that there’s anything wrong with that, as Jerry Seinfeld says. But as we start the year in a Groundhog Day lockdown, I really cannot be bothered to deprive myself of a few of life’s simple pleasures.
And one of the things I love is a good juicy burger. A thing that the year-round barbecue man in our house does particularly well, making his own burgers with mince from our great local butcher, the Brown Pig in Terenure. So I got the sceptical look when he heard that I had picked up a "real bacon cheeseburger" kit from Featherblade.
The burger is utterly delicious. Deep, savoury, meaty beefiness with a hint of smoke coming through; a patty that is not too compacted, and one from which juices stream out
It’s a slick kit, compact and surprisingly heavy, but then it does contain meat for four people. And it’s well put together. Anyone who has faced a load of identical-looking tubs will know what I mean. The instructions are on a nice card, telling you what’s in your box, how to store it and what to do before you start, as well as giving you the whole run-down on cooking and assembling your burger.
You can cook the burgers on a grill or a barbecue. We opt for the latter, obviously – if it’s raining an umbrella is all you need, and if it’s snowing, well, wellies or whatever. But regardless of whether you’re cooking it indoors or outdoors, the one piece of kit that is really handy to have is a digital kitchen thermometer. If you don’t have one, invest in one now, not just for burgers but also for steaks, roasts, chicken, fish – just about anything you want to catch at the right moment.
The key to a juicy burger is not cooking it medium – we all know we shouldn’t undercook mince. It is more about the mix of meat used for the burger. So you want a bit of fat in there, to render and baste the meat as you cook it. At Featherblade, the blend of cuts includes smoked brisket, aged striploin, chuck and beef suet. They apparently tried combinations for more than a year until they came up with the final ratios. It is utterly delicious. Deep, savoury, meaty beefiness with a hint of smoke coming through; a patty that is not too compacted, and one from which the juices stream out.
The addition of black-garlic mayo could be one umami step too far, except it's not – and in case you're in any doubt, the pickled red onions add a snap of fresh acidity to the whole giant burgerfest
But that’s not all, as they say on the television shopping channels. All the elements of this burger kit contribute to making this a spectacular piece of work. The brioche buns, with just a hint of sweetness, toasted with a slash of butter, stay nicely intact rather than crumbling to bits. The slabs of bacon that go on top of the burger – they just need to be warmed through for a minute – add even more complexity. None of your commercial rashers with overbearing smoky aromas: these thick-cut slices of bacon come from free-range pork belly that has been dry-cured for five days, left to languish in muscovado and demerara sugar for another five days, and then smoked gently over applewood. There’s a good meaty bite to the burgers, which you top with a slice of aged cheddar. The addition of black-garlic mayo could be one umami step too far, except it’s not – and in case you’re in any doubt, the pickled red onions add a snap of fresh acidity to the whole giant burgerfest.
There are no sides with the kit, but these are big burgers, so you don’t need an awful lot to go with them. If you want a nod to good behaviour in January, a salad would be great – and if you’re a fan of chips, like we are, make good use of your kitchen thermometer and make some indulgent triple-cooked chips. Because, yeah, you’re worth it.
A burger kit for four people costs €30
Where it's from Featherblade, 51b Dawson Street, Dublin 2, 01-6798814, featherblade.ie
Verdict 9/10 – The best way to start your year. Stupendously good burgers.
Difficulty factor Great instructions. All you have to do is cook the burgers.
Food provenance Top-notch; meat from McLoughlins.
Vegetarian options None.
Delivery Click and collect at Mister S and Featherblade; delivery available in Leinster.
Three to try
Dublin 8, click and collect from Clanbrassil Street, Thursday to Sunday; bastebbq.com
Andy Noonan has a rotating menu on his barbecue-to-go boxes, which have slow-smoked and barbecued free-range, higher-welfare and rare-breed meats with sides. The beef and bird barbecue box or the whole hog box are €45 for two people, and the beast of a feast, which feeds four to six people, is €80.
The Dough Bros
Galway; national delivery is €3.50, or click and collect on Thursdays and Fridays; thedoughbros.ie
Promising restaurant-quality pizzas at home, these meal kits include the bases for three pizzas, San Marzano tomato sauce, fresh basil, Parmesan, Toons Bridge mozzarella and a choice of three additional toppings – pesto, nduja, the Wooded Pig fennel salami or Real Olive Co pitted olives – and two portions of wild-garlic dip.
Ashbourne, Co Meath; delivery within 12km or click and collect daily; cinnamongarden.ie
This much-loved restaurant in Ashbourne offers a huge number of takeaway options, including samosas, kebabs, bhuna, vindaloo, jalfrezi and biryani; tandoori prawns and chicken from the clay oven; and a sizeable number of vegetarian dishes and vegan options. There are also home-made lassis and desserts.