Here’s a shot that I really like of some jellyfish swimming in a tank in an aquarium in Bangkok. I find the fluidity of their movement to be quite hypnotic. They seem to have evolved the perfect method of traversing water with the minimal use of energy, simply using propulsion to float wherever the current takes them. There are even some jellyfish who have sails, which they hold above the water in order to let the wind guide their endless journey through the sea. However, their lack of a brain does make their existence seem a little futile, and I sure don’t relish any encounters I have with them on the beach, but staring at them comfortably through a pane of glass is definitely a fascinating experience, which I hope my photo does some justice too.
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Good Burgers and the Art of the Barbecue (and the Super Fun Summertime Shooters Eating Lottery Game)
Since we’re having the worst summer in living memory here in Ireland this year, for today, whilst I listen to the wind howl through my house and the pitter-patter of the unceasing rain ricocheting against my window. I thought that I’d cast my mind back to happier sunny times when the odd ray of sunshine occasionally peaked out from behind those ominous grey clouds that us Irish have become so accustomed to, and oh so sparingly, blessed me with the opportunity to stoke up a barbecue.
There are few culinary delights more satisfying than barbecued meat on a sunny day coupled with an ice cold bottle of beer, or a glass of chilled white wine to wash all that tastiness down. The reason that barbecued meat is so superior to your run of the day seared animal flesh is the overt presence of a much enjoyed, though little understood cooking proccess called the Maillard reaction.
Whenever I watch cooking programmes on TV (which is admittedly a lot), I’m often unreasonably annoyed by chefs constantly telling people to sear their meat to “seal in the flavours” (I’m the kind of pedant who cares about such things). Searing meat doesn’t actually seal in any flavours whatsoever, instead: (and I’m quoting Heston Blumenthal here)
“When protein-rich foods like meat are exposed to a high heat, amino acids begin to react with other compounds to create a huge range of different flavours. The characteristic roasted flavours of coffee, chocolate, bread crusts and pan-fried meat all come largely from such reactions, which are called Maillard reactions, after the French biochemist who first identified the process in the early part of the twentieth century.”
So there TV chefs! If you’ve gotten the opportunity to cook in front of millions on the telly, the very least that you can do for your viewers is stop misinforming them about the basic processes of cooking, thank you very much.
Alright, now that we’ve got the science and the ranting out of the way, let’s get to the barbecuing….
I’m going to focus on barbecuing burgers today, because it ain’t all that hard, but by jove does it taste good. The tricky thing about barbequing, especially when you spend your time barbecuing on the cheap disposable charcoal barbecues that are all that I can afford, is that it’s so hard to have any idea if your meat is cooking evenly. Therefore, the wisest plan of action is to have your meat as thin, or with a small a surface area as possible, so that you don’t have to worry so much about the unevenness of the heat that’s distributed across your grill.
And so, the smart barbecuer should get thinly sliced or relatively small pieces of meat from their butcher if they want to avoid burnt exterior pieces of meat concealing raw meat within. If I’m doing a steak burger, I personally favour a relatively thinly sliced piece of sirloin (but not too thin if you want it bloody on the inside!) flipped over about every minute or so to keep an eye out for any exterior burning. After a couple of flips your steak such be nicely seared on the outside with nice pink tender meat within. Mmmmm….. taste those amino acids reacting with sugars. Nice.
If I’m doing burgers, after much trial and error, I’ve discovered that the really smart barbequer should make their patties as small as possible in order to get as much exterior meat exposed to that delicous charcoal flavour as possible, without leaving a lot of interior meat for the heat to penetrate. This way you’re not left with raw mince in the middle of your burger. So unless you’re a fan of steak tartare, or you’re the kind of risk taking personality that enjoys dicing with salmonella on a sunny day, then keep those patties small!
Turning your little patties into delicious slider mini burgers is guaranteed (not an actual guarantee (I’m not here to vouch for your culinary skills)) to turn out delicious for everyone involved. I bought my mini burger buns in Marks and Sparks, and encased each of my mouth-watering pieces of meat within, alongside a selection of complimentary condiments.
This method of eating burgers also allows you to experience the excitement of playing the Super Fun Summertime Shooters Eating Lottery Game (the title may need some work). To play, simply add a different sample of each of your favourite condiments to each mini-burger and then carefully conceal your mischief by placing a bun atop. Do this with a different condiment to each of your mouthful sized morsels and ask a good friend to mix up the arrangement of the burgers on the plate whilst your back is turned. Then do the same for your friend while his back is turned. When you are both facing the burgers once again with your eyes wide open in anticipation of the feast that lays before you, it’s time for the fun to begin! Pick up a random burger and prepare for your taste buds to be tantalised by the delicousness of that tasty meat coupled with the mystery of an unexpected condiment within. You can literally spend minutes enjoying yourself in this manner. However, keep a keen eye out for the kind of joker who thinks it’s funny to put strawberry yoghurt on top of a perfectly good burger in pursuit of tomfoolery. Such renegade jokers should be banned from partaking in all future Super Fun Summertime Shooters Eating Lottery Games. Their loss. Some people….
Alright, I seem to have wandered slightly off track from my recipe and my humble celebration of the barbecued burger, so I’ll leave you all to get out into the sunshine and get cooking and tasting. Let me know how things turn out!
And also click here to be taken to my photo store where you can buy these and many other stupendous examples of my food photography.
Here’s one of my favourite sunset shots from around Galway. This photo was taken out at Rusheen Bay, which is a popular spot for kite-surfing, though thankfully on this occasion all was calm, which lent itself well to this serene shot.
Click on the above image to be taken to my photo store at zootimaging.com if you’re interested in buying any of my landscape work.
To buy this or any of my other shots of nature at its best, then click on the picture above to be taken to my photo gallery and store.
Yesterday I had the (dis)pleasure of attending the Galway Races 2012 courtesy of a free ticket that I got from Galway.com, so that I could take a few photos of the happy day.
I have to admit that it remains somewhat of a mystery to me how the Galway Races is considered to be the highlight of the summer for so many Galwegians.
Yesterday was Lady’s Day at the races, which meant that I bore witness to many Irish women exposing far more of themselves than could ever possibly be considered visually alluring to anyone but the most fool hardy fans of flashes of Irish pasty skin overspilling ill fitting dresses. These uneasy style afficianodoes then todder along upon unfeasibly large heels, to which the wearer has clearly not had the chance to become accustomed to wearing before at such high-faluting fashionable occasions as the races. Or in fact ever, judging by the amount of stumbling style icons that I encountered throughout the day.
That’s not to say that there weren’t a few well attired beauties amongst the maelstrom of ill adorned ladies, which I’ve done my very best to take a few shots of, though these were admittedly few and far between. Taking photos amongst the heaving drunken masses is also one hell of a challenge, especially coupled with the incessant rain that we’ve been damned with all summer long here in Galway.
However, Galway’s stubbornly maritime climate didn’t seem to dampen the spirits of all that many weather beaten Irish punters, whose sunny dispositions I jealously witnessed and then dutifully tried to document.
The races also appear to me to be the most utterly elitist gathering of people that takes place in Galway. The rich take helicopters in and sit in reserved booths sipping champagne and being waited on hand and foot, whilst the rest of the plebs take a bus that progresses through the infamously egregious Galway traffic at slower than walking speed in order to painfully soldier onwards to the course. Once they have the pleasure of eventually arriving at the races, they can then que like mistreated cattle for half an hour to get a cheeseburger that you wouldn’t wish on your worst enemies, which is served alongside chips refried in dirty frying oil so many times that they now seem to have only a faint recollection of their time spent as a potato.
The taste of such culinary insults demands to be washed out by a pint of Guinness, which is served in a plastic cup that seems to magically evaporate to half its size on the sharp elbowed trip back to your square foot of standing position back outside in the rain.
A cantankerous young man I may well be, but I can think of a whole lot more fun ways to spend the day in Galway that doesn’t involve wringing every last cent out of my pocket for hospitality that could be bettered in Butlin’s holiday camp circa 1958.
And don’t get me started on those unfortunate race horses. I mean they say that they’re made for racing and that’s what they enjoy, but if that’s the case then why does it take up to ten men to man handle them in order to force them into a trap that they obviously have no wish to enter.
If forcing animals to do something they don’t want to do for our own enjoyment is considered a sport, then I think it’s about time I made my monkey tennis dreams a reality.
Anyways, here’s some of my photos of the day of people that seem to be having a lot more fun than I could ever possibly muster, and good luck to them, I certainly admire their unquenchably positive outlook!(in a way)
I’m now away for a quiet pint in the dark corner of an unassuming little pub far from the tourist trail, where I can escape the heaving throngs of these alien effervescent souls so hellbent on having fun, in order to wait for all these corporate sponsored summer festivities to draw to a close, so I can finally have my nice quiet miserable little city back.
Enjoy the rest of the races everyone else! Only 3 more days to go!