"We tend to think of burgers as being made with minced beef, but pork is an excellent mince, too, offering plenty of succulence...The mozzarella is an unusual addition, and oozes seductively as you eat." - Nigel Slater, October 2008 Observer Food Monthly.
Looking at the above photo and contemplating oozing cheese - one of my weak points - I was seduced myself into trying this recipe myself last night. I had accidentally bought a package of minced pork back in August and it was waiting in the freezer for just such an occasion. (These things happen when you order online and don't read the details closely.) So when I came across this recipe in the food monthly, it looked perfect: interesting, easy to make, likely to please husband and children alike and most importantly, a way to use up that package of minced pork. I don't have a lot of ideas when it comes to minced pork.
Being me, I couldn't follow the recipe exactly, but I kept the spirit of it intact. I substituted anchovies for the pancetta and added a sprinkle of pepper flakes to please my dear Critic. Both moves were unqualified successes.
Unqualified success? Did I use those words in regard to this recipe? Because there is one aspect of the recipe to which those words could not be applied. Check out the photo above: crispy, succulent little meat patties with the cheese - as mentioned - oozing seductively. Here is a photo of my patties seconds after I put them in a nonstick pan. (With a little oil just for good measure - because I could see disaster looming and I was right.) And here is a photo of the pan when I took them out. The patties themselves were, shall was say, unphotogenic. Look at Nigel's photo if you want pretty: he probably has a food stylist. And he probably got the pan a lot hotter than I did before he started.
But even so, allowing for mistakes on my part, I think it is a basic flaw in the recipe. Next time, rather than mixing mozzarella into the mince as the recipe indicates, I'm going to form a ball around a pocket of cheese. Same oozing glory and none of the mess.
Otherwise, the recipe was a roaring success and I am - as always - indebted to Nigel for providing me with a new recipe that everyone in the family will love. The pork stayed moist and tender, the anchovies and pepper flakes gave it zing and the cheese was the icing on the proverbial cake. With a side of steamed broccoli and baked potato, it was just about perfect. If a bit ugly.
Nigel Slater's Pork Patties with Thyme and Mozzarella (with modifications noted in parentheses)
3-4 spring onions, finely sliced
2 juicy cloves of garlic, minced
a thick slice of butter (in fact, I used olive oil)
100 g cubed pancetta (or one tin of anchovies)
350 g minced pork
the grated zest of half a lemon (I used a couple of tablespoons of juice as well, mainly because of the anchovies)
1 mozzarella ball, cut in small cubes
optional: a teaspoon of hot pepper flakes
Fry the garlic and onions in the butter or a few tablespoons of olive oil. When they are soft and fragrant, scoop them out (leaving as much fat as possible behind) and stir them into the minced pork. Fry the pancetta for a few minutes and then do the same, leaving the fat behind. Add the rest of the ingredients and stir well if you are as talented as Mr. Slater at creating perfect little meaty patties. If you want to take my advice, though, you'll stir together everything but the mozzarella, then divide the cheese into six equal piles and form patties around each pile to make six little pork burgers with a cheesy center. As you can see in the photo of the patties in the pan, I opted to sprinkle the hot pepper flakes on the patties after they were formed, so that I could have some without flakes for the boys.
Turn up the heat on the pan very high and brown the patties on one side very quickly, about two or three minutes. When they are crispy and brown, flip them and cook on the second side until crispy and brown. Then turn the heat down to medium and continue to cook for 8-10 minutes, until the meat is cooked through and feels springy and firm to the touch.
Serve with mustard or just a drizzle of lemon juice over them. They will warm the cockles of your heart, especially when you hit the mother lode of cheese. Mmmm...