Food: Cook dad a Father’s Day treat

Brendan Collins in the kitchen
Brendan Collins in the kitchen
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According to his mate Curtis Stone, 39-year-old Brendan Collins is a “pub-loving meat man” who’s a “big softie” at heart.

According to his mate Curtis Stone, 39-year-old Brendan Collins is a “pub-loving meat man” who’s a “big softie” at heart.

The two chefs worked together over 15 years ago at Marco Pierre White’s Quo Vadis restaurant in London and have followed similar paths, now both whipping up storms in the hot and fancy kitchens of Los Angeles.

Indeed, Stone loves his friend’s food so much, he raves about it in the foreword of new book Cooking, Blokes + Artichokes. But despite having all the knowledge and skill to create dainty and delicious dishes, Collins loves nothing more than good, home-cooked fare.

“My views on food are quite simple: it should be fresh, tasty, and no more complicated than it needs to be,” says Collins.

“That isn’t some kind of ‘ethos’ dreamed up over days spent gazing philosophically at a bunch of radishes. It’s the only thing that makes sense to a bloke raised above pubs in the north of England.”

Collins’ parents worked as pub relief managers, so he found himself moving around England, learning a lot about life, and a little about cooking along the way.

At 15, the Nottingham native enrolled in culinary school, becoming classically trained before landing his first job at none other than London’s two Michelin-starred Le Gavroche.

“I got my degree on a Thursday and by Sunday was on a train to London looking for work. I was 17, and that was the beginning of a restaurant career that’s taken me through some of the best and swankiest restaurants in London and Los Angeles,” says the father-of-one, who lives in LA with his wife Eden and daughter Saffron.

“Most people who meet my missus are quite jealous when they hear that her husband’s a chef,” he adds. “They must think I come home from a 70-hour work-week, pull on the old apron and start boiling stocks, cracking lobsters, harvesting the home garden and milking the dairy cow that we keep tied up out back...

“The truth is, by the time my day off rolls around, I’m usually knackered and want nothing more than to enjoy my limited time with my family, eating good but simple food and having a laugh together.

“The country cooking of my boyhood has always remained at the front of my mind, and I’ve never lost sight of what a good, honest home-made dinner looks like.”

Sounds good, doesn’t it? Why not follow Collins’ example and cook your dad a proper man-sized meal this Father’s Day?

He recommends pouring yourself a shandy (“It’s a family drink; mellow, refreshing and light enough that it won’t put a tired chef immediately to sleep”), then you can roll up your sleeves and get stuck into this ‘pa-fect’ recipes...

Lamburgers

(Serves 4)

15g unsalted butter

100g sliced white mushrooms

900g minced lamb

Sea salt

4tbsp Caramelised Onion Compote

4 slices Gruyere or other Swiss cheese

4 burger buns

20g rocket leaves

Freshly ground black pepper

Olive oil for drizzling

4tbsp Special Sauce

For the Caramelised Onion Compote:

120ml extra virgin olive oil

900g white onions, thinly sliced

1tbsp brown sugar

1/2 bottle stout or porter beer

2tbsp beef stock

1tbsp balsamic vinegar

Coarse sea salt and freshly cracked pepper

For the Special Sauce:

115g Greek yogurt

1tbsp diced roasted red pepper

1tbsp diced cornichons

1tbsp diced capers

1 1/2tsp fresh lemon juice

1 1/2tsp harissa paste or harissa powder

1tbsp chopped fresh mint

1tbsp chopped fresh coriander

Coarse sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

To make the Caramelised Onion Compote, heat the oil in a large, heavy-based saucepan set over a medium-high heat until it shimmers.

Tip in the onions and brown sugar, stir to coat them with oil and spread them evenly in the pan. Reduce to medium-low and cook, stirring occasionally, until you smell the sugars release and the onions become soft and translucent (about 30-45 minutes).

Chuck in all the liquids and cook until they’re three quarters reduced, continuing to stir the onions regularly - or else they’ll burn. Season the mixture with a good grind of pepper and a teaspoon or two of salt, to taste.

Remove the onions from the heat and let them cool completely.

Load the onions into a sterilised jar and close it tightly. The compote will keep in the fridge for around two weeks (if it lasts that long).

To make the Special Sauce, chuck all the ingredients in a small bowl, mix them well and season the sauce with salt and pepper.

When you’re ready to make the burgers, heat the butter in a cast-iron pan over a medium-high heat until it melts and begins to foam. Add the mushrooms and cook until soft and golden (about four to five minutes). Set aside.

Prepare your grill for medium-high-heat cooking.

Divide your lamb into four 225g portions. Season them generously with salt and roll each into a ball. Wrap the balls tightly in cling film and then flatten them with the heel of your hand into patties about 12.5cm in diameter and 1cm thick; the plastic will help mould and pack the meat. Use your thumb to make a dimple in the centre of the patty (this helps the burger keep its shape as it cooks). Remove the cling film.

Gently place the burgers on the grill over direct heat. Resist the urge to mash them into the grate with a spatula, which does nothing to help them cook nicely.

Leave them alone for three minutes for medium-rare; add a minute or two for a better-cooked burger. Flip them, and after two minutes, top each with the Caramelised Onion Compote, mushrooms and cheese. Cook the burgers for a further minute, then remove them to a serving plate or baking sheet.

Place the buns on the grill cut-side down for a minute or two to warm them. In a small bowl, dress the rocket with salt, pepper and a bit of oil.

Spread the bottom of each bun with Special Sauce, then transfer the burgers to their buns. Top them with the rocket, close with a bun and serve.