The Good Food Guy: all meat and no filler

Burgers have become proper, honest, nourishing meals in their own right

Burgers have become proper, honest, nourishing meals in their own right - Credit: Archant

As BBQ season hots up, Guy discusses his beef with burgers

Ronald McDonald!! That great big clowning fraudster; he’s got a lot to answer for, letting us believe that burgers could never be anything other than the tasteless, cardboard patties served up at certain fast food joints!

Thankfully, a lot has changed in the burger world since the ’80s. Burgers have become proper, honest, nourishing meals in their own right. In 2001, three Kiwi chefs, including the renowned Peter Gordon, set up the Gourmet Burger Kitchen, helping to change the face of fast food – and consequently, burgers – as we knew them. And boy, were we ready for it; today the chain has over 70 restaurants, all serving up a variety of handcrafted, 100% prime beef burgers.

This shift in attitude has filtered down to a local level too. Farmers ¬– and butchers – in the Cotswolds, keen to diversify and promote their top quality meat, have started to produce their own gourmet burgers. They mostly sell at farmers’ markets, in butchers’ shops and farm shops, to a loyal, local public and each has its own selling point: 100% organic at Adey’s Ogranic in Berkeley, a range of flavours from Hinton Marsh Farm in Wiltshire and hand pressed burgers made from best chuck steak and stewing beef from Todenham Manor Farm in Todenham.

There’s no doubt that these burgers are the real deal – all meat and no filler, but bringing ‘proper’ burgers to Joe public is no mean feat. As well as creating a top quality product, there’s the branding and the marketing to grapple with to make the product saleable. All of which takes money, passion, time and effort, and consequently why many farmers ¬– and butchers ¬¬– get no further than selling them on their own doorstep.

One Cotswold farmer who has set foot on this journey to the greater marketplace is Martin Gilder of Martin’s Meats in Toddington. Martin is passionate about great beef. His father and grandfather before him were cattle dealers so Martin has grown up with a keen eye for a prime piece of rump. Anticipating the trend for keeping things local, Martin set up a butchery on his farm and began supplying restaurants with his top quality pedigree beef.

While he has won numerous awards for his meat, it is his Longhorn Beef Burgers which have garnered particular attention. Longhorn cattle are the UK’s oldest breed and reputedly make the most tasty and succulent steak, thanks to their marbled fat content. And Martin certainly doesn’t skimp when it comes to his burgers; made from steak trim which is dry aged for 28 days in a Himalayan salt chamber to draw out moisture and enhance the flavour, they are combined with seasoning and a special secret ingredient. In fact, it was the extent of the positive feedback for his Longhorn burgers that encouraged Martin to launch them as a product in their own right. His dream is to see his Longhorn Beef Burgers in supermarkets nationwide and with that in mind has launched the retro Longhorn Bedford Beef Truck, a converted 1979 Bedford van from which he will be selling his superior fast food at festivals near you this summer.

Martin may only have just set out on the long road to converting the mass market to buy better burgers, but as with all food trends, it will take time. We’ll probably know we’ve reached that goal when people think of an old farmer, rather than an old clown when they hear the word ‘McDonald’!

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Burger basics

The best products to beef up your burgers…

Kitchen Garden’s Smokey BBQ Sauce: forget ketchup, a real burger needs a real sauce. Stroud-based Kitchen Garden Preserves has come up with the ultimate combination of smoked paprika, cayenne pepper and black treacle in this dark, sticky sauce.

Tubby Tom’s Hot & Smokey BBQ sauce: creating a stir in the heart of Gloucester, these BBQ sauces are what proper burgers have been crying out for. The mixture of fresh and dried spices in this sauce means it always tickles the right spot.

Kit’s Kitchen Tangy BBQ Sauce: Worcestershire-based chef, Kit Bamford, created his range of preserves due to customer demand and this tangy sauce is certainly a crowd-pleaser. The perfect partner to a big meaty burger and bap.