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Man-size happiness!

Spoil your Dads and Grandads this Fathers’ Day with a proper burger, says Jonny Nicholson, chef-owner of The Sail Loft in Southwold

Fast food joints might be obviously quick and easy and the kids love them of course. But whilst their pretty adverts try to convince us how authentic their take-aways taste and other than being convenient on a long journey, I do try and avoid them.

But as you will know if you have ever visited our two restaurants, The Bell in Saxmundham High Street or here at The Sail Loft by Southwold beach, we love a great burger, lovingly made out of decent cuts, not leftovers from the best Suffolk beef, a few natural flavourings, char-grilled for that perfect scorched taste, juicy inside and loaded with all the trimmings – pretty hard to resist if you ask me…

Like most things in life, it isn’t hard to get a good beef patty right, but of course it is just too easy to make a hash of it and most of the American chains definitely don’t cut the mustard (or relish for that matter!) when it comes to making a proper burger. And it is the quality of the garnishes and accompaniments that make all the difference, especially the buns and sauces, always invest in the best and avoid the big brand names and the supermarket own labels. My motto is treat a burger how you would cook and serve a steak, keep it special and savour every bite.

You don’t have to stick to fine beef for your burgers, make them your own by swapping the recipe up with your favourite choice of meat.

Lamb works well with chopped rosemary, ground cumin and lots of garlic in the mix, and served with mint yoghurt and marinated cucumber in pitta pockets or flatbreads.

Suffolk pork, always Blythburgh free range, eats lovely with grain mustard, shredded sage and grated apple, you can even add chopped smoky bacon, herby breadcrumbs and a splash of good Aspall cyder; eaten with more mustard and an apple and shallot relish in sweet brioche rolls.

Chicken or turkey likes lots of flavours added, such as Tex Mex flavours so I add Cajun spices, dried red pepper flakes and oregano, then serve them up with crisp pancetta rashers, crushed avocado and spiced mayo on top of soft, herby focaccia bread.

Venison and any coarsely-minced game meat works well, just add at least a quarter of the game meat’s weight in chopped fatty pork belly or streaky bacon when you make the mix, flavouring with Worcestershire sauce, thyme leaves, horseradish and redcurrant jelly; then dish up with rich blue cheese such as stilton or dolcelatte, baby beets and more punchy horseradish, even better if sandwiched in thick slabs of home-made granary loaf.

So this Fathers’ Day, why not take your time preparing and enjoying an alfresco burger lunch with your family, they deserve being spoilt.

Enjoy! Jonny

Jonny Nicholson, Chef – Proprietor, The Bell At Sax’


The Sail Loft, Ferry Road, Southwold IP18 6HQ Our beachside café-bar-restaurant, proudly using local, seasonal, Suffolk ingredients – find us by Southwold’s dunes near the campsite and lifeboat station. Book for our daily specials: Monday Madness – two courses for £10; Curry-tastic Tuesday; Wednesday Burger Bonanza; Friday Steak Night W: www.sailloftsouthwold.uk T: 01502 725713


Fathers’ Day Burger

(makes 4 good size burgers)

2 level tbsp red onion marmalade

750g coarse ground chuck steak mince (not lean)

A little sea salt and lots of black pepper

1 heaped tsp thyme leaves

1 garlic clove, finely chopped

2 tsp Dijon-style mustard

Rapeseed oil

4 best burger buns or brioche rolls, split

4 crispy long pancetta rashers, halved

4 slices local blue cheese

8 gherkin slices

Prepared salad of your choice

Relish or mustard of choice

Lightly mix the first six ingredients until just combined. Divide into 4 portions and gently press into a rough patty shape (do not squeeze or firm down otherwise they will be rubbery). Chill to set.

Remove from the fridge 15 minutes before cooking.

Brush the tops with oil and in a pre-heated chargrill pan over a high heat, place oiled side down, sear for a few minutes and then turn over before cooking to your taste (recommended to cook them right through but I do risk them being slightly pink).

Remove and build your burgers in the buns with the garnishes.

Serve up to a very happy father or grandad and the family!