Sunday, March 30, 2008

Jody Scheckter's Buffalo Burgers

South African Jody Scheckter is perhaps best-known as the 1979 Formula 1 World Champion, and the winner of World Superstars in 1981. He is currently, however, the owner of Laverstoke Park in Hampshire, a flagship organic farm. "Modern farming is chasing profit, and the animals are bred to grow bigger faster," says Scheckter in this month's Motorsport magazine. "We're going in the opposite direction. We go for smaller and slower, because it tastes better. There are only 45 pure uncrossed Angus cattle left in the world, and we've got 13 of them here. There are probably 500 pure-bred Herefords left in the world, and we've got 80. We have 1000 head of buffalo, which is most of the UK population. Our sheep, our chickens, all are feeding totally naturally. I employ a full-time Doctor of Microbiology working in our own laboratory we can get the soils and the grasses, herbs and clovers back to how they used to be. We hired the world's top animal psychologist to help us design our abattoir, so there is no stress on the animal when we kill it. We purify our own water - no chlorine, no fluoride - and within two years we want to be running all the farm machinery on non-fossil fuels, like rape seed oil. We want to be totally self-sustaining."

Imagine, the top animal psychologist in the world! Must be the only branch of psychology where 'talking about your problems' isn't considered to be a therapeutic solution. However, if this man can stop animals from fretting about the existence of the afterlife as they are led to the guillotine, then I too would like to hire him, mainly to help my colleagues get to work on a Monday without the normal levels of rancour and stress.

Anyway, I was most impressed with Mr Scheckter's organic farm, and when I read that Waitrose are now stocking his buffalo burgers, I decided, on this balmly Spring day, to take a trip to my local store.

On arriving at the store's entrance canal, I paused momentarily to pick up my cellophane-cradled copy of The Sunday Times, before forging inward to something called the Fresh Meat section. Here, I marvelled at the cuts of naked meat, stripped of their normal breadcrumb coating. Sadly, I could find no buffalo burgers. Instead, however, my eyes alighted upon a pack of 4 quarterpounder Aberdeen Angus (99%) burgers. These I cooked with the grill in my oven on returning home. I placed the burgers on a type of grid in a pan, which was inserted into a slot under the grill. At this stage, it all began to get quite complex. There was a half-grill option, a full-grill option, and a 'thermal grill' option where the grill alternates with the fan. There were different recommended temperatures and cooking times for each option, so I just had to make my best guesstimate, and see what happenend. After about 10 minutes, a type of greasy smoke began to issue forth from slots in the hob of the cooker, which I instinctively took to be a sign that I should turn the temperature down, and open the window. Having done so, the burgers sizzled happily to a cooked state. I was even able to clean the grid and pan afterwards without using any Acetonitrile.

And the burgers? Well, they tasted rather nice actually. But I do want those buffalo burgers...

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