Wednesday, 15 July 2015

BBQ Pork Steaks with BBQ Sauce "mop"

I've been spending rather a long time researching American style BBQ recently, and have been experimenting with BBQ techniques. New techniques that I have fallen for such as the "reverse sear", then of course the classic "low and slow", and am building myself up to try out a "clinch" where you get your coals absolutely red hot, then place your meat (steak, I'm thinking) directly on to the coals. Apparently you get an incredibly crispy exterior, with a hot but moist interior, with very little coal sticking to the meat itself. Another day maybe, still feels scary to chuck top quality rib eye steaks on to red hot coals though!!

Today, for a change, we were having pork. As I've said before, I get my pork from Joseph Morris butchers in Leicestershire. A large percentage of their meat is locally sourced, and slaughtered on site. As such, I'm happy to eat pork from there slightly pink, or "blushing" as some might say. I'd not risk this with supermarket pork. As much as they say they know where their meat comes from, I'm not convinced at all. The horse meat scandal is still very recent, and just shows that the supermarkets trust their suppliers, which is clearly misplaced on occasion, Personally, I like horse meat (medium rare with tarragon butter), however it's the principal that matters here. What staggers me also, and I'll climb down from my soap box in a minute, is that the butchers is LOADS cheaper than the big stores. Better meat, better provenance but you have to put up with spending less of your hard earned to get that sort of quality.....madness!

Anyway, all the fancy BBQ techniques aside, a pork steak benefits from direct cooking over a medium to high heat. So, with that in mind I set my BBQ up to about 180c with a cast iron searing grate in place. I had brined the steaks first in 500ml Apple Juice, 500ml water, 4 tbsp table salt, and 4 tbsp muscavado sugar for about 90 minutes. I then dropped them on to the griddle, then before closing the lid I "mopped" them with this amazing BBQ sauce.

I then turned them every 3 minutes, mopping the newly exposed side every time until the internal temperature of the pork was about 58c, knowing that as a result of the high-ish heat of the grilling, after 10 minutes resting the meat would be perfect.

And so it was. It sounds very arrogant doesn't it, that the meat was "perfect"? Well let me assure you that I take no responsibility for that. The combination of the advice found on the Big Green Egg forum in the USA, and the Big Green Egg itself are the reasons behind the successes. So far, I have cooked maybe 15 times on the Egg, and had only one instance of imperfection whereby I didn't smoke my ox cheeks for long enough, and should have then foiled them with some stock in the tray for much longer than I did........ you live and learn. Next time, I'm sure they'll be up to scratch. Everything else has been eye openingly (a word?) good. For someone like me, who has many many bits of kitchen kit, including a sous vide bath, and an 11kw wok burner for example, both of which have provided me many failures. My first attempt at stir frying on the burner resulted in me pouring in some vegetable oil, only for it to instantly and violently ignite. That's one way to season the wok I guess! The Egg therefore  in contrast is such a treat to deal with. I have perfected many dishes in the bath, and on the burner, but with many attempts, whereas the Egg just seems so bomb proof.

I served it with a pearl barley and chorizo stew spiced with cumin, and some finely shredded Chinese leaf, with more BBQ sauce and coriander. I had considered trying to plate this elegantly (not my strong point), then realised that this was wholesome and homely food, so for god's sake, just whack a decent portion on the plates and eat it like a Viking! We used knives and forks so not particularly Viking-ish, but the grunts, slurps and general noshing noises gave a nod to the Norse types! I'm sure they'd have loved pearl barley stew!!

Friday, 10 July 2015

Boerewors On the Big Green Egg

Everybody thinks their butcher is the best right? That's why we use them. The local butcher I use is Joseph Morris in South Kilworth, South Leicestershire. We live in North Northants, so only have to travel 6 miles or so to get to them. There are a couple of butchers closer to us, but none that stand even close to JoMo (the kids updated the name, pretty street huh?!) It's a fantastic business, with 3 sites now, and boast one of the only EC approved abattoirs affiliated to a butchery. I occasionally go to the Rugby shop that has two counters. You turn right to go to the "UK" counter, where you get all the normal recognised cuts of meat that we know and love. However, more fun is to turn left to the "rest of the world" counter. Here, you get the much more interesting meats and cuts favoured by our European, African or West Indian friends. Cuts like beef brisket on the bone, short rib of beef, goat, beef knuckle, pork hock leg, pork collar butt to name but a few. It was while I was there that I spotted about a kilometer of Boerewors sausage. I've eaten Boerwors at a South African friends house that they had made themselves. This was some years ago, but the flavour and texture of that sausage has stayed with me. It's predominantly minced beef, with half as much minced pork, then spices such as corriander seeds, cloves, nutmeg and all spice. The great thing at JoMo, is that you order it by the number of "cricket stump" lengths you want
. I went for 2 cricket stumps, which would serve 4 hungry adults easily. As we are a family of 2 adults and 2 young girls, we had leftovers which were put to great use, which I will write up soon!

I did another "reverse sear" on the Big Green Egg, which can be done easily on traditional BBQ's or conventional ovens and a grill. The butcher recommended I skewered it in to a ring to make turning it over easy without it breaking up. If I was cooking this over direct heat (normal BBQ, over coals or gas) then I would have unraveled it a bit to make sure it all cooked evenly, but with the reverse sear technique, I was able to cook it perfectly in a tight ring. One word of warning, they are quite fatty, so be careful if cooking over direct heat on a BBQ as the fat will catch fire. The beauty of the Egg is that you always cook with the lid closed so the flames are snuffed out.

I served the Boerewors with broccoli cheese, braised hispi cabbage and pickled carrot and red onion. The flavour of the sausage is incredible, the nutmeg really comes through and just makes it so comforting. I think next time, I will be ordering a full set of cricket stumps. From both ends of the wicket. Including bails!!!!

Tuesday, 7 July 2015

BBQ Pork Belly Rib Slices with Cauliflower Rice

Pork belly. What more can be said about pork belly? It has been my favourite cut of meat for many more years than I care to remember. I've cooked more of the stuff in different ways than any other meat and yet I'm still not able to say which my favourite way of cooking it is. Do I prefer the traditionally slow cooked piece of belly with crunchy salty skin and moist meat, or do I prefer slow braised, dried, sliced and deep fried with a sweet and sour sauce?

 I don't think I have found the ultimate method yet, and will continue to experiment, however I must say that the belly in this dish is right up there on my "best ways to cook belly" list.

 I started by brining belly slices from the butcher in a brine with just water, salt and brown sugar for 4 hours. After this, you could see the meat had changed colour, with a darker shade than pre brine.

I then smoked them over indirect heat for 4 hours at about 110c using apple wood chunks soaked in water.

At this point I cranked up the heat to around 170c and started to mop the slices with BBQ sauce every 10 minutes. (Sauce recipe here) After a few mops, a lovely thick sticky glaze was starting to appear, with lots of caramelisation, and joy of joys, the skin was starting to pop and crackle. I left them for a final 20 minutes to crisp up even more then pulled them from the fire.

They were absolutely delicious. The perfect combination of crunch from the skin, the really sticky, highly flavoured glaze, then soft and moist meat within. Served with cauliflower rice (which feels like it must be bad for you, but isn't at all) and a simple chopped salad. Give the cauliflower a go, you'll probably be as surprised by it as I was.

Put the florets from a whole cauliflower in a food processor and blitz until rice/cous cous sized. Stir fry it in a little oil, until it starts to soften, this doesn't take too long at all. When it's really hot, stir in a whisked up egg until it's distributed all the way through keeping it on a high heat to set the egg. Then stir in whatever you fancy, I like diced carrot, peas and sweetcorn, all precooked. Then to finish stir through some sesame oil and some light soy sauce to taste. Shouldn't need any more seasoning, but that's entirely up to you. It's a really healthy alternative to fried rice

Friday, 3 July 2015

Pigs Cheeks with Pickled Vegetables and Spicy BBQ Sauce

Yep, more cheeks. I seem to be having a little love affair with cheeks at the moment, be they pigs or ox. Having joined the Big Green Egg forum in the US, I have taken all sorts of advice following my ox cheek effort. I've put in to practice much of that advice and I'm pleased to say, that these pigs cheeks were hands down the best I've ever cooked.

We had them as a family, the kids thoroughly enjoyed them, although they had different sides, but we all had seconds. I basically had the same meal twice!

Cooking this dish caused a first, and hopefully a last. I was bringing the Big Green Egg up to temperature to sear the cheeks over flame. You need to "burp" your egg when you open it, as with the lid down, the flames are snuffed out leaving just red hot glowing coals. You need to lift the lid an inch or two and give it a little waft. Failure to do so adequately causes a load of cold air to get to the coals, which then creates a whole lot of flames "Backdraft" style. (Great film!) The flames licked right up my forearm removing most of the hairs which is a great look. So, I will now be burping more effectively from now on, and also will always wear my fire proof oven mitt!

For the cheeks - serves 2 adults and 2 children
12 pigs cheeks - fat trimmed off
6 tbs Memphis Rub - recipe here
500ml Pork or Chicken Stock

To Serve
Pickled carrot, red onion and red chili pepper - pickle mix recipe here
Pickled Lettuce, Garlic and Dill - same pickle mix as above
BBQ Sauce - recipe here
Equal amounts of French's mustard and Greek yogurt stirred together
Sweet Smoked Paprika

1. Cover the cheeks with the rub mix, make sure they are covered all over.
2. Cover the dish with clingfilm and refrigerate overnight.
3. Heat a Big Green Egg or BBQ to high heat. When Hot brush the griddle with oil. (Use long handled tongs, and dip wadded up kitchen roll in to the oil)
4. Sear the cheeks on both sides until you have some nice caramelisation marks
5. Take them off the heat and put in to a roasting tray.
6. Convert the egg or BBQ to indirect heat, and drop the temperature to 160c. The addition of the cold ceramic plate setter and the cold steel griddle helps to do this reasonably quickly.
7. Put the cheeks back in to the heat, and leave well alone for 2 hours. After which remove them and drop the heat to 125c
8. Pour about half and inch of stock in to the tray, then cover tightly with tin foil and place back on the egg for another 2 hours.
9. Crank the heat up again to about 200c, and remove the foil from the tray. Baste the cheeks with the juices in the tray, then top up with stock if you need to. Leave for another 30 minutes, basting every 10.
10. Serve up! There's no need to rest the cheeks for any more than 5 minutes. Resting meat for longer periods is really for meat that has been cooked at high temperatures, reasonably quickly, like a steak, or a joint of beef. This is not the case here! Sit the cheeks on the pickled lettuce, that is sitting in a puddle of BBQ sauce. Add some pickled pepper and red onion, a dollop of mustard yogurt, and a small pile of the sweet smoked paprika and salt. The idea is that you can sprinkle over as much or as little of this as you want. Don't expect there to be any leftovers!

Thursday, 2 July 2015

Quick Summer Prawns

As most people in the UK will be more than aware, the 1st July was one of the hottest days on record. Much of the day, there was cloud cover so it was unusually humid to boot. The most sensible thing to have done for dinner, was either a takeaway, or a salad with cold meats that required no cooking. But no, not me. Clever nuts here decided to fire up the Big Green Egg, just to add that little extra heat to the situation!

I wasn't completely stupid. I decided to cook something that required very little time on the egg so that I could snuff it out again as soon as humanly possible! My thoughts immediately turned to prawns. Great big juicy king prawns in olive oil, garlic, lemon rind, coriander and parsley. Obviously, these could be easily done under a hot grill or on a conventional BBQ.

I cooked them with the egg set for indirect cooking at around 200c for 5 minutes. They came out perfectly juicy and packing serious flavour. A big squirt of fresh lemon juice and some seasoning and they were ready to go.

To serve, I had made a batch of peperonata the day before to go with some chicken thighs I had also cooked on the egg. Seemed sensible to pair lovely rich pepper, onion and tomato stew with the zingy, crisp lemony notes of the prawns. Then some finely shredded Chinese leaf cabbage with Caesar dressing stirred through on the side.  

I'll post my recipes soon for both the peperonata and a really quick, easy Caesar dressing that involves no messing about with egg yolks and anchovies.

Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Smoked Duck Breast with Puy Lentils and Mushroom Pate

I'm originally from Leicestershire where "ey up me duck" is often used as a way of saying hello to someone you are fond of. Fair enough. As it happens, I am very fond of duck. Do you see what I did there? Incredibly witty statements aside, duck breasts are a fantastic treat when pan fried, or pan fried then oven roasted. I've also had some success with sous vide duck breasts. If you're not feeling so flush, then the legs can be obtained pretty reasonably and stand up well to roasting, or if you are feeling like a bit of France in your kitchen you can confit them easily at home. Another time maybe.

Continuing my theme of experimenting on the Big Green Egg, I considered just using it as an oven, then thought of a rather nice cold starter I had not too long ago of smoked duck with caper berries and a pomegranate dressing. This got me thinking as to what hot smoked duck might be like. Well, I'm pleased to report that hot smoked duck is very good indeed. I used the recipe on the Big Green Egg website as a guide for temperatures and timings. You can see the recipe here. As the duck breast is not a great big hunk of meat, it doesn't take long to cook, with the end result being a lovely light smoky background hit that doesn't over power the flavour of the breast itself. I then pan fried them briefly skin side down to get the skin nice and crispy as the smoking process doesn't do much for an attractive looking skin. This obviously kept the breasts hot, and as a result of resting them in foil for 5 minutes, the dark pinkness that I normally hope to achieve with a duck breast was somewhat paler, however due to the way the breasts were cooked and the unique design of the kamodo style cooker, the breasts remained incredibly moist and tender.

I served them with a puy lentil stew, made simply by simmering the lentils in a strong chicken stock, draining, then adding some finely chopped sun dried tomatoes, a small crushed garlic clove, and a good glug of olive oil. You need to stir the garlic through as soon as you've drained the lentils which allows the residual heat to take the sting out of the garlic. I nabbed the idea from my sister who lives in Italy who does a similar thing with green beans. You get a wonderful hit of garlic without the rawness. Probably best not to have them just before an intimate conversation with someone!

I then made what I called a mushroom pate but isn't, by sauteing finely chopped mushroom in butter with more garlic, cooling it, then stirred in some creme fraiche and seasoning. Finally just a sprinkle of coriander to finish it off.

Hey, it were right lovely me duck!

Monday, 29 June 2015

Smoked Ox Cheek with BBQ Sauce and Horseradish Creme Fraiche

Did I mention that I liked pig's cheeks? Well, I like ox cheeks almost as much! My mum makes a wonderful ox cheek stew; spicy, rich and unctuous. However, being a newcomer to the Big Green Egg, I decided to see what ox cheeks would be like smoked low and slow.

I coated the cheeks in French's mustard, then applied a rub and left overnight in clingfilm.

The rub was a "Memphis" rub from Stephen Raichlen's book "Barbecue! Bible". Really simple to assemble and the provider of a delicious flavour base on which to build the smokey end effect.

Memphis Rub
1/4 cup sweet paprika
1 tbs dark brown sugar
1 tbs granulated sugar
2 tsp salt
2 tsp MSG (Optional. I have MSG in the form of "gourmet powder" but it's not a powder, it's like hundreds and thousands, so I ground it up in my Bamix grinder to a fine powder)
1 tsp celery salt
1 tsp ground black pepper
1 to 3 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp mustard powder
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder

Just put everything in to a screw top jar, put the lid on and shake. It will keep for at least 6 months.

Then it was time to set the Egg going, and attempt to keep it around the 110c mark. After much faffing about closing the top a nano meter, then closing the bottom vent by the width of an ants leg, I got a stable 110c. I dropped some soaked hickory chips in there and left the cheeks to smoke for about 7 hours.

I couldn't help sneaking a peak after about 5 hours and was met by an amazing smoky smell, and decided at this point to start mopping them with some BBQ sauce. The sauce recipe I use is from Richard Turner's book "Hog". It's a wonderful sauce, if a little on the spicy side. If you prefer your BBQ sauce to be a little more user friendly, then halve the amount of chipotle peppers. I however like it spicy so went with the full amount.

BBQ Sauce

For the spice mix;
2 tsp fennel seeds
2 tsp cumin seeds
2 tsp coriander seeds
2 tsp celery seeds
2 tsp black peppercorns.

Put all the ingredients in to a large dry saucepan and toast until you can smell the lovely pungent flavours.

2 white onions grated
3 garlic cloves grated
50ml veg oil
250ml apple juice
250ml cider vinegar
2 apples cored, peeled and grated
50g smoked sea salt flakes (Maldon do them, and are widely stocked in supermarkets)
125g canned chipotle peppers (I get mine, along with many other harder to source ingredients from Sous Chef. Great company with excellent customer service)
250ml maple syrup
250ml French's mustard
250ml Blackstrap Molasses (Also from Sous Chef)
250g Apricot Preserve
250g canned tomatoes

Add the onions, garlic and oil to the toasted spices and cook on medium heat for 10 minutes or more until the onions are really soft. Add the apple juice and cider vinegar and simmer until reduced by a third. (I use a chopstick like a dipstick to gauge the amount of reduction). Add the remaining ingredients and bring to a simmer for 10 minutes.

Blitz the sauce in a blender, then pass through a fine sieve. The recipe makes about 1.5 litres and will keep in sterilized jars for a good while.

After many mops, the end result looked fairly delicious. The meat was soft and springy to the touch but didn't yield as much as I thought it would. I half expected my finger to go straight through. As it turned out, the meat had a good bite to it, not what I had anticipated but was actually pretty darn good to eat. I think next time, I might braise the cheeks for a while first in a low oven, and then smoke them and add the sticky glaze.

 I made a simple sauce of creamed horseradish stirred through some creme fraiche and served with new potatoes from my dad's garden, broccoli and fennel spiced pickled cabbage, with a slurp of that lovely BBQ sauce to keep the taste buds tingling.

If you look at the picture above carefully, you can see lines of connective tissue still running through the meat. This is what is giving it the bite and slight chewiness (that I found really quite pleasing). Cooking for another few hours might cause this to break down but I would be concerned about dryness. As ox cheek is not an expensive cut, I will be experimenting with a much longer cook, braising the meat first in a low oven, and also will try cooking the meat in the sous vide for a long time first pre-smoke. I'll let you know how I get on!

Tuesday, 16 June 2015

Healthy Chicken Spring Rolls

Everyone loves a spring roll right? The lovely fried crispy outside with a nuclear hot inside bursting with flavour. Teamed with a lovely spicy dipping sauce, they make a great starter or side dish.

I had bought some rice pancakes for spring rolls from a local farm shop that has diversified it's range and now sells all manner of exotic produce. I was hugely tempted by the frozen Gyoza and Dim Sum on offer, but these times see me on a diet, so while still wanting something interesting thought that a spring roll might be slightly better for me......what with them being deep fried?!! I was about to put the packet back when I read the back and it said you could shallow fry, deep fry or steam them. Steamed spring rolls? Now there's a thought.

[Scroll to the bottom for the recipe]

I often buy things that I expect to sit in the cupboard for months before I either pluck up the courage to use them, or an opportunity arises that is perfect for their use. Having recently invested in a Big Green Egg, that opportunity came quite quickly. When the egg is fired up, it seems a shame (even wasteful!) to skimp on portion sizes and as a result had smoked way too many chicken wings (from Joseph Morris the butchers) over the weekend. I was tempted to just reheat them and serve them for a family meal, as chicken wings are a guaranteed way of getting quality protein in to the kids. Then I remembered my spring roll pancakes.

Expecting soft and pliable pancakes to come out of the packet I was surprised to find stiff white sheets of what looked like gelatin. They had the same crisscross pattern, and very similar pliability.

You soak them in warm water for 15 seconds, after which the tricky bit begins. You have to be very careful as they become very delicate, and stick to themselves in the same way that really clingy clingfilm does.If you look carefully at the picture below, you can just about make out the now almost completely see through pancake.

Quite frustrating, but with a bit of perseverance (and a couple of wrappers that stuck to themselves so passionately that I had to bin them) I assembled 12 little bundles of joy.
I used the leftover chicken wing meat, seasoned with some sweet and sour sauce I had made at the weekend, then chopped spring onion, black sesame seeds and some blanched carrot matchsticks.

Then all that remains is to steam them all for 10 minutes, I had to do them in batches of 4 so as not to crowd the steamer. Next time I will either oil the steamer, or sit each roll on it's own piece of greaseproof paper, as getting them out neatly was a challenge.

They were delicious, and disappeared off the kids plates in a matter of seconds. Certainly something I'll be doing again, and in the not too distant future when the diet is done, I will be deep frying some as well. The thought of crispy outside, soft inside and a spicy hit from something like a sriracha sauce is exciting me greatly. Watch this space! 

N.B. Weights or amounts will vary depending on the amount of leftover chicken you have

- Rice Pancakes for Spring Rolls ( I used Blue Dragon brand)
- Smoked Chicken Wing Meat ( or whatever chicken you have leftover)
- Spring onions, sliced
- Black Sesame Seeds
- Sweet and sour sauce (For speed, use a Blue Dragon sachet if you don't want to make your own)
- Carrot matchsticks

1. Chop up the chicken meat in to fairly small pieces.
2. Mix the spring onion, sesame seeds and sweet and sour sauce in to the chicken. Taste, and season if necessary however the sweet and sour sauce and spring onion should provide ample flavour.
3. Meanwhile blanch the carrot matchsticks in salted water for no more than 1 minute then refresh in cold water
4. Soak the pancake sheets in warm water until they are soft and pliable. Then blot dry on a damp tea towel.
5. Place a few teaspoons of the chicken mixture in the centre of the pancake, top with carrots then roll them up. Bring the bottom of the pancake up over the filling, then do the same with both sides. Finally roll from the bottom up until you have a neat little package.
6. Steam for 10 minutes in an oiled bamboo steamer spaced well apart.Alternatively, you could deep fry at this point in oil at 180c for about 3 minutes I would guess, until the wrapper is brown and crispy, and the insides are piping hot.
7. Serve either as a starter with a dipping sauce, a light lunch or tea with an Oriental salad, or as part of a Chinese style banquet.....which we are always having in our house!?

Thursday, 4 June 2015

Memphis Rub

This rub is great for all pork products, especially pork shoulder and ribs.

Memphis Rub
1/4 cup sweet paprika
1 tbs dark brown sugar
1 tbs granulated sugar
2 tsp salt
2 tsp MSG (Optional. I have MSG in the form of "gourmet powder" but it's not a powder, it's like hundreds and thousands, so I ground it up in my Bamix grinder to a fine powder)
1 tsp celery salt
1 tsp ground black pepper
1 to 3 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp mustard powder
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder

*recipe taken from Steven Raichlen's Barbecue! Bible

Tuesday, 3 March 2015

Pickle Mix

I use this pickle mix for just about everything (well everything where pickling is required!). However, don't use it for Pickle Backs (recipe elsewhere on this blog under "drinks"). It will cause you pain. You need a sweeter pickle mix in my opinion for that.

Makes  just over 1.5 litres. I pour it in to kilner bottles and store in the fridge. It was last a very long time. It is pickling liquor after all!

1 litre cider vinegar
500g golden caster sugar
2 cinnamon sticks
1 tsp all spice berries
1 tbs fennel seeds
1 tbs coriander seeds
1 tbs black peppercorns
Star anise - no less than 4, no more than 6

Put everything in to a large saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat. When the sugar has dissolved reduce to a simmer for 15 minutes. Worth putting your extractor fan on or opening the windows at this point, as your kitchen will start to smell very vinegary!

Turn the heat off, then straightaway cover with a double layer of clingfilm. Leave like this until it is completely cool, Then strain in to 2 x 1 litre sterilised bottles through a fine sieve until needed. I like to put one of the cinnamon sticks in to each bottle but that's entirely up to you.