Friday, 26 June 2009

Smokey Joe's

R2D2 had tried nicotine patches, but had not been too successful.

This is our new home smoker. We tested him out this week and were quite impressed. It only 'hot' smokes, so in effect it smokes and cooks the food as opposed to 'cold' smoking which basically cures the food. We decided on a hot smoker because cold smoking is a longer and more complicated process involving brining and maintaining an accurate temperature control. Apparently we can use this one for cold smoking too, but it invloves making a run off pipe in which to cool the smoke down, but I think we'll get to grips with the hot smoking first.

The smoker is made up of a bottom tray where you place the charcoal briquettes - it has to be briquettes - you can't use charcoal as it burns too quickly. Then on top of that there's a bowl to which you add water, plus any aromatics ie woody herbs such as rosemary or thyme. When you've got the briquettes going, you lay a foil pack of wood chippings of your choice. We used hickory.

For our first attempt we put on a small free range chicken, which we spatchcocked (which went on the level just above the water bowl) and a couple of rashers of pork belly and some sausages.

After the first hour and a half, it really didn't seem to be producing anything other than warm meat, so Mr AC put all of the meat on the top griddle and shifted the water bowl up which allowed more heat to circulate. Aha... success. I know we sound like a couple of numpties but the smoker came without any instructions. We had to phone the company we purchased it from and then rely on the website forum for advice. Yep, I don't know why either.

Anyway, the pork slices were very tasty and moist, if a little tough and the sausages tasted really good, a bit frankfurterish - very smokey. The meat doesn't look overally attractive but don't let that put you off.

As the smoker can double as a straight forward barbecue, we finished the chicken by giving it a bit of colour, directly over the coals. I must stress here that I have a food thermometer and used it to ensure all of the meat reached a safe temperature of at least 70 degrees C.

We used the chicken the next day to make a warm bacon, chicken & mango salad, with some salad leaves, rocket & coriander from the garden. Salmon and mackerel are our next victims.

Thursday, 18 June 2009

Comfort eating

We've had a couple of very tough weeks in Ample Cook Towers. I've had a couple of unusually mammoth catering jobs and on top of this we were burgled and have spent so much time making endless frustrating telephone calls arguing the toss with insurance co over values etc* (see below) organising for replacement double glazing etc and quite honestly we've had enough. So, a bit of comfort food was required. No matter how busy I am in the kitchen we always eat properly. Thems the rules. To be fair it's not always down to me, Mr AC isn't a slouch in the kitchen either.

I'm also one of those people who is always planning their next meal whilst still eating the previous one and I look forward to my evening meal probably more than is good for me. Anyway, here are a few photos of some of the food we've been comforting ourselves with. The last of the British asparagus (a couple of weeks ago) covered in butter and parmesan with some reduced balsamic and some great Parma ham. We polished this lot off with some crusty bread and we followed that with.......

A warm salad of scallops wrapped in smoked bacon. I swilled a bit of mustard and white wine vinegar in the bacon fat and that just slightly moistened the salad leaves.

The ultimate comfort food of course - pork belly (we have moved on to another night now. Even we couldn't eat all of this in one night, although Mr AC would bravely give it a try if allowed) We had that with mash and onion gravy.

Then another night we had slow roasted shoulder of lamb. I think cuts of meat that lend themselves to being slow roasted or pot roasted are ideal for times when you're busy because you just bung them in and forget about them.Whilst the lamb was resting, I halved some charlotte potatoes (which were off my sister's allotment) and added them to the pan. They soaked up the lamby juices and went a little bit crisp. They were very yummy. Spring pointed cabbage, roasted pumpkin (again, courtesy of my sister's allotment) and carrots completed the meal.
*Just a bit of advice my fellow bloggers. Do check your house insurance policies. We hadn't realised that when replacing my stolen items of jewellery, our insurance co will be issuing 'vouchers' to be spent a very small collection of specific jewellers (crap ones in my opinion). If we want the cash and to have the freedom of spending it in jewellers of our choice we will have to take a cut of around 35%. What a con.

Saturday, 6 June 2009

Fancy a tongue sandwich?

Preparing, cooking and pressing an ox tongue is probably a bit of an old fashioned thing to do these days, but quite honestly it's well worth the effort. The meat is fabulous. It's like beefy offal. It's very silky and quite rich. If you've ever had the cooked supermarket stuff and didn't like it, then trust me, you'd like this, it has so much more flavour.

Tongues used to be readily available quite a few years back brined in plastic pouches in the supermarket. Our local Salisbury's definitely used to sell them. I just don't think they're terribly popular today though. To be fair they're a bit gruesome looking and of course they've been in someone else's mouth haven't they?

To cook an ox tongue, firstly, give it a good wash and then poach it in water with the usual suspects: onion, carrots and celery for between 3 and 4 hours, depending on the size of your tongue.

When it's cooked, drain and cool slightly but don't let it go cold. Remove the grisly stuff underneath the tongue and peel the top. I find this bit bizarrely satisfying - like peeling little bits of sun burnt skin eeeeuw.

When the wee beasty is skinned and you've removed the nasties underneath, coil it round and put it in a container - I use a basin - where it fits really snugly, then pop a saucer and something very heavy on the top and refrigerate overnight.

The jelly will ooze and set the meat. It's lovely just with crusty bread and sharp pickles or obviously in a sandwich where mustard is vital. You've just got to have mustard in your sandwich or the tongue police will come round and take it away.