15/05/2014

Cattleman’s Smokehouse and Grill – Romford Marketplace

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Yes. Romford. Not usually the place that you think of when you think of barbecue, but if this place keeps going, then I sincerely hope that will change.

I haven’t been to Pitt Cue, it’s out of my ‘get there in a lunch break’ zone, as is Red Dog, and all the hipster-ish places that have sprung up. Big Easy has opened up near my work, and I will be visiting there soon, but what of weekends?

What if you want a proper pulled pork bun with crunchy coleslaw, or a slab of brisket with a side of rich, smoky beans? Where to go? Not everyone has a smoker in their back garden, and not everyone knows how to do it.

My first experience of proper barbecue was in America, in 1999. We went to a place in downtown Portsmouth called Muddy River Smokehouse, and were presented with what looked like, to us, brontosaurus ribs smothered in smoky sauce, and two half racks of pork ribs. EACH. That was a starter. We resolved after that to have a starter between the two of us each time we ate out.

It also got us started on the hunt for good barbecue. Now, I’m from Cypriot stock. We love a good souvla, with its juicy meat charred over open coals and doused in herbs, olive oil and lemon, but this was a style of barbecue that I wasn’t used to. Smoked, deeply so, and soused with sweet sticky tangy sauces, or dry rubbed with yet more spices.

I think we’ve been on the search for it ever since. We’ve been spoiled by getting the really good stuff on our first try. It’s a hard act to follow.

We’ve been to Bodeans in Poland Street, and they used to almost hit the sweet spot, but lately it’s not been quite as good as it used to be. I’m not sure why. Maybe the menu has gotten too big for them, and they need to stick to what they really know.

During the course of our barbecue hunting, Husband found a sauce called Cattlemen’s. It’s perfect. Sadly, we only found it in a Pound shop, and haven’t found it since.

Today I tasted a sauce that was pretty damned near the mark, and that was in Romford, at the Cattleman’s Smokehouse and Grill.

Cattleman’s is Steve, Rhys and Bob. Old Bob, according to Steve.

They’ve been set up in the marketplace for about 2 months, and I would definitely like to see them make a go of it, because there’s talent, and a lot of knowledge there.

Menu

Stall

They didn’t mind me faffing about taking photos, or nattering at them. Steve is full of ideas about the processes and the finished product. I suspect that this is a man who wants to perfect his art, and then take it that bit further when he’s done that.

There was discussion about the right bread rolls – heavy enough to hold the meat + sauces but not so heavy that they are just a doughy lump.  The proper kind of bacon, that isn’t so thin that it disappears on the griddle. Then there’s the right cuts of meat, with the correct fat ratio. Brisket can dry out if it’s not fatty enough, so when you ask your supplier for a more fatty piece of cow, and they give you the same style every time, you need to look elsewhere. Today they didn’t have salt beef, which is usually brisket,  but they did have smoked clod (beef shoulder) and that was lovely. A light smoke, not overpowering, and it was still tender with a hint of pepper to it. That in a bun with mustard and pickles would be heaven. Indeed, that’s what someone ordered while I was standing there. (rubbish photo ahoy)

clod

I got to try an offcut (go me!) and it was lovely.

The barbecue beans are fabulous too. Full of smoked brisket, and thick with sauce. The pinto beans are properly cooked, but not mushy. I took a pot of those home with me and made them into dinner.

BBQ beans

I had to try the pulled pork. Start with the benchmark, right?

Excellent.

There has been a tendency to make pulled pork into this gelatinous mass of shreds, all sauce and bits, but this was not like that at all. The pork goes in the bun, the sauce gets squeezed on top, then the ‘slaw gets added on that. On goes the top bun and there you go. Pulled pork sandwich. Messy to eat, but with proper chunks of meat that get in between your teeth and give you something to chew on. Excellent pork, still juicy despite a long smoking. Good coleslaw, with minimal onion (Hooray! Thanks Bob!) and good crunch. Their bbq sauce is…yes, perfect.

Dark, tangy but not too vinegary, nicely spicy, sweet but not cloying and decently smoky but not overwhelming. You almost want to get some on your face so you can have it for dessert. (This is the small bun…)

Pulled pork

They also do a bourbon based sauce, which they use for basting their ribs. It’s thinner, but man…The bourbon based one was AMAZING. Liquid spiced caramel. I could have done a shot of that. Actually, a pickleback with that? Line ‘em up.

It’s so good to talk to a man who knows his craft. This is a man who is about to make a new smoker out of an old fridge. Smoking, like cannabis smoking, invariably leads to carpentry or engineering. “Hey! I can make a bong/smoker out of that!”

They already have two smokers. One at the stall, Betty Lou, and one back at HQ, which I think is Bobby Jo.

Personally I can’t wait to go back, and take my husband along. There has to be brisket, there has to be ribs. And if there’s room? There has to be bacon and waffles and maple syrup. They also do coffee, and mugs of tea. Proper.

A breakfast item, in their words:

Saddlebags, a large buttermilk pancake, topped with pieces of home made sausage, crispy bacon, a fried egg and.......warm maple syrup!!!

There is talk of them bottling their sauces, so you can bet I’ll be lining up for those.

You can find them here: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Cattlemans-Smokehouse-Grill/515432998512094?ref=ts&fref=ts

Here: https://twitter.com/USA2UKFOOD

And Romford Marketplace, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays.

Come on down y’all!

13/05/2014

Moro inspired pork belly.

I blame my friend Karen. She sent me the link in the first place, and it was that link that had me thinking about pork belly so much that I couldn't get it out of my head.

You ever have those times when you read a recipe, or hear about a dish, and you know that until you give in and make it, all you’re going to be doing is thinking about making it? Truly, it’s better just to get on and make it or your brain will nag you.

This is the culprit. Guardian, I hold you responsible for this too you know. http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2014/may/09/sam-sam-clark-chicharrones-de-cadiz-recipe-pork

I failed to buy a piece of pork belly last time I was at the butcher's, but I resolved to find pork belly strips and go ahead and adapt it anyway. I chose to do this on a day when I was working from home, as it does require time. My husband loves crackling, but not pork fat, so it makes sense to cook this kind of thing just for me.

Onward.

My adaptation of the above recipe. You go with what you’ve got, right?

2 garlic cloves
1 tbsp ground fennel seeds
2 x 400g packages of pork belly strips (there were 4 strips per pack)
2 tsp sea salt flakes

2 tsp cumin powder
½ lemon

Toast the fennel seeds in a dry pan. They will darken and release their aroma.

Add in the two garlic cloves and toast them briefly to intensify their flavour. (It was at this point I discovered that the garlic I had was old and sad, which is why I threw the two cloves into the pan with the fennel seeds)

When the garlic picks up a little colour, put the seeds and garlic into a pestle and mortar along with the 2 tsp sea salt.

Pound well until everything is mixed, and all the seeds crushed down.

Rub this mixture all over the pork. I added a touch of olive oil to get it to adhere to the meat better.

Let it sit for half an hour, then lay the strips in a roasting tin.

Bake on 300F/150C/Gas 2 for a couple of hours, turning once. You want the fat to render, but not disappear.

When the slices have turned dark golden on both sides, take them out and let them cool enough to cut into chunks.

Cook them in a dry frying pan until the edges and any fat starts to crisp, then mix with ground cumin and take off the heat.

Serve with a generous squeeze of lemon juice all over and a little sprinkle of sea salt.

These make incredibly moreish snacks.

Fennel seeds

Seeds and pork

Marinating

Stage 1

Mixed with cumin and lemon

Stage 2 finished

PS: do not throw the fat and excess seeds/cumin away from the roasting pan. It makes amazing potato wedges the next day.

11/05/2014

Nigella’s Easy Almond Cake

It was Easter. I like Easter. It means that spring is here. Or might arrive soon anyway.

Easter is an odd time for me, being half Cypriot, because the usual Greek things that happen usually involve family. LOTS of family. I don’t have that, so there’s not the impetus to do things that there used to be. Making the 40 or 50 flaounes is a group activity, and not something I would attempt on my own, plus what am I going to do with 40 of the things anyway? Red eggs are a tradition, but not really worth doing unless you do a lot at once, plus the splatter dyes everything red. Or purple. Or blue, or…

I don’t really feel the attachment to chocolate eggs at Easter that many do, though I’ll certainly not turn one down but, for me, I’d rather bake lots of things and give them away to people. Annoyingly, this year, I was thwarted in this as Greek Easter, for once, was at the same time as British Easter, and many people went on holiday. How could they? Didn’t they know I needed to bake things and give them away?

I soothed my baking itch by deciding to bake some cakes for my husband. He shares my love of marzipan, so when I saw Nigella’s recipe for Easy Almond Cake, I knew it had to be done.

The whole mixing bit gets done in a food processor, which makes me very happy. I apologise to those who do not have one but, for me, it’s a complete godsend. It means less time standing up, plus I can make pastry without my ridiculously hot hands melting the butter in seconds.

Now. The cake. Oh yes. I warn you now, if you are an almond/marzipan addict like me, when you make this, you will find it very hard indeed not to just eat the batter out of the bowl with a spoon. It’s like a gloriously velvety, marzipan scented silken custard.

Little Easy Almond Cakes

Preheat oven to 170ºC/gas mark 3/325ºF

250 grams unsalted butter, softened

250 grams marzipan, softened

150 grams caster sugar (I used golden)

¼ teaspoon almond essence (I would up this next time to 1/2 tsp)

¼ teaspoon vanilla extract (ditto with this)

6 large eggs (I used 6 Clarence Court Burford Browns, but next time would use 5)

150 grams self-raising flour (I didn’t have any, so added a level tsp baking powder to 125g plain flour)

Chop the marzipan into chunks, and put in the food processor bowl with the butter and sugar. Give it a good whirl until combined.

Add in the extracts, then add the eggs one at a time, processing after each addition.

Then add in the flour and baking powder if using, processing again until it’s all mixed. You will probably need to scrape down the sides to make sure all the flour has been mixed in.

I didn’t have a suitable large tin, so decided to bake this as individual cakes. Plus marzipan makes this mixture very sticky, so the silicone moulds give an added non-stick back up.

Adjusting the baking time was tricksy. The original recipe says to bake for 50 minutes but check at 40. I checked at 20 minutes and they were done.

I left them to cool in the mould.

Still quite difficult to get out of the moulds, but they came away in the end.

The cakes are reminiscent of a steamed pudding, very light and, for me, a bit eggy this time around, so next time I will use 5 eggs not 6. That egginess faded after a few days and the cakes got more dense in texture.

Batter

Cakes in silicone tray

Finished cakes

Cake

They keep very well in an airtight container.

Thanks Nigella!

01/05/2014

Flapjacks

I’ve recently been watching a fabulous cookery show called A’Fuine, made by BBC Alba. A down to earth show about cooks up in the Hebrides, all cooking in their own kitchens, with no fancy camerawork, or hipster brown bags of ready weighed out goods. The equipment is well used, in many cases old and handed down, and the recipes are excellent.

I have one Dutch recipe to make when I have the time – Gevulde Speculaas - http://www.thedutchtable.com/2010/12/gevulde-speculaas.html but one I did have time for this weekend was flapjack. So off I went.

Recorded here so that I don’t lose the recipe.

6oz butter (I used salted)

5 oz brown sugar

2 tbs golden syrup

1 3/4 oz plain flour

1/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda

Pinch salt

1/4 tsp orange flower extract

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

12 oz oatmeal (I used Co-op basic porridge oats)

Melt butter, sugar and golden syrup together until liquid and all the sugar has dissolved.

Add in the ret of the ingredients, some dried fruit if you fancy, then spread out on a lined baking sheet.

Press down well into the edges, making sure it’s even.

Mark lines into the mixture so you can just break them apart when cool.

Bake at 180C for 15 minutes.

Leave to cool in the tin before tipping out.

Flapjacks