Awards and failures

So hopefully life will slow down a bit now and I can finally catch up with my blog. The first bit of news is that I finally have a roof on the hut. Already this has made such a difference. It’s changed the “I’m not sure about cooking outside tonight” to “I want to cook outside every night!” I’m really pleased with it, it’s a lot thicker than I thought it would be so hopefully it will last a long long time.

The second bit of news is my trophy for winning the “best burn” category has arrived. This put a huge smile on my face and after considering many places for it, I’ve settled for the mantelpiece. If you saw my instagram post I’m now sure this is a better place than with Shelby our tortoise.

As I said in my previous blog “a very late post” (link) my new dutch oven arrived and I was really excited to use it. I've wanted one for a while and it’s yet another way to cook outside over fire or coals. I went for a fairly easy meal for the first go, spaghetti and meatballs. I got the onions and sauce going in the dutch oven whilst cooking the meatballs on the griddle below. Once the sauce had simmered for a while I added the meatballs. After cooking the spaghetti inside I added that and mixed it in. It was a great first meal. Onto the second, beef shin chilli. I had already bought the beef shin and had it in the freezer waiting the the delivery of the dutch oven. I had read a few different recipes online, all of which contradicted each other when it came to the fat - some said trim it all away some said leave it all on. I went for some sort of middle ground and trimmed away anything solid, hoping the softer fat would render down during the cook. After a near eight hour cook the chilli was done, and I have to say it was incredible. The beef shin is the perfect meat for this kind of meal, it fell apart.

The next cook was some good old smash burgers. These really are such a satisfying meal. I also had a go at spiral potatoes. I lost interest after my first failure and my wife did the rest. She has a lot more patience for this sort of thing than me! They actually cooked very well helped by basting in a hell of a lot of butter.

Talking of failures, I thought I’d write about a couple of recent clangers of mine. First up my hanger steak. I hadn’t really thought this cook through. And for some reason tried to reverse sear the steak at the same time as cooking hassleback potatoes. Looking back this was never really going to work (and it didn’t) the temperature was too hot for the steak and too cool for the potatoes. So I ended up with a steak tougher than a tyre and hasselback potatoes harder than cast iron griddle they were sitting in. A good lesson learnt - always plan your cooks!

The next was very nearly a failure but I managed to rescue it - just. I wanted to cook pig cheek wraps. I’ve cooked them before and they came out great. I knew they would need a long time, from memory I cooked them for around four hours. I was all set up with my camera to capture me taking one of the cheeks from the bbq and breaking it up with the back of a fork, but it it didn’t break up. In fact I’m pretty sure it would have bounced had I thrown it at a hard surface! A good video for the blooper reel. At this point the veg and the rice was ready so the only way I could think of saving the meal was to cut the cheeks up into small pieces and put them back on the grill but with direct heat. By doing this the cheeks really firmed up and now had a bark to them. So disaster was averted.

My next few cooks were some of my favourites - pizzas and chicken. Sometimes I think the best cooks are the most simple. We all like cooking the difficult briskets etc, but can you really beat something as simple as a chicken quarter? I used one of our favourite rubs - Angus and oink jack and cola - then cooked them direct on my kamado+ along with some broccoli. Next I decided to put my new Weber Go Anywhere through its paces. As I said in my last blog, I was impressed with how little fuel it needed so this time I used all of the small bits of charcoal that end up in the bottom of the bag. Once again it excelled at this. I cooked some prawns and monkfish in a cage over some vegetables, check out my Instagram page for the results.

We then had some friends over and I wanted to cook a bit of a “showpiece” so I decided on a porchetta. My local butcher sorted us out with a nice piece of pork loin. I had some apricot stuffing I got from a farm shop which I made up and spread on the loin. Then I rolled it and passed the rotisserie spike through the middle. I even managed to get the crackling just right which is always a bonus.

Then came a fairly funny, happy accident from the butchers. Recently I’ve seen so many posts with giant turkey drumsticks. So obviously I had to give these a try, also being close to Christmas this was the perfect “dry run”. So I called the butchers and asked for four turkey legs, no problem was the reply. So a couple of days later my butcher knocked on the door with a bag much bigger than I was expecting. When I opened the bag to my surprise were four huge legs that must of come from some sort of dinosaur! I also took this opportunity to try brining for the first time, next time I need to make sure the whole leg is submerged, but it was enough to make this the most moist turkey I’ve ever eaten, so I’ll definitely be doing this to our Christmas turkey.

I had been wanting to do an overnight cook for a while. I hadn’t done one on the Grden Grill yet so I got in touch with Sherwood foods to sort out a nice boston butt. They didn’t have any halves so I went for the full, knowing the leftovers would go a long way. I got everything set up in good time, using my favourite rub for pork - The Rusty BBQ co honey hog wash. I got the grill lit and let it settle before placing the butt in for the night. I left it a few hours before checking for one final time and went to bed. I woke up fairly early and to my horror the grill was cold. After some frantic googling at 6:30am I wasn’t sure if the meat would be ok. I read a lot about the “danger zone” but looking at my meater chart the temp hadn’t quite dropped into it. I decided to relight the BBQ, but I wasn’t going to serve it to our guests. I finished the cook and the pork pulled perfectly. Whilst I was shredding I ate enough of it to take away any doubt if it was good or not - either way I'd find out very quickly! So for our friends I cooked lamb smash burgers. Obviously these have a very high fat content which helped to crisp them up when the fat caught the coals.

After happily eating pulled pork for days in as many ways as I could think of - nachos, dirty fries and burgers are only a few, we wanted something different. I hadn’t cooked tuna for a long time so thought this would make a nice change. Fish being a lot more delicate than red meat I was worried about it sticking to the grill. My wife and I seemed to remember seeing fish being cooked on lemon slices - so I thought I’d give it a go. This worked really well on two fronts, first it stopped the fish sticking to the grill perfectly. Secondly it gave the tuna a really subtle lemon flavour with out being too overpowering. Most definitely a win.

As the weather had turned a bit colder I found I wanted some comfort food, so this was the perfect time to use up some more pulled pork form the freezer. I used them to make a big batch of pit beans along with some jacket potatoes - comfort food at it’s finest.

I think that about covers my cooks and BBQ life up until last week. The next one will hopefully be more about successes rather than failures - especially as it will be Christmas dinner!

Stuart - Bbqfestu