Stag Night by the Iron Chef

For Conrad and co.

This will certainly not be the night you planned, but hopefully you’ll be able to make the best of the night with some good food, good drink and great conversation.

So the meal delivery will be a bit different in this wonderful Covid world in which we live. All of the food is packaged up in single serving portions, ready-to-create packs for each person. Kris and Alana will be sorting out that step.

What you’re going to need:

To prepare your dinner tonight you will need a few things:

1. Large pot of boiling water; ideally about a 4-5 litre pot.

2. Toaster or grill
3. Microwave or small sauce pan
4. an oven (not essential but it helps)
5. And of course, some plates and cutlery.

Don’t panic – this will be as easy as a ready-meal from Tesco!


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Sourdough crostini

topped with minted feta, roast organic cherry tomatoes and Za’tar spice

Gather up your sourdough bread slices, the tub of roasted tomatoes, the small tub of spice and the tub of minted feta. They should all have a ‘1’ on the top.

Pop the sourdough slices in your toaster or put under the grill until nicely browned with crispy edges. Spread some of the minted feta over the top.

Now you can put the tomatoes on chilled, but it’s even better if you warm them just a bit in your microwave — probably just 20 seconds; you’re looking for warmed, not hot. Either way, place them on top of the feta in a nice, even layer and sprinkle with the Za’tar spice. Start with a light sprinkle and try it. You can add more but it’s tough to take it back off!

Serve this with a nicely chilled Chardonnay, dry Sauvignon Blanc or a Pale Ale.

Next up…the fish course.

Harrisa poached sea bass

with butter, thyme and lemon, served on a bed of tumeric rice with roasted peppers, grilled courgette and braised fennel and topped with crispy shallots

Thanks to Alana for helping out with this one!!

Make sure that pot of water is hot (not boiling) because that is how you’ll prepare this course. Here are the bits you’re looking for for this course: a bag of rice, the fish, a slice of lemon, vinaigrette, and crispy shallots. The pots will all have ‘2’ on the top. (I think you can work out the fish and rice without numbers – unless you started drinking early.)

Start by dropping the bag of rice into the pot of hot water. Your water should be just below boiling – if it’s boiling, the fish will cook too quickly and become tough.

After four minutes, add the bag with the fish. This should take around six to eight minutes to cook. You’re looking for the fish to go an opaque white.

Take the rice out with the fish. Start by opening the bag of rice with a pair of scissors or a knife. Pour into the centre of a dinner plate arranging it in roughly the shape of your fish fillet.

Pour some (not too much) of the vinaigrette over the rice. Now open the bag with the fish and carefully remove the fillet (save those juices) and place it on top of the rice. Pour those juices over the fish, give it a squeeze of lemon and then top with the crispy shallots.

Bon appetit!

Best served a crisp unoaked chardonnay, a dry riesling or an aromatic white like grüner veltliner. Or if you prefer beer, go with a light pilsner like a Moritz or Bitburger.

Main course

BBQ Brisket

Slow-smoked beef brisket with a mildly-spiced beef jus served with 4-cheese mac-n-cheese, grilled green beans with miso and slices of brioche to soak up those juices.

Hopefully that pot of water is still hot – if not, top it up and get it back to just below boiling. This time you’ll need the bag of brisket, the pot of jus, the tub of mac-n-cheese, the bag of beans and the bag of bread — it should be getting easy to guess by this point!

Put your mac-n-cheese into a hot oven (~175-200 deg C), be sure to take off the paper cover first. (Or you can transfer this into a bowl and pop it in the microware.) In the oven, this should take about 8-10 minutes. You’re just looking to get it bubbling slightly. If it’s sort of hissing, it’s ready.

After five minutes, drop your brisket into the hot water. Two minutes later, put the beans in the hot water too.

While this is happening, warm up the jus in the microwave or a small saucepan.

When it’s all hot, it’s time to plate up! Open the bag and pour your brisket onto the plate. You can pour a bit of the jus over it or just dip your meat in it as you eat — as you prefer. Open the bean and pour them onto the plate. And finally add your mac-n-cheese. You’re ready to go.

You can pair this course with a nice tempranillo, malbec or pinot noir. For the beer drinkers, try an IPA like BrewDog.

Final course – pudding!

Old-fashioned peach cobbler

You can pop this in the oven for about 5-7 minutes or scoop it out into a bowl and microwave for 1 minute — just enough to get it warmed, or you can just eat it as it comes. It’s good either way.

This is best served with a bit of vanilla ice cream and a wee dram of whiskey.

I hope you enjoy your evening despite the Covid rules. And congratulations, Conrad!

Barbeque? Korean? In Canterbury?

We headed to Canterbury on a short break this past week. While waiting to get into the cathedral we came across a somewhat unexpected place- a barbeque joint called Korean Cowgirl. The name alone would have caused us to stop, but the saddles and cowhide covered stools guaranteed it.

This is a place with a bit of an identity crisis. Do they sell Korean food? Sort of. Do they sell BBQ? Yes they do. The founders include a die-hard Texan and another that loves food and travel. It brings together with some very typical Texan BBQ and Korean fried chicken.

The interior of this restaurant definitely shows the mix of cultures. You’ve got wooden beams from Tudor times, steel tables and chairs with cowhide coverings, American, Korean and British flags (all made from rough hewn wood). And then there is the K-Pop playing on the TV in the corner. Definitely a cultural mix.

While the ambiance of a restaurant is important, it is the food that is the most important. So how does the food stack up? We got the Dirty Cowgirl platter so we could try a bit of everything.

The Cowgirl’s signature barbeque is very much Texas-style brisket. In addition to the brisket they also offer pulled pork and Asian baby back ribs. And then there is the Korean Fried Chicken. The Dirty Cowgirl platter contains a bit of each.

Let’s start with the sole Korean element – the chicken wings. These are double-fried in a light batter and then coated in sauce. You get a choice of soy garlic, spicy, honey butter or Yang Nyum. We went for a mix of soy garlic and spicy.

The meat is moist and the skin and coating have a nice crunch. There is also a sprinkling of chopped peanuts that add to both the texture and the flavour. The wings are very moreish and we would have happily had eaten another serving.

The ribs are smoked, braised and then deep fried and coated in an Asian sauce. But are they good? Well that depends on what you are looking for in your ribs. Being baby back ribs, these do not have a lot of meat on them. The deep frying of them gives them a crunch. And the sticky sauce has a nice salty, sweet flavour you expect from Asian-style ribs. The sprinkling of sesame seeds adds a nice nutty flavour that compliments the sauce. These are not American-style ribs for sure, but they are tasty.

The pulled pork was served as small shreds of pork in a slightly sweet and tangy sauce. There was no real bark present and only a slight hint of smoke. The meat had a good bite and a strong pork flavour. The pork was good but was in need of something else for texture.

The brisket is the star of their barbeque. In true Texas style, it is coated in a salt and pepper rub and smoked – low and slow for 15 hours according to their menu. It is served in thick slices either separately or as part of a platter. Unfortunately, the slices we got were from the point which contains far more fat and connective tissue than the flat cut. There was a significant amount of fat present leaving it somewhat unappealing.

When you turned the slices over, it was clear there was a fair bit of meat underneath the fat. This did leave the meat somewhat oily. The strip of meat along the top was full of flavour. It was unfortunate that the meat was so poorly presented.

The brisket had a mild smoke flavour though it had a strong visible smoke ring. It had a strong beef flavour with the distinctive Texas-style pepper hit. The brisket had very good flavour.

We ordered a side of pit beans. They are arguably mis-named though. There was more brisket than beans in our bowl — not complaining about that! These come highly recommended.

The only thing missing from this platter was some bread. Both the pork and the brisket would have been better with some fresh bread to go with them.

Rating? 3.5 out of 5. The food was good, but definitely let down on presentation and at £38 felt slightly overpriced. The staff were extremely friendly and welcoming. Next time I think I would make up my own platter focused on the brisket and the chicken. Worth a visit!

Spice it up on a cool night

When the night is cool or rainy, nothing can satisfy like a bowl of beef chilli. Try out our Tex-Mex Chilli and see for yourself.

Tex-Mex Chilli

A spicy beef chilli in the traditional tex-mex style

Course Main Course
Cuisine American, Tex-Mex
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 35 minutes
Total Time 45 minutes
Servings 6 people
Author Bruce Heck


  • 750 gm beef mince 10-15% fat
  • 2 medium onions chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic minced or pressed; large cloves
  • 2 green peppers optional; sweet peppers, not chilli peppers!
  • 2 tbsp rapeseed oil or other vegetable oil
  • 2 cans red kidney beans (400gm can)
  • 1 can black beans (400gm can)
  • 3 cans chopped tomatoes (400gm can)
  • 100 gm tomato puree (double concentrate)
  • 60 ml cider vinegar
  • 2 tbsp oregano
  • 4 tbsp mild chilli powder ** see notes
  • 2 tbsp ground cumin
  • 1 tbsp sweet paprika
  • 2 beef stock cubes
  • ¼ tsp black pepper finely ground
  • 150 ml sour cream optional
  • 50 gm sliced jalapeño peppers optional; use pickled jalapeño, not fresh


  1. Put the oil, onions and garlic (and green peppers if using) in the stock pot over a medium high heat and saute until softened. Remove from the pan and set aside.

  2. Put the beef mince in the pot and brown thoroughly. Add the onions and garlic to the mince and stir.

  3. Add all of the dry spices and the stock cubes and stir thoroughly.

  4. Add the vinegar, chopped tomatoes and tomato paste. Rinse the cans of tomato with a bit of water in each can and combine to make one can full of water. Add to the chilli and stir.

  5. Drain the beans in a colander and rinse. Add the beans (and the jalapeños if using) to the chilli and mix thoroughly.

  6. Simmer the chilli over a medium low heat for 30 minutes stirring occasionally.

  7. Serve in bowls with a large dollop of sour cream on top.

Recipe Notes

The ingredients listed as ‘optional’ can be added or not according to your preference — we always add them.  You can make the chilli less spicy by reducing the amount of mild chilli powder you use and by omitting the jalapeño peppers.

Pimp your chilli:

Want to mix it up a little?  Try these optional ingredients:

Add 25gm of finely grated dark chocolate.  This will add an extra richness to the chilli — you’ll never taste the chocolate!

Substitute an equal amount of chopped rump steak for the beef mince for a different texture.  You’ll need to add an extra hour of simmering time to make the steak fall apart tender — and stir regularly to prevent sticking.

Like things a bit smokey?  Add (or substitute) a tablespoon of chipotle or ancho chilli powder to the chilli.

And we like to serve the chilli with a batch of cornbread.  (Check out our cornbread recipe:

Fancy a curry?

Missing going to your favourite curry house? This simple curry recipe will give you a taste of that curry you’ve been missing without any fuss. It’s easy to make but delivers lots of flavour. As with all curries, you’ll find it even better the next day.

Chicken Curry

An easy to make chicken curry with a tomato base

Course Main Course
Cuisine Indian
Keyword curry
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 45 minutes
Servings 4 people
Author Bruce Heck


  • 3 chicken breasts cut into large cubes
  • 2 onion, medium roughly chopped
  • 4 medium tomatoes chopped
  • 3 tbsp tomato paste
  • 2 tbsp rapeseed oil (or other high-heat oil)
  • 5 tbsp butter (70 gm)
  • 1 cube vegetable stock
  • 1 cup water boiling
  • 2 tbsp ginger finely diced
  • 2 clove garlic pressed
  • 5 tsp madras curry powder (or mild curry powder)
  • 3 tsp biryani seasoning (see notes below)
  • 1 tsp sumac


  1. Dissolve the vegetable stock cube or gel in the cup of boiling water. Set aside.

  2. Combine all the dry ingredients and set aside.

  3. Chop your tomatoes into 1cm cubes and set aside.

  4. Roughly chop your onions into large pieces. Set aside.

  5. Cut up your chicken breast into large (2-3cm) cubes. Lightly brown the chicken in 1 tbsp each of rapeseed oil and butter in a large, deep saute pan over medium heat. Remove from the pan and set aside.

  6. Add the remaining oil to the pan saute the ginger for about 2 minutes. Add the onions and saute until the onions until not quite translucent. Add the garlic and saute a further minute.

  7. Add the chicken back into your pan and sprinkle the dry ingredients over it and stir until well combined.

  8. Add the tomatoes, tomato paste and the vegetable stock to the pan. Stir to combine well.

  9. Simmer over a medium low heat for about 30 minutes or until the tomato begins to break down. Add the remaining butter and stir until melted and combined.

  10. Serve with basmati rice and naan bread.

Recipe Notes

This curry, like most, is best if made the day before and put into the refrigerator for the flavours to come together.

Biryani Seasoning typically contains roasted cumin seeds, dried garlic, red bell pepper flakes, coriander leaf, dried red onion, cumin seeds, cinnamon, kashmiri chilli powder, paprika, tumerica, ginger powder, black pepper, tomato flakes, cardamom, allspice, bay leaf and cloves.



If you don’t have Madras curry powder, you can use any mild curry powder.

A Perfect Burger Bun?

I’ve always found a brioche bun to be a perfect compliment to pulled pork. Getting good brioche buns has always been a problem though. An excellent recipe may well have solved that.

We came across a YouTube post mentioned by Bunch of Swines on their Facebook page. It’s a bit different than most brioche recipes. Much less butter and the addition of Tangzhong.

Tangzhong is a Japanese technique where you cook a small portion of the flour and liquid (water or milk) briefly before combining the resulting thick paste with the remaining bread ingredients.

This technique breaks down the starches in the flour allowing them to absorb more water. It can allow the flour to absorb twice as much hot water or milk as yeast dough normally does. And it is able to hold on to the extra liquid throughout the kneading and baking processes. This means:

  • The dough is less sticky and easier to knead;
  • The dough is likely to rise higher, due to more water creating more internal steam;
  • And since it retains more moisture during baking, the bread is moister and stays soft and fresh for longer.

The YouTube post is well done and very informative, but doesn’t give you an actual recipe to follow — you’ve just got to watch the post. I’ve put together this recipe from the post by Joshua Weissman :

Best Burger Buns Ever

These light, buttery buns are a perfect match for burgers, pulled pork or for the best ever bacon roll.

Course Bread
Prep Time 4 hours
Cook Time 14 minutes
Servings 6 rolls
Author Bruce Heck



  • 2 tbsp bread flour
  • 2 tbsp water
  • 4 tbsp whole milk

Brioche dough

  • 1/2 cup whole milk at 95° F
  • 1 tbsp instant yeast 9 gm
  • 2 ½ cups bread flour
  • 1 tsp fine sea salt
  • 2 ½ tbsp granulated sugar
  • 1 whole egg at room temperature
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 3 tbsp unsalted butter softened

Egg wash

  • 1 egg
  • splash whole milk
  • 1 tbsp water



  1. Put the ingredients into a sauce pan and whisk together.  Put on a medium heat and whisk constantly until it reaches a thick paste. Only takes a few seconds to reach a choux pastry-like consistency. Put into a bowl for use later.

Brioche dough

  1. Heat the milk to 95° F and stir in your yeast. Let stand for about 8 minutes.

  2. Combine the flour, sugar and salt in the mixer bowl and give a good mix.  Put on your dough hook and put the bowl on the mixer.  Put the mixer on a low speed and add the yeast mixture letting it mix for a few seconds.

  3. Now add the tangzhong paste followed by the egg and egg yolk (best if at room temperature, not chilled).  Increase the mixer speed slightly (remain below medium) and mix until thoroughly incorporated. Scrape down the sides as required.

  4. Add the softened butter one tablespoon at a time allowing it to incorporate before adding the next tablespoon.  Continue to let the mixer knead the dough until all of the butter is incorporated and the dough is nicely smooth. Expect this to take about 10 minutes.

  5. Take the dough from the mixer bowl put it on a lightly floured board. Gently stretch and fold it in from each edge to make a nice ball.  Pull from one edge and then rotate 90 degrees and continue for two rotations. Turn the dough over and gently pull the dough toward you keeping it in constant contact with the board to fold it into itself. Rotate 90 degrees and keep doing this until you have worked it into a nice ball shape.

  6. Put into a bowl lined with lightly greased baking parchment and cover with a damp towel. Place in a warm area for 1 to 1½ hours to rise, until doubled in size.

  7. Punch the dough down and put in on a lightly floured board.  Divide the dough into six even pieces using a scraper.  Each piece should weight about 105gm.

  8. As before, gently pull and fold each piece of dough into the center creating a ball.  Put onto the board and pull the dough across the board (keeping the dough in contact with the board always), turn 90 degrees and repeating.  Do this four times until you have a nice tight ball of dough.

  9. Place the dough on a lightly greased baking parchment in a baking tray giving plenty of distance between each ball (at least 2 – 2½ inches).

  10. Place a lightly greased piece of baking parchment over the top and cover with a damp, warm towel. Allow the dough to rise in a warm location for 1-2 hours until doubled in size again. 

  11. Brush the dough lightly with the egg wash. Bake at 350° F for 16-18 minutes until a deep golden brown. If the tops start to become too brown, then covert with foil.

  12. Place on a wire rack to until completely cool and then wrap in cling film or foil to keep fresh. Use within two days or freeze immediately.

Recipe Notes

In my first effort with this recipe I found the buns browned too quickly.  I’ve watered down the egg wash slightly and reduced the oven temperature by 25 degrees.  I covered them with foil at 11 minutes to stop them browning further.

I also found the buns to be a little bit dense.  Now you want a certain level of density to handle the juicy burger and sauces, but this could be a bit lighter.  I believe the key to this will be to do use smaller portions and let them rise longer to the desired size.  The extra rise should ensure a lighter texture.

But how did it come out? Was it a perfect burger bun? Despite the recipe notes above, they were still really good. Have a look:

Potatas Bravas

A native dish to Spain, potatas bravas are one of the most common tapas dishes. This dish dates back to the mid-16th century but no one knows the exact date. They were popularised in Madrid but are found in virtually every bar in every corner of Spain.

They are simply potatoes cut into irregular pieces about 2 cm across and deep fried with spicy tomato sauce called ‘bravas’ sauce poured over them as they are served. The sauce is made from tomatoes, vinegar and chilli and from there every recipe is different.

The key to this dish is the sauce, so we are going to start with that so the sauce has time to develop its full flavour.

Potatas Bravas

The quintessential tapas dish.  Easy to make and equally tasty. For best results, use a fluffy potato — same as you would use for chips (fries) like maris piper, king edwards and russet.

Course Side Dish, Tapas
Servings 4 people
Author Bruce Heck


Bravas Sauce

  • 2 tbsp olive oil extra virgin
  • 4 cloves garlic pressed
  • 1 sm onion finely grated
  • 3 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika (more for sprinkling when serving)
  • 2 tbsp Frank’s hot sauce
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 500 ml passata
  • 125 ml chicken stock double concentrated (1 cube in 250ml water)
  • 1 tsp potato starch (or other thickener)


  • 1 kg potatoes
  • 1500 ml sunflower oil (or any frying oil, not olive oil)


Bravas sauce

  1. Pour half of the olive oil in a small pan over medium heat.  Once the oil has heated, add the garlic and grated onion.  Saute for about five minutes.

  2. Add the remaining ingredients except for the passata and chicken stock.  Bring together and simmer for a couple of minutes.

  3. Whisk in the passata.  Once fully incorporated, whisk in the chicken stock.

  4. Simmer for 30 minutes.  Stir the potato starch into 1 tbsp of cold water. Slowly add the starch to the sauce while whisking constantly.  Simmer for a few minutes until the desired thickness is reach. 

  5. Pour the sauce through a fine sieve over a heat-proof bowl.  You’ll need to do this a bit at a time, stirring the sauce in the sieve to push it through.  Empty the sieve of any bits with each filling.

  6. Set the sauce aside — on to the potatoes!


  1. Cut your potatoes into large chunks — it's easier to cook them this way and cut them smaller after the pre-cook.

  2. Put the potatoes in a pan with cold water and a few pinches of salt.  Bring to a boil and cook until a fork goes into the potato with a bit of resistence – usually around 10 minutes.  You don't want to over cook them as you will be frying them later and they will fall apart if overcooked.

  3. Drain the potatoes in a colander and run them under cold water to stop them cooking.  Set aside to cool.

  4. Once cooled (and just before you’re ready to fry them, chop into 2 cm pieces.  (cut small ones into four pieces — larger once chop up more)

  5. Put your oil into a deep pan or wok (mine was 28cm across) and bring up to temperature – that's 325° F or 160° C.  Add your potatoes in small batches and fry until golden brown and crispy.

  6. Drain on a cooling rack set over a baking sheet lined with kitchen roll (paper towels).

  7. When ready to serve, put into a tapas bowl and drizzle with warm bravas sauce.  Sprinkle with a bit of smoked paprika and serve.

Recipe Notes

This recipe makes more sauce than you will need for the potatoes.  How much extra will depend upon how much sauce you like!  But this sauce keeps well and is great on smoked sausage, pork chops and more.

A Weekend in Spain

a night in spain

Since we can’t travel this Spring we’re travelling virtually. The last trip was to Turkey. This week we’re headed to Spain for some tapas.

Angela has put together the decorations complete with traverna sign, flamenco dancer and a string of decorative garland — we do need to work on the pictures as they didn’t do the look justice.

We’ve got a full menu planned: gazpacho, croquetas, patatas bravas, albondigas, courgette con queso and gambas al ajillo…and of course, a pitcher (or two) of sangria!

spanish tapas
One night in Spain…tapas and sangria

One of our favourite tapas are Albondigas or Spanish meatballs. These meatballs are covered in a luscious, spicy sauce that is a classic taste of Spain. For us, this is the centerpiece of a great tapas meal.

These take a bit of time, but are really easy to make. And you can do much of the prep the day before.

Spanish Meatballs (Albondigas)

One of our favourite tapas dishes. The pork and beef meatballs in a smokey, spicing tomato sauce are a great part of any tapas meal

Course Tapas
Cuisine Spanish
Prep Time 1 hour
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 30 minutes
Servings 8 persons
Author Bruce Heck



  • 500 gm beef mince (10-15% fat)
  • 500 gm pork mince (15-25% fat)
  • 4 cloves garlic minced or pressed
  • 2 sm onions coarsely grated
  • 2 tbsp coriander, fresh finely chopped
  • 3 slices stale white or sourdough bread blitzed
  • 2 eggs lightly beaten
  • 1 tsp fine sea salt
  • 1 tsp ground black pepper

Smokey sauce

  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 cans chopped tomatoes (400gm cans)
  • 170 gm tomato paste (small 6 oz can or most of a tube)
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp chilli flakes
  • 3 cloved garlic finely minced or pressed
  • 1 tbsp dark brown sugar packed
  • 4 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1 sm onion grated
  • 100 ml water
  • ½ tsp fine sea salt
  • ½ tsp black pepper


Meatball mixture

  1. Combine all ingredients in a large bowl. Mix by hand until combined. Don't over mix it or the meatballs will become dense.

  2. Wrap the meatball mixture in cling film and put in the refrigerator for at least one hour – overnight is fine.

Smokey sauce

  1. Using half of the oil, saute the onion and garlic in a large saucepan over medium heat until the onion is soft.

  2. Add the dry ingredients to the onions and saute for 2 minutes.

  3. Add remaining oil and the tomato paste and saute for 5 minutes.

  4. Add the chopped tomatoes, honey, brown sugar, thyme and water. Stir the sauce to combine the ingredients and simmer over a medium low heat for 30 minutes.

Cooking the meatballs

  1. Take the meatball mixture out of the refrigerator. Take about 50 grams (about 1 ½ tablespoons) of the mince mixture and roll it into ball. Do not work the meat any more than is required to keep the meatballs light. Continue until all of the mixture is made into balls.

  2. Being sure not to crowd the pan too much, brown the meatballs on all sides in a large skillet. Set each batch aside once browned.

  3. Put the browned meatballs into a baking dish and cover with the sauce. Put into an oven at 350° F for about 20 minutes.

  4. Serve in traditional tapas dishes with a sprinkle of paprika and a side of toasted garlic bread.

Recipe Notes

This recipe will serve 8 persons as a main or 15-20 persons as a tapas dish.

A little trip to Turkey

As we reach the end of week three in lockdown, we’ve decided we just have to get away. We’ve been needing a holiday for a while now and just cannot wait any longer. So tonight we headed to Turkey!

Ok, don’t start screaming or talking about violation of lockdown and unnecessary travel. This will be a virtual journey, though we plan to make it real as we can.

It starts with setting the mood — lots of lanterns and candles, colurful plates and a low table. We had some fabric we brought back from an earlier trip and used that to cover the loveseat and chair.

Our first night in Turkey.

So like always, we arrived late so we’ll get the rest of the lanterns and lights out tomorrow. But for tonight we have a dinner of lamb kafta, roasted peppers and onion, tzatziki and flat bread.

… next morning

It’s a bright sunny morning so we’re going to have breakfast on the deck. I went to the market this morning (that’s the fridge by the way) for some fresh produce. We’re having a lovely meza of tomatoes, cucumber, melon, cheese, sliced ham, butter, fresh bagette and strong coffee.

It’s our first full day on holiday so we’re planning to just relax a bit. Perhaps read a book in the desk chair, have a beer before lunch–nothing too strenuous today. Maybe dip our feet in the pool — that would be washing up bowl with water in it. Might have to go out to the shops — our spare room — and see what we can find for dinner.

After a relaxing day of reading in the desk chair and lounging by the pool with a nice glass of wine, its time for dinner.

Tonight we’re starting with herbed goats cheese crustini with a fresh blackberry coulis.

We had big plans for a lemon chicken tagine but after our exhausting day of lounging, having the lamb chops we didn’t finish last night sounded a better plan. I made up some lemon-cumin rice and a simple tomato cucumber salad.

Day two

A quick breakfast of melon and yoghurt today and we are out to explore (the 10 blocks around our house). We head to the nearby forest (that would be the trees and trails around Tooting Bec Athletics Track) to check out the local wildlife.

We head back for some lunch after our hike. Angela is looking forward to her tuna salad – something she always has on holiday. I went for a rice dish with grilled chicken. Its a beautiful, sunny day so we’re going to spend it on the balcony reading this afternoon. It really is great to finally be on holiday!!

As the day winds down we decide on a roast lamb dinner and a night by the fire. We’re headed home tomorrow so its early to bed. It’s been a good trip. More fun than we thought it would be actually. We reminisced about previous trips and what we enjoyed most and used those memories to set scenes for the weekend. Its not the same as being on a proper holiday, but it is better than just vegging out in front of the television.

Our first fence party!

You’re in lockdown thanks to the coronavirus. Restrictions are in place making groups of larger than two (unless living together) illegal. So how do you have a party? Well if you live in London with a small garden you have a fence party!

We proposed it to our neighbors last week and everyone seems up for it. We’ve got three neighbors we can just about chat to over the fence (with the help of ladders and mini-scaffolds). And a couple more just down from them we can wave to.

The plan is to distribute a package of BBQ to everyone, knocking on the doors and leaving them on the doorstep. We’ve got a great soundtrack lined up thanks to my boss, Jen, on Spotify. We’ll be piping that through our bluetooth-connected Bose speaker loud enough for everyone to hear. We’re not quite sure how it’s going to work but it’s worth a try.

Time to assemble the BBQ packs. Angela has created some amazing covers for them that match the theme of the invites we sent out yesterday.

We’ve got two packs for each family. The first pack has the meats: 1/2 rack of pork ribs, 1/2 kg of pulled pork and a few slices of the Wagyu brisket. The second pack has potato salad, baked beans (American-style), some dinner rolls for the pulled pork, some dill pickle slices and a jar of my hickory-smoked BBQ sauce and a small jar of my southern-style mustard BBQ sauce.

…So packs are distributed and music is playing. Time to eat and mingle (well, sort of). Party time!

First run

The weekend has finally arrived, so it’s time to fire up the smoker for the first time. There is some prep work to be done before smoking meat for the first time. The smoker needs to be run through a ‘seasoning’ cycle.

This takes about two hours in total including auger priming, warm-up and cool-down cycles. This process is key though as it makes sure the auger and all the other components are working properly and burns off any oils left from the manufacturing process. It does burn through a fair number of pellets when running at 500°F!

I’ve managed to get some ribs from Costco and some amazing pork butt and brisket from one of our competition butchers, Bob’s Family Butchers in Hatfield. I’ve got a couple of 6 kg pork butts and an amazing full packer cut Wagyu beef brisket from New Zealand.

First batch…pork ribs!

So first up is a batch of four racks of pork ribs. I’ve chosen ribs first because they take far less time than pork butt or brisket. The first step with the ribs is stripping off the membrane and then applying the dry rub. They will go straight into the smoker as soon as it gets to the proper temperature of 225°F.

With the ribs are in the smoker I’ve got some time (a good three hours) to get on with some other key prep work. Next up is a small batch of barbeque sauce — just about 5 litres worth.

With the BBQ sauce done, it’s on to prepping the pork butt and the brisket. The meat Bob’s Butchers have supplied are great looking cuts of meat and I really can’t wait to get them in the smoker. The pork butt has nice marbling so I’m trimming off more of the fat cap along the top before covering it in dry rub.

But it’s the Wagyu beef brisket is what I’m really looking forward to. I hadn’t planned to get Wagyu brisket — it’s more expensive than we would normally smoke in competition. Unfortunately ( 😀 ), this was the only full packer cut piece of brisket I could get on short notice. So sad.

Wagyu beef is far more marbled than a typical brisket. Wagyu fat melts at a lower temperature than other beef, resulting in a rich, buttery flavor not present in other types of beef. Given the marbling, I’m trimming most of the fat off.

A heavy dusting of our beef rub and the brisket it ready. It’s back in the fridge with the meat now until the ribs come off.

The ribs are now off and they are looking pretty good for a first run — pretty happy with this. They’ve got a nice gloss and smell amazing. But they’re not done yet. Next step is to wrap and then back in for another two hours.

It’s just after midnight, and we are about three hours into the smoke. Just making a quick check to see how it’s looking so far — and I’m pretty happy.

It’s 07:15 and time to wrap the brisket and pork butt for the final phase of smoking. There’s another five hours or so to go to get to that magic temperature of 196° F. Once the meat is wrapped and back in the smoker, it’s time for a bit of breakfast…

Tic, tock, tic, tock…

13:30 – It’s time to pull the pork butt and brisket out of the smoker. They’ve been resting for about three hours now. I’m going to tackle the pork first.

I pull it out of the butcher paper wrapping and find a wonderful dark bark. I snip off the twine and begin the process of pulling the meat.

The meat has a nice bark and a there’s decent smoke ring. And it’s surprising how little waste there is. The fat has fully rendered leaving the meat moist and there is very little cartilage. I’ve ended up with about 3 1/2 kg of meat out of a 6 kg pork butt. That’s better than the 50% average you get from a bone-in pork butt.

But, of course, it’s all about the taste. And I have to say, despite this being the very first pork butt out of the smoker, this is one I’d be happy to put into competition.

Let’s see how the brisket has come out! Have a look at this:

It’s official — I’ll be buying Wagyu beef brisket in the future! This thing is awesome. The bark is amazing. The fat has rendered perfectly. It’s juicy and amazingly tender with just the right bite. This is hands down the best brisket I’ve ever cooked!

The next test is what other people think of it. I’m not expecting any complaints from this batch of BBQ. I’ll find out soon enough. We’re having a lockdown fence party today. I’ve got about an hour to get this all packaged up and dropped off to the neighbors. I better get on with it!