Weekend Top Tip

Rosemary Skewers

Bank holiday barbecuing for a truly  tantalizing taste bud treat use 12 – 15 cm pieces of woody rosemary stem to skewer meat or fish and vegetables for grilling and barbecuing. The skewers look great and add a fantastic flavour to your dish. Cut off the rosemary stems and pull off most of the lower leaves leaving around 2 cm at the top. Then soak the prepared stems in cold water for a couple hours, this will help prevent any skewer not covered with food from burning on the grill. Thread on your ingredients and cook.

Use marinated shoulder of lamb and peppers,  Monk fish and cherry tomatoes or king prawns and scallops wrapped in bacon.

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Weekend Top Tip

Burger

As we are about to hit peak season for barbecues in the UK and everyone loves a char-grilled burger this is just a simple tip to help your delicious homemade burger keep its shape when cooking. All meat contracts slightly as it cooks and as the proteins in your burger heat up it will pull together. To keep a nice round shape simply press your thumb gently into the center of the burger as you put it on the grill leaving a slight imprint. As the meat contracts, the burger will not end up the shape of an orange but retain its perfect burger patty pattern.

 

Super Bowl 50 & The Best Buffalo Wings Ever

Sunday is a milestone in American sport the fiftieth Super Bowl. Now I am no expert on the game but I know that the Super Bowl is always celebrated in some style. I imagine that for the fiftieth the celebrations will be spectacular and as millions gather in bars or at home to watch, food plays a massive role. So what are the top snacks piled on the table tops across the USA? Heaps of Nachos with spicy dips, bacon stuffed crispy potato skins, beer broiled Hot dogs smothered in onions, cheese, mustard and ketchup, buttered corn-on-the-cob and sticky BBQ ribs all washed down with ice-cold beer will all be popular but THE Super Bowl snack is the Buffalo Wing.

As a professional chef a long time ago potato skins were what your potato came in and they were as likely as not peeled off. The only time you saw a chicken wing in a hotel or restaurant kitchen was in a stock pot. At home the chicken carcass, neck and wings made a base for hearty soups, and nothing was wasted. With the advent of commercialization of poultry farming and of mass refrigeration throughout the food supply chain from a producer, supplier, distributor and in the home, customers became ever more able to pick and choose their favourite part of the bird. People wanted the thigh, breast and leg consequently butcher’s almost paid the chef to take away the wings which no one wanted.

And then……

On October 30, 1964, in Buffalo, New York, at the now legendary Anchor Bar*, the owner Teressa Bellissimo created a late-night snack for her son and his friends. At hand, a surfeit of chicken wings, which she deep fried, dressed in a sticky, sweet chilli flavoured butter sauce and served them with celery sticks and a creamy, blue cheese dip. The buffalo wings, they are from Buffalo, I knew you were going to ask me about that, became popular and for a while they were free on the bar for regulars. Is it me but do all fridges seem to have celery and blue cheese lurking within ready for late night culinary inspiration, and anchovies and olives and Parmesan, actually that is more like a small deli and perhaps for another article.

Since that day chicken or ‘ Buffalo ’ wings have become a little more popular and on Sunday night, it is estimated a mammoth 1.25 billion wings will be eaten during the 50th Super bowl. Chicken wings are now universally popular and come in numerous sauce varieties from sweet, oriental to smoked or hickory style.

* The city of Buffalo has designated July 29 as “Chicken Wing Day,” and today, the Anchor Bar serves up more than 70 thousand pounds of chicken per month. The Anchor Bar original recipe for hot sauce is now sold commercially.

Buffalo Wings 5-2-2016

 

Oven baked Buffalo Wings                                                                 makes approx. 24 pieces

Buffalo Wings are a personal favourite I love the mix of spicy chicken, cool full of flavour blue cheese dip and crisp celery. This easy convenient recipe bakes the wings instead of frying. It is a little more healthy –  just and so much easier.

For the Wings

1 kg Chicken Wings (about 12 wings)

3 tablespoons Butter

4 Cloves of Garlic, peeled and very finely crushed

6 tablespoons good Tomato Ketchup

1 tablespoon bottled Hot Pepper Sauce

1 tablespoon Honey

2 tablespoon Dry Sherry

1 tablespoon Smoked Paprika

½ teaspoon Cayenne Pepper

Sea Salt and freshly ground Black Pepper

 

For the Blue Cheese Dip

125 ml Sour Cream

125 ml Mayonnaise

100 gr crumbled, mild Blue Cheese ( I use Danish Blue )

1 tablespoon quality Cider Vinegar

1 Clove Garlic, peeled and very finely crushed

A generous pinch or two of Celery Salt

Freshly ground Black Pepper

 

Celery sticks

The parts of the wing used will also vary from person to person and restaurant to restaurant. Some will cut off the wing tip and separate the remaining wing pieces. Some cook all three parts together. I know some people who will eat the wing tip bone and all if it is fried up nice and crunchy. A good butcher will prepare the wings as you like.

For consistent, even cooking in the oven I cut up the wings by first removing the wing tips, they can go into the freezer ready for the stock pot. Then cut wings into two pieces, at the joint. Put chicken wing pieces in a large glass bowl, season generously, cover with cling film and set to one side. ( Make sure you thoroughly wash the board you cut the raw chicken on ).

In a medium heavy-bottomed sauce pan melt the butter and sauté the garlic over a low heat, without burning for two minutes. Add the ketchup, hot pepper sauce, dry sherry, smoked paprika and cayenne pepper and cook for five more minutes stirring constantly. Remove from the heat and allow to thoroughly cool down. When cold pour all but a couple of tablespoons of the marinade over the chicken pieces in the bowl. Cover with fresh cling film and place in the refrigerator and marinate for at least two hours.

Preheat your oven to 375F / 190C / Gas mark 5. Drain the chicken pieces and place on a wire rack over a metal roasting pan. Bake for thirty to thirty-five minutes, until the chicken is tender and no longer pink. The sticky marinade may char, don’t worry this all adds to the flavour. Remove from oven and baste with reserved marinade.

Serve with celery sticks and blue cheese dip

For the Blue cheese dip, combine dip ingredients – sour cream, mayonnaise, blue cheese, vinegar, and garlic – in a blender or food processor. Blend or pulse until smooth. Cover and chill. The dip can be made ahead and will keep for a couple of days in the refrigerator.

National Burger Day – How to Cook the Perfect Burger

A quick look at the weather forecast confirms pretty much what I learnt as I got drenched walking into work this morning, and I live two minutes away from the office. As the Bank holiday approaches the end of this British summer is certainly a washout, and not perhaps then the best time to think about barbecuing, but as tomorrow is National Burger Day I thought I would post how to cook the perfect burger. So if you miss the chance tomorrow there might be a sunny spell over the weekend and chance to give it a go.

At the heart of every burger is the meat to fat ratio, when selecting your cuts of meat to mince, you ideally want to achieve around 85% lean meat. The fat is very important to your finished burger, much of the flavour comes from the fat during cooking and is responsible for the correct mouthfeel of the finished product. The fat moistens the burger as it cooks, but much of fat will drain off onto the barbecue. If you cook too close to the coals, this is when you get flaring as the fat ignites. Less than 15% fat and your burger will be dry, much more and your burger will shrink drastically during cooking. The finished burger will only be, a not unhealthy 5% fat. You can ask your butcher for advice on which cuts to use, but a fifty/ fifty split of ground chuck and ground sirloin will achieve outstanding results.

If you do ask you butcher for advice he can help you with the next stage and mince your beef for you. You want to get a coarse grind. Too fine and the mixture is sloppy and the end result can be like rubber. You want to avoid working the meat as much as possible, your butcher will grind the beef in an industrial mincer which will process the beef quicker than a small handheld mincer. Many commercial burgers included numerous other ingredients, but I like to keep it simple with just sea salt and plenty of freshly ground black pepper. If you do want to add other ingredients, an onion is just about acceptable, dice them very, very finely. Anything over the finest dice and the added ingredients will not cook and the minced beef will not hold together leaving you with burger pieces on the grill.

If your butcher prepares your mince for you chill it for a couple of hours before you prepare the actual burgers. Keeping your seasoned burger mince cold by placing it in a bowl in another bowl packed with ice will result in a much better burger and help ensure a safe hygienic production. You could purchase a burger press if you are going to barbecue every weekend, but it is just as easy to shape a medium sized handful into a ball then lightly pat it flat. Run some cold water over your hands to keep them cool before you shape your burgers and try to work them as gently and as little as possible. Over handling bruises the meat and will result in a tough, dry burger. Cover a tray with cling film and place the completed burgers onto the film. Cover with more cling film and store in the refrigerator until cooking time

Fire up your clean barbecue and get the coals nice and hot so the grill heats up. Give the grill a good going over with a wire brush then very carefully give a quick wipe of oil. The safest method is to sprinkle some vegetable oil on a thick fold of kitchen paper. Using barbecue tongues wipe the oiled paper over the grill to wipe off any remaining burnt fragments and charcoal dust. Once the barbecue is ready we can cook.

Brush the chilled burgers with a little olive oil to help prevent sticking and place on the grill. Quickly press down with your thumb in the centre of each burger to leave a slight indentation, as the meat cooks and the proteins contract and pull together this will stop the burger looking like a rugby ball. Aim to leave a third of your grill empty. You might think this is an underemployment of your glowing coals but if you do get flare ups you will have space to move your burgers and prevent them from burning. After three minutes give the burgers a ninety-degree turn ( that’s one quarter-turn ). If you think your burger is cooking too fast and it will burn just raise the grill one notch from the coals. Turning the burger will give the criss-cross appearance of char marks on your burger that will demonstrate your professional cooking skills. Do not be tempted to squash the burger with your spatula as this squeezes out the tasty melted fat leaving a dry burger.

Cooking Burgers

After another two minutes, your burger is should be ready to flip, the edges will be browning and you might see pinkish pearls of moisture on the burger surface. As you develop your barbecue grilling skills you will learn the cooking times of different meats and cuts. You really only ever have to turn the burger over once let it cook for three more minutes and you can then check if it is ready. The cooking time is directly proportional to the thickness of your burger when it is ready any escaping juices will be clear and the internal temperature, if you check it with a thermometer should be over 180 F / 80C.

Place the cooked burgers on a warm plate, cover with foil and place to the side of the barbecue to keep warm and let them rest for a few minutes. Brush the cut sides of your burger rolls with a little melted butter and toast them over the coals. The rest is up to you, personally, I favour sliced pickles, crisp lettuce, and really ripe tomatoes and maybe a slice of Monterey Jack Cheese. Enjoy.

Celebrate Independence Day in Style

Baby Back Ribs

Even though I am not American I am a massive fan of big, hearty, smoky American cooking. I love eating with my fingers, any chicken on the bone and of course sticky ribs in BBQ sauce, so much so that I have even bottled my own rib sauce. There really is something special in the combination of flavoursome ribs with the meat almost falling off the bone and a spicy, sweet, sour, sticky finger licking sauce*. Like chicken wings, ribs were once thrown into the stock pot or added to soups and casseroles to add body and flavour. We now know them to be very adaptable and a staple of Asian and BBQ cookery. They remain relatively cheap in relation to other cuts of meat and are either served whole on a rack ( which may have been trimmed see below ) or cut into individual ribs. So I can suggest on July the Fourth that we all get American and ribs are the thing.

Types of Rib

Pork Spare Ribs – These are from the lower part of the pig, around the stomach. When the cut which will become bacon is removed there is a thin layer of meat remaining over the ribs and between each bone. A whole rib will weigh between 3 and 5 pounds and is normally cut into individual ribs.

St. Louis Style Cut – when the sternum bone, cartilage, and rib tips have been removed. The shape is almost rectangular, these are a classic, big meaty rib.

Baby Back Pork Ribs – are taken from the top of the rib cage and start at around 6 – 8 inches long then curve and taper off in shape. They are normally sold trimmed to around 10 to 13 ribs.

Baby Back Pork Ribs

Beef Short Ribs – range from 3- 5 inches thick, which can be then butchered in a variety of ways. They can be flash fried or grilled which is very popular in Korea as well as slow cooked.


* Very handy when your are short on time

So how do the Experts cook Ribs

If you travel across America especially the southern states you are bound to experience some serious barbecuing and if you are lucky to meet a Pitmaster or two. A Pitmaster is responsible for the delicious food often using recipes and techniques handed down for generations. For larger pieces of meat like a whole brisket, they may work through the night. A pit is basically a large hole filled with charcoal and aromatic wood such as apple and used to slow smoke and cook food. Not everyone can build a pit on their apartment balcony or small garden but the secret for you to learn is the length of the cooking process, slow, slow, slow. If we look in a little more detail the professional Pitmaster process involves four steps, parboiling, a marinade or rub, slow cooking, and sauce.

Parboiling

The first stage parboiling is quite an old-fashioned technique to begin to soften any tough connective tissue on the ribs and blanch off any impurities that will rise to the surface of the pot as scum, perhaps particularly in poorly butchered meat in the past. One of my favourite films ‘ Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café ‘ includes a scene preparing for a big barbecue with the ribs simmering in a pot. I won’t spoil the plot but the ribs have quite a strange origin ! Many more modern recipes skip this step but I think it is valuable if you are preparing a large amount of Spare ribs with a lot of meat on them.

Rubs and Marinades

Rubs and marinades add depth of flavour to the ribs and help tenderise the meat. Depending on where you are in America will influence the choice of dry rub, a mix of salt, sugar, herbs, and spices or a liquid marinade with mustards, tomatoes, vinegar, sugar, and spices. There is a mind-numbing variety of both rubs and marinades from Hawaiian with pineapple to Oriental style with ginger, chilli, five spice and soy sauce. I like to use a dry rub and believe in keeping it quite simple.

The sugar is important to create a sticky, caramelized crust but the sweetness needs to be tempered with some chilli heat or sharpness from vinegar. Pineapple contains Bromelain, an enzyme that acts to tenderise the proteins in the meat. Many commercial rib rubs contain similar enzymes, colourings and flavour enhancers such as monosodium glutamate and are best avoided. The salt and sugars in dry rubs will have a mild curing effect and should be used both carefully and left on the ribs no longer than a day before cooking otherwise you will star to have bacon ribs.

Pork Ribs with Rub

Kansas City Rub

This is my version of a versatile general barbecue rub recipe based on the traditional smoky Kansas City-style, Kansas City being widely regarded as the home of the barbecue. The recipe is very high in sugar,so while it is a very delicious sweet rub it will burn at high temperatures and is suited for lower temperature, slow cooking. Smoked paprika adds the some of the smoky flavour achieved in Kansas by cooking over a mix of different woods. Dried onion and garlic powder are available at large supermarkets and specialist retailers. Mix all the ingredients thoroughly together and store out of the sunlight in an airtight container.

100 gr Soft Dark Brown Sugar

40 gr Smoked Paprika

25 gr Onion Powder

1 tablespoon Garlic Powder

1 tablespoon ground Black Pepper

1 tablespoon Table Salt

1 teaspoon Thyme

½ teaspoon Chilli Powder ( you can add more if you like it hotter )

You can roast your ribs quite quickly at around 400 F / 200 C / Gas mark 6 for an hour. You will get a nice caramelised result but the meat will not fall off the bone. Pitmasters will use the low heat and smoke from the embers of their charcoal fires to smoke and roast their ribs at the same time in covered pits or barbecue broilers. So exactly how long do weed need to cook our ribs ?

Harold McGee is a scientist who has done more perhaps than anyone else to bring empirical science to the kitchen and analyse recipes and correct many cookery myths. In his of the ‘ Curious Cook ‘ column, in the New York Times, he advised the slow cooking of ribs to reduce moisture loss, baking them for six to eight hours at an oven temperature of ninety-five centigrade. The downside to his technique is it uses specialist equipment, so in a home kitchen, we need to find a compromise.

My Perfect Ribs

So the secret is slow cooking and the result incredibly tender meat that falls off the bone. If you do not have a huge, fancy American all singing and dancing grill and broiler that slow smokes and cooks your ribs do not worry you can braise them in the oven with the following recipe. This recipe is cooked a temperature a little higher than the really slow cooked ribs and uses just about any flavourings you wish, just substitute your personal choice for rub and barbecue sauce.

4 Racks of Baby back Pork Ribs

200 ml your favourite BBQ Sauce

4 tablespoons of all-purpose rib rub

Ask your butcher to remove the membrane on the back of the racks which is often left on and can be tough. Wash off your ribs and pat them dry with kitchen paper. Place in a large tray and liberally sprinkle on both sides with a dry rub or just plenty of sea salt and freshly ground black pepper if you prefer. Work the rub into the meat with your fingers and cover and refrigerate for two to four hours to allow the flavours of the rub to develop, you can leave them up to twelve hours preparing them the day before cooking.

Preheat your oven to 275 F / 140 C / Gas mark 1. Transfer the ribs to a deep baking tray and pour in sufficient water to cover the bottom of the tray to a depth of about one centimetre. Place the ribs, meat side down, in baking dishes. Cover the baking dishes with silver foil and place in the oven. This will cook the ribs by braising them in the own juices with the rub flavourings and help keep the meat moist.

If your racks are trimmed and quite small check them after about three and a half hours. The meat should be very tender, if not replace the cover and return to the oven for another half an hour. Carefully drain off the cooking liquor, which can be used as a stock in spicy bean soup and cover the ribs with barbecue sauce. Turn up the oven to 350 F / 180 C / Gas mark 4 and cook for twenty to thirty more minutes so that the sauce is bubbling and sticky and nicely caramelised. Alternatively, when the ribs are cooked you can let them cool in the barbecue sauce then reheat them under a grill or on a char grill or barbecue, turning often to prevent the sugars in the barbecue sauce from burning. The barbecue gives a wonderful smoky finish.