Recipes, Spicy

Hot Sauce – recipe

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Ripening Scotch Bonnets

I ran out of Frank’s Hot Sauce recently. This made me rather sad but as I had a pretty healthy stock of firey and delicious condiments at my disposal (including the superb ‘Holy F**k’ offering from The Rib Man) I reasoned that I was fine for a goodly while. However, there were more and more occasions when the sort of sauce I craved was of the Frank’s variety and quite frankly (see what I did there?) nothing else would do. And my tabasco was also running low. Obviously I could have popped out and simply bought some more of my required delight but I wondered if it was possible to recreate something similar at home with the last of my crop of chillies. A quick scan of the internet revealed a goodly number of so-called ‘copycat’ recipes and so I decided to go for it and used a combination of two or three. However I didn’t have the 18 cayenne chillies specified so I used a heady mix of (annoying mild) Scotch Bonnets, cayennes, jalapenos, and a dried habanero just for larks. The results were pretty awesome I have to say – hot, pleasingly zingy, addictive – and the recipe itself was actually pretty simple so it will be easy to restock when I need to. I didn’t bother taking the seeds out but if you want the exact consistency of the legendary Frank’s then you can deseed the chillies first or pass the mixture through a sieve after cooking. If you have an extractor fan in your kitchen then this will be most beneficial.

Ingredients

  • 18 cayenne chillies (or a mixture of whatever hot, red beasties you like), stalks off and roughly chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, grated
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 350ml cider/white wine vinegar

Method

  • Mix the vinegar, salt, garlic powder, sugar together in a saucepan then add your chillies and garlic.
  • Bring to the boil and then reduce the heat to a simmer and let it blip and bubble away for 20 minutes or so. This is where the extractor fan really is your friend.
  • Transfer the mixture to a blender/food processor and blitz into a paste. BE CAREFUL!!! The mixture is not only viciously hot it is also sinus-rippingly aromatic.
  • Once you have blended to your preferred consistency (and sieved if you like), return to the pan and simmer for a further 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • Transfer to a sterilised bottle and let cool. It will be awesome straightaway but I urge you to let it sit and mingle for at least 24 hours before using. Once you have started using your sauce, store it in the fridge to keep it happy. Happy saucing!
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Ramblings..., Reviews

Smoke Ring Roma – Review

Via Portuense, 86, 00153 Roma, ItalySmoke Ring interior

Rome is a wonderful city for finding tasty food – there is a much broader selection of cuisines and styles than you will find in many other Italian towns (although that too is slowly changing) although anyone who has visited Italy will know there is more to the cuisine than pizza and pasta. During my most recent visit I chose four places which I feel any food-orientated traveller would be well rewarded by investigating if they find themselves in the Eternal City and reviews of all will eventually be posted. I should point out that I deliberately chose two eateries that are about as far from traditional Italian cooking as you can get and this is not because I dislike Italian food (far from it) but because sometimes you have to go somewhere a bit different. And let’s face it, if you find a traditional U.S-style smokehouse in Rome it simply has to be tried…

I was very, very excited when I discovered this place during some web-based research for possible tasty destinations. After all, I was in Rome to visit my ‘Meat-wife’ (my real wife is a vegetarian) who has shared some of the best BBQ the UK has to offer and who has recently moved to Rome to teach. She told me that she really, really missed the kind of meaty treats that we had gorged on every month so I felt it my duty to find somewhere. I wasn’t expecting much to be honest – at best I thought I might find a sort of TGI-Friday sort of faux American monstrosity – but I was thrilled to find that in 2013 a group of Italian BBQ enthusiasts opened this welcoming place on the West bank of the River Tiber. They take their craft very seriously, lovingly explaining on their website the importance of low and slow cooking and the miraculous flavour that smoke imparts to meat. They meant business. We had to go.

In true tourist fashion we arrived for dinner WAY before the locals – the place was empty at 7pm but the tables were dotted with reservation markers for 9pm and beyond – but like the troopers we are we were not put off. Smoke Ring has set up home in a brick archway and if you have been to any BBQ joint pretty much anywhere in the world, as soon as you walk in you’ll feel right at home. Light bulbs dangle uncovered from the ceiling, a huge rack of barrels full of liquor are stacked on one wall, signs behind the bar offer craft beer and cocktails – it is every inch the smokehouse that anyone would expect. Yes it may seem a bit tired to those who have tried many (not us however) but finding this kind of place in Rome is both comforting and refreshing. We took a seat at one of the many communal tables and had a look at the menu – eager to see what we could cram into our bellies. Meat is sold by weight (or portion in the case of ribs and wings) and you grab a tick-box form from the table, wonder how much meat you can get away with, and then take your filled in form up to the bar to pay. We ordered ribs, brisket, pulled pork, hot links, and chicken wings along with a bottle of an amber coloured wine from Lazio – as we weren’t sure on portion size, we went for 6 servings of ribs, 200g each of pulled pork and brisket, 2 portions of links, and 5 hot wings. This proved to be possibly rather excessive.

Hot links, ribs, and brisket

Hot links, ribs, and brisket

The ribs were St Louis cut – fat, juicy and huge. They had been gently seasoned with a simple but tasty rub and smoked to perfection – a nice bark and the meat clinging to the bone. I would perhaps have appreciated a glaze of sauce to finish but they were pretty fantastic all said. And six was far too much even for us (we managed four). The brisket came sliced thin which revealed the rouge ring imparted by the smoker and was savoury and delicious but possibly a little dry. The servings of links turned out to be two huge sausages cut into generous portions – we were very nearly defeated by them – and were some of the best that I’ve had, spicy and smoky with a satisfying snap when bitten into. Wonderful. Wings were also excellent – smoky, succulent, and pleasingly messy. The pulled pork was not half bad either and packed a deep, porcine punch with just the right amount of rub and a top quality amount of smoke for flavour. This is hard to do – Smoke Ring do it VERY well. The only slight let downs were the two sauces that came with the wings and pork – one was supposedly a standard BBQ sauce but in reality tasted a bit like ketchup with a bit of oregano thrown in, the other was a supposedly spicy number but lacked any real kick. That is not to say that either were unpleasant but given the quality of the majority of the cooking it did come as something of a disappointment.

But for all that meat and a bottle of excellent local wine we paid the grand total of 55 euro which was more than good value. By the time we left the place was filling up nicely and I certainly intend to visit again the next time I find myself in Rome and if you find yourself craving some serious carnivorous delights when you visit, this is the place to go.

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Cakey, Recipes

Sticky Ginger Cake

Sticky Ginger Cake

Sticky Ginger Cake

I apologise for my absence from the blog over the last couple of months – I do actually have a genuine (and pretty solid) excuse in that I was struck down with pneumonia at the beginning of December which resulted in a lengthy hospital stay and many weeks of recuperation. In fact, I’m still recuperating and as such have hardly been able to cook or bake much beyond heating things in the oven or on the hob.

Kneading dough is strictly prohibited – especially after an attempt to help making biscotti at Christmas left me shattered and unable to move, even to scrape the dough off my fingers.

So I wanted a recipe that required very little effort but delivered on flavour – and also was warming and comforting at the same time and I stumbled across an enticing looking one on the BBC Good Food site. After a bit of tinkering I had the recipe I was looking for – this ginger cake is surprisingly light in texture but is wonderfully sticky (and gets stickier the next day) and is just the ticket for dark winter nights. You can have it on its own or as a dessert served with caramel sauce and ice cream and it also freezes really well. Adjust the amount of spice to suit – I like mine nice and fiery!

One thing to be aware of – the cake looks very wobbly as it approaches the end of the cooking time, don’t be tempted to leave it too long! Insert a skewer in to the centre and if it comes out clean then the cake is done – it will continue cooking in the tin.

Ingredients

  • 60g butter
  • 125g golden syrup
  • 100g plain flour
  • 25g self raising flour
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 3-4 heaped tsps of ground ginger
  • 1 tsp mixed spice
  • 100g molasses sugar (or caster sugar if you prefer)
  • Pinch of salt
  • 125ml milk
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • Crystallised ginger to decorate (optional)

 

Method

Grease and line a 20cm cake tin (or a 2lb loaf tin if you prefer) and preheat your oven to Gas Mark 3/170c.

In a small saucepan, slowly melt the butter and golden syrup together then set aside to cool slightly.

Sift the flours, spices, and soda into a mixing bowl then add the sugar and salt and stir to combine – if you are using molasses sugar it is worth spending a bit of time breaking up the big sticky lumps that will form (lumpy batter awaits otherwise!).

Mix in the milk and beaten egg and stir until you have a smooth batter then slowly add in the melted butter/syrup mixture.

Pour into the prepared tin and bake for 50-55 mins until firm to the touch (and clean to the skewer test) then remove and allow to cool in the tin for five minutes or so before turning out onto a cooling rack.

Once cool, cut into squares, adorn with crystallised ginger (if using) and enjoy with any variety of sweet accessories – whisky cream, salted caramel sauce, ice cream, toffee sauce, chantilly, the list goes on…..

Ginger cake with salted caramel sauce and ice cream

Ginger cake with salted caramel sauce and ice cream

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Meaty, Recipes

Home-smoked ribs

One of the things I love the most about real BBQ is the deep richness that comes from slow, low cooking in a smoker. Sadly, as I live in a first floor flat without any kind of outdoor space (apart from a windowsill and that is hardly going to accommodate a big fat Weber), I have been unable to indulge in such antics.

Rubbish.

However, I have been toying around with the idea of using my stove-top smoker to infuse the meat and then my conventional oven to finish the cooking and I have to say I think I’ve come up trumps. When you use a proper cold-smoker you need to keep a tray of water near the meat to help keep it moist and control the temperature of the smoke – otherwise you’ll end up some charred, dry unpleasantness that will make you sad. Now, I know that you can put metal hot-smokers in the oven but I didn’t want to go down that road for a two-hour cooking session as there is nowhere to put a tray of water that would benefit the process. Nor did I want my oven to smell like a bonfire for the next few weeks (smoky cake anyone?) so I decided to use the hot-smoker on the hob and then transfer the meat to a baking dish and put liquid in that before covering the whole lot and cooking at a low temperature for a good couple of hours. Simple.

I used a rub based on the excellent Pitt Cue Co recipe – I would have followed it exactly but didn’t have all the ingredients – and let the meat sit overnight before smoking. After finishing in the oven I have to say the results were fantastic! Although there wasn’t exactly the smoke ring through the meat that is the sign of proper BBQ, there was a bit of char and a good ‘bark’ (if you eat enough BBQ you’ll know what I mean) and, above all, there was a glorious smoky flavour that ran through the whole thing. It was quite staggeringly good. I’m going to make it again. Probably rather soon. So, here we go….

Note that the following quantity makes a large amount of rub but it keeps really well in a sealed container for a few weeks. Also, make sure you remove the thin membrane on the ribs – if you turn them so the curved side is down, use a sharp knife to carefully separate the membrane from the meat and then pull the whole thing off. It may or may not come off in one go. And yes, it is alarmingly satisfying.

Finally, if you haven’t got any liquid smoke don’t worry – it works fine with just water. Or bourbon. Or both…

Ingredients

For the rub:

  • 5g fennel seeds
  • 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1/2 black peppercorns
  • 1/2 tsp coriander seeds
  • 50g dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 onion powder
  • 50g fine sea salt
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika

Along with:

  • 1 rack baby-back ribs (membrane removed)
  • 2 tsp liquid smoke
  • a glug of bourbon
  • 100ml water
  • BBQ sauce for glazing

Method

First, make the rub. In a dry pan lightly toast the fennel, cumin, pepper, and coriander until they begin to smell amazing then remove and allow to cool. Blitz with the rest of the spices in a spice grinder or pestle and mortar.

Next, prepare the ribs. It is worth making sure they will fit easily in your smoker – you may find you have to cut the rack into portions but that won’t matter. Having removed the membrane from the rack, rub the whole lot generously with your, er, rub, cover, and put in the fridge overnight. If you have space put the ribs on a wire rack to let any liquid drip out but it’s not a disaster if your fridge is too mini.

The following day, remove the ribs from the fridge and pat them dry with some kitchen paper and allow to come back up to room temperature.

Prepare your smoker – I used oak chippings but any decent strong flavour will do – put the meat on the rack in the drip tray over a handful of chippings, put the lid on and place over a high heat until it begins to smoulder and then turn your hob down low. Cook the ribs for 30 mins then remove from the smoker.

While your kitchen is slowly turning into a smoky den (make sure you have all your windows open!!!), put a small wire rack in a roasting tray and add your liquids to the bottom. Pre-heat your oven to Gas mark 2/150c.

When your ribs are smoked, put them on the rack and cover the tray with foil then put in the oven for at least two hours, checking occasionally and adding more liquid if necessary.

After waiting patiently and smelling the increasingly awesome aroma that will be filling your kitchen, remove the tray and have a look at the meat – the outside will flake away and the meat should be tender and easily come away from the bone.

Glaze with BBQ sauce and finish under a hot grill to add an extra layer of gloss and decadence.

Eat without delay with pickles and any other BBQ delights you may have. I found some burnt ends kicking about so I had them too….

Ribs and burnt ends

Ribs and burnt ends

NB – I got the burnt ends from Bodeans who supply excellent pre-cooked BBQ packs to take away…

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