Merry Christmas!!

Our Christmas roasts coming on just fine… this year the weather hasn’t played along too well. It’s been raining all day… making the braaiing a tad more characterful! Oh well… it’s all pat of the fun! Anyway, the traditional legs of lamb and a smaller pork roast… because this year I’ve tried something new… my own ham, finished off on the braai! So… Merry Christmas… enjoy your day!

2015 Christmas braai roasts!! Can't be beaten!!

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Lamb Cutlets in Cider and Apple Marinade

OK… before you shout at me… cutlets, that’s what we used to call leg of lamb chops back in the old country… well, that’s what I think we used to call them. So, if you do a Big G search for lamb cutlets you see the images of the cuts with the ribs sticking out. Rather search “leg of lamb chops” to see what I’m really on about… or, be patient and read on. OK… back to the tale.

I think you’ll have to agree with me when I say lamb on the braai is special. Yep, so special that we often enjoy lamb ribs done on the coals. There’s an extra fun element to the ribs… well, as my GLW usually adds… it may be a little barbaric. And therein lies a wee problem. My GLW doesn’t enjoy the primeval. This got me thinking… why not ask Esquire Ryan, our main meat man, to mutilate a leg of lamb? Cut it into chops? He looked at me as if I sported at least four heads… one pig, one sheep, one bull and maybe even one snake.

The good man was heard to be mumbling something along the lines of sacrebleu as he went noisily about ransacking his cold-room! I have to qualify one thing… JR is a purest! He doesn’t have one of those “meat master” band-saw type of machines in his shop… all knife and saw, our JR. Maybe that’s why he’s not prone to selling leg of lamb all cut up but then, he shouldn’t be all cut up because I wanted a leg cut up… or should he?

Phew… writing recipes is hard work. I’ve not managed to progress past the butcher’s and I’ve already managed almost 300 words! Imagine if I was paid per word. OK, I’m not… so let me get on with proceedings. As I said in the distant past when this post began, I wanted the good lady and grand dad to enjoy their lamb as well… in a more sophisticated manner. However, I wanted the best possible cut… minimum bone, maximum flavour and succulence.That’s why I asked Esq JR to do his mutilation.

Right, the recipe. As is my norm, a bit of Big G searching usually gets me pointed in some sort of direction. I searched “apple and lamb” and was soon rewarded with this recipe. It needed tweaking, I decided. Why, well… I don’t like curry but I like spicy. Secondly, there was no mention of garlic… tragic in any man’s culinary world… well, some ladies are fond of the herb as well. One such lady is the GLW, so garlic is a must.

I wasn’t sure about the sugar but thought I have nothing to lose. I wasn’t sure about anything really but if you’ve been visiting this blog you’ll know I’m never too shy or sanctimonious to try something new. A few other things the recipe doesn’t mention… apples and cider. Yep, I have looooong believed that if the two go so well with me then they must go well with lamb. Something like steak and a splosh of good red grape cordial.

My recipe?

  • One red onion, chopped finely
  • Garlic, as much as you desire, remembering not to overpower the lamb
  • One chopped hot chilli… or two if you so feel
  • Two smallish Granny Smith apples, quartered and grated
  • My mix of spice (coriander, black pepper, cloves)
  • Dry powder ginger (I didn’t have fresh stuff on hand)
  • One cup apple juice
  • One cup cider… apple cider, not that other imitation stuff
  • Half cup olive oil
  • Dry herbs of your choice and to your taste… thyme, rosemary, the stuff that goes with lamb
  • Rock salt ground, to taste
  • Half cup soft brown sugar
  • Two lemons, one squeezed into the marinade, the other for using while you braai
  • A bit of time and effort… not forgetting a slurp or three of cider

Tip: Leave the skin on the apple, you can actually grate the flesh out of the peel without managing to make messy red stains all over the apples!

Gosh, that’s now taken the word count well over 650 and I’ve not showed you a photo yet! Let’s remedy that…

Some of the staples...

Mind you, I’m prone to forget adding things when I take the photos… usually I’m so engrossed in supping the refreshments… sorry, preparing the ingredients that I snap without too much thought.

Grand… now you can at least get an idea of what goes in… sans lemons and sugar. You’ll have to look carefully to spot the cider, but then… this is a family show so we shouldn’t lead the youngsters astray.

At some point the fire needs lighting. Usually Junior Son takes care of that aspect so when he was away playing a Friday evening game of cricket I had to multi-task. As mentioned, I miss adding ingredients when modeling the photos and so do I miss showing all the stages so, now you’re going to see what it looked like once the chops were snugly soothed by the completed marinade…

Lovingly prepared... ok, enthusiastically prepared!

… yes, I know what you’re thinking… surely nothing good can arise from that concoction! Wrong!

Eventually, we arrive at the point of truth… the braai. At this juncture I’ll suggest you scroll down to the photo in the previous post where you see the large green thing providing shelter… yes, seemingly the Celtic weather fairies were not too pleased that I was at my favorite pastime again. Just look-see at this sky… you’d have to agree.

Angry sky? More likely confused sky!

I purposely used the roof and chimney as reference when I took the photo because otherwise folk may think this image is CG! No, it’s not!

Right… now will follow very few words and a sequence… oh, make that a wee gallery, of the braai…

After all those words… here’s a look at the end result! Soon we’ll have to get our hands on those large, elongated restaurant plates…

Better, BETTER! Flipping great!

If you’re wondering about the very pale potato salad… shop special as this whole process happened on a Friday evening after work… we ate after nine… yep, I was still standing in the butchers at about five.

So, the moral of the story?

  • The marinade is great, do try and make it the evening before and get the flavours to really infuse! (Gosh, I’m starting to sound as pompous as that Oliver fella…)
  • How about a de-boned leg of lamb?
  • The original recipe suggests using the left over marinade to make a sauce… yep, that’s happening next time!
  • Don’t be too holy about the cut… it will all be good, even in the oven, me thinks! Slow roast in the darkest days of winter? Yep!!
  • No, the ribs got a separate treatment… but more of that later…

Finally, as I occasionally use Hemingway#s wise words when writing on the other blog… why not leave you with the thoughts of another of my hero’s… the inimitable Sir Keith Floyd,

“I apparently said that celebrity cooks are so up their own bottoms that they do not realise that food should be fun, not a station waiting for a train to arrive to take them to a destination to learn how to cook”

For a great Floyd read… do click here!

How to Fill a 44 Gallon Drum?

No… this isn’t a trick question… it’s a statement of fact! Proverbially filling the drum means getting the whole grid covered with the effects of the braai. Yep, the puritans are going to tell me that pork and lamb shouldn’t be on the same grid… nor should pork chops and bbq ribs mix. Well, we’re still more than alive! Oh well puritans… this is how we filled the drum last weekend!

A drum full... thanks GLW for the pics!

PS – Thanks GLW for the photo… as always, someone’s got to flip the burgers while someone else does the fun bits!

PSS – Soon the Pappy’s Day meat will be prepared… promise there’s an interesting variation on a theme lurking!

Lamb Sosaties…

Whoopy!! We have meat on the braai again! No baking skills today… just real carnivorous culinary delights!

On Saturday we had a wee celebratory braai. If you really must know the reason, yours truly completed another orbit around the sun. I wanted to add a bit of variety so I did some homework. We usually have steak for birthdays but I went off to our friendly butcher last Thursday evening to discuss my options. On Saturday morning the GLW collected all the bits and pieces I’d ordered. Lamb chunks, chicken wings and the necessary steak.

I think, those who know me, will by now know that for me the preparation is just as much fun as the actual braaiing. Some will say that’s because I indulge in a sup or two… just like my first telly food hero, the inimitable Sir Keith Floyd! That man was a legend, there’s no arguing the fact. OK, back to the ingredients. The good lady picked up some fresh veggies as well so after trimming the meat I diced a few peppers, an onion and tomatoes.

Once the meat had been prepared I placed it in a bowl and doctored it with juices of my choice. Lemon, white wine… garlic and herbs. Another tip I learned some time ago, place the skewer sticks in water to soak them thoroughly… that helps prevent them burning away on the hot coals. Then, once all the cutting, slicing and dicing is complete one can begin assembling the sosaties… here goes a gallery to illustrate…

Braaied Lamb Ribs – With A Twist! (Part 1)

I’m usually not good with other people’s recipes. Mostly they act as inspiration when I see something interesting. No… I’m not saying I’m some kind of wiz in the kitchen, actually the reverse is true. I have a few stock standards, tried and tested with which I occasionally (often) experiment. A tweak here… an additional ingredient there… so it usually goes.

Braaiing comes natural to many folk. I suppose I’m lucky in that I seemed to have been dealt quite a good hand when it comes to throwing bits of meat on the coals. My family just so happen to think I’m OK when it comes to conjuring up a fairly decent meal for them, when I attempt to do so. I think my luck is somewhat enhanced because I have NO sense of smell. Yes, I’m often asked by guests how I could taste my food if I can’t smell it. I’m not sure… I guess in my case it’s all in the fingertips and the eyes…

Anyway, I’ve really digressed. Today is slightly different. Not only did I draw from the recipe of a fellow blogger for my inspiration, I actually followed all the instructions… with a tweak or two. Let’s just say that’s the stubborn creativity in me.

The fun begins...

The inspiration came from Jennifer’s How to make Tomato Sauce Like an Italian. The idea of doing a few lamb ribs in a marinade based on the sauce was born. Why? Well, I was actually looking for an excuse to spend hours doing nothing… just relaxing in the kitchen with the family. They came and went while I carried on regardless. I’ve often said it… the making and preparing of the meal is therapeutic. I’ll agree with one of my food hero’s, Rick Stein often says cooking is a form of art. It must be, otherwise, if it was work, we wouldn’t necessarily find enjoyment, would we?

OK… back to the tomato sauce. The best way to describe the whole process is to say please click on the link and follow Jennifer’s step by step guide. I’ll show you a gallery of my process so, if you want to see where I deviated you’ll have to check the slides sequentially.

OK… I’ll begin the sequence by saying I began the whole process at around noon on a Saturday and by about seven in the evening I put the ribs in the sauce for their overnight rest. I’ll add, for the sake of not boring you to tears I’ll split the post into a two-parter… today, the sauce…

Begin top left… read the captions… there’s a surprise ingredient or two added…

The Beginning…

Where to begin? Well, for a site that’s meant to extol the virtues of the braai one must surely be tempted to get cracking with the fire first! OK… then we’ll begin at the beginning. The fire. The fire is the heart and soul of any good bbq. Imagine going to all the trouble of going off to the butcher to collect a few choice cuts of meat. The stuff’s not all that cheap you know, especially if you have half a tribe of hungry, growing sons and now grandsons.

In my home country, South Africa, braaiing is a way of life so when one uproots and moves halfway across the world to Ireland something must be carried along and yes, something may also be lost. Here on the Green Island where life is easy for beef, poultry, lamb and swine the meat is great but the weather not always so. That means braaiing opportunities are rather few and far between… if you let a bit of weather get in your way.

We braai rather often, including doing the Christmas roasts on the bbq (almost) every year since we arrived in 2001. Yes, even the year it snowed, click here for proof! The problem with out of season braaiing is the lack of charcoal. We used to get our charcoal from a local SA shop which has now moved on because of the tight economic times. Now, of late, I’ve been experimenting with local hardwoods. Not altogether as successful as I hope but with a bit of planning one can get a fair result.

So… that’s where we’ll begin… with the fire…

A mixture of beech and balckthorn works resonable well for braaiing lamb ribs. Well for steak too!

I’ll elaborate as time goes by about some of the reasons for the creation of this blog. I hope this new blog turns into a showcase for all sorts of braai related products and even the odd recipe or idea for cooking or meat preparation.

So long for now, may the fire burn brightly and the coals be great!