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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Outdoors!!

Who could deny that an outdoors braai is way better than an indoors oven roast? Well, some may say you’d better do it outdoors otherwise you’ll burn the house down and to be honest, there’s most certainly a grain of truth in that line of thought. However, apart from protecting the roof over one’s head the food just tastes about 327.3975% better!
BRAAI!! One of the best outdoor persuits mankind has ever developed!! FUN!!

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!

Pork Belly – Braaied and Smoked

Father’s Day is just one of those days… another Sunday… one of the 52 we’re allocated annually.

Not!!

Father’s Day is a day for me to have fun and fun for me is to braai… or take photos… or spend with my family… or to pinch my good lady’s posterior… or to sample a good bit of red stuff… or to blog a bit… or not to think of work at all… or to watch a bit of test cricket on TV… or to chat with distant daughters and sons closer… and relax.

So, I ask, why not do all in one? I decided earlier in the week to try something different. Pork bell/ rib. John, our friendly village meat master had the perfect answer. A whole slab of belly pork with half still on the bone. I did a bit of reading… the usual suspects, Hugh, BBC food, even Master Oliver… how to best do the roast. Only difference, I wasn’t going to do this bit of pork in any oven… I was most certainly going to braai the slab.

I mean… if I can get the Christmas pork roast to crackle on the braai in the middle of winter then I stand half a chance to get this baby just right!

Saying all of that, let’s get the preparation just right. Basically, the Stanley Knife I keep in the kitchen for the express reason of preparing ribs was the first tool to be used. Score the skin, trying not to cut into the meat. Next, place the joint over the sink and pour a whole kettle of boiling water over the skin. I’ve done this before with a pork roast so I wasn’t too afraid of giving it a go.

Yes, I hear some of you shouting at the screen… “No!! You’ve got to keep the skin dry!!”

Yes, that’s where the salt comes in… rub salt into the wounds… rub hard. Then rest a wee while. You’ll see how the salt draws out the moisture. Then use fresh paper towel to remove all the water. Next I put more salt on the skin… no, don’t rub it in again, you don’t want to end up with salt pork. Wait a few minutes and dry off the skin again. I repeated this step 3 times.

Before I go too far, let’s take a few steps back. After the scoring and initial salt rubbing onto the skin I flipped the slab over and doctored the underside. Sorry, the muti is my secret , never to be shared. I wish. Just dry herbs and spices bashed up in the mortar. Oh, don’t forget the olive oil.

Phew… this write-up is turning into a bit of a marathon. I’ll say, part of the preparation was doctoring some lamb ribs, for those in the house who can’t let an opportunity by to enjoy a few.

After all the salting and drying I rubbed in my muti… then began the next part of the drying process. Here’s something you may not read in the manuals. I used the back of a knife to clear off any moisture from the skin. I kept doing this every few minutes for an hour or two. (Time spent writing the first part of this post.)

Begin by clicking in the top left corner… I’ve included the times so you know how long to wait between steps… if you should ever want to try this at home.

The last photo in the sequence above was taken at 13h32. I kept at the drying process until the coals were hot enough and the braai suitably toasty to slap on the slab. That was just after 16h00. The plan was to eat by 18h30 or so… giving a good 2 hours for braaiing and smoking and the 20 minutes for the slab to rest before carving

Slab on.... just after 16h00

The first signs of colour and crisping… all seems in order at this point.

Colour at last... maybe I should have realised I was in for difficulty at 16h44...

Throw on the lamb ribs to get them coloured up as well…

Throw on the lamb ribs to get their colour going... also 16h44

I’m not convinced that the crackling is getting there! Add more charcoal as well as the smoking medium. (Apple grated into the oak sawdust moistened with cider)

The final attempt at getting the crackling crisp was after Junior Son walked out and suggested I turn the slab over… directly onto the grid for more direct exposure to the coals. It sure worked, one could hear the skin crackling and popping. Only thing, we lost the golden brown richness…

A bit scorched? Maybe that plan didn't work as planned!

The proof was in the carving… tasty and crisp!

Eventually... carving at 19h30... the meat was juicy, tastey and tender... even though the outsides didn't look too appealing!

Lessons learned. 

  • Don’t put the meat on foil. At one point the trapped fat caught fire… this leaving a very black underside.
  • Find a large enough stainless roasting dish… place the meat on a rack and keep moist for at least the first half of the braai
  • Make a deflector plate to place over the meat, this will concentrate the heat and make the crackling happen without having to turn the meat over.
  • Put the smoking medium in sooner… on a larger tray for better results.

What more can I say? An experiment that didn’t quite work as planned. Will I try t again? Yes, after incorporating all of the lessons learned. Simple!

Rules of Engagement?

Continuing from the first post… where does one begin to tell the story? Conversely put… how does one eat an elephant? That’s easy as you all know… you eat the beast little by little… bit by bit. That’s how I’ll relating the tale here at BB&B.

Tradition is a strong reminder and binder. It reminds us of home and binds us to what was once that home. I am as South African as you will ever find. So many generation back that even the Portuguese sea captains and French Huguenots come into the equation. Maybe that’s why I love the ideas of France and Portugal so much. OK, enough history.

Tradition can also become a way of life. Tradition can translate to others as well. My Good Lady Wife wasn’t born on the African continent yet braaiing is absolutely normal for her and the rest of the family. I dare you… ask the good lady what she wants for Christmas fare and you’ll soon be put right… the roasts on the braai! Yes, I kid you not!

I’ll take it a step further… picture this. Our 5-year-old grandson, born and bred here in Ireland… has never set foot on any portion of Africa, never-mind South Africa, yet… when the other day he accidentally overheard mention of ‘braai’ his ears pricked up and he enthusiastically asked…

“Are we having a braai?”

No, he didn’t ask if we were having a bbq… he asked if it would be a braai! Even the very little ones know and appreciate the great tastes associated with braaiing.

OK… I’ve waffled on enough for today. I’ll leave you with one of my favourite braai photos… yes, Christmas in the snow… a labour of love. Read more about it here. Until next time… may the coals be just right and the lamb tender!

Braai time... Christmas Day 2010, Kilcock, Ireland. Santi in the snow!!