Warming Winter Goulash – Chicken and bean

Winter is closing in and that means the yearly escape to Wales is nearly here. I’ve written on here before about the warming beef stew they serve and there are a few other items on the menu that I’ve been dying to try out.

Chicken goulash with chips is one such item on the menu. Succulent chunks of chicken in a rich tomato sauce with lashings of paprika; what’s not to love. Traditional Hungarian versions of the stew are made with beef, but variations exist which are made from chicken, lamb or even beans.

In my version of Goulash I’ve gone for chicken but added in some beans and used three different types of paprika for added warmth. With lots of added veg you could even argue this is a healthy dinner option. The addition of hassleback potatoes and homemade wraps to soak up the sauce make a lovely winter feast.

 

Goulash

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Ingredients

  • 6 Large Chicken thighs
  • 2 Tins chopped tomatoes
  • 3 Large peppers
  • Onions, Carrots, Celery and Garlic
  • Paprika (Smoked, Sweet and Hungarian)
  • Haricot and Cannellini beans
  • Coriander
  • Chilli, Caraway seeds and bay leaves

 

As per usual start by taking a photo of all the ingredients together. I still maintain this is an important part of life, not just for blogging.  I have to move loads of stuff around each time to take it.

Once the photo has been taken you can put all the kitchen back together and start browning the chicken. It’s best to leave the skin on and bone in place, it adds to the flavour and can be removed later.

Once browned, remove from the pan and add in the chopped carrots, onion and celery. This time I have to confess I cheated slightly and used a pack of frozen veg. They come in handy after a long shift.

After the onions have softened, add in the peppers. Again you could use frozen but fresh are better. Once cooked, add in the chopped garlic. Adding it in early risks it burning which creates bitterness, so be careful.

With all the veg cooked out, add in the chopped tomatoes, spices and beans. Bring up to the boil and add back in the chicken. Place the lid back on the Le Cresuet and simmer for an hour.

With the chicken cooked, remove from the Goulash and strip the meat from the bone. This can then be returned to the pan to soak up the tomatoey goodness until the rest of the dish is ready.

Wraps

Ingredients

  • 1lb Strong bread flour
  • 1oz salt
  • 2oz Caster Sugar
  • 5g Fresh yeast
  • 1oz Butter
  • 320ml Water

Wraps are very easy to make as it turns out. Measure all the ingredients out and transfer to the bowel of a mixer with a dough hook. My favourite is a kitchenaid but I’m biased.

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On a medium speed, mix in the water and knead for 5 mins until a smooth dough has been formed. Once done, proof for 2-3 hours. Perfect time for a coffee

With the dough proved, form into balls and then roll out flat. Try to make them look like wraps, but be creative.

Cook in a hot pan with just a small amount of oil, flipping over after 2mins – this should leave you with a lovely brown mottled pattern.

Lets Eat

Right, that’s about it I think.

I like to serve the goulash with some fresh coriander and also a hassleback potato. These are easy to make, just make some cuts almost completely through a potato and then bake in the oven. You can top with some paprika as well to add to the flavour.

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Well, I hope you’ve enjoyed the blog as much as I enjoyed the goulash. But saying that, what’s not to like about chicken, paprika, wraps and crispy potatoes.

 

Beef and Ale Stew with Yorkshire Puddings and Herby Dumplings

As you’ve probably realised by now, I am a Birmingham Medical School graduate. As a student we all had one fear; being placed at Hereford. This meant that for 18 weeks you were isolated from your friends, girlfriend, and a decent Calzone. It did however mean you got amazing teaching, opportunities which were only comparable to the old school training days (find me another 5th year that can put in central lines and do an open appendicectomy – quids in they went to Hereford as well ). It also allowed some long-lasting relationships to form.
Now, I can’t claim to have made any long-term romances, but I did discover something amazing………..

Llanthony, a ruined Abbey just across the border in Wales.

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The Priory was founded in 1100 and, following the dissolution of the monasteries, has laid dormant for centuries. Luckily, in the late 19th century, someone converted the remaining tower and cellar into a bed and breakfast which still remains. The rooms are cosy, the perfect place to bring a lover for a secret weekend away, and the bar serves good honest food. It inspired this recipe in fact, a hearty beef casserole slowly cooked in local Stout with herby dumplings and Yorkshire puddings; what’s not to love. The lads certainly did on our recent walking trip.

Beef Stew

For this recipe you either need an Aga or a slow cooker

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Ingredients 

  • 4lb Chunk Steak
  • 2lbs Onions (ideally small)
  • 2 bottles of Stout
  • 4 Carrots
  • 1 Head of celery
  • 1 Parsnip
  • 1 Clove of Garlic
  • Thyme, sage, salt, pepper 
  • Worcestershire Sauce
  • Flour and oil

Start by taking your beef and removing all the obvious fat, tendons and membranes. What you should be left with is delicious meat, some marbling but none of the chewy fat. I’m using beef from Coates butchers – they are great!!

Toss the beef in seasoned flour and then brown off in a Le Creuset – I’m using Bertha, a pan I bought in Hereford years ago. Alternatively you can cook it in a frying pan and transfer to the slow cooker.


Take the browned meat out and then saute the carrot, onion and celery (finely dice these first). I’ve used Grans ridged cutter here for the carrots – rumour is it was made from the old air raid shelter.


Now for the fun part – deglaze the pan with the beer. You can use lots of different types of beer, stout is best and I’m using one from the local brewery, Derventio brewery.

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With the beef, carrots, onion, celery and beer combined in the Le Creuset, add the thyme, sage and some tomato puree/soup (it helps tenderise the beef). Finally add the garlic. A little goes a long way.

Leave to cook overnight in a low oven till the meat is tender. At this point you can add in some small onions to go with the diced up ones. Pickling onions are perfect. Return to the slow oven again. Around another 12hrs should do it.

In the mean time you can make the dumplings and Yorkshire puddings if you want to plan ahead.

Herby Dumplings

I’m a great fan of dumplings, they are a great addition to an already hearty meal. Proper dumplings are made with suet and if you don’t ask too many questions about its origin it’s great. According to mum the box hasn’t changed since she was a young girl. I’ve added some horseradish and parsley for added flavour.

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Ingredients

  • 8oz Self raising flour
  • 4oz Suet
  • 1tbs Parsley
  • 2tsp Horseradish
  • Water

Start by weighing out the flour and suet then transferring into a large mixing bowl along with the parsley.

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Add the horseradish, then add cold water, one spoon at a time.

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Bring together to form a relatively wet dough and divide into walnut sized balls. Roll them in to shape.

To cook, add the dumplings onto the top of the stew and replace the lid.

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Cook for 20mins, removing the lid in the last 5 mins to allow a bit of browning action.

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Yorkshire Puddings

Currently theatres are having a debate around Yorkshires with Christmas dinner. Unless you have beef then the answer should be no.

Ingredients 

  • 8oz Plain flour
  • 1pint Milk
  • 3 Eggs
  • 1 Pinch of salt

Again start by weighing out the flour and transferring to a mixing bowl as well as a pinch of salt.

Add in the wet ingredients; the milk and eggs.

Combine and beat together using a novel whisk – this one I think was used by my Victorian relatives…………… It works really well though.

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Set aside to rest in the fridge. In the mean time, heat up some fat in a red-hot oven. I’m using real beef dripping. This is not exactly heart healthy but tastes great.

When the fat is smoking hot, fill each well about 3/4 full and return to the oven.

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Cook for about 20mins, turning half way through.

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When cooked, remove and serve whilst still warm and crispy. Otherwise they can be rewarmed later.

 

Lets eat.

Right!! With your hearty stew cooked, serve with a couple of dumplings, yorkshire puddings and some veg. If you are greedy, a side of crispy potatoes mops up the gravy perfectly.

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And don’t forget the horseradish.

Beef Brisket Chilli aka Posh Chilli

Along side medicine and the tea room I do some consulting work on drones. Now, this is mostly boring but I do get an office. On the desk alongside the plans, a miniature jet engine and an old slide rule, lies a stethoscope. Now, this is important because recently it came up in an interview when I was asked about the most expensive item in my life……………..

“The stethoscope, for it has cost me my youth”

Doctors spend most of their youth stuck in lectures or commuting to and from placements. This is the reason most medics either have crazy hobbies or love elaborate long winded cooking. The chilli recipe below is a prime example of this, taking 2 days of slow cooking, it makes a great recipe to enjoy with friends. It’s not too spicy either………

 

Ingredients

  • 2kg Beef Brisket
  • 2 Carrots
  • 2 Onions
  • 1 Head of Celery
  • 3 Peppers
  • 2 Tins Kidney Beans
  • 1 Tin Chopped Tomatoes
  • Spices – Salt, pepper, paprika, cumin, chilli, cinnamon
  • Moonshine
  • Camp coffee
  • Worcestershire sauce

 

Start in the usual fashion, collect the ingredients together in the kitchen and take a pretty photo for social media. If it’s not on facebook it didn’t happen after all.

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Chop the carrots, onions and celery roughly and place into the bottom of a large roasting dish, something like a Le Creuset is perfect. Then combine the spices in a pestle and mortar. The amount of each spice will depend on personal preference, but a tiny amount of cinnamon goes a long way.

Rub the beef in the spices mix and place into the pan on top of the veg. If you can’t be bothered to make a spice mix of your own you can always buy a packet………I won’t judge, I promise.

We haven’t quite got to the oven part yet I’m afraid. I told you, medics like long-winded cooking. My favourite chilli from my time in America was at this smoke pit near Reno where they used burnt ends to add smokey depth. Now, I’ve resisted the urge to build a smoker and instead added some moonshine, camp coffee and a dash of Worcestershire sauce instead.

Cook in a low oven  (the bottom of an Aga) overnight.

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Feeling well rested from a long night dreaming of homemade chilli, retrieve your beef from the oven and set aside. From the stock remove and finely dice the veg, these can be added back to the chilli later.

Roughly chop 3 peppers and gently soften in some oil on a low heat, then when cooked add in the veg from before. To this veg mix, add the kidney beans and a tin of chopped tomatoes.

Now the fun begins. Remove the butchers string from your beef brisket and cut into chunks along the grain of the meat. Then take out all the stress in your life….using forks or your fingers shred the beef.

Return the shredded beef to the Le Creuset along with more herbs and spices. As you can tell I’ve cheated and used a Colemans mix. Now add the stock and combine all together.

Then it’s back to the oven. Again its an overnight job, but then it will finally be done. I promise.

Time to eat

 

Right, after 2 days of slow cooking you should have made the decision of what you are going to have your chilli with……..I’ve gone simple with a jacket potato and a bit of cheese. I contemplated chilli cheese fries, but……………

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Anyway, well done if you make this at home, it takes a long time but is definitely worth the wait. I’m tempted to add it to the tea room menu, what do you think?

 

A night at Searcys- Harissa mayo, chips and champagne

I like to think our tea room is a bit unique. Although it’s only open two days a week, the food doesn’t get rolled over. If it doesn’t sell, it gets eaten by us or given to the wildlife (foxy and badger do well). Now some argue this isn’t good for the accounts, but it’s better for the costumers and gives me loads of stuff to use for blogs. This week we had about 4 jackets left over on Sunday, so I decided to make some wedges.  The only tricky bit was what to have with them.

Well, I’m a bit of a superstitious person. If I’m test flying I give the ground team my mobile and if I’m in London I always have champagne and chips with spicy mayo at Searcys at St Pancras Station. This started when I took and passed my first surgical exam!! With results of the second exam out and a pass achieved, I thought I might give making the spicy mayo a go. It’s flavoured with harissa and amazing with chips and a glass of Verve.

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Harissa mayo

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Ingredients

  • 1 egg yolk
  • 125ml olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon White wine vinegar
  • Salt & pepper
  • 1 teaspoon each of caraway, cumin and coriander seeds
  • 2 teaspoons chilli flakes
  • 2 cloves fresh garlic
  • Jacket potatoes – for the wedges

 

Start by checking you have all the ingredients ready and also a friend on hand to help. Luckily dad’s around.

Start by separating the egg, you only need the yolk so you can either throw away the white or use it in something else. Transfer this to a bowl and gently whisk to break up.  Now the fun begins, add the oil a drop at a time and whisk till fully mixed.

 

Mayo at this point will split if you add the oil too fast and it doesn’t get incorporated. You can save it by adding another egg yolk if it does split.

Continue adding the oil a drop at a time (hence the need for dad) until the mix starts to thicken up. Then add the vinegar – it helps to stabilise the mayo.

 

Now, using your assistant again add the remaining oil in a continuous slow stream whilst frantically whisking. What results is homemade mayo – you can add some mustard, salt and pepper to make lively normal mayo or……..add harissa paste to make something special.

 

Harissa is sort of like a spicy North African ketchup alternative. It’s made by combining Caraway, Cumin and coriander seeds and gently toasting in a dry pan for a couple of minutes. These are then added to the chilli and ground up in a pestle and mortar.

 

Then add the finely chopped garlic and grind again in the trusty pestle and mortar. You can add a bit of oil to form a paste at the end.

 

All that remains is to combine the mayo with the Harissa paste and fold together.

 

Let’s eat

Make a few wedges with the left over jacket potatoes by chopping into 8 and cooking on the Aga in a bit of oil. Season with some salt and pepper.

 

Serve the wedges with a little ramekin of the mayo, a few olives and some perfectly chilled champagne (Jennie gets Verve, Alice-Moet, Holly edged towards Rothschild but when it’s just me – Pommery)

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Cuban Burgers, D-types and the Mille

“She held my hand and told me to be kind and gentle”

These sadly weren’t the words of a lover to me, but a close friends advice in my final year at Medschool. You see, during that year I had become a bit of a dictator; I had rewrote the curriculum, won a major Wellcome trust grant, deposed the head of the Academic Society. This was alongside becoming a favourite of the Urology team, getting a job offer and a myth about a Jag.

I love myths, this one related to a crashed D-type somewhere in Cuba. Well, I say myth, it’s currently on its way to my workshop. During my trip to rescue her, I stumbled upon a little bar by the beach. Here I had my first Cuban burger. These are a heady mix of lean beef, spicy chorizo, chillis and served in a soft Cuban roll with a side of skinny fries and topped with pulled pork if you’re feeling hungry

Now, I’m just finishing another long run of night shifts on the assessment unit, so fancy a treat. Time to make a few Cubanos and get some food.

Fennel Pulled Pork

As you can tell from the previous blogs, I like pulled pork. Whilst on the trail of my mythical Jag I kind of fell in love with an aromatically flavored Fennel Pork. It again is cooked overnight in a low oven, so those with Agas are at a distinct advantage.

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Ingredients

  • Pork Shoulder
  • Fennel seeds
  • Mustard seeds
  • Coriander Seads
  • Onions, Celery and Carrots
  • Course sea salt and pepper
  • Caster Sugar
  • Thornbrudge Jaipur IPA (or a good pale ale)

 

Start by making your dry rub. Combine the fennel, mustard, coriander, salt, sugar and celery salt in a pestle and motor and grind to a coarse powder. This relieves some of the pent up stress of finding parts of a Jag race engine.

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Next it’s time for a bit of chopping. Layer the bottom of a large Le Cresuet with onion, carrot, celery and a bit of bay leaf if you have any. On top of this place the shoulder of pork.

Massage the dry rub into the Pork and then add a hearty glug of Worcester sauce and a pint of a good quality beer.
As you can tell I’ve been drinking a lot of Juipur recently and it made sense finish the Keg off.

Cook in the bottom Aga (approx 100) for around 12-18hrs depending on the Pork – if you stick a fork in and it falls apart it’s done.

Cuban bread

Having first had this in a little bakery in Havana and falling in love, I persuaded the owner to teach me how to bake them. She used an old enamel cup to weigh the flour out so I’m being true to this. They are sort of an enriched dough, but lack the eggs of a brioche style. Soft and slightly buttery, you can see why they make a fantastic sandwich.

Ingredients 

  • 2cups strong white flour
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 tea spoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons soft butter
  • 1 teaspoon dried yeast
  • 1/2 cup warm water

Start by weighing out the ingredients and then combine in the bowl of the mixer.
Using the doughook slowly add the water till a soft dough has formed. Then keep kneading at a medium pace for around 5mins.


The same principle can be used to hand knead the dough, it will help with any bingo wings which are starting to form as well. 
Let the dough rest in an oiled bowl for around 1hr or until doubled in size. In the mean time I would suggest fixing yourself a rum based drink or working out where to get more Jag parts from.


After an hour, your dough should be nicely proved. Knock the dough back and turn out onto a well floured surface.
Divide the dough into 4 and shape into balls, taking care to tuck the bottoms under to aid in the rise.


Prove again for around an hour until doubled in size -more Rum would be my suggestion here.


Cut a cross into the top of the rolls and bake at 190C till brown and delicious -around 15mins. In the last 5 mins you can sprinkle with flour for effect.

Cuban Burger

Basically a burger, but so so much more

Ingredients

  • 1lb. 70/30 lean beef coarsely ground
  • 1 small onion
  • 4oz Chorizo
  • 1 small chilli
  • Parsley, sage and a sprig of thyme

 

I’m not going to lie, I don’t know if the Cuban burger is one which originated in Cuba, or was a bit of an American import during the roaring 30’s. Either way it’s delicious. A mix of smokey chorizo, good quality beef and a kick of chilli.

You can either mince the beef yourself, using something like chuck/brisket or get your butcher to grind it for you as I have. Start by dicing the chorizo into small pieces, approximately the size of a pea.

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After this, finely chop the chilli, onion and herbs. You can leave this coarse, if you prefer a chunkier nature to your burger.

Combine all the ingredients in a large bowl and, using your hands, mix together and divide into 4 balls. This gives you burgers somewhere a smudge over 1/4lb………….

Although I have a burger press, the rustic nature of the burgers at the bar on the beach would be disrespected if I were to use it. Therefore using the palm of your hand, flatten into discs.

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All that’s left to do is cook them in a hot pan with a dash of oil. Flip over after around 5mins when a good char has been achieved.

Lets Eat

All that remains is to assemble the burger. I find that it’s best to toast the rolls to give them some structural integrity. Then just add a good smear of mayo, the burger, some cheese, the Pulled Pork and the bbq sauce. Serve with a side of crispy potatoes, coleslaw and obviously a token salad leaf…………….

 

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Oh, I nearly forgot. The car, well I promised the friend who gave me the advice that I would run the Mille Miglia with her when we both became consultants. Should have the D’ restored by then……..

Pretzels and Beer – any excuse will do……… aka Happy 4th July

“Mike, I’m making a special beer for the 4th of July” – News such as this calls for a special kind of bar snack I thought to myself.

I’ve been over to America few times now, mainly on business but once I went just for a long weekend to test fly a jet. That was a couple of years ago, but whilst I was there I was fortunate enough to stumble across a little brewery that served cold beer and fresh soft pretzels. They really are the perfect evening snack.
Fast forward to 2017 and my old music teacher/famous Jazz mucisan Greg dropped the bomb shell: – a 4th July party and beer launch – well there was only one obvious food to go with it………..

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Soft Pretzels

Finally, I have my own wot-not to display pretty Emma Bridgewater in the background of shots.

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Ingredients

  • 1lb strong white flour
  • 1tsp dry yeast
  • 2tsp salt
  • 2oz molten butter
  • approx. 4oz sourdough
  • 300ml warm water
  • 1lt boiling water + 7g Bicarbonate of Soda for bathing
  • Butter, salt, sugar, cinnamon and poppy seeds to finish

Start by weighing out the flour, salt and yeast – I’ve finally gone back to dried as I’m laying off Carbs atm so don’t make as much bread. FYI- The scales are from my grandma and at least twice as old as me……

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Combine in the kitchen aid with the sough dough starter and gently incorporate.

Now its time to add the water. You might not need it all, depending on your starter – but you are aiming for a soft, but not wet dough.

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Once all together, knead with the dough hook for 10mins until a shiny, elastic dough is formed.

Place this in a well oiled bowel and cover with cling film. You can now fetch the first of your beers to celebrate July 4th whilst it proved…………..

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Ideally it should be left overnight in a cool area (fridge) or if impatient/short on time then at room temperature until doubled.

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Now comes the fun part. Divide the dough into 16 equal balls. This will make the perfect sized bar pretzels. (Divide into 8 if you want big ones – greedy)

Taking 1 ball of dough, pretend you are back in pre-school and making play dough sausages – using the palms of your hands roll the dough into a long cylinder.

Then, taking the 2 ends up into the air and producing a U – spin the base around itself to produce a twist at the top end and lay the dough back down, pressing the ends into the base of the U.

Alternatively you can use cross them over whilst its flat on the work surface – a lot easier and more reliable………….

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To get the lovely deep drown appearance normally found on Pretzels, the next step is important. After making each Pretzel, dip it into boiling water mixed with Bicarb. You can then sprinkle on either salt, poppy seeds etc to finish.

Once you have made a whole tray, transfer to an oven at 200C for 10 mins or until golden brown.

Lastly, whilst still hot out the oven, glaze with a little melted butter…….

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Or butter, cinnamon and sugar if you are feeling like dessert.

Let’s Eat

All that remains is to grab a pint, tell Swifty that you’ve stollen her jazz pianist but will give him back later and enjoy the 4th in style.

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P.s I never did tell TS…… wonder if that’s why she cancelled her part. Anyway, I’d like to thank Greg, Pat and the Draycott Brewing team for a fantastic 4th of July x

BBQ time – Vension Burgers

I just bought a microbrewery to celebrate Bake Off – but more on that later.

According to my friend who works as a BBC weather presenter – it is summer, and that can only mean 1 thing – BBQs. I have many happy childhood memories of these.  One of my favourites was the annual trip to a small country pub called the Beeheive for the August bank holiday. The pub would put on a big BBQ, we would take dads Alfa Spider, there would be Maypole dancing and Morris men. Infact it might have been at one of these I had my first pint, held in one chubby teenage hand whilst the other was grasping a burger.

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Well, with the offer of a perfusion PhD in America on my desk once again, I thought I would relive the memory…………but in slightly more fancy style – venison burgers, ciabatta rolls and wild garlic mayo!!!!!

Ciabatta Rolls

  • 1lb Strong flour
  • 1tspn Salt
  • 5g Dry Yeast or a knob of Fresh Yeast
  • 50ml Olive Oil
  • 300ml Water
  • 6 Poaching Rings

Ok, so I realise that ciabatta is a bit of a controversial bread choice for a burger, but I have reasons. I regularly take my F1s out for dinner and at one meal Harry started eating his burger with a knife and fork. He claims the bun wasn’t strong enough, I claim  he needs to man up. Anyway, ciabatta is strong so no need for a fork.

Start by weighing out the flour, salt, yeast and combining in the kitchenaid. To this add the oil and water.

The dough is relatively wet, so it is much easier to make in a mixer with a dough hook. If you want to make it by hand, just remember to oil them and be patient.

Mix on a relatively high speed for 10mins until a highly stretchable dough has been made.

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As the dough is so wet it needs a frame to prove in. Otherwise it would just be a bit of a mess. The poaching rings from my pulled pork blog once again have been pressed into service. Place on a well floured baking tray.

Cover with oiled cling film and leave to prove for around an hour or until it has doubled in size. When well risen, and you have managed to sink a few Gin and Tonics, it’s time to bake. Make a cross cut onto the top and  transfer into a preheated oven at 200C.

Bake until golden brown – this varies due to size, but around 20mins.

Venison Burgers

Nothing goes with Venison quite like gin, well juniper to be precise. Sadly, I can’t lay claim to having discovered this having stolen the idea from Hide burger a few years ago.

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Ingredient

  • 1lb Venison mince
  • Juniper berrys
  • Gin
  • 2 small white onions
  • Sage, Parsley and Pepper

Start a few hours before you are planning on eating by soaking the juniper berrys in Gin. This allows you to impart the subtle flavours of Gin into your burger. Lets face it, who doesn’t like Gin.

Finely dice the onion, herbs, Juniper and combine with the Venison mince. Season with a twist of salt and pepper. Now to the fun bit of forming.

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Divide the burger mix into 4 and mould to shape. A burger press can be really helpful to get the shape just right. Leave in the fridge for 30mins to firm up.

Now, there are lots of different ways to cook a burger; steam, oven, pan but BBQ has to be king. Given this blog is in honour of the Beehieve, only a BBQ will do. Cook for around 5mins on each side, brushing with oil to stop sticking.

Time to Eat

Right, time to relive the glory days – Burger anyone?

Lightly toast the ciabatta bun then assemble the burger with a generous helping of wild garlic mayo, Bloody Mary Ketchup and a handful of salad. Finish with a side of homemade slaw and a beer.

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P.s I’ll mini blog the Mayo and Ketchup for you all soon x

Infinity Project 861: Time to make beer

In the depths of winter I sat in the snug, the heavy smell of paraffin mixed with that of pie and Bass. We sat opposite a hero, talking about what we had just flown, the roar of 27L of British thunder still buzzing in our ears

My friends have accused me of being old fashioned throughout the years, however I just insist that some things can’t be improved upon. There is a pub which exemplifies this point. Located deep in Lincolnshire approx. 5miles from a ‘disused’ airfield, it was once the haunt of brave young men who fought to keep us free. A few miles have been added to the clocks of these old boys, but the pub remains the same. Lit only by oil lamps, pies kept warm in an oil fired cabinet and no lager to be seen on the taps, it became a favourite of the MMDS during my final years at school and beyond. Its mystery, unlike so much else, never faded………………..

During one of those hazy evenings, after adding a few more hours to my log book, I sat with my two closest friends, Ginger (sadly no longer with us) and Morley, and said no matter what happened we must not let these echoes of the past slip away. Afterall

“Memory is the storeroom of the mind. A dusty attic of experience filled with knowledge; sometimes useless; sometimes priceless.But once in a while we must cast aside the shades, and with our dustily relics try to recapture the past. For in there lies reason for the present and hope for the future”

Let’s face it, most men have wanted to brew their own beer. A few will have tried with homebrew kits and got varying results. So, in memory of Ginger I thought it was finally time I gave brewing a go and keep the memory of those MMDS trips alive.

Here is to hope for the future: Oil Lamps, homemade pies and beer………..

Micro Brewery

There is one undisputed king of beers, Bass! It is a very drinkable, lightly hopped English pale ale and in reality should only be drunk in half so you can keep going back for more. It’s also got the worlds first trademark, a red triangle which I learnt on a trip to the Bass museum a few weeks ago.

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Wandering around the museum, beer in hand, I stumbled upon an elderly gentleman lurking around what appeared to be bunch of barrels and a trough. Trying to work out what it was I finally asked him, he explained it was part of the BurtonUnion system once used to brew beer. These turned out to be needlessly complicated and most were scrapped in the 50s, but as the elderly gentleman told me, beer tastes better brewed in them (I know the science but don’t ask)………….

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One thing the MMDS members realised is don’t get me drunk and let me loose near something mechanical, I can revise engineer it in minutes. So, I did!!!! And thus with the use of meccano, tubing, an old ban Marie and a couple of 5L mini kegs, a Miniature Burton Union was made as well as a mash tun and sparging equipment…………..

Homemade Bass

Beer is made using malt, hops, water and yeast. It’s then left to ferment and after about 2 weeks you transfer into casks to condition for another 2 weeks. You can buy good malt extracts but I wanted to keep mine as close to the original as possible so I am using malt. The yeast is one I managed to propagate from a pint of Bass from my local as well to make it even more authentic.

Ingredience

  •  4oz Crystal malt
  • 3lb Pale malt
  • Water
  • Yeast
  • 7oz Brewers sugar
  • 0.4oz + 0.16oz + 0.1oz Goulding hops
  • 0.8oz Fugggles hops
  • Irish moss
  • Fining

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Start by allowing the malt to mash in approx 7L of water. This should be kept at a steady 66c and the malt being agitated from time to time to allow full exposure to the water. This can be done by sealing the malt in a cloth bag and steeping it like a giant tea bag. Or if you have a lot of spare meccano you can build a system to suspend the malt in to baskets which then pump the water constantly over it. This needs to continue for 1.5hrs to allow full extraction.

After 1.5hrs have passed (and you’ve repaired the pump a few times), you need to drain the liquid into a pan of boiler for the next step. But you haven’t finished with the malt just yet. This is still covered in lots of natural sugar which are removed in a process called sparging. Basically you pass warm water over the malt and collect this for boiling. I again used the recycling system to spare the grain. You need approx 3L in total.

You should have now collected approx 10L of liquid which is known as wort. This contains the sugars which will be converted into alcohol by the yeast. This needs to be flavoured and the bitterness added by hops. This occurs in 2 steps. Firstly the Fuggles hops and the first batch of Golding hops are added  and the wort boiled for 1.5hr along with the Irish moss. The helps keep the beer clear.

 

Then, just at the end more flavouring aromatic  Golding hops are added and the liquid allowed to steep for 10-15mins.

The wort now needs to be cooled rapidly to stop the high temperature degrading the delicate flavour of the hops. This can be done by passing the wort through a length of tubing submersed in a sink of ice cold water. The aim is to reduce it down to 20-25, so it can take a few passes. Sugar can then be added to reach a target specific cavity of 1.045.

 

Once cooled, the yeast can be added and then the mixture transferred to the Union.
The idea of a Burton Union is that as the yeast ferments it produces gas, alcohol, but also a foam on the top. This is forced up the copper swan pipe and into a trough at the top. This trough collects yeast and fermenting beer which is then returned to the Union Barrells. This not only allows you to not waste beer (a sin) but also allows the yeast strains to be uniform throughout all the barrels.

Now it’s just a case of waiting.

After 2 weeks the Unions will slow down their production and the Specific gravity will have fallen to around 1.020. Now you have technically got beer but it’s very young and needs to be conditioned. More barrels to the rescue. Transfer the beer via siphon to the aging casks avoiding transferring all the sediment which will have collected at the base. To the beer, add a priming liquid of water and sugar and more Golding hops (I had some spare pellet type so used them-not a great fan). Also you can add the finings at this point to aid in clearing.

Again wait- 2 weeks till you can drink.

So after 2 weeks,the beer is ready for tapping. Ideally you should keep in a cool room or cupboard and leave a day for it to settle if you move it. Remove the cap and plug the hole with a breathable material, like soft wood. Recap if you finish drinking but not done finishing the barrel.

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The big question is what to drink it with………. Memories oh dearest memories – Steak and Ale pie I think 😉