Not every experiment ends perfectly…

Some recipes come off perfectly first time, others take a few tweaks, and some just fall flat on their faces. I find that the process and the failures don’t get enough mention, so here’s a glimpse into ideas  I try but aren’t quite ready!

With the wood fired oven roaring, photographing a recipe I had already perfected, I found I had some spare cranberries to play around with. In experimenting, the best policy is sticking to what you know and changing just one element.

Cranberries are a classic accompaniment to turkey, served at Christmas (and Thanksgiving if you’re a Yank). These meals are often large extravagant affairs which, in every case I’ve witnessed, involve roast potatoes. Cranberries have already made their way into stuffing recipes, so we know that we can do better than just a standard sauce.

Cranberry Roast Potatoes

Cranberry roast potatoes – halfway through the cook

So I thought, why not try adding these festive favourites to my soon-to-be-published Ultimate Roast Potato recipe?

The result wasn’t amazing, but then it wasn’t horrendous, either. The cranberries withered away in the heat of the wood fired oven and left a crispy red coating to the roasties. This unusually coloured but attractive coating has potential, though it tasted on the bitter side. With some additional ingredients and sweetness to help deliver a more rounded flavour, I think this could be a winner in the future! This is certainly fruit for thought.

Sometimes you need to experiment. It’s fun to do and occasionally you’re left with more ideas than you first started.

But don’t try this one at home just yet – it needs some tweaking 🙂

My wood fired oven, roaring away.

A Roaring Wood Fired Oven

Smoked Sloe Gin

Sloes in the hedgerow

Sloes in the hedgerow

It’s been a busy season, but thankfully I found time to get out and forage the local hedgerows for a decent sloe haul.  They seemed to be in abundance this year.  Contrary to the old wives’ tales, I didn’t wait until the first frost before picking. It’s the 19th November during one of the mildest Novembers on record and there still hasn’t been a cold snap yet in Surrey.

I appreciate that good sloe gin benefits from ageing so I like to infuse mine for four to six months, filter and bottle, then mature for another six or more months before drinking.  As painful as it is in the first year, once you’ve made it through to the next sloe season, you can drink the previous year’s batch and needn’t wait as long.

Smoked Sloes

Smoked Sloes

Despite my enthusiasm for sloe gin, I’m not actually a big gin fan. In fact, I positively detest gin.  That’s actually a good sign! Those of you unsure whether you’d like it, don’t be put off by any dislike for gin.  Simply up the sugar quantity and you end up with a lovely sweet liqueur that’ll taste something like a fruit cordial.  That said, this year I’m using vodka because once the sloes have done their thing, any botanicals from the gin are lost anyway.  Be it sloe gin or sloe vodka, it’s delicious and you must try it!

This year I managed to harvest enough sloes to make a good batch of the normal recipe – somewhere between four to five litres. I’ve also tried something new…smoked sloe vodka.  The recipe contains the full instructions and I can’t wait to see how this turns out.

Recipe here: smoked-sloe-gin

 

Cold Smoking Experiments

Cold_Smoking_Experiments_1

An assortment of produce ready to be cold smoked

 

I do love experimenting when I get the chance and here was a perfect opportunity! I wanted to cold smoke some sloes for another post (coming soon) and thought it the perfect time to maximise the space in the BBQ by including some other items. Some are tried and tested (salt, garlic) while are others entirely unknown (cooking apples, pinhead oats and potatoes).

I set up my Pro Q Cold Smoker Generator with birch dust which produces a light smoke and left for 10 hours.  Some of the produce will be used soon, some stored for later.   Check back soon, as I’ll provide updates as I use these, describing what effect the smoke has had!

 

BBQ Champ Cook Along

Now it’s public knowledge I’m one of the contestants on ITV’s new prime-time TV show, BBQ Champ I can announce that I will be doing a “cook along” with the TV show.

Due to contractual reasons I won’t be able to share the exact recipes I used on BBQ Champ, however, I can spoil you with pictures.

Making Bacon at Home

Homemade Bacon Roll

Homemade Bacon Roll

Bacon is one of the few things in the universe that improves anything and everything it accompanies.  It has spawned everything from baconnaise and bacon chocolate, to popcorn and jam.

The problem in the UK is that we’ve let our standards slip over the decades and for some reason we have allowed deceptively* priced supermarket bacon become our norm.

In this post, I document my first ever attempt at curing pork to make my own bacon.  Spoiler alert, it’s easy, tastes incredible and you should try too!

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