Tedstock 2007.

Well at long last the day arrived; Tedstock was to actually take place! The events of the weekend had been preceded by a flurry of activity going back as far as March when designs for the spit began to near fruition. Timber and combustible material had been gathered for weeks and the spit and fire pit were now actually on site. Ted had cleared the garden area and the place was looking as pristine as it was possible to have it. The perishable shopping had been bought the day before and in the case of charcoal and beers, stocked up and added to several weeks prior. After a long day organising and cleaning cooking facilities and setting up tents, it was time to relax with a beer or two and a small campfire before the organised mayhem of the event itself. The relaxing became quite serious and it was only when I was rudely awoken by Ted in the morning that I realised just how seriously we had relaxed. Two bottles of bourbon had had been consumed between the pair of us but according to Ted it was mainly me who did the most damage to the offending bottles. I crawled out of my tent shook the sleep from my eyes, cleaned my teeth and headed off to our friendly butchers to pick up the side of pork. It had been decided some time ago that we were not going to attempt to roast a whole pig as we didn’t think we could get enough people there to eat it all.

When I arrived back at the “festival” site, the pig was prepared, given a Kansas City recipe dry rub and secured onto the spit and hoisted above the coals that Ted had prepared while I was away at the butchers. We were now in business. Months of planning was actually taking place. One of the things we had to do was modify the fire box and it was extended to over 5 foot long to accommodate the length of the carcass and extra holes were drilled into the base for more air flow. After around three hours we even decided to alter the height of the spit stands and we ground off at least 6 inches with an angle grinder to get the pig closer to the heat. Charcoal does not give out as much heat as dry timber and the smoke it produces does not taste as nice as good aged and dried wood, however my main concern was in making the fire too hot and the meat would be scorched on the outside and raw in the middle. The biggest lesson I have learned from this episode was air flow is crucial to obtaining the correct heat and you need a combination of charcoal and timber to cook properly. Too much timber produces too much smoke and really pisses of the neighbours and charcoal alone does not produce enough heat to cook thoroughly. It may be fine if you are going to bury your pig in a pit with hot coals below and above it as in Hawaiian style but we wanted to do a traditional English spit roast and that means over open flames. Six hours after cooking began I made a baste out of cider, Cajun seasoning and olive oil and coated the pig every 20 minutes for the next two hours when I reckoned the meat was cooked.

It came off the spit and was left to draw its own juices back into the meat for a further 30 minutes and then the crackling was taken off and the meat was sliced. 80 per cent of the meat was cooked and around 20 per cent was still pink so the pink bits were wrapped in silver foil and tossed back onto the hot coals. I do believe it was because of the choice to use charcoal instead of timber that caused the meat to be undercooked. The charcoal did not produce enough heat and had the pig of been any lower to the coals then the outside would have been scorched and the inside completely raw. Combined with the potato wedges I had cooked in baking trays resting on hot coals there was plenty of food for all that had turned up. At around 8pm we all adjourned to the bonfire that Ted had prepared in the morning and sat round,    a what, was by Ted’s standards a massive fire and had a brew or two.

Was it a success? Well I have learned a lot from this season and no one has complained at any of the cooking, indeed most people have come back to at least one of the spit roasts and some people have attended all of them.  I think this is the end of the season for 2007 and I don’t expect to be making any more entries into the BBQ blog until next year. It has been a steep learning curve with a lot of fun along the way. Due to the vagaries of the British weather, the spit roasts will never be a spur of the moment thing, they take a lot of planning and meat has to be ordered well in advance and once it’s bought it has to be used. It is not like throwing a burger onto a grill and ringing your friends up to come along. That said I do look forward to next year and whatever culinary challenges that may come accompany it.

You could not make it up

Our politicians and even our police appear to have admitted defeat in the battle to control our streets. The last week has seen an abundance of highlighted cases of upright citizens trying to protect property and life and being viciously attacked and even killed in the process. What has the law done? Well almost nothing as it happens and even when people are sent down for crimes they are seemingly given unjustly lenient sentences. It would appear we have learnt nothing at all from the Tony Martin case. Just to refresh your memories, Tony Martin was a Norfolk farmer who shot and killed one of two intruders trying to break into his home. He was duly sent to prison and the surviving would be burglar attempted to sue Tony Martin for damages on a number of occasions. The background was that Tony had had his farm burgled several times before and did not receive any help from the police when the incidents were reported. Feeling that the police were not interested in him Tony decided the only way he could protect his property was to develop a siege mentality and take up arms. My point is this, if the police had of acted when the first incident of burglary took place a second and third incident may not have happened. Secondly the burglars had no right to be on his property in the first place and it was they who, in my eyes at least were in the wrong.

This highlights the case that if you try to protect your property or kith and kin then the police or justice system will not afford you any protection. With this knowledge in mind is it any wonder that record numbers of Brits are selling up and moving away from this country. Last year over 300,000 Brits left to take up permanent residence in other countries. Among the top reasons for leaving were, feelings of not being safe, taxed too highly and benefits for not working outweighing the benefits of working, our borders are not secure and its too easy to walk in and claim benefits for doing nothing. I found it hard to believe, but it’s true, that if you are from the EU and working over here then you can claim child benefit for your children even if they live another EU country! Our economy is being drained by money being sent overseas. If this sounds bad I am sure the new EU constitution, which is not a constitution by the way, just ask Gordon brown or any of the labour politicians who are refusing the give the British public a referendum on the subject, will make matters much worse and law and order and common sense will go out of the window completely. No wonder I can’t wait to get to the airport and fly out for good. Just think if we all voted with our feet and money then our politicians might even take notice of us.

On another, you could not make it up, note, Wirral Borough Council have decided to invest 300,000 pounds on a monument at the start of the M53 to welcome visitors to this peninsular. All well and good until you realise that the money is an awful lot and then see what they have on mind as a monument. Worse still is the news in the Daily Mail that the monument may even be plagiarised. See this link for details.
Now you would think that the designers would have checked that something such as the design they had in mind did not already exist wouldn’t you? Well apparently not. See its not just national politicians and national government that are incapable of giving the people what they want and using rational and logic thought, it extends all the way down to regional and local level as well. On yet another, you could not make it up, note, The Mathew Street festival in Liverpool has been cancelled. Well not exactly cancelled but due to the Elf ‘N’ safety Nazis there will be no outside concerts this year due to the amount of building work going in the city at the moment in readiness for the European capital of culture 2008. Now you would have thought that some one would have foreseen the problems that all of this building work might have caused and made arrangements to have the concerts held somewhere were this isn’t any building going on, right? WRONG! I tell you the UK is going down the TUBES and you could not make this stuff up.

Rattling the Sisterhood

Well it seems like my post really rattled the sisterhood if my inbox is anything to go by and 24 hours have not yet passed.  One of my female colleagues said I can’t really be serious about a tyre and asked me what BC’s favourite stone was. I said its Keith Richards and her favourite Stones album is Let It Bleed from 69. This apparently did not go down well and merely showed my ignorance to be truly staggering and of almost imbecilic proportions. She calmly told me I needed to think like a woman so I said aha, heels, seams, Basque, nipple rings etc, but I don’t understand the sizing system as I have pointed out. This was met with a stare that Medusa would have been proud of and she promptly turned on her heels and stormed off. Other people said why not take her away and I said fine, are you volunteering to look after my mum while I cavort around Paris for a day or two? Remember mum is housebound, needs lots of care and cannot be left on her own for more than a few hours at a time.

Some one else asked what were my favourite gifts and could I not draw inspiration from them? So I thought about the best things that had ever been bought or given to me over the years. In no particular order of importance they are; a genuine Swiss army knife from BC, a copy of lord of the rings from my brother, a tattoo paid for by my mother, a fob watch from the Tiler engraved with “Beck’s mate’s” on the back (no its not a spelling mistake we are both into Beck’s beer) a watch from my dad and a ring with a guitar engraved on it. I looked at this lot and thought she wont be impressed with a Swiss army knife, she has Lord of the rings, she doesn’t wear fob watches and she has loads of rings, she would need to grow more fingers if I got her one. I am not sure about the tattoo but thinking about it this would not be a surprise and I am pretty sure she would have to agree to it anyway. Then in a flash of inspiration I realised she does not have a barbeque. Now she really does need one of these, even her sons keep telling her to get one and if any one knows about barbeques its me. Couple that with a bunch of flowers and a soppy card and its job done, back of the net, sorted!

The last week has seen a lot of celebrations and news about the independence and separation of India and the birth of Pakistan. The one thing that has stood out in my mind after watching many programmes and documentaries on the subject has been that it’s all about religion. I gather rival religious groups killed 1 million people and the greatest forced mass migration in human history took place in the name of religion. Its nothing really new, the Romans slaughtered Christians centuries ago, the Christians took up arms against the Muslims during the crusades. Rival factions within the same religions have killed each other, witness the protestant and catholic uprisings against each other. Rival factions with the Muslims are still killing each other with Sunni and Shia in Iraq bombing each other back to the Stone Age. I was brought up to be religious but lost my faith many years ago when I discovered other religions and thought to myself they cant all be right but I did believe it was not worth killing some one for. Today I am an Atheist with agnostic aspirations and the more I hear about countries torn apart and whole communities wiped out in the name of religion, the happier I am to be an atheist and not a member of this worldwide murderous club. It would be nice to have some faith and to think that there was something out there, possibly an afterlife in which people were actually nice to each other. Hey if such a place actually exists there might even be women there who like football and dream of nothing more romantic than receiving a barbeque for their birthday. Any religion that could promise that, might be worth looking into……

The Birthday

I finally managed to kick the Black dogs arse and he has disappeared back over the horizon for the time being and I eventually pulled my socks up. With this mind I swung into action and cleared a load of jobs around the house and then set about thinking what I would I get the Bean counter for her birthday. Its always a difficult one this. I mean what do you buy the woman who has everything? Being a practical fellow I dismissed anything that might gather dust such as ornaments and suchlike and decided not to think of anything that might contain calories. Always a dodgy one that, calorie laden goodies that will cause more guilt after the event than the enjoyment before. Gift vouchers always seem so impersonal and besides it shows how much you have spent making you seem either ruthlessly mean or perilously extravagant. Hang gliding lessons or a parachute jump are out because she is scared of heights. Buying clothes is never a good idea unless you have any sort of clue what a size 12 actually means and would what ever you buy be the right colour, the current season (what exactly does that mean? come on girls help me out here) or the right material?

And then I had a flash of inspiration… She needs a new tyre for her car, this would be used every day, would be practical and not frivolous and as it’s a Rover 600 running on Pirelli’s would not be cheap either and into the bag its her car not mine so its exclusively for her. You cant get better than that; it ticks all the right boxes. Also I know she needs a new memory card for her digital camera, again practical, solely for her exclusive use and I wont have to worry about the calorie’s, dust gathering, impractical new Mac in the wrong size and colour, personal shopping vouchers or tickets for a dangerous sporting activity that might give her a heart attack. I rang LMS and excitedly told her what a brilliant idea I had come up with and how pleased I thought BC would be when presented with this well thought out token of affection in honour of her birthday.

For a moment I thought there was a fault on the line as I could hear nothing and then finally in her very own sweet dulcet tones, “Are you having a fucking laff”? Expletive after expletive followed as I was subjected to a verbal barrage about how thick men are and especially me and how could I possibly buy my girlfriend a bloody tyre for her birthday. I tried explaining about the calories and the dust gathering thingies etc and then I applied what I thought would be the coup de grace about it being a Pirelli. As LMS is into formula one even she would see this was a good idea I thought. More silence and then after shouting “hello, are you still there”? She answered in the slow and loud tones of one speaking to the very old and hard of hearing or in this case the stupid and senseless. “Would you like it if some bought you a spare tyre for your birthday”? I thought about this and then replied well yes actually and for all the reasons I have explained to you and burbled excitedly that I would be made up if some one bought me the new Liverpool European away kit but I didn’t think BC would be best pleased if I got her one. The phone went dead.

Devastated that hours of thought had gone into that plan only for it be dismissed so cruelly after conception and yet before gestation and finally birth, I sat and thought about the vast differences between men and women. Had we of both been in our 20’s giving her something she had not already got would be relatively quite simple. However would giving her vouchers or tickets to go to a health spa not be the same as giving her vouchers for a face-lift? I mean it’s akin to saying listen your unfit go away and come back slim and trimmed in much the same way as vouchers for a face-lift is like saying your ugly go and get sorted. A short break away with a friend might be seen as look go and get lost I need the break more than you do which is why I am sending you away. Presents for women are an absolute minefield unlike presents for men. A case of Carlsberg and a ticket to the next home game to most men I know would be greeted with gratitude and promises to hand you the soul of their first born.

As Jack Lemon exclaimed in the film Some Like it Hot, women are a completely different sex. I suspect it’s a subject I will come back to every now and then, meanwhile the birthday looms ever closer and I still have no idea about what to get her.

Busy busy busy

So much has happened within the last three weeks its hard to know where to start. My internet is back up and running, I am able to post again and my head is bursting with so many posts that I have not been able to make I will probably have forgotten them by the time I have time to write them down. Just as a taster the celebrations of India’s independance and the great partition have been in the news so much that I wonder if religion is worth following at all. The difference between men and woman can be summed up in attitude to birthday presents. The lawlessnes of this once great country can be seen when innocent men die protecting their kith, kin and property, have we learned nothing from the Tony Martin case? My own battle with the Black Dog and the demands of modern life and duty have led me to reach deep into what ever mental resources I have and call on the help of some very close friends for whom I will ever be indebted to. You all know who you are. Until the next post and there will be many, I am Busy busy busy but rest assured normal service won’t be far away and I will soon be on top of things.

Tedstock: The Prequel (part two)

The Prequel, ahhh. The prequel!  Well my friendly and ever so helpful butcher managed to obtain a magnificent specimen of a lamb for me weighing in at around 40 pounds weight. I needn’t have worried about foot and mouth and livestock not being able to travel, this guy did me proud and came up with the goods. In fact he was so helpful about storage, cooking and carving advice; I am going to give him a plug. You can find him at Carr lane nurseries on the Meols Stretch on the Wirral, go through the nursery and into the courtyard and you will find him there, Tell him Smokehouse sent you.

Onto the day itself, as usual I was up early stoking the flames aided by my neighbour Roger Moore. No, he does not look like Roger Moore, but he is a true saint and I could not have done what I did without his help and unstinting support and eagerness. RM and me loaded up the firebox and spent an hour getting the coals to glow and adding wood to build up a nice heat. (Tip don’t add green or wet wood to the coals, they don’t light and make a lot of smoke, sorry neighbours.) The said Beast ( we could not decide if it was larry or Loretta) was skewered and heaved onto the spit supports and turned 15 degrees every ten minutes. We even used a mobile phone to give us an alarm call every ten minutes while we chopped wood and generally got covered in smoke coughed our lungs up. While us two were slaving away over hot coals TB sorted out the salads and accompaniments.  Four hours in and I started to baste the beast although that may be an unfortunate turn of phrase as THE BEAST turned up several hours later. No I basted the slowly turning lamb with a mixture of mustard powder, fresh mint and rosemary combined with water and boiled up until it became thick and gloopy enough to stay on the surface of the animal. Six hours later and the job was done.  

It was time to carve and relax with drinks and lots of them! This job I left to BC and her cousin the Fire engine who also sorted out the salads between them plus a huge tray of roasted potatoes. The potatoes were roasted in a mixture of garlic granules and dried mixed herbs and cooked in Beef dripping. Special mention goes to these as most people who have sampled them marvel at the taste and then ask what the crunchy bits are on the outside of them. I can tell you it’s the dried herbs that have swelled with the beef dripping and then roasted into crunchy bits and are stuck to the outside of the potatoes. Another source of pride for me personally was that I was able to cut fresh herbs from the garden such as mint and rosemary and fetch cucumbers from the greenhouse.

As the usual suspects turned up and drinks flowed it was deemed a culinary success of epic proportions. Due to the immense heat of the fire pit and the more than welcome sunshine, I had lost a lot of fluids in perspiration and I did what I could to re-hydrate. This amounted to 10 cans of Strong bow and a full bottle of Bourbon before hitting the gin by which time THE BEAST, his mad brother and me were in fine form and full of joviality (not to mention sprits, literally) as the heavens opened and we all adjourned indoors.

Apart from a wonderful day cooking and drinking the highlight was a ritual sacrifice of some one who had not heard of Robert Johnson. TB’s daughter had brought along her boyfriend who was into music. After much quizzing of his tastes and knowledge we discovered that he had never heard of the founder of modern music, a certain Mr Robert Johnson. We made him sit and watch the greatest film of all time, Crossroads, starring Ralph Macchio and Joe Seneca and then asked him questions about it afterwards. Whether through nerves or sheer terror about being quizzed by his girlfriend’s father, his even madder brother and a machete wielding pit master who believes that Robert Johnson is the one and only true King (Elvis fans take note, Elvis was a mere pretender) the poor lad stuttered and clammed up. What is certain is he won’t forget who Robert was and what he did and how important he was to the field of modern Rock ‘n’ Roll (or as our Japanes chums call it Lock N Loll), for the rest of his life.

As the day turned to night and then into early morning and the guests slowly left for home, it was agreed the event had been a complete success and Tedstock which is only a few days away has a lot to live up to. However, I am sure that the prequel can be bettered both in terms of culinary refinement and spirit and I can say I have not looked forward to an event with so much fervour for a long time. Roll on Tedstock, and in the immortal words of Wille Brown aka Blind Dog Fulton and Smokehouse Brown, "bring it on I say, let the lightning boy do his magic"!!!

Up and running

Those litle darlings at the offices of my ISP have finally gotten around to providing me with a full on connection. How long this will last is any ones guess but for now I am up and running…

Tedstock. The prequel (part 1)

After a long summer of rain, Tedstock has been postponed until we have confirmation about the weather and his garden dries out. In the meantime I have decided to run a prequel to the official bash this coming weekend when I will try and spit roast a lamb. I have the facilities for people to take cover in case it rains and Ted doesn’t. As I said the weather has been truly appalling and it has been the worst summer I can ever remember but finally the sun is here. You can imagine my shock as I walked into the butchers to order a whole lamb only to be told that foot and mouth has broken out in the UK and the movement of animals has been banned. This means that there may not be any animals available for the prequel. I wont know until the last minute whether the butcher can obtain a whole carcass for me.

Coupled with the bad weather and now this latest episode the whole season looks set to be a complete disaster and there is not much of it left. You could not make this up! More news as it happens.


Eight days after my first report to CATSIIL I still have no internet connection. I have now made 7 phone calls to the lobotomised apes that pass for call centre operatives, each with the promise that a technician will ring me the following day between the hours of 5 and 7pm. All of the "helpfull" operatives that I have spoken to are reading from a script on a screen without looking at the history of the customer to see when the last call was made and what if anything has been done to resolve the problem. Consequently each time I ring, I have to go through the routine of uninstalling and reinstalling my modem/router just to please the ape on the other end of the phone. This is about as fast and efficient as a Sloth on tranqualisers.

Finally last evening an engineer did ring, at 9pm when I was out. A message read that some changes had been made to the exchange and my problems should now be resolved. Needles to say that they have not and on Monday morning I am going to switch providors. This will mean no internet for possibly two weeks while those ever so friendly and helpfull people at CATSIIL hand over my mac code to the new providors. Until then posts will be short and brief pending my access to a connection.