Bourbon smoked mash potato

It was one of those really inspired ideas. Spicy potato wedges cooked on the grill. So to save time on cooking I par boiled the wedges thinking they would cook a lot quicker. Unfortunately I par boiled them for a tad too long and they turned to mush. With guests arriving soon and not enough time to do fresh I came up with a cunning plan. I drained the wedges and set to mashing them adding a touch of bottled smoke, salt, pepper, mixed herbs and a good slug of bourbon. The bourbon and the smoke was a great success and it was the first time any of my guests had had mashed potato at a barbecue cooked on the barbie.  Net time I may form the mash into cakes and crisp them up on the griddle before I serve them.


The first of the season

The clocks had only just gone back and Ted Magnum and I were called upon to cook a baby pig over open coals at a 50th birthday.  Naturally neither of us was going to pass up on such an offer especially as the wages were as much beer as we could drink and we duly arrived clutching implements of destruction and an assortment of sharp knives. The weather was glorious and we sparked up and set about preparing the pig or piglet as it turned out to be. The animal such as it was, was only small and I felt pangs of guilt when I noticed the trotters were still pink. This one had never seen green fields or mud.

We had set up the spit prior to preparation and the skin was scored and rubbed with salt while the coals were ignited. Within an hour the pig was trussed and impaled and hoisted above the coals and Ted and me got down to the serious business of the day, turning the spit keeping the fire going and drinking beer. By 8pm the meat was cooked and we basted the crackling with honey and lowered the spit to the flames to give an intense heat and make the crackling crackle.  So far so good and as the crackling was peeled off and dished out it was all going well. By 8-30pm the light had gone and Ted and me had to make a decision to take the meat off the spit and cut it up. This presented the first problem of the evening, actually trying to see what was going on. The dainty slices Ted and me had imagined turned out to be great big slabs and as it was a small pig it was not long before we had a skeleton.

In hindsight we would have been better off taking the pig into the main gazebo and letting everyone hack pieces off as they saw fit but it was not to be. I will never forget the look of horror as one small lad turned up with a plate and bun and was handed a lump of pork with a trotter attached to it! I think most people expected to be given a few slices of hot pork thinly sliced as if by a mechanical slicer. Clearly this crowd had no concept of roast pig cooked barbecue style upon hot coals.

In retrospect we have learned never to attempt to cook anything less than 70 pounds in weight as by the time you have taken the bones out there is not really a lot of meat left. Secondly when slicing meat, make sure you have enough light to see what you are doing and do not hand young boys cooked trotters.

Still it was the first of the season.


Tedstock 08, Respect to TM he is the man

After much planning, Tedstock finally arrived. It had been put off several times due to bad weather or the inability of people to attend. A brand new grill had been assembled and much attention to the menu had taken place. Ted had bought a selection of large beef cuts and lots of ribs and there was a whole leg of lamb and a rolled shoulder of pork. Combined with the chicken and the kebabs that were made up as the day proceeded it was a veritable feast.

One of the best things about this year’s event was the fact there were very few burgers and sausages, the standard British Barbie affair. This year was all about large cuts of meat and obviously influenced by Ted’s travels throughout South America. The large cuts of beef were rubbed with rock salt and nothing else. The rolled pork was marinated in cider vinegar over night with some herbs and the lamb was covered in mustard and mint leaves and some spices. The Ribs were covered in a sticky sweet Kansassauce.

A lot of planning and months of preparation go into Tedstock and this year the guy worked his socks off. Respect and admiration goes to the man for all the hard work he put into the event to say nothing about the cost of it all. With both Ted and myself on the grill and with a beer in hand I was in my element and all too soon it was dark and time to light the bonfire that accompanies this annual event.

The bonfire this year was not on the scale of the previous years but it was big enough. Big enough in fact to scorch the overhanging branches underneath the fire. Obviously something had to be done before the need to call out the fire brigade arose. There really was only one thing to be done and a bow saw appeared as if by magic and some of the younger and fitter blades sat around the camp fire took it in turns to saw through the dangerous branches and put them somewhere safe.

It soon transpired that the safest place to put them was actually on the fire and now there was nothing above to scorch, it was really the safest option. As far as I am concerned this was one of the best Tedstock’s I have attended and the event was over all too soon. With no camp site this year due to the bad weather I climbed into a taxi with Beancounter some time in the early hours and made my way home. I am convinced that TM and me could do this for a living but not in the UK. We do not have the weather or the mentality for it however it may be possible somewhere with sunnier climes. Until then, respect to TM he is the man.


Cheers Johan

One of the last Barbie’s of the season was Johan The Destroyers’ leaving do. The young man had slaved away with cement and brickwork for much of the summer and had constructed a masterpiece of design and engineering. So it seemed only fitting that we should hold a Barbie in his honour before he set off for Territorial Army duty in foreign lands.

The weather dictated that this should be an impromptu event and as such there were no particular culinary masterpieces save for some extremely hot meat loaf which his friends assured me that they could handle without being hospitalised. Lots of chilli sauce, peppers and some raw chilli from my very own greenhouse were added to the mix and I stood back and admired the way in which straight faces were kept as one by one macho young blades stepped up to grab a plateful.

An eventful evening ended with much beer drinking lots of smoke. Photos of the evening can be found here. Cheers Johan.


I can hardly wait

As so often happens in these British climes, it was raining. I had just delivered to Ted Magnum the final bits of steel and we had finished off the Parilla. It was a work of art worthy of a Tate Gallery exhibition. Surely If Tracy whatsername could exhibit an unmade bed, then TM and me could exhibit an example of rustic British engineering and win a prize? No it was never going to happen but we were both proud of what we had managed to knock up on a budget that was both functional and reasonably good looking and cheap to boot. (click here for pics)

Several hours later me and Roger Moor are sat in the grounds of Château Ghastanbury looking at the grey skies and dark clouds overhead when RM announced he had some Porkinsons sausages and did I fancy a sausage butty?  I figured it was a sign that we should roll out the Webber and spark up a Barbie while we still had some daylight and the outline of the sun could still be seen through the leaden skies. Several beers later, much cursing, plenty of matches, some petrol and lots of smoke and we finally had some flames to be proud of and the sausages were thrown onto the greying coals.

I rang Bean Counter to see if she wanted to join us but she had a better offer and declined and so I contacted Little Miss Sunshine who had nothing better to do than come and join us for an hour or two. She brought her dog which made the day for Genghis, well not exactly! Genghis and Angel stared each other out with some intensity which would have been a lot worse had Angel not been tethered to the ground. Some chilli burgers a few beers and some sausages later and The Beast turned up, at my invitation of course. The football season in theUK has started and so we watched my beloved LFC play Standard Liege on the TV with a few beers and then we had a brainwave.

It was one of those moments when you think why has no one ever thought of this before? Who ever said pizza could not be cooked on a barbecue? I can’t think exactly who but I have never known any one cook a pizza on a Barbie before. So RM, TB and me looked at each other said why not? More coals were added to the Webber kettle grill and we waited until the heat had built up so much that you could not put a hand over the coals for more than a few seconds. At this point we threw a frozen pizza onto the grill and stood back. It took 25 minute to cook and the base was slightly more crispy then we would of liked. We decide more heat was required to cook the pizza faster. Our next attempt saw a pizza shrivelled in less than five minutes as the heat was too much. That one went into the bin! A decision was made to cook the next pizza on a grill in a baking tray so that no heat was in direct contact with the pizza.

15 Minutes later and we had a success, crispy base but not burnt a topping that was cooked but not crispy or raw and a smell to die for. A combination of charcoal and pizza toppings of pineapple and ham and some smoke, success on a plate, or a Findus as I like to call it. After cooking joints of meat, spit roasting some large animals and cooking a myriad of fast food, I can now add Pizza to the list of foodstuffs I have successfully cooked over open flames.

As for Tedstock 2008 and the new grill I can hardly wait.

This year it will be a Parrila

With the vagaries of the English weather the annual event known as Tedstock has already had the date changed three times. This is an attempt to accommodate those who are away on holiday, those leaving the country and those who cannot make said dates for reason of work or previously arranged engagements.

As usual with Tedstock, Ted Magnum and myself try to come up with something different and this year we have planned a makeshift Argentinean Parilla (pronounced Parija). The steel fire plate has been ordered and picked up, the grill has been made from angle iron and 1 inch square wire grill and we are planning to incorporate the spit from last years frolics alongside the affair.

In keeping with lasts years promise of no burgers, sausages or ready made fast food we have sourced some very large lumps of meat and we are going to spit roast some chickens over the grill plate while it cooks the large cuts of meat and various animal body parts that Ted has managed to obtain and source. Photos will be placed in the gallery when it all comes together, I promise.

A trial run of the parilla takes place tomorrow, weather pending of course and the date itself cannot be far away. Accuweather and the BBC’s own web site are studied fastidiously every day, however the met office announced around six weeks ago that this year would be the wettest on record and it is only by very good luck that the cream tea took place. Given the lack of sunshine so far spirits are very down but we are confident that the event will take place eventually. last year it was the spit roast, this year it will be a Parrila

Sipping tea and eating and cucumber sandwiches

Sipping tea and eating and cucumber sandwiches, what a perfect way to spend an English summer day. Inspired by a visit to London a couple of years ago, Bean Counter and me stumbled across a Pimms tent nearby a string quartet playing the Who’s greatest hits on the band stand in Hyde park. You have not lived until you have heard Pinball Wizard played with much gusto and skill by a string quartet in the open air. It was one of those surreal moments and I decided I had to recreate the feeling at home one day. Knowing I was not going to be hosting one of my monumental Barbies this year, I settled for a cream tea and Pimms event. The rules were fairly simple, Floppy hats and floaty dresses for the ladies, panamas and cravats for the gentlemen. Blazers were to be optional as were parasols.

The weather was kind to us as the great day dawned after much preparation by myself, Roger Moor, Bean Counter and a myriad of others such as the lovely Sophia Loren who provided cucumber sandwiches and made pots of Early Grey tea for the masses while RM mastered my secret concoction of Pimms and kept the jugs overflowing.  The lawns had been mowed, a croquet set had placed along side the garden skittles and a lawn sized snaked and ladders game along with a game of bug splat (twister) were laid out for the amusement and merriment of all. To compliment all the sandwiches BC’s auntie made over a 100 fairy cakes some with individual butterflies and others with bees made from icing and they were brought along.

Just for those who wanted a more carnivorous affair Commander Riker gamely volunteered to man the charcoal barbecue for the day and it has to be said he did a sterling job. As people arrived, the ladies were greeted with a glass of Sherry and the gentlemen were offered a glass of Port. To stop the waste from those who did wish to partake in such refined offerings I finished off the already poured glasses. At this point, roughly 3pm and we only started at 2pm, RM and me were the worse for wear. We had already made two jugs of Pimms to get the blending right and it was decided that we could not offer our guests any of our experimental blending’s so we drank them just to make sure they were safe for our guests.

The music for the day was string quartet and this only stopped later on in the evening when we decided to spice things up a bit for those who wanted a soft shoe shuffle or to tap their toes with some Jazz. Later on in the evening when things cooled down a bit a fire was lit. This caused some discussion as to whether it would ignite the huge parasol over one of the tables or not. A decision had to be made and so it was that I started spraying the parasol down with a hosepipe. Unfortunately several jugs of high octane Pimms and one or two too many glasses of Sherry and Port had taken their toll and my aim was not as good as it perhaps should have been. Apologies to Auntie Barbara and all of the other ladies who looked as though they could have supported a wet duffle coat all by them selves.

At around 10-30 the Taxman (real identity kept secret) let off some fireworks to the strains of the 1812 overture. It was a triumph until some one told me it was 1-30 am. Thank God the neighbours from both sides had been invited and duly turned up. Ogri and Bodicea had turned up with their children as well as RM and kin.

Thanks to everyone including, Legs, Teech, Ted Magnum, the Revellers, Taxman and his family, Commander Rikers family, little Miss Sunshine and the ever present Miss Décolletage who incidentally has amazing lungs as she demonstrated when she blew up the snakes and the large dice for the ground games. It was a truly memorable event and I cant think of a better way to spend a summers day than sipping tea and eating cucumber sandwiches.

Tedstock 2?

It seem ages since I posted a BBQ log that it looks like I have given up altogether. I can tell you now that it is far from the truth. It is just that the weather has been so crap. A true e barbecue is not bringing out some burgers and frozen sausages when the weather is nice. It takes weeks and some time months of planning.

Last year consisted of Ted Magnum and I planning a spit roast at around February. This year we decide to do an Aprilla Pronounced (Aprija) So we decide that a grill had to be made and that it would have to be either suspended over hot coals or fixed in place and immoveable.

Today the materials were sourced and with a bit of angle grinding and welding a frame was made. Total cost £7 so far. We already have the spit roast from last year and cannot decide whether to place some chickens upon the spit or to use it to raise and lower the grill. I suspect that it will be made up botch of the two. I really like the Heath Robinson affairs and the rustic look that they entail. TM on the other hand hates all of that and likes to look as professional as possible.

We have decided that for Tedstock this year that we are not spit roasting anything large. We will be cooking Argentinean style and it will be a sit down meal.

The menu consists of leg of lamb, Pork shoulder, several racks of Pork ribs and some as yet unknown cuts of beef.  I am hoping there will not be a sausage or burger in sight. Is it going to happen? Who knows, the Good Old British weather will play such a big part of this latest venture, so much so that we may not know until later on in the morning of the event if it is going to take place or not. Be assured that pictures of the new equipment and the event or non event will be placed in the gallery.

The first and last barbie of the year?

The menu

July 5th 2008, that was the date The Beast and myself had agreed upon to hold a Barbie for his daughter’s celebration of leaving school and burning her old school books. Months of planning were finally going to come to fruition, a menu was created and lots of items were taken out of many freezers. We were going to make our own beef burgers as opposed to buying them, use the best farm sausages we could find, smoke a full brisket weighting 18.5 pounds and  smoke a pork shoulder at the same time.

The mince, all 25 pounds of it was defrosted and on the Thursday night prior to the event, Roger Moor, Bean Counter and me all turned up at The Beasts house. Along with TB’s long-suffering wife the five of us swung into action peeling onions, chopping Chiles into very fine pieces and assembling herb and spice combinations. Five types of burger were created that evening and they included:

Chile burgers, which was 3 pounds of minced beef, 12 ounces of chopped onions, 2 Oxo Cubes, three teaspoons of dried Chile flakes, three teaspoons of dried hot Chile powder and 5 chopped fresh Chiles two twists each of salt and pepper from a grinder for each pound of mince and bound together with 2 eggs.

Curry burgers, and for this we used three pounds of mince using the same quantities of salt, pepper, eggs, 2 Oxo cubes, onions and using 12 teaspoons of mild curry powder.

Tomato burgers, which consisted of three pounds of mince, basil, thyme, garlic, rosemary, lots of tomato sauce and anything else that TB could think of to throw in. We did not use any eggs to bind these with.

Bourbon and cheese burgers. Three pounds of mince, 12 ounces of onion, 2 Oxo cubes, salt and pepper to taste, several good slugs of bourbon and I really don’t remember how much grated cheese we put in the mix. (It has to be said that this was an off the cuff decision and owes more to the inspiration of a beer or two than anything planned and carefully thought out. I am pretty sure that we put other stuff in as well and we used most of this mixture on the night of production as the finished burger tasted wonderful.)

For the plain beef burgers we used ten pounds of mince, 40 ounces of chopped onion, 4 Oxo cubes, 2 twists of salt and pepper for each pound of meat, 4 eggs to bind and half a pot of Phileas Fogg Steakhouse seasoning.

To ensure consistency of size, weight and shape all the burgers were produced using a hand held burger press.


The Brisket, which was a huge cut of meat, was marinated in Stubbs beef marinade for 36 hours and placed straight into the smoker. The Pork was marinated in Cider for 24 hours and then given a dry rub of Kansas City sweet and sticky spiced rub. The smoker, comprising of the Rumo I had purchased the year before, was fired up at around 6am on the morning of the Barbie and initially started with a mixture of charcoal, twigs and firelighters. When the firelighters had burned off and all smell of paraffin had vanished, chopped and dried silver birch logs along with chestnut and some oak logs were placed on the still flaming charcoal to ignite. At approximately 7pm when the heat had built up to around 100 centigrade the brisket was loaded into the smoking section with the shoulder of pork at the coolest end of the chamber as it was the smaller of the two cuts. Logs were added for the next 7 hours and the dampers on the air intake and the smoke stack were adjusted to keep the heat constant.

Keeping the heat constant is a job that requires some skill and the air intake had to be opened when things cooled down and closed when it was becoming too hot. The flow of air to burning wood is what actually produces heat or smoke and the damper on the chimney stack ensures that the hot smoke stays in the chamber. If the airflow damper is closed and it is still too hot in the smoking chamber, then opening the smoke damper allows the hot smoke to rush out taking the excess heat along with it. The meat was turned both horizontally and vertically every hour or so to ensure the smoke would cover equally every section of the meat. The brisket was basted with Stubbs marinade as opposed to mopping sauce at approximately 2 hours before it came out of the smoker.

The burgers and sausages were cooked on the Billy Oh gas griddle. I have said previously that this grill is the best I have ever used. It has large easy to use control knobs and a large hot plate. The burgers were cooked on the hot plate allowing them to be pressed down with a scraper. Cooking them on the griddle and pressing them down would have pushed them through the gaps between the bars. Because the burgers were home made and thicker than the shop bought ones they took a little while longer to cook but they had a lot less fat in them and tasted much better than any mass produced burgers I have purchased before.

We had catered for around 70 people and at least 80 were invited. The date had been set a couple of weeks before hand and as the meat had to come out of the freezer there was no option of changing this date. With this in mind a block of 12 or so people decided the day beforehand that they could not make it and the weather forecast was for thunderstorms. TB worked like a demon preparing the ground and between TB myself and Roger Moor we erected a Heath Robinson affair of a marquee comprising of two sheets of tarpaulin and some string. All of this in the pouring rain, and, whilst being interrupted to be told TB’s van was on fire. It was not the most auspicious start to the biggest Barbie of the year so far.

The Event

On the day itself only about 30 people turned up due to the appalling weather conditions. Most people had left by 11pm, however TB and me made up for the lack of people by trying to entertain everyone single handed, admittedly I got on some peoples nerves in the process but that is a minor issue! At one stage in the evening we ceremoniously burnt the college work of TB’s eldest daughter on a fire of logs and real coal. It was around about this time that some one suggested we go fire walking by stepping bare foot across the hot coals. With several large gins under my belt this sounded like a really good idea and I stripped off my socks and shoes. It was then I noticed that the others were not so much as fire walking but fire running and even fire sprinting. I was determined to do this properly or not at all and so I strolled casually across the glowing embers only screaming at how much my feet hurt when I had got to the other side. Photos of the event can found by clicking this link

Due to the vagaries of the British weather, those nice weathermen have informed us that this years summer will be a washout and the wettest since records began. I had though last year was bad enough and it was the wettest since records began, this may well be the first and last Barbie of the year.

Steak tastes better cooked over hot coals

It has been some time since I was able to even contemplate taking the covers off my grilling gear and sparking up the Barbie. However, with a break in the clouds and the suns rays falling onto the grounds of Chateau Ghastanbury for the fist time in what seems like Eons, I headed outdoors with fire lighters in one hand and utensils in the other. For ecological reasons I have not used a charcoal barbeque for years but in a moment of weakness I purchased a new Webber Kettle drum in the January sales along with a new “Billy Oh”, four-burner stainless steel grill.

The Billy Oh is a fantastic piece of kit, all shiny stainless steel, with wipe clean surfaces, easy to light and best of all the easiest Barbie I have ever had to clean. By the way it cooks brilliantly as well. Half of the cooking surface is hot plate with the other half comprising of a grill. Temperature control is fantastic and the storage cupboard underneath the burners is great for stowing away all the bits and pieces that clutter up any work surface.

The Webber is also a fantastic piece of kit with controls for air intake and up draught heat regulators. The cooking surface is huge and easy to clean and the ashtray is simplicity itself to empty. After the usual 30 minutes or so wait for the charcoals to come to life and turn the nice shade of grey required for cooking, slabs of steak weighing in at average of 24 ounces or approximately 700 grams were placed onto the grill. By contrast the Billy Oh was ready for use in less than 5 minutes.

The steaks had been marinated the night before in a concoction of Stubbs beef marinade and Bourbon and were as tender and flavoursome as I could make them.  Throwing them onto the Webber produced a satisfying sizzle and they were cooked in less than 10 minutes each for the well done ones and under 7 minutes for the very rare ones.  As they were cooking so fast I kept them warm on the Billy Oh because it was easier to regulate the temperature. Charcoal grills require damping down and for this purpose I use an old spray bottle filled with beer. As the beer evaporates really quickly the temperature of the charcoal is rapidly brought up again.

Within around 30 minutes I had become used to cooking on charcoal again and remembered how much charcoal they take and also how hot they become. My hands were blistered within the first 20 minutes of cooking over the coals and after smothering them in hand cream I donned gardening gloves to protect them as best I could for the remainder of the day. I hope this heralds the start of the English summer and I will be able to make the most of the two excellent items I have bought.  It was fun breaking the two barbies in and by the way, Steak tastes better cooked over hot coals.