Category Archives: Charcutepalooza


It’s been a whole month. And who knows what I’ve been up to. Oh, I know. WORK! After a long and tedious period of not much work this past year I’ve been through a career crisis, confidence crisis, and general all round crises of every type and description. Charcutepalooza has given me something to look forward to most months. I say most because the Hot Dog challenge brought about it’s own cooking crisis involving the untimely demise of a blender amidst a lot of swearing, but otherwise it’s been a treat and definitely helped to keep my spirits afloat during the dark days. Continue reading


Damson in distress

Pork pie:  Meat, Pastry.

Jelly optional.

Or essential if, like me you are a fastidious nerd who likes to do everything from scratch… I might not bother with it again because of the time involved. Boil up some pigs feet, tails etc. then simmer for hours and hours, strain and reduce for many more hours.

I would so love to evangelise to you about how we need to discover the cheap cuts and eat more offal, but seriously. Pigs feet? Ok, so they do make amazing jelly, but picking through them afterwards searching for meaty morsels, all I could find was gelatinous goop. I don’t really get why you would eat them… unless, of course they prove to be the Elixir of Life.

The jelly was brown and murky – on account of me adding ground spices (as opposed to whole) – but it made a nice reflection of some trees and a fence in my garden. Reflectojelly.


Pretty simple really. Minced pork shoulder, bacon, a few herbs and the secret ingredient: Anchovy sauce. I don’t want to get all ‘Proper’ on you, but I do believe that when it comes to Pork Pie anything claiming to be authentic really should have Anchovy sauce in it. Not that I ‘ve done my research or anything. I could be gravely mistaken. But I’m holding to what Jane Grigson says, and she says Yea! to Anchovy sauce.


So beautifully soft, on account of the obscene amounts of lard. I once heard some TV chef/baker man say the dough should be “as soft  as the inside of your best beloved’s thigh”. Ahem. Well there you go. I don’t have a best beloved just at the moment so we’ll have to take the word of the TV chef/baker man on that one.

Baked until the lard oozes out of the gold pastry crust

And there they are, looking great and tasty until someone (me) drops them all on the floor. *tears*

Well not all of them. I ate a couple first.  And no, I didn’t take a picture of my floor smashed pies.


Actually, on second thoughts, did I say I was fastidious earlier in this post. Hmm, perhaps not, given that it’s 2 hours to the Charcutepalooza deadline, and part of the challenge is to post recipes along with our experiences. Even though I wrote this post in good time I’ll be honest, I TOTALLY forgot about the recipe part. I’ve been working my butt off (a gal’s gotta earn dough to make dough).

Enter panic and distress!

However, I did make pickled Damsons recently, and although I didn’t actually eat them with my Pork Pies I think they’d be a great accompaniment to pies, terrines and all sorts of Autumnal Charcuterie goodness. I also learned that Damson juice would make excellent fake blood (a girl also has to earn dough to buy a new and better camera).

So here it is. It’s not even my recipe. Like dodgy bloggers across the world I stoled it off the internet and jiggled the ingredients to my personal preference.

Pickled Damsons

1kg damsons
cinnamon stick
3-4 cloves
grated zest of a lemon
2 inch nub of ginger
1 teaspoon allspice berries
150ml balsamic vinegar
450g dark sugar
Prepare the damsons by washing and removing the stalks, and pricking each one with a pin to prevent them bursting (Sorry what? I mean, do you have ANY idea how small Damsons are and how many of them there are in one kilogram?).
Tie the spices in a muslin bag – or not if you are lazy like me.
Melt the sugar in the vinegar, heating until it has all dissolved.
Add the damsons and spices, cook on a low simmer for 10-15 minutes until they are soft
Strain the damsons and pack them into clean preserving jars, reserving the juice.
Bring the strained juice to the boil and reduce until it has a syrup consistency
Finally pour the syrup over the Damsons and seal the jar

Bump and grind

I thought I’d get my naughty sausage reference out of the way in the title.

Bump refers to the clamour that occurred when 20 or so guests crammed into my kitchen, each trying to get the food first.  I served loose sausage with hummus as one of the dishes at a ridiculous party I threw called ‘Smoke Gets In Your Eyes’, but more of that in a future post.

As for the grinding there were many giggles and sniggers and groans to be had when I was joined by couple of friends to make sausage for May’s Charcutepalooza challenge.

Loaded up with mutton from Brixton Market I headed home to start. We followed Mrs. Wheelbarrows recipe for Lamb Murguez

Lamb Murguez

I love the smell in the kitchen after toasting and grinding spices. Coriander and Cumin, Fennel and Peppercorns. The smell of smoked Paprika is enough to get me salivating.

The meat marinated for a few hours in it’s seasoning before it went into the freezer to cool down before grinding.

My phone was stolen last week, so now I am without my beloved Instagram photo retro-fier. These photo’s are thanks to Andy, who took plenty of sausage home to feed to his 15 month old daughter.

Ready to go

I invested in a Trespade meat grinder and I’m really happy with the quality of it. I was a little nervous about shelling out money for a gadget I might not use more than once or twice, but I love using it and am sure it will pay for itself soon enough.

Here it comes!


The following dish is from The Moro Cookbook, and can easily be made with Lamb mince that you have bought, but the spicy aromatic Murguez really makes it special.

Home-cooked chickpeas taste lovely and are worth the extra time, but using canned chickpeas is fine too. To be honest, you could just buy hummus. My favourite brand is Yarden – I think it is even better than home-made – I have no idea how they get it so smooth!

Lamb Murguez with Hummus

Serve with Flatbread or Pitta

Hummus with ground lamb and pinenuts

serves 4 as a hearty starter

The hummus can be made the day before.


450g cooked or canned chickpeas, with the cooking liquid reserved

6tablespoons olive oil

1 small red onion diced

1 lemon, juiced

3 garlic cloves crushed to a paste with salt

3-4 tablespooons tahini paste

200 g minced lamb

2 tablespoons pinenuts, lightly toasted

1 medium bunch of parsley

paprika, salt and black pepper to season


To make the hummus

Blend the chickpeas, adding some of the cooking liquid to help blend them into a smooth paste.

Next add the lemon juice, garlic, tahini and half of the olive oil. Taste as you go and adjust flavourings to your preference. Add salt and pepper to season.

For the lamb

Heat half of the olive oil in a frying pan and fry the onion over a medium heat until it is nicely caramelised – about 10-15 minutes.

Turn up the heat, then add the lamb mince, breaking it up with a fork or spoon and fry it until is nicely browned and crispy.

To assemble the dish spread the hummus on a plate or dish, then sprinkle the lamb, pinenuts, parsely and paprika on top of it.

Serve with some nice warm Flatbread.

A beef worth its salt

Just about every nation on the planet appears to have staked a claim in owning salt beef. Internet research reveals that it ‘belongs’ to America, the Caribbean, Ireland, England, Eastern Europe, the Jewish diaspora and even South America (from whence Fray Bentos). Continue reading

Peculiar Pelicular

Last Saturday 19 February I hosted a film and food festival in my house. If I was hip, organised and well connected it would have been just like one of those pop up underground restaurants. Well, in fact it was exactly like that, except I didn’t profit from the event, not monetarily anyway. I invited a few friends ’round and they also contributed to the food and drink. Continue reading

The smooth field

Early one Winter’s morning a couple of weeks back I set off to Smithfields Meat Market in search of pork belly with which to make Charcutepalooza Amateur Challenge Number Two: Bacon.

Smithfields (a corruption of “smoothfield”), was described way back in 1174 by then clerk William Fitzstephen as “a smooth field where every Friday there is a celebrated rendezvous of fine horses to be sold, and in another quarter are placed vendibles of the peasant, swine with their deep flanks and cows and oxen of immense bulk.” Continue reading

Curiouser and curiouser

It is more than likely that you will have heard of Twitter, which is a virtual phenomenon (both literal and figurative) used by millions across the globe.

All you need is a connection to the interweb and you are free to roam it’s vast corridors as a place to network, procrastinate, vent, rant, scorn, giggle, indulge in self promotion, start a revolution or share humourous photographs of your pets with whomever is happy to indulge your whims and fancies. Continue reading