Category Archives: charcuterie

Smoking pot

I’ve not done much any charcuterie yet this year but for the three or four people who read my blog and have been haranguing me to write, I thought I better post something pronto.

Thinking ahead into 2012 I’ve decided not to get overly experimental with meat. Instead I plan on perfecting my technique and smoked Salmon is high on the agenda. I also promise to try and improve the dismal photography on this blog.

When I first started smoking food last spring, advice sought on Twitter pointed me in the direction of the ProQ Cold Smoke Generator (CSG). I was a little suspicious of the American name, plus it just seemed too lo-tech and easy to be true. It was also cheap – £25 from MacsBBQ. Occasionally life throws up effortless pleasures, and this would appear to be one of them.

Equipped with my ProQ CSG I needed a vessel to smoke my foodstuffs in. Any enclosed receptacle will do really, so long as one is sure that toxins will not leach into the food during the smoking process (avoid plastic for example). Even for cold smoking I decided to exercise caution.

After conducting some research I realised that by purchasing a terracotta pot I could transform an otherwise boring task into a culinary adventure: I used it as an excuse to justify an expedition to Petersham nurseries.

I finally arrived there after journeys by train, bike and bus, then spent a long while sizing up which of the many  pots would be suitable. Eventually my over keen interest in plant pots aroused the suspicions of the staff, so I picked one, and decided to reward my strenuous efforts with some light refreshment.

After ordering I sat down under the humid glass panels inside the warm micro-climate of the greenhouse/teahouse and enjoyed an Eccles cake of supreme flakiness and a civilised pot of Earl Grey tea.

To work off the lardening effects of the Eccles cake I then proceeded to carry the great rust coloured hulk home, walking a significant part of the way before finally arriving home exhausted from my pot procuring efforts.

I had already purchased a side of Salmon but before smoking some beauty spa treatment is required to prepare the fish for smoking. I massaged the Salmon with a cure of salt, sugar, maple and some spices, wrapped it in clingfilm and then it rested in the fridge under a heavy weight (my copy of Leiths cooking bible wrapped in a protective bag if you must know) for a day or two.

The Salmon was rinsed off under cool running water after the cure had worked its magic, gently patted dry and then returned to the fridge for a day or so to develop a pellicle. Pellicle. Say it again. Pellicle is now one of my favourite words and also the name of the slightly tacky surface that develops on cured goods, to which the smoke sticks.

I filled the CSG with Maple wooddust and on top of that I sprinkled a fine layer of ground up peat from Islay, kindly delivered to me by whiskey fiend Joel of Caskstrength who sourced it for me on a tasting trip to that fair isle. Of course there was whiskey in the cure to complement the peat too.

I ‘fired up’ the smoker with a tiny tea-light put it in the bottom of the flowerpot, then the Salmon on a grid and finally on went the lid and I off to bed.

This photo without the peat.

In the morning I came downstairs with all the excitement of a child on Christmas day and was not disappointed. Not only is the flavour of home cured salmon more complex than mass-produced stuff, but somehow so is texture. As with bacon – no more store bought for me (I would, however, fork out for Hansen Lyderson’s salmon which is beautiful and delicate).

Buoyed by that first success I’ve since made a fair amount of smoked Salmon with various cures: Fennel and orange, whiskey and maple, gin and juniper. This year I’d like to make a more concerted effort to play around with different flavours and tweak the cures until they’re just right.

I can’t wait to tuck in to more of the good stuff.

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