Cooking: Cutting through my anxiety

Cooking: Cutting through my anxiety

Lately I have found myself wanting to write things that are more meaningful to me while also sticking to what I love and talking about food. With this in mind I feel like it is a good time to talk about something quite close to my heart and I assume this may even surprise a few people that know me. Since a very young age I have had two constants in my life which are a love of food and a constant, crippling anxiety that can sometimes make my life incredibly difficult.

In recent years I have felt the stigma surrounding depression and anxiety slowly lift away and I have seen a certain amount of understanding starting to develop within our society. I think there is an element of people tweeting and sharing posts on ‘World mental health day’ without really considering what it means and how much of this is genuine I am not sure – but what it has done is allow people like myself to feel more comfortable in talking about it. Many people spend their nights hoping they wake up the following morning feeling less exposed and vulnerable than they went to sleep only to wake up in the same vacuum of dread, while not allowing themselves to talk to their closest friends and family for fear they will not understand. I have always been one of those people.

Mostly my anxiety is tied to a constant and unrelenting awareness of my own mortality which has more often than not manifested itself as health based anxiety. What this does is completely preoccupy you with thoughts of long term or life threatening illnesses and makes every day life almost impossible to deal with – I think that in isolation this would lead some people who haven’t suffered with a similar problem to think something along the lines of ‘Just get over it’ or ‘ Don’t worry about it’ but unfortunately the reality is this isn’t possible. Health anxiety alone often isn’t the culprit. Obsessive Compulsive disorder also likes to get involved and I am not talking about the cliché tropes of cleaning the house constantly or tapping my foot 3 times when I close a door – these problems do exist for some people however OCD very often comes in the way of obsessive and compulsive thought. To put it into context someone who functions in a very matter of fact way might watch the news and see something about a foreign country’s aggressive rhetoric towards another and take it at face value, maybe even ignore it completely and change the channel. However what someone with anxiety or compulsive thoughts may jump to are thoughts of world war 3, conscription and the idea of being sent against their will to fight a war and dying in some trench somewhere in the desert.. or worse yet nuclear war and mutually assured destruction. I know as that is something I myself had during the build up to our involvement in the Iraq war in 2003. I was 14 at the time.

Nowadays though my problems almost exclusively hit home due to the aforementioned health anxiety and to put that into context at a fairly young age I had a cancer scare. I had some discomfort in my groin for near enough 2 years and liked to put it down to a rollerblading injury externally while worrying and having panic attacks every single day during the year of my GCSE’s internally. I was worried about testicular cancer but in my naivety was too terrified to get it checked out, of course after a certain point I didn’t go for fear of being told I was terminally ill. I just couldn’t face it. Until one day when I actually found a lump. That was the day everything changed. I had always run on the logic that if I couldn’t find a lump then I was probably ok (Disclaimer: Do not adhere to this logic. It is the logic of a teenager too scared to face up to the possibility something may be wrong, If in doubt GET CHECKED) …But there it was. I was hysterical. I spent the next 4 days leading up to my doctors appointment unable to eat, sleep or even talk to people about how I felt. The panic attacks got worse and I felt like I was under water 90% of the time – my hearing came in and out, I went from cold flashes to hot sweats, involuntary muscle twitching and tremors to wave after wave of extremely painful headaches. It was the culmination of 2 years of utter panic, denial and an inability to deal with the cards I believed to have been dealt. I was checked out by the doctor who wasn’t particularly concerned but I refused to believe her and was booked in for an ultrasound. Long story short the scan came back fine and I have it checked every now and then to make sure everything is ok. The point is no matter what the ailment is I have at least 2 of these episodes a year about one thing or another. In 2017 It was an absolute fact I had MS, then Leukaemia and subsequently finished the year with Motor Neuron Disease, which in itself I find a dark humour in looking back on it as I must have felt really unlucky having all 3 at once.

2018 though was different. I find myself a lot more equipped to deal with this after many, many years of trying and failing. I feel like I am finally winning the war. A war that I know will never truly be over but nonetheless one that I have never felt more ready for. Every day when I wake up in bed, staring at the emptiness presented to me by the ceiling I try to conduct a certain level of mindfulness about my position in the world, what I am and what is around me. The tastes and smells of life and the joys to be found within them… it is within this that my personal cure is rooted. The first brief sip of coffee that alerts, hydrates and prepares us for the 12 hours to come, the heat and texture of the liquid. The finer details available to us in this world can make all the difference if we allow ourselves to take a brief moment to really appreciate and savour them. That is where my tonic comes from and my ability to shut out the unhealthy noise of my inner demons comes from the creation and consumption of food. I never really appreciated it during my time at school but I have an insatiable hunger to learn and create, which isn’t necessarily satisfied by my work life. I love my job I really do but I am a firm believer in having an escape from the pressure and the up’s and down’s of your 9 to 5, for me that is coming home and cooking a meal for myself and my family. It has been that way since I first started working.

I think it is important to mention at this point I am not talking about compulsive eating or gorging but rather the method and the principals of cooking that can take my out of my ‘bad place’. What it enables me to do is take me away from a place where the only thing I can consider is ‘Insert health concern here’ and take me to a place where I have to solve a problem. When done correctly, cooking is simply problem solving with incredibly enjoyable consequences and what I love about this is that it is so subjective and malleable. When looking at an open fridge I find myself doing equations, adding and subtracting items from a mental image of the prospective dish I want to create. Shopping is not something we simply have to do so we have food in our house it is an event of inspiration and promise for the week ahead. The fishmonger is my muse, The butcher my influence and the green grocer is my insight. This passion can be so much stronger than the darkness that dwells beyond logical thought and it allows me to cut through it and be myself, as we are never more ourselves than when we are doing something that we truly love.

The key thing for me is that I had to embrace who I was and what I loved doing to tread on the neck of my anxiety and not allow it to ruin my life. It inevitably still bubbles from time to time and there is no silver bullet for this ailment unfortunately, however this shouldn’t stop us from looking for answers. Whether it is exercise, cooking, playing an instrument or drawing there is sanctuary to be found there and within that sanctuary are the weapons and armour you need to fight the battle. For example when I had my rough patch in 2017 I got my pasta machine out and made at least 9 different types of pasta and copious amounts of it at that, but it was a physical and mental challenge that allowed me to escape the continuous loop of negativity and thoughts laden with impending doom.

My advice for anybody who struggles is to be mindful of the smaller joys in this life and don’t allow the demons to steal away your opportunity to enjoy this life we have been given. The world is an incredible place and we have the ability to do incredible things be it on a canvas, a plate or a stage. Never let it steal away from who you are. It will never truly go away but neither will a chronic physical injury – but yoga could help that…So make your passion your ‘mental yoga’ and keep yourself stretched and prepared to allow yourself to be yourself every day.

There’s nothing wrong with struggling and not being ok – but it is a fight you can win if you sharpen the right tools. It just so happened my tools are a smoker and a set of knives.

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Head above the trenches: Are false militant attitudes ruining food for me?

Head above the trenches: Are false militant attitudes ruining food for me?

Before I even begin and before someone clips something from the text below and takes it out of context I want to go on record as saying vegetarianism and veganism are wholesome, respectable practices and I fully support anybody’s decision to partake. I have myself tried vegetarianism to decipher if it was something that would work for me, instead deciding to take a more holistic approach to the meat I eat. I am as responsible as I can be knowing where my food has come from, use supermarkets and wholesale food as little as I can afford and eat game and free range meat provided locally via my own personal network. Veganism at it’s base is done for the right reasons and I am in no way shape or form attacking the practice or the fundamental principals on which it is built.

I am sad that I even have to go to such lengths to protect myself before writing something about food, however this is representative of the times we live in. Where opinion no longer applies to the laws of free speech and every opinion on the wrong side of the mob mentality is tossed aside as hate speech or seen as a by-product of far right sensibilities. The fact is that I believe that culturally we are in a very strange place that requires dialogue and debate, when in actual fact all we are doing is either trashing each other from either side of a twitter branded fence or like myself, sitting on top of it and trying to dodge projectiles from either side. In terms of what we consume per year in the UK the numbers are obviously quite large based on the population, below are the numbers from the September report from the ‘Department of Environmental and Rural Affairs’.

  • Cattle: Beef and veal production was 74,000 tonnes
  • Sheep: Mutton and lamb production was 25,000 tonnes
  • Pigs: Pigmeat production was 73,000 tonnes.

 

This is representative of just one month and for normal people who buy meat from a supermarket these numbers will be one of two things, staggering or unsurprising. The people who are taken back by this likely exist not considering the fact that what they eat used to be an animal and have fallen into a category of people who are very comfortable in their warm and cosy existence where everything just kind of appears before them with little to no struggle. The other camp are the realists who understand what meat is and where it comes from. I myself believe in being as much a part of the process as possible and source my own meat as much as I can relative to the current season as myself and my fiancé have a friend who is a game keeper, which is pretty handy.

At one point in my life those numbers would have shocked me and driven me to do my research sooner than I eventually did, which in turn would have driven me to read more about process and how these things work. As a meat eater I pride myself on NOT supporting factory farming as much as I possibly can given budget and availability of game or local meat as it is a practice I don’t see as sustainable or frankly have much time for. However, instead of seeing these figures and jumping straight onto Facebook or Instagram and giving someone problems for posting a picture of a steak they cooked, it made me look further into how I can minimise my reliance on this without depriving myself of something I enjoy and also increase the quality of meat that I eat. For instance the deep almost wine red colour of wild venison compared to the colour of most of the beef we have come to accept in a commercial environment is genuinely jaw dropping. I also compare this to the experience of eating pheasant for the first time having lived on roast chicken most of my life – an animal that is not a million miles away from each other in terms of species can provide a completely different experience given it’s quality of life, varied diet and existence outside of the sterilised world of factory farming.

So why is it with this in mind that when someone posts a picture of a shoot or a hunt, all they receive is a mass wave of bile and hatred as if they killed their own mother when 50% the people posting the comments have ”steak night with bae’ featured on their profile? Why is it that in 2018 a man can consume a whole chicken in one sitting in a restaurant but when they hunt their own deer they are branded a murderer? It fucking baffles me a lot of the time. I mean in one respect I feel in the UK we are a product of our environment and hunting, fishing and bush craft is essentially not a mainstream part of our culture (which in itself grieves me) seemingly exclusively reserved for the upper echelon of society while the working man eats only the cuts they can afford in their local supermarket or served when they go out to the pub. Whereas in the US, even though society seems to be turning on the hunters somewhat it is at least initially seen as the wholesome working persons way of providing for their family. I think these contrasting views are also accentuated by the history of fox hunting in Great Britain – a brutal and unacceptable practice that involves chasing down a fox with a pack of dogs and results in the fox being torn apart by them. Rather than killed ethically and quickly for food, this is all sport and was subsequently banned as recently as 2005 in England, 2003 in Scotland while still remaining a legal practice in Northern Ireland.

The lack of public land in the UK also means that hunting becomes more difficult as it is something you have to now do on someone else’s land. There is still a healthy amount of places in the UK where you can go on organised shoots or stalks but these again aren’t a mainstream option for most people who love here. Scotland being one of the few truly wild areas of our little island does attract people from abroad to experience a hunt in the highlands, a beautiful setting if nothing else to experience the raw emotion and struggle of harvesting your own food. This became stunningly apparent to most of the people in the Twittersphere this summer when Larysa Switlyk put pictures on her page of her hunting trip to the aisle of Islay with her partner. Oh my… did the people of the internet give her ‘what for’. I did what no person should ever do and clicked on as many profiles as I could to see the kind of person it takes to be so aggressive and vile to another person over something they knew little about and the answer wasn’t at all surprising.

If you are reading this with an agenda then you fully expect me to say vegans here don’t you? I thought so…but nope. It was a diverse and varied group of people of different views and lifestyles with one unified attribute. Complete ignorance.

To kill an animal in the UK or US you have to have permission to do so, either by the land owner, government or relative authority. The animals will also be consumed not just tossed off the side of a cliff or left where they dropped but were any of these questions asked? Of course not. Instead all that was thrown onto the pictures were quotes of disgust and how she should be ashamed of herself. My biggest gripe with this is the lack of questions and umping straight onto the band wagon of ‘fuck you and everything you stand for’. Why aren’t these people calling ASDA, Sainsbury’s or Wallmart murderers? Picketing the chicken aisle or tweeting how Danish bacon is an abomination? Why aren’t they committed to stopping the use of palm oil that is a leading cause of deforestation? (while still consuming peanut butter that is pumped full of it). Culturally would you have ever given a shit about it if it wasn’t on Twitter? Probably not to be fair. I believe if someone said to you in conversation ‘did you hear about that woman that hunted feral goats and stag in Scotland?’ most people would have approached it in a ‘so where is the story here?’ kind of way. The outrage only hits it’s peak when the jury on social media comes together to find their next victim to destroy. Often resulting in social execution without much in the way of a trial.

The point is there are very few issue sin this world let alone this country that as so black and white you can say ‘I AM THIS’ or ‘I AM THAT’ which seems to be a fundamental problem with todays society. Are you red or blue? are you Pro or anti Brexit? My answer, somewhat pedantically has always been ‘I’m Phil’. The only time I ever pick sides is in sport, otherwise I simply want to hear both sides and pull my own takeaways from it based on my views and opinions, not just adhere to what one team or the other is saying I should think. The problem is that for some reason this now bleeds into what we eat. Because I eat a responsibly harvested wild pheasant I am potentially classed as ‘murdering scum’ whereas the VW Golf that smashed 3 of them on the way to get their cornflakes is guilt free. Fundamentally should VW or another car manufacturer be attacked for not having Pheasant or badger safety in mind when designing the latest family saloon? Probably not lets be fair.

The problem is not their point of view necessarily but their approach to an apposing one, just as you would try to sell something to a customer a point of view can be taken or left where it stands. If I was to force someone to purchase something it would be seen as the wrong approach and an unethical way of doing business and yet when it comes having an opinion or belief, we seem to be stuck within a social juxtaposition where people seem to think telling someone to ‘fuck off and die’ will have a better result than ‘but why do you think that?’ I’m not a hundred percent sure calling someone a murderer has ever stopped anyone eating meat and I’m sure from a contrasting point of view throwing the word ‘snowflake’ at anyone ever stopped them in their beliefs either. Both sides are culpable and as guilty as each other. What creates change is open and honest dialogue about the issues that matter to you. Militant attitudes only serve to create militant groups and while the title of this article specifically referenced the left in it’s first draft (as I have certainly been attacked more regularly by people who firmly put themselves into this camp) it is worth showing my distain for people who do it the other way too. It solves nothing. It goes even further to solving absolutely nothing when either side are doing it just to resist the other rather than actually having any real belief in what they are saying.

I absolutely adore food. That’s why I have this blog, it’s why I choose to use my spare time writing about it and why I spend the rest of my free time thinking about it or cooking it. This joy that I find in consuming the fuel I need to be alive is a basic and wholesome practice, that has existed since the birth of fire gave us the ability to change the form of raw ingredients to create new and exciting oral experiences. If you are to try and dampen that with aggression or hatred rather than a long form conversation then I have little to no interest in speaking to you. You personally are not the problem. Your approach is and if you fix it you may make more progress in convincing people to change something. Whether you are a hunter speaking to a vegetarian (who often share similar reasons for doing what they do!!!) or a pescetarian telling your chicken farmer associate the benefits of a fish heavy diet there are always certain sensibilities you will share because of something that gets lost in translation… we are all people. Personalities with billions of differences and similarities alike. How do we even scratch the surface if we are telling each other to get fucked all the time because of what we eat for dinner?

Take religion as a very broad example. Does picking a faith and shouting things at the others ever achieve anything apart from causing pain to both sides? no not really. Check the daily news for details… and how many people are newly recruited to a religion by someone knocking on a door during dinner after a hard days work? I would hazard a guess at not many. But how many change religions and beliefs based on sensible, appropriate conversations or simply having access to the information available to that person when they need it? I would put my mortgage on that being a much higher number. A perfect example of this was during one of Steve Rinella’s book readings around 6 years ago (one of my absolute heroes) where there was a comment thrown at him by a vegan gentleman and Steve had what I class as one of the more beautiful conversations on YouTube. Both showed compassion to each other and they bother agreed to meet in the middle and hear each other out. Isn’t that the way we should always do it? Check it out below.

 

So in summary, yes, I think modern food related culture and my own enjoyment is somewhat ruined by all the in fighting. I like to enjoy the process of finding, planning, preparing and cooking my food but often find myself being told I am in the wrong in one way or the other by either ‘side’. I would like to make a plea to my Vegan, Vegetarian, Meat eating, fish catching friends and readers alike – I implore you to think about the ways we approach communication. There are so many important issues we could discuss if we actually spoke openly rather than shutting ourselves in boxes just to achieve more likes and retweets than the last guy because you ‘shut that guy down’. We all need to be better at it and for all the points you feel your scoring nobody wins at the end. After all is said and done this is simply my thought process put into writing which some of you may disagree with… and that’s fine. It’s just how we deal with the next part that matters.

 

Burger science – What makes the perfect burger?

Burger science – What makes the perfect burger?

I have been meaning to write this for some time however work has been somewhat hectic in light of a recent role change, luckily I am staying away tonight and there are limited distractions now I have finished my daily follow ups. So for the first time in what seems like forever I am able to pontificate about one of the biggest problems in our society. An issue so controversial it divides people daily, creates arguments among friends, family and even work colleagues. When looking at this conundrum objectively even Brexit seems easier to solve… at least that has a rough timeline. This particular argument is timeless and could go on forever – but for today I am wading in with a keenly placed size 8.5 to cut through the confusion and give clarity to anyone reading this post…

What makes the perfect burger?

I know. Heavy right?…

Is it multiple patties? exotic additional toppings? certain types of bread or 4 different types of cheese? Well I have a theory about this but I am going to tackle it by looking at the common problems that I feel ruin a burger and then tie it up with a solution. There are a few things that royally ruin any marriage of bread and meat and to me it feels so simple! So the most common ways to ruin your burger are…

  • Shit bread

There is nothing worse than ordering a burger and receiving it in the wrong vessel. It can define the experience just as much as the meat or cheese, while also being able to cancel out any positives those two essential pillars might bring to the meal. The most common bread faux pas is a style that is too tough or structurally solid, meaning when you bite it, all of the contents just fly out onto the plate or into the paper if your a hipster king at a food truck. You cannot reinvent the wheel with shit bread so just accept that brioche buns were made for a reason. There are exceptions to the rule, as with the right meat and cheese combo a fresh pretzel roll or toasted wholemeal roll can be a beast of a beef holder but generally the brioche reigns supreme. Oh and if it’s in a wrap it’s not a burger. Not having it.

Solution: Stop trying to be niche and use French bread etc. It doesn’t work. Softer breads create better burgers.   

 

 

  • More than 2 type of cheese

I will accept 2 applications of the same cheese but if you are served or are considering putting multiple type of cheese on one burger your making a mistake. Especially if they just don’t go together in texture or in taste such as brie and cheddar. Not only will you ruin the stability of the upper part of your burger but you will also be setting yourself up for an overly messy catastrophe that doesn’t really know what it’s going for. Now I like a messy burger like anyone does as when its good. It’s good. BUT if it’s sliding all over the place and becoming a case of annoying rather than enjoying, you have a problem. The taste of confusion is not pleasurable. Oh and stop using raw cheddar. I asked for a burger not a cheese sandwich with a hot beef add on. MELT IT AT THE VERY LEAST. Match your cheese to the meat and topping combo.

Solution: 1 type of cheese based on the other contents. Fast melting creamy cheese such as American, Monterey Jack, blue or Brie for your average burger, spiced cheese for a beef/ pork spiced patty, rarely use cheddar unless it’s melted to the top bun but just make a decision and stick to it. Commit to your cheese choice.

  • Open burgers

….

Solution: Stop.

  • Overcomplicating your patty

I learned this pretty early on while I was competing in Battle of the burgers way back in 2013. Over seasoning or over spicing can be a weight that your burger simply can’t break free from and it’s strongest properties will simply not be able to come to the surface. My personal mistake was over spicing a lamb burger which I still believe to this day is the only reason I didn’t hit first place and it bugs me to this day. If your patty is made from lamb, beef, pork or a mixture of meat you need to be able to taste that within it, not just a handful of paprika you threw into the mix last minute or a double shot of harissa you tried to get clever with. If I am using 500g of meat I will only add a tablespoon of additional flavourings maximum, not including salt and pepper. I also have a secret binding agent to guarantee a great, juicy burger even after freezing and defrosting in sausage meat. However you obviously wouldn’t want to be cooking them medium rare!

Solution: Keep your seasoning simple. Don’t get excited and pour in your spice cabinet. A dash will do and a hint won’t hinder… but a shit load will ruin your burger.

  • Overloading toppings

Very similar to the multiple cheese issue is banging everything you have left in the pantry on top of the burger and sending it out looking like someone has already started chewing it or just spooned out the U-bend of a sink. There is a limit to a topping line up in my opinion and it’s 2. One additional meat and a none meat option. For example: Bacon and pickles to add contrast, balsamic onions and slices of cooked chorizo, freshly sliced chilies and pulled pork, a runny egg and crispy onions… you get the idea.

Solution: Slow down a bit and just give it some thought. Which additions work well and pull it all together ?

 

The simple way of summarising it is the best way to make your burger to best it can be is to keep it simple. The science is simple and it gives us an easy to understand formula to follow which is:

 

Soft but well structured bread

PLUS

Well balanced and seasoned patty

PLUS

One type of cheese

PLUS

A maximum of 2 topping. One meat and one none meat

OPTIONAL

1 sauce

=

A perfect burger

 

 

So just keep it simple and you can’t go wrong! It isn’t a complicated problem to solve just don’t get too clever or ambitious as the star of the burger is the burger in it’s entirety. Keep this in mind and you can create true harmony between bread, calm between cob and won’t fall into a trap in a bap.

Rub ya’self up – Returning to Rub, Birmingham

Rub ya’self up – Returning to Rub, Birmingham

It has been a while since I have been this active on the blog let alone been in touch with my good friends at Rub Smokehouse, Birmingham, but I must say they have caught my eye of late on social media. They have recently launched a super saver menu to rival the mainstream fast food chains in terms of their value and quality while also going viral yet again with what I believe was the worlds biggest chicken nugget. Nugzilla is real.

I have made no secret that I have always been a proponent of Rub’s unapologetic spirit and the fact that the heart of the business seems to be very much worn on their sleeves. The jovial nature of their attitude towards food bleeds into their model of spreading their message on social media with things like this but ultimately they still have good food at their core. While Nugzilla and the challenge options in that sort of wheel house don’t necessarily appeal to me personally, it gets bums on seats and gives them a platform to show off the sorts of things I ate on Friday. I literally got into cooking traditional BBQ because of Rub Smokehouse and watching Brian Mujati’s YouTube channel so these guys have really imprinted on my development as writer and a cook, so it was a pleasure to be hosted by them again on Friday evening (06/07/18).

Upon arrival I was greeted by the smell of the art of meat alchemy and a really accommodating member of staff, (apologies for not remembering your name) seated at my table and was given 5 minutes to mull over the menu. I decided I wanted to go out like William Wallace and get Hung Drawn and Quartered, which as pictured below, is a platter of smokehouse treats and American inspired sides. To start at the top we have baby back ribs, pulled pork, Brisket, BBQ chicken with white Alabama BBQ sauce and Buffalo wings that’s are served with sides of onion rings, corn on the cob, corn dogs, fries and red slaw. Quite the list right? this can all be yours for £36 to feed two people or £68 for four, which when you break it down is actually very reasonable per person for the amount of food you actually get presented with while also seeing what their food is all about across the board.

It’s also worth noting I upgraded the fries to the ‘poutine’ option (gravy and cheese) which were really a really nice touch and not something you see very often on a British menu.

As ever for me my experience eating this was consistent and thoroughly enjoyable. I am a self confessed burgerholic but when it comes to a place like Rub I need some smoke rings and wings in my life. The brisket was moist while still retaining a healthy bark on the outside that ran into a vibrant pink smoke ring, the chicken and the buffalo wings were a flavoursome punch that packed the odd bit of crackling spice and the pulled pork was an equal partner in the dish as sometimes PP can get lost amongst the bold flavours of a smoked variety dish but it stood up well and in being served dry, retained it’s ‘porkyness’ rather than it just being about the sauce it was in.

One thing I have always struggled to get right on a wood fired smoker is the humble rib. A relatively cheap cut of meat that can be make or break for a cook if they don’t treat it with enough care. It has taken me a long time to be able to get up to a standard where I am even remotely happy with my own rib cooks (I can’t begin to tell you how many racks of ribs I have eaten while simultaneously pissed off about shoulda, woulda, coulda elements on the days grilling) but Rub are really consistent. Every time I have eaten their ribs I get the same effect. I get enough stability where I can pick them up without complete disintegration, enough give that I can pull the bone clean out of the rack or in this case just pull through it with a fork like I’m eating a cake, which in itself has always really impressed me. Something I learned very early on is that you can tell the quality of a smokehouse by how their ribs behave and Rubs ribs were very well behaved little guys.

It really does showcase the size of the dish when I haven’t even touched on the sides yet by this point of the post, however I don’t want to take any shine away from them. I have maybe had corndogs twice in my life as again very much like the poutine, they aren’t really something that has broken into the British culinary lexicon that often. A good example of the American carnival ‘anything on a stick’ attitude, the corn dog offers it’s participants a frankfurter that is deep fried in batter to create a breaded meat rocket on a wooden stick. Rub’s take on the corn dog is fluffy and almost decadent in it’s own way while also offering you some real variance away from the rest of the dish without being odd. It is certainly at home here but just allows you to go somewhere else for a quick minute… which is nice.

Poutine was very pleasant and the gravy just helps you continue on when you start to hit a wall in the third quarter of the platter. Trust the process as Joel Embiid says or in this case just trust the poutine. Onion rings were probably up there with my top 5 onions rings as they were full and fluffy unlike some the scraggly shit I have been served elsewhere in the past. Slaw was refreshing against the heavy nature of the meat and the corn was… yellow. Because I haven’t eaten it yet… because the meal beat me and I essentially brought home an entire further meals worth like I always do when I go to Rub.

We are a few years down the line since my first visit and it is good to see Rub still pumping in it’s original vein. The spirit has not died and neither has the quality of the food. They embrace challenges and change and even enforce some of their own by trying to ‘break the internet’ and some may criticise that or think it to be at the behest of the quality of their actual product, but it isn’t. Which has always really impressed me. We are in the age of social media where even your local butcher is putting something rogue on their A boards in the hope you will tweet it and it will drive more business (or in some cases on Mumsnet or Reddit and you get chased out of business..), Rub has embraced that and built a reputation around big, bold, brash statements and an experience that anybody with an ounce of adventure in them wants to be a part of. It’s always been a interesting ride watching how they develop and long may it continue. Birmingham loves you so just keep doing you, as it’s still working.

 

Wing King – Chicken Alchemy

Wing King – Chicken Alchemy

At the time of writing it is 5/7/18 and we are on the cusp of UK BBQ week 2018, arguably the most wonderful time of the year, regardless of what the friends of buddy Christ will tell you.

buddy christ wings

A time where the UK BBQ community is encouraged to come together and cook a daily theme to show the diversity and adaptability of cooking over coal and wood, showcasing the true art of what we do and why we love it. In the spirit of this jovial holiday of wood fired unity I wanted to share my method of smoking a tray of perfect chicken wings. This sounds easy, but if you really want something done… one must do it right.

I am incredibly proud of my wings to the point where it’s currently my go to cook on my newest barrel smoker. I like the fact you can get a really powerful smoke without having to go overnight or light the pit at 5am, while being able to serve something that can make people leave your house in firm belief that you know your shit. So below I have broken down the steps to creating the perfect wing tray. You can do these in the oven if you don’t own a smoker but for best results cook low and slow over wood.

What you need

  • 12 Whole chicken wings
  • Hot paprika
  • Smoked black pepper
  • Brown sugar
  • Thyme (can sub for mixed herbs)
  • Oregano (Can sub for mixed herbs)
  • Cayenne
  • Nutmeg
  • Cinnamon
  • Salt
  • Your favourite BBQ sauce

Prep

Go to your local butcher and ask for the volume of wings you need by all means and upscale the recipe as required but this will be to make 1 tray (12 whole, 22 when jointed/ split). Cut the tips from the wings if bought whole as they add literally nothing, then take your knife and find the joint on the inner bend of the wing. Cut through it to get an even split of drumstick and dual bone wings. repeat and place them in a bowl that will go into your fridge.

Smokers – Start you pit and get it up to 225 C. I use either cherry or apple wood for this cook.

Rub

I already have this premixed usually but for one single batch take 2 tbsp. paprika, 2 tbsp. smoked black pepper and 1 of brown sugar, 1 tbsp. thyme and oregano (or mixed herbs), 1 tspn cayenne, large pinch of nutmeg, cinnamon and sea salt to taste. Rub the wings through the spice mix until evenly covered and fridge them for a minimum of 2 hours.

The cook

Place on a tray that enables fat to escape and smoke to get in from below and cook for around 1.5 hours or until they read 160 on a probe thermometer (don’t touch the bone when taking a reading as it can screw the reading up). Remove from the smoker and DIP the wings in your chosen BBQ sauce, this will give you a much more glazed feel than brushing and enables a good even spread across the wings. Then put them back in the smoker or oven for another 20 minutes so the heat can help the sauce bond to the wings and render down the glaze a little.

Remove and serve outside with a beer.

 

Generally it’s an easy cook when you look at it like that but it’s the finer details that matter just like any cook you do with indirect heat. Enjoy with your family or just smash a plate on your own an save that shit for the gram. Either way people will want to get involved.

 

 

POMPOUS, PRETENTIOUS NONESENSE – My review of your reaction to the Beavertown developments.

POMPOUS, PRETENTIOUS NONESENSE – My review of your reaction to the Beavertown developments.

I haven’t written anything for a while but, like Spiderman, I know when I need to get involved. So to start I would like to begin with a disclaimer. I truly enjoy the cavalcade of variance and creative beauty to be found within the craft beer scene. From the incredible liquid we are capable of producing as an industry and a community to the artistic prowess shown off in the packaging and marketing material. That said, I am beginning to dislike the poisonous attitude of some craft beer drinkers.

The majority of craft beer drinkers sneer at the mention of CAMRA and their £25 fee to pretend to be an expert and criticise peoples beer openly while flashing their purple CAMRA polo shirt, however when you stand back and look that is exactly where this scene is going. Instead of all enjoying beer and discussing your likes/ dislikes amongst your friends, we have begun to spit bile across the vast chasm of the internet and split into a segregated group of near insufferable pricks intent on demanding everyone stay ‘small’ to say they make ‘true’ craft beer and throwing shade at everyone outside of the minority group to a point where it can only be described as militant.

For anybody who is confused by what I am saying I implore you to take a minute and think about the following statement:

What is craft beer?

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Right, so hopefully now you have a rough statement in mind. I’m sure phrases like ‘small’ ‘small batch’ ‘Independent’ and ‘under a certain amount of barrels’ came to mind. I have no problem in telling you that I believe all of those to be complete bollocks. In the 1970’s when Bass was in the ascendancy and seen as the big bad of the time, the traditional cask ale brewers were known as craft. Now you all look at them as old hat and I have even heard the ‘cask can’t be craft’ argument far too many times to count, which again is bollocks. See Tiny Rebel’s range for details… So if those kind of brews were craft back then… what is craft now? I’ll tell you exactly what it is in my opinion:

Craft beer is not a bubble, trend or phase. Craft beer is a modern beer made to push the boundaries more than brewers were comfortable doing prior to now. Craft beer is exciting, craft beer is progress and craft beer represents the next generation of brewing at any given time.

Bringing me to my point. Stop being ridiculous about Beavertown agreeing to have investment from Heineken.

The key frustration with this is reading comments about them not being independent or selling out, when in actuality they are enjoying the opportunity to grow and bring their beer to more people, while also representing a tidal change in the industry where mega brewers such as Heineken see the value in a beer range such as Beavertown’s. Up until now they have been a much loved brewery because they make some incredible beers and will still do that even after Heinekens involvement. Boycotting them when you like the liquid that comes out of their cans and kegs only leaves you looking like a spanner. I couldn’t give a little shiny cat shit who brews a beer if it is of great quality and represents that progress and creativity we have come to love from our beer in 2018… If you can tell me one time Beavertown has made a beer that was generic and made just to sell volume alone, I will eat my own kneecaps. Their creativity and ability to brew a beer that makes a real impact on you still exists.

My main message is that if you are one of the people that loved their beer prior to this deal, be it smog rocket (my favourite), Gamma Ray, Neck Oil or Lupuloid… next time you see one just pick it up and buy it, then what I want you to do is sit down and take a few sips. If you still enjoy the beer you loved 3/4 weeks ago, enjoy that moment of perspective and please continue to enjoy them…

However, when drinking the beer, if all you can taste is a sense of betrayal and a feeling of anger, denial… or even disgust… You need to have a day off. There are 13 people stuck in a cave in Thailand with rising water levels, 2 people in hospital from another bloody nerve agent issue down south AND some woman just climbed up the statue of liberty to denounce the president of the United Sates Of America and the first thing you want to do is complain on Facebook about a brewery investment and ask for a refund to a beer festival.

and I close with this:

Beavertown have made some incredible beers in their short time on this earth as a brewery. I will continue to support, drink and talk about them for as long as the good beer continues to pour from their cans and kegs. I want to let Logan and his entire team know that the negative noise is always the loudest but they do have plenty of normal people still willing to appreciate what they do. Growth is good for everybody in a very challenging market place and if ‘small’ independent brewers are important to you that’s FINE… but if you had the opportunity to exponentially grow the business you have built, your baby, your reason for getting up in the morning… and didn’t just because of what other people might think, you are living your life wrong.

 

Big up B-Town.

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