Meat. Do it right.

I have something that has been bothering me for years now, something that seems so trivial to most people that it would come across as a none issue if not brought to the table with a little context. This particular gripe is the incredibly average but irritatingly widespread, supermarket meat.

Now I know this is a sweeping generalisation and that is one thing I don’t like to do, but the quality and level of complacency that people are willing to accept is unfathomable. My granddad worked at a butcher shop in Wolverhampton in his later years and seeing the level of skill and care taken by Graham and Alan has always stuck with me. In supplying the local area with fresh, good quality cuts of meat they were conducting a dying service and I never realised until I got a bit older. Our system doesn’t seem to support the level of demand we have put onto it and this provides the supermarket and its ‘one stop shop’ approach an opportunity to throw plastic boxes of mass produced cack at every Tom, Dick and Harry that walk through their doors.

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Now this is a vicious circle really because the more supermarkets that pop up, the more local butchers that fall flat on their faces and years of experience and knowledge goes down the pan. It infuriates me as you have no idea the level of artistry and experience it takes to make the most of an animal in the way a real butcher can. Sainsbury’s will never give you the option to take home the type of meat you want, you have to make do with what they had. I remember a time a few months ago when I lived at my old house, there wasn’t a local butcher and I wanted to make BBQ pork ribs. Naturally I went to the nearest supermarket to fetch a rack as I knew I had seen them before, however, when I got there I was told that they hadn’t put them out today because they had been sent more pork steaks and they had to sell them. I can kind of understand this to a certain extent but when I asked them to go and try to find me some out I was told ‘No, unfortunately not as they will be at the bottom of a container somewhere’. It took me a week to actually get some ribs and the amount of shiners on them easily qualified them to sit in a sodding jewellers window. (For those who don’t know a shiner is when the rib is cut too close to the bone and the bone penetrates the meat… I am talking at least half of the entire rack was showing bones. dire.) Not only this but not too long ago I was in there getting some bread after work and saw an elderly customer at the meat counter who asked for 800g of fresh mince. One would assume that she is asking this so she doesn’t have to simply settle for the mildly greying brain fart excuse for beef mince sitting on the shelves. What she got however was exactly that. The guy only had 100g or so to hand so he told her he would go and get some more… he went to the shelf, got 2 packs of the aforementioned mince and simply emptied out onto the scale.

The supermarket butchers counter is a front. It presents the illusion of freshness and the real butchery experience when in actual fact it is just the same stuff that is served on the shelves. It just has a man in a hat.

I recently moved house and now live in a village with possibly one of the best butchers I have ever used and the contrast is just on another level. On my first full day living here I went in and had a chat with them to feel out what I was dealing with and to see what was available to me. I had a laundry list of cuts I wanted to know if I could get my hands on that I have struggled for in recent months…. Beef short ribs, whole brisket, game birds and venison steaks, all of which were greeted with a wry smile and a definitive yes. I left with 500g a freshly diced venison to get me going. Now if you can tell me a single supermarket that offers that kind of offering with the quality of product I received I will go out into the currently snow filled streets stark bollock naked and do a Chris Ashton swan dive into my neighbours garden. Not going to happen.

The moral of the story is this. There are some truly talented, under appreciated masters out there and they are being wasted. I was guilty of it as most of us are but we need to stand up and realise that they need our support. Every time I turn on the TV or radio people are talking about supporting local business and yet at every turn we seem to be able to avoid the butcher or the green grocer as an inclusion. I do not give a single shiny toss about another t-shirt company starting in Wolverhampton or a crowd funded start up to develop apps down the road. I care about the kind of sustainably sourced meat and poultry supplied by Astons butchers, Coven, South Staffordshire, WV9 5DB. I may have been a bit harsh on the supermarkets, not all of it is that bad…  but compare the beef or lamb you get there to a cut of native bred livestock that was looked after locally and hand picked to give you the very best experience possible… go to somebody who cares about what they are giving you and not just how much of it they can sell. Your local butcher cares about you coming back through the door and your satisfaction is a priority, not just the yearly profit differentials of 160 different stores.

There is an Astons near you somewhere. Find them. Support them. Enjoy them. Before it’s too late.

 

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Wayland’s Yard Christmas Festival

Wayland’s Yard Christmas Festival

It turns out it has been so long since I last wrote anything on here that I had totally forgot my password. The last 6 months have been borderline ridiculous and I have had so much on that the blog has had to take a back seat. To give you a brief idea of just how busy I have been… work has been all consuming, I have sold a house, moved out of said house, moved back in with my parents and subsequently bought and moved into a new house… which has left me precious little time to sit down and do anything, let alone pontificate about food and drink.

I am looking to right the wrongs of the recent past and get back on the proverbial horse with a hell of a lot in the pipeline to get things moving again, but first and foremost there is a looming yule like presence breaching the horizon. I can hear nothing but Michael Buble and Frank Sinatra in the shops which means one thing and one thing only… Christmas is here. Strangely though, the day that it really dawned on me just how close the big day is, I had an incredibly well timed email from literally my favourite spot in Worcester… Wayland’s Yard. If you don’t know who Wayland’s Yard are, I covered their launch heavily last year and was really impressed with their local attitude and concentration on building an amazing culture that equates to equally amazing food and wonderful coffee. Sam, the man behind the yard, has been kind enough to invite me to their Christmas Festival and Craft Market which promises to be a festive celebration with their beautifully presented coffee flowing throughout the weekend, complimented by mulled wine, mince pies, and again…their genuinely good food. If you are an existing subscriber of the blog you know how I feel about their food. so I can’t wait to get back there and get involved with the guys.

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Polly from Wayland’s Yard got in touch and said:

After our first anniversary in October and some successful Yard Parties over the Summer, we thought it was time to celebrate Christmas the Wayland’s way. Everything we do is about championing local produce, business and people – that’s why our Christmas Festival is going to give over 40 local crafters/business people the platform to sell their gifts to people just in time for Christmas. Add to this local musicians, a choir, mince pies, mulled cider and our usual food offering and we think we’ve got a pretty decent recipe for a party!!

I think everybody who loves what this blog is about loves the idea of a successful local business supporting other local business to give people something unique for the festive season.  So lets get down there and support them and get festive in the Yard!

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If you want to attend.. clear your calendars on the 16th/17th December, WY is located at number 6 Foregate street, near the train station and the party gets started from 11am to 6pm on Saturday and 11am to 5pm on Sunday.

 

I can’t wait! See you there for some Proper coffee… and proper food.

Day Dreaming of Donuts in Birmingham

Day Dreaming of Donuts in Birmingham

donutslider2.jpgIf somebody was to ask me to think of the thing I was most passionate about the majority of people would be relatively safe in the assumption that I would say food without any hesitation. I think about it to the point where I have seen fit to write about it for over 3 years so far, so it goes without saying that I want to meet, talk to and ultimately learn from other like minded individuals that love it as much as I do.

I love talking to people who have a deep seeded, hard wired love for food and drink and I feel like that comes across fairly well when I have worked with now stalwart friends of the blog like Wayland’s Yard, Feast Foods and Rub in the past, so naturally finding more people and organisations like this gets me quite excited. So it is no surprise that I am so enthusiastic about unearthing a hidden gem in Birmingham that I think represents food in its purest form. A new labour of love that is being developed from the ground up, with honest, genuine food and a lot of hard work. That labour of love is Donut Day Dream, run by a certain Jonathan Barrow.

I discovered the delights of Donut Day Dream while on an all day eating and drinking session with my girlfriend in Birmingham. I had already visited Purity bar, The Alchemist, India Brewery in Snow Hill and Lost and Found so by now I severely needed something to soak up some of the alcohol slowly beginning to rush to my head! Upon wandering around the market as I quite like to do I stumbled upon a stand that was covered with an array of fresh, crisply presented, glistening donuts that made us both stop in our tracks. I had a quick chat with Jonathan and decided to go for one of each of his remaining stock, it was nearing the end of the day for him and they had clearly sold super well! I took an Apple fritter, Chocolate, Smarties and a dream Glaze.

We dragged our now quite wavy selves over to near the church and sat on the marble wall to take a look at what we had got our hands on and straight away the apple fritter seemed to jump right out of the bag and into my mouth. Guilty. What followed was a rush of rich, sweetness and a twinge of warm spice that complimented the apple perfectly. Would have been superb with a coffee or any hot drink frankly.

Next was the Chocolate and the Smarties, both very similar but I really like Smarties so sod it I got both. Again the rich buttery brioche dough really shone through and was complimented by the velvety chocolate that adorned its bronzed, crispy crown. It was banging to be fair!

Last but not least was the Dream Glaze… A very simple and incredibly well executed piece of confectionary that stands out for its pure, unadulterated self being bold enough to stand up against the other, more complex donuts in the range, very good indeed. All of them can put up a hell of a fight when put next to those other ‘Krispy’ varieties that are scattered throughout service stations and Tesco stores across the land… they are poor imitations of a truly well crafted product such as Jonathans. top marks.

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I managed to catch up with him properly to see how things were going and what got him started on his journey…

 

Phil: First of all thanks for lending me some of your time to answer some questions for me, I found your stall a few weeks ago and really wanted to get in touch and get involved. I suppose the first question is how long have you been making these badboys?

Jonathan: It’s my pleasure to take some time out to answer some questions and give the reader a little more insight into me and my company, so thank you. So, my business has been open now for just over a month, and have been selling to the public in this time but it has taken me around 6 months to get the dough just right, adding and subtracting ingredients, getting the rise times and rise temperatures just right.

Phil: The quality is right there man. As I have touched on in the rest of the article I loved every minute of all them. Do you have a favourite?..

Jonathan: Well, of course as you can imagine I love all my creations, but out of the first 5 flavours I would have to say the apple fritter. The warm, soft, sweetness and spice of the apples as you bite into the donut is just another level of delicious.

Phil: Its a pretty ballsy move going into business in a competitive market, in the days of ‘big brand’ Donuts at service stations and Tesco, what inspired you to take the plunge?

Jonathan: Well I believe whole heartedly in my product and after being in business for the last month or so, I have realised I have come up with a product that people love and are willing to make the trip back to my stall to get their donut fix. What inspired me in the beginning was the fact you have very little choice for this snack choice in Birmingham and I believed that I could come up with great creations that the general public would fall in love with.

Phil: What sets you apart from those ‘big brand’ donuts? I wont mention the name they don’t need the PR…!

Jonathan: What sets me apart from the big brands is the love, care and time I have put into my product and branding. From my dough, to fillings, to toppings many are made from scratch. We don’t use any fillers, preservatives or colourings in our donuts which I believe makes a huge difference to taste and texture.

Phil: So what’s the long term goal for you? Where would you like to be with DDD in 5 years time?

Jonathan: The long term goal for Donut Day Dream is to be, the go to place within the Birmingham and surrounding areas for good quality donuts. The aim is to have multiple outlets, at the same time cater for other businesses and events, including coffee shops, food festivals, weddings, parties etc.

Phil: If you could pitch your donuts or even your business as a whole to my readers, how would you do it?

Jonathan: Well, first of all, my name is Jonathan, I’m 30 years old and my main passions in life are family, food and fitness. I have always wanted to run my own business, and from a young age have had a passion for cooking and baking. Once I decided that donuts were the way to go, I started experimenting with different recipes and flavours, and understanding the science behind making donut dough. From the beginning I knew that quality ingredients and taste had to be top priority. I respect honest food, and believe the consumer would value that my dough consists of 100% natural ingredients. I love what I do and my heart and soul goes into each and every single donut, so when a customer tastes my product and I hear that ‘ummm’ it makes it all worth while. In the 6months leading up to opening I literally sat and dreamt about most aspects of the business, including branding, flavours and the overall vibe I wanted customers to feel. So this is how I decided the name ‘Donut Day Dream’. To the many people this blog may reach I hope by reading you’ve been tempted to come and visit us, taste our donuts, have a chat and tell us what you think. And finally for people who don’t know, where can they find you? We are currently located in the Birmingham outdoor Bullring markets on stall A3. You can also keep an eye out for us at various festivals and events. We have recently done a yearly Barbados festival in Coventry ‘A lil bit of bim’ at the Coventry and Warwickshire sports club, where we SOLD OUT! And we have the Birmingham coffee festival coming up on the 1st and 2nd of July at the custard factory.

Phil: Thanks man, I honestly wish you all the best and hope that this brings a few more people to the stand and helps you grow. We need more people like you takings risks to deliver some good produce to people that isn’t churned out on a conveyor belt. I know what I would choose.

You can find out more about Donut Day Dream here: Donut Day Dream… Click here!!!!

 

 

How to smoke… the easy version Part 1: Buying your smoker

How to smoke… the easy version Part 1: Buying your smoker

Using a smoker and smoking your own food can be a nightmare of a task to get round for the first timer. It is super easy to google ‘Smoking food’ and disappear down about 4 or 5 different rabbits holes simultaneously. Electric smokers, coal fires, offset, upright, chamber smokers, smoker box, liquid smoke (don’t.) the list goes on. With this article I am aiming to simplify it a little bit for you if you were looking to get started as at it’s core… it’s fairly straight forward. Two main areas are vital for success, managing and understanding your pit and timing. Get these two aspects down and you are going to get at the very least, results you can be happy with.

First of all it’s about buying a smoker that suits you. For beginners I would advise not spending too much as you don’t need to spend around £1000 on a unit that you might not actually like using. I bought my offset smoker for £80 and there are a variety of ways you can modify your cheaper unit to get the results of a smoker worth 5 or 6 times its value, but I will go into more detail on this at a later date. There are plenty of places jumping on the bandwagon and selling upright and offset smokers which is great for anybody looking to get going as you can go to your local Range or garden centre and pick up a fairly functional unit for under £100 like I did.

So to bust some serious amounts of jargon and give you two easy to digest recommendation I will explain it as best I can! So if you are asking yourself, what should I buy? why? how do I decide? Hopefully this will help you come to a decision and get you started.

Upright smoker/ Water smoker

So I haven’t actually got one of these (at the moment) but it’s on order and I am well versed enough in how to use one so bare with me. These smokers rely more of providing a levelled environment for your food with a steam element that should keep your food moist throughout the cooking process while still giving it a great platform for the smoke to penetrate the food.

Construction: Usually these smokers consist of two levels of cooking grates, a level for a water pan and then finally at the bottom your coal basket. Sometimes they will have hooks in the lid if they are big enough to hang meat from and utilise the space better.

Function: Lighting the coals/ wood chunks in the basket will heat up the water pan and create steam that will engulf the food and add an element of moisture not present in all smoker types, so a great option for those worried about drying their food out. A temperature gauge is usually located at the tip of the lid for central heat reading and an air flow valve at the bottom of the unit, aligned with the coal basket.

Beginner rating 0/5:

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Offset smoker

Old faithful. I have been using my offset smoker for just over a year now and it has been an interesting learning curve but I can now get some brilliant results from this pit and it is literally my prized possession. Controlling and managing your fire is paramount in an offset as it is in any smoker but get it wrong and you will have a lot of wasted food. It is all about creating a levelled heat that can spread across the chamber gradually rather than a huge blast at 300+ degrees that just dies a death really quickly, which can be challenging to begin with but aside from this, it is a great way to get started.

Construction: A large main chamber for cooking with one or two grills, lined up next to a fire box and a chimney at opposite ends of the cooking chamber. Airflow valves will be located on the fire box as well as a cap on top of the chimney to allow you to control the heat via the air through flow. A temp gauge is more often than not located further towards the chimney rather than in the middle of the actual cooking chamber, which pissed me right off so I added another one pretty easily (£15 from Ebay delivered) and now I get much better readings. Usually you will have a good solid frame with two legs and a few wheels to help you in moving the unit around.

Function: Adding your pre lit coals to your fire box and closing the door will provide you with a good enclosed cooking environment, this will gently smoke and caress your food with indirect heat from one side, so rotation meat during a cook can be essential for good results. Closing and opening your valves to adjust the temperature is also essential as I alluded to above. In its purest form it is pretty straight forward in its function really! Sometimes a water pan can be added near the entrance of the firebox but I have found this isn’t as effective as in an upright smoker. Lining the bottom of the unit with foil is advised for simplifying cleaning up any excess fat.

Beginner rating 0/5:

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Hopefully, this makes it a little bit easier to understand WHAT you are actually looking at when shopping for your pit. In the next part I will cover what kit you need to get started, then how to actually use an offset smoker in more detail and how to manage your fire to get the best results… so make sure you subscribe and keep your ear to the ground. Next chapter will be up next week!

Phil.

Kona: Making waves

Kona: Making waves

Sometimes no matter how hard you try to avoid cliché superlatives and bold statements to describe a new experience, you just can’t manage it. The second, third and maybe forth time, it probably diminishes a little… becomes more familiar. Whether that is the first time you had a certain dish at your new favourite restaurant or maybe the first time you tried skinny dipping at Brighton beach, its very much a personal thing.

With this in mind, it takes something really quite special to allow you to categorically say every time you experience it, it is as f**king great as the last time. Big Wave by Kona Brewing Company is just this kind of experience and it deserves as many cliché superlatives as you can throw at it.

 

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Golden ales are ten a penny now lets be honest, and it takes quite a lot of effort to wade through the almost limitless amount of pale offerings from new start up’s trying to make their mark, bigger more established players trying to get in late on the game (here’s looking at you Rev James) and everything in between. So when I came across Big Wave it came highly recommended by a friend at work who has an outlook not too dissimilar to mine when it comes to beer. Luckily I happened to stumble upon a bottle on a trip to Waitrose a few weeks later. shit. Game changed.

The Important Stuff

Upon cracking open the bright blue cap the beer pours a beautifully crisp golden colour and holds its head well, releasing a punchy tropical aroma from the Galaxy and Citra hop varieties used. The flavours back this up with a prominent but still subtle pineapple and tropical vibe, finished with a gentle bitterness and stops just short of making the beer too sweet. One word can describe Big Wave perfectly… that word is balance, providing sweet aromas, moreish flavours and at 4.4% with an IBU rating of 21… this is as balanced as a beer gets and as far as I am concerned, this is in my top 5. I love it.

Flavour matching

Traditionally a good golden ale like this goes with white fish such as a piece of flame grilled cod or Pollock, spicy poultry such as buffalo style wings or Piri Piri smoked turkey legs. Even better still, how about pairing it up with the perfect ocean side burger recipe in The Honu burger, I will be honest the write up is from a few years ago and the photography and writing isn’t great. I will be remaking and updating this one soon so keep your eye out for that one, but for now you get the general idea!

In the meantime, don’t forget to look out for Kona: Big Wave in a bottle shop near you.

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Hop gear #1: Tiny Rebel, Brew Dog, Wayland’s Yard, Ale By Mail.

Hop gear #1: Tiny Rebel, Brew Dog, Wayland’s Yard, Ale By Mail.

In the now near legendary words of a certain Mr.Scroobius pip from his equally revered podcast, Welcome, Welcome, Welcome!

Officially the first fully fledged article from the new #BSB blog. Hop Gear will be a medium of delivering a regular round up of all the most interesting and up to date goings on in the beer scene, picked up from social media and the deepest darkest reaches of the internet, podcasts and all the media I manage to consume between posts.

Going forward I will probably look to recruit contributors to this area to allow me to stay up to date with more than my scrolling thumb can deal with alone, so keep your eyes peeled for new faces and names throwing content your way. But for now, lets get started on that good shit…

The prince of all Saisons

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Tiny Rebel have officially tugged on my nostalgic heartstrings by releasing their newest beer ‘Super Saison’. The draw of the Dragon Ball Z inspired artwork and one of my favourite beer styles is simply too much for my little brain to cope with. Take my money. Take all the money.

An intriguing combination of Kaffir lime leaf and Lemon Verbena, layered among the powerfully unique characteristics of the Wallonian Saison yeast will surely be something everybody will want to get on board with, however it will not be for the faint hearted at 7.4%. This bad boy will be available at Tiny Rebel Newport and Cardiff from the 20th April and looks as if it will also end up in a bottle shop or bar near you very soon. I have high hopes for this one! Read more @ Tiny Rebel

I’m sorry… it’s terminal

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By now I am sure if you are familiar with craft beer you will be familiar with Brew Dogs ‘BORN TO DIE’ range, beer with a limited life span delivering bold flavours, usually with a hefty ABV and the ability to leave a big impression on you. A very good mark for the craft beer trophy hunters among us, so if you want to join the BTD club you can read more and most importantly buy it, here @ Beer Hawk

Wayland goes to B-town

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My favourite coffee shop and friend of the blog Wayland’s Yard in Worcester, had some great news this week as they have welcomed a brand new arrival to their already great WY family…beer! They have had a brand new delivery of Beavertown beers which include stand out brews from the Tottenham brewer such as the widely adored Gamma Ray, The easy drinking Neck Oil and the punchy blood orange flavours of the newest wave of Bloody ‘Ell, Sam and the team truly do have you covered, from the beautifully crafted coffee to the hearty and soul fulfilling food, finish off with a (responsibly enjoyed) craft beer and you are sure to have a pretty good day on your hands. Give them a visit next time you are in Worcester! http://www.waylandsyard.com

Discount from Ales By Mail

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The picture says it all really, any discount on your beer bill is a saving grace. Visit www.alesbymail.co.uk and enter the code ‘highfive’ at checkout for £5 off.

In other news…

Brew Dog £213m equity deal NOT a sell out say’s James Watt: Full story

American brewers association get all PC: Full story

London craft beer festival tickets still available: Find them here

#BSB BREW SHACK BBQ

#BSB BREW SHACK BBQ

Today I have finally completed work on the rebranding, reimagining and repurposing of my long time love affair with food and drink, my blog. I have spent weeks trying to get everything to feel right and making sure it fits everything that I wanted it to be. I mean, the site is an outlet for my own culinary designs, my experiences and a platform for other people who have a likeminded approach when it comes to food and drink.

Why change?

After and unfortunate mishap in renewing my domain name for Hungry Buck, I took it as a sign that things needed to change. My tastes had changed since I started HB and I felt like it didn’t reflect where I was coming from anymore, it needed to be more of a representation of the food I was eating and the things I was doing day to day.

Reasoning:

  1. BEER. I work with beer, I’m incredibly passionate about it and what is happening in the industry and the creative, incredible beers that exist today as opposed to 10 years ago.
  2. BBQ. I am obsessed with the concept of true BBQ. Whether it is coming from my smoker or from someone else’s grill, the process and the art of being able to smoke or cook meat over coals awakens something primal within me. There is nothing better.
  3. CULTURE. Lets be fair whether its new age craft beer bars, passion project coffee shops driven by people who deliver something truly unique and special such as friend of the blog Wayland’s Yard or fun and unapologetically obtuse food from the likes of our other close friends at Rub Smokehouse… it is all about the culture. Bringing people together for the love of doing things the right way, you have all inspired this new look and it is people like you guys that continue to drive the culinary transformation that the UK has been in for the last 5 years.

 

What’s next?

No spoilers… but the weather is getting better. Prime smoking weather. Plenty of beer to get through and some exciting work coming up with Wayland’s Yard, Rub Smokehouse on their new menu and a brilliant new Donut project coming out of Birmingham… that is just a taste. There is PLENTY on the horizon so stay tuned. Content will be coming your way soon. Bigger and better than ever,

 

I can’t wait to get stuck in and build BSB up from the ashes of a great run with Hungry Buck and into something totally new, fun and interesting. It is the beginning of a new chapter this year for me, my work and this site. Time to embrace the change and make some waves!

In the meantime… here’s to a fresh start.