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Archive for January, 2012

Up with smoke

Yesterday I had another post published on the Guardian’s Word of Mouth blog – get me!

It’s about smoking. That’s food, not fags, although those in the TOE inner circle will know that I am not un-partial to the latter. I really enjoyed chatting to the proper producers of hot and cold smoked products of wonder, and also had a bash at some hot smoking in my kitchen. This really isn’t as hard as you might think.

First up was haddock. I bought a lovely piece of fish from The Fishmonger in Greenwich and a pizza screen from Nisbet’s, lined my wok with two pieces of heavy foil, and stuck some tea, basmati rice, star anise, mustard seeds and brown sugar in the bottom.

Then I placed it on a high heat until wisps of smoke began to appear, added the pizza screen with the fish arranged on it (remembering that the outside of the wok will be hotter than the middle, because that’s how convection works, innit).

Then I sealed it all up with another piece of foil, and paced the kitchen nervously for half an hour.

The mustard seeds came in handy here, because as long as I could hear them popping occasionally, I knew the heat was sufficient – if the popping slowed down, I turned it up a bit. To my amazement, at the end, I had hot-smoked haddock, and it was lovely.

Note the lovely burnished golden colour. I did, with great smugness.

Flushed with success, I decided to move on to bigger things – a piece of smoked brisket, to be precise. For this, I wanted more oomph than rice and tea would provide, so I invested in a tub of pecan chips from the rather wonderful website Cream Supplies, which sells all manner of cool stuff for your more out-there cooking experiments. (But you must not use the canisters of nitrous oxide for a quick, safe, legal high, ooooh no.) Anyway, the wood chips arrived the next day as promised, I purchased a lovely bit of brisket from Dring’s and I was good to go.

In to the trusty wok went the shavings and on went the pizza screen.

I’d rubbed the meat with a mixture of pepper, chilli powder, smoked paprika (why I am not sure – perhaps as a kind of flavour insurance policy), cumin and coriander.

Once again, I sealed up the foil, put the wok on the heat, closed the kitchen door, whacked up the extractor fan and sat down to wait.

The wok-smoking process really doesn’t generate an awful lot of smoke, but if you have a very sensitive smoke alarm it’s a good idea to disarm it, and obviously you should make sure your kitchen is well ventilated, unless you want to house to smell of barbecue for days. And if you do, far be it from me to judge.

I’d also invested in a meat thermometer to help me judge the done-ness of the meat, and I’m glad I did, although there was a blip when my never-very-reliable brain told me I needed to get it to reach an internal temperature of 160°C. It’s 160°F, of course, or around 71-77°C for a meat like brisket – proof if it were needed that all the technology in the world won’t save you if you are being a total idiot. Thankfully I realised my mistake in time, and after about five hours’ slow cooking/smoking, the brisket was done.

Alongside it, in keeping with the American barbecue theme, we had coleslaw and hush puppies, made to Jamie Oliver’s recipe – they are fab and I really recommend them.

So there you have it. If any readers fancy having a stab at this at home, let me know how you get on – it’s fun, simple and produces really cool results, which is a massive win in my book.

A lovely man who runs cold-smoking courses has been in touch inviting me to one of them – I will certainly take him up on it and let you know how I get on.

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