hasn’t left the building

Okay, okay, here’s the thing.

It’s been quiet on for a couple of weeks. Too damn quiet.

So what’s happened? Have I been signed up in a multi-million pound dot-com deal?

Has [name of restaurateur redacted] finally got his/her revenge and consigned me to the depths of one of Birmingham’s more isolated stretches of canal?

Or have I simply suffered burn-out? Most blogs, apparently, hit the buffers after about three months.

Well, the answers are: almost; nearly; and not on your Nelly.

The reason for the lack of new content in the past couple of weeks is this: I am working on a plan.

When I launched, I made a point of saying I would only do restaurant reviews if I paid for the food independently, rather than accepting complimentary meals.

Panzanella If I write a feature, I might accept a “comp;” but I can’t do this for a review, otherwise the review loses credibility and you, my readers, will shower me with the raw ingredients for a panzanella. And that will hurt and ruin my trademark white suit.

More than that, also has to earn an artisan, sourdough crust. Some bloggers do this thing out of the pure unadorned love of the subject and I could do that, too.

But my family and I would be homeless quite swiftly.

I do not have a wonderfully well-paid job in the banking sector. Neither am I the beneficiary of a trust fund and I have to earn the money to pay for the meals that I review. Similarly, I need to earn money to pay for all those petty things like the mortgage and the bills and the children’s clothes and the occasional en primeur Bordeaux offer from my friends at Tanners Wines in Shrewsbury. (We recently received the 2011 vintage port line-up from Tanners. Ahh, the stuff of dreams.)

It is this bit – paying the bills – that I am working on. And I have a plan, a cunning plan.

Bear with me. I have been genuinely surprised by the response to this blog – hell, some people even like it – and I remain convinced there is a gap in the market for I also think Betamax video is on the verge of making a comeback

So I am looking at strategy, market penetration, unique visitors, SEO, bounce rates and loads of crazy stuff.

Thank you for your loyalty. Thank you for giving a damn. Brothers and sisters, it won’t be long.

Postscript: One of the food things I have been doing is cooking meat on a barbecue – as in lumps of meat, not steaks or chops.

I’ll accept this isn’t a huge deal but for one who loves to eat well, but doesn’t cook particularly well, it is significant.

I have been able to pull off this rare feat with the help of two groups of people – my family, who bought me a Weber barbecue for my birthday back in May (it’s the 26th, if you want to “diary forward” for next year); and my butcher.

The latter is Roger Brown, who I have been buying meat from for the past 20 years. Roger is now based solely in Northfield Road, Harborne, having moved out of his second shop, in Lonsdale Road, last year, the lease having finally expired since he took up residency during the Siege of Mafeking.

The basic rule is this: if Roger sells it, it is outstandingly good. Similarly, Roger has that thing that proper butchers have and supermarkets don’t possess: masses of knowledge.

McComb's-shoulder-of-lambIf you don’t know what piece of meat you need for a certain dish or preparation, you just ask and he provides. He will probably throw in some cooking tips, too.

So I read the instructions in the Weber manual for the cooking of joints, got Roger to pick me out a shoulder of Welsh salt marsh lamb, whacked it on the grill for about an hour (it might have been more, it might have been less, but I was so excited I had a few drinks) and it was sensational.

Exquisite flavour, smokey and super-moist meat.

If I did it, a dog can do it.

Chinese-style-pork-spare-ribNext up was pig spare rib, sourced by my man in Harborne from Packington Free Range Pork in Barton-under-Needwood, Staffordshire.

This was less successful, but the defects can be attributed to user error and incompetence rather than meat quality because the ribs looked terrific.

I think I made the mistake of applying a Chinese-style marinade (yes, it was a British-style Chinese thing, put together from a recipe, and not an authentic Chinese mix), which included sugar. Which burned. A lot. Fortunately, the meat, under the char, was lovely. Lesson: use a dry rub?

The latest experiment has been with beef – a joint of rolled hipbone from longhorn cattle. It was ace.

This was a surprise because habitually I overcook beef and cry bitterly. Oh, the sirloins and ribs I have pushed over the limit.

On the barbecue, I rotated the joint a couple of times, no more. The heat died down, so I put more charcoal on, and the heat took an age to get cracking again. The meat just sat there and looked, strangely, inwardly content. I’ve never experienced this with a joint of beef before. I just knew it was going to be OK.

And so it was.

Image 5 Image 4

The 3lb joint was under the barbecue lid for about an hour and a half. It would have been dried to high hell in our gas cooker. But it carved a beautiful hue of medium rare.

I love really quite rare beef but my family are more medium-rare folk (hence my tendency to go too far and overcook the meat). The beef was brilliant cold the next day with saute potatoes and salad.

So thanks to my family, for the barbecue. And thanks Roger, for the superb meat.

Next up: shoulder of pork. No marinade.


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