Big Al's Spring Clean

Right now, where were we? I don’t remember so I don’t expect you lot to, so let’s just crack on and not cast any blame ! Sweet ? Yeah ? Good, it saves us falling out ! I’ve been having a bit of a spring clean since we last had a pow wow, but by that I don’t mean ‘ooverin’ under the bed or bleaching the kitchen cupboards, no way boys and girls, they’re the sort of things I like to procrastinate about.

So, what I’ve been doing is getting ready for the up and coming food events that will take me through an epicurean journey this summer.
I like to cook and eat as you all know by now, but I also like to grow, nurture and harvest, even though I’m not a hippy that knits his own muesli. 

To begin with I’ve woken up my sour dough starter that’s over 90 years old. It’s going to be the essential ingredient to my freshly baked bread even though it’s been in suspended animation throughout the winter and buried deep in the back of the freezer ! I’ve given it a kick up the arse by feeding it with organic rye flour and Meantime IPA which at 7.4 ABV is a proper wake up call.

Next, I’ve just made a brine to cure two lovely pieces of beef brisket to make my own salt beef. These I got from Smithfield’s meat market the other day/ night (I was up there at 4am as I have trouble sleeping being the way that I am !) days are good but my nights are long !

A two week bath in salt, sugar, cloves, juniper, berries, peppercorns and bay, then a gentle poach for four hours in good stock and served thickly sliced on good bread with hot English mustard and gherkins.....oh yes !

The other special ingredient is saltpetre. It’s the thing that keeps the beef that beautiful red colour, but you are not supposed to be able to buy it just in case you’re a terrorist (it can be used to make explosives).

To obtain it legally you have to have a licence but seeing as I don’t have a fishing licence, a licence to serve alcohol or even a driving licence, the butcher that I got it from just sighed, gave up and let me have it. I don’t have a driving licence but I have a really fast car, so if I’m in an awkward position with the boys in blue it’s a case of foot down and “you’ll never take me alive !” it’s a joke it’s a joke.... What you gonna do ?

Moving on, I’ve got my vegetable patch in the garden covered with heavy duty plastic to keep the warmth in the soil and to suppress any weeds that might fancy their chances.

Home grown vegetables are bang on the button, there’s nothing like picking a ripe tomato that’s been sitting on the vine in the afternoon sun and popping it into your mouth, so simple, but sheer bliss.

My peas never make it to the kitchen ‘cos they’re just beckoning me to iron them right out there and then in the garden as soon as they’re out of their pods, and as for the broad beans, don’t think that you’re getting away with it, same treatment, bosh, game over.

Courgettes, well I like to grow them to harvest their bright yellow flowers and stuff them with good soft cheese and herbs, then cover them in batter made with Meantime Pilsner, deep fried for a few minutes then wallop job done, a tasty starter or lunch. It’s these sort of little things that make me smile, it’s what makes the world sit right with me.

The other thing I’ve just ticked off my list is pickled onions, I know it’s a thing to do two months before Christmas, but I’ve got some friends that have already put my festive pickles to bed (eaten them people !) So I feel obliged to have another bash as it.

So this is what I did, when you go to the supermarket or the greengrocers look for the supersaver section or that bowl for a pound on the fruit and veg stall. The thing is the supermarket thinks it’s mugging you off because they think you’ve got to peel six onions instead of one for your spag bol but they’re just the right size for nice, big pickled onions. Didn’t see that coming did they...ha ha suckers...this ain’t my first rodeo !

A quick blanch in boiling water for no more than 10 seconds helps to get the skin off, brined in salt overnight to make sure they’re crispy and then into a bath of vinegar, coriander, peppercorns, mustard seeds and bay, but most of all small yet potent chillies, and plenty of them, the nastier and hotter the better.

Over time I’ve tried to up my tolerance to more and more spicyness so I can adapt my body to increasing amounts of heat in preparation for my departure from this earth. The thing is people when I slip off my mortal coil I’m expecting to go where it is a very intense, dry heat. I’m under no illusion that I’m going straight up stairs and getting a pair of feathered wings, no chance. I’m more likely to end up with a set of horns and a pitchfork via the down escalator. I’ve thought about trying to redeem myself but I’ve realised you can’t un-ring a bell !

Anyway, brined, pickled and stuck in the dark for six weeks produces an onion that Lucifer could be proud of and they’ll have that much bite that if they were in a Jaws movie we’d have to get a bigger boat !

That dealt with I’m going to move on to my chickens. I’ve got five bantam Peking Frizzles, they’re about a third of the size of a standard chicken, but I’d rather five smaller chickens than two or three full size birds.

The reason for this is because chickens have  big personalities and believe you me “pecking order” is a real thing, and I’d rather have any sort of hierarchy more evenly disputed between five birds than have one out of three standard size chickens walking around my garden and thinking that they are Lenny McClean and bashing up the other two, see I do have a sensitive side.

I feed my birds organic pellets, sweetcorn and muesli that’s got more fruit and nuts in than a Cadbury’s convention. In return they give me eggs of such intense flavour and beauty that the little yokes inside are like drops of sunshine !

Last thing on my list is to get my wood fired oven finished to bake pizza and bread, from dough to crispy faster than a 90 seconds blast in a microwave to get a Rustler’s cheeseburger on the firm !

Next time boys and girls I’m thinking BBQ. Not sausages and burgers but low and slow pork shoulder or brisket, sound good ? Don’t answer that, I know it does. I’ll do so research and then put together some top class munch with some blinding beer to match.

Until then behave yourselves, because one of us has to, and if you don’t it upsets the cheech and chong, karma and all that ! So I’m relying on you all to behave.

Good bless,

Big Love,

Big Al xxx