Low 'n' slow - Feather blade beef and pork ribs

And so it begins.. (BBQ season that is!)

(Ok, this is a little freakish - I just had dejavu of declaring BBQ season has arrived, so thought I would go back and check whether BBQ season has started earlier than last year, and found that last years BBQ article was the exact same date! 18th April..)

There is likely going to be a bit of a shift in focus here on the blog for a bit. There are two reasons for this:
  1. I have just splurged and bought myself a smoker (a Weber Smokey Mountain Smoker to be precise)
  2. I have entered two food based competitions at the end of July: A chilli cook off and my very first attempt at competitive BBQ!  Both very exciting, and I think competitive BBQ is probably something on my bucket list (if I had one), so really glad to be able to tick that off (although expecting to get hooked on it, to be honest).  Also, I have only once made a legitimately serious chilli, and that wasn't that sophisticated, so there could be a lot of chilli eating between now and then..

Sunday was the first forecast dry day since I put the smoker together, so gave it a whirl. It was only my wife and I eating, but didn't want to have it smoking all day for just meat for two, so I went with feather blade beef joint and a few pork ribs.

As it was my first try, I was just getting a feel for it and didn't want to have too many variables to consider for the experiment - so I just banged them in with a few handfuls of smoking chips and tried to keep the temperature at around 110 degrees centigrade (it varied hour to hour by about +/-10 degrees).

I was aware that ribs generally take shorter than feather blade, but didn't want to disrupt the temperature by opening too frequently (opening can apparently add around 20 mins to overall cooking time) so just left them all in for around 7 hours. 

The ribs had quite a bark on them, but were still very soft and moist inside (relatively high fat content on ribs), they were ok but a little too salty with the rub. I used the same rub on the beef and that tasted very nice - it is somewhat disturbing seeing the meat look quite sooo charred (with normal associations of BBQ & charred crust = ruined), but I have discovered that the "bark" is actually very tasty and an integral part of traditional BBQ (apparently with beef brisket and pulled pork, the bark is the most in demand part).

I don't have the ingredients I used to make my dry-rub to hand, so I will post those up later.

rob hinds Shambolically fumbling my way around the kitchen

Recipe: Burgers Re-visited

Last weekend, I had another try at burgers.  The good thing about burgers is that you can get great results with very little time or effort - just some carefully timed preparation and you can have a meal pretty quick.

I followed a similar approach as last time, except rather than the single, larger patties, I went for slimmer, "smashed" patties - but with two in each bun. I also added a cheese slice to the experience.  The end result was agreed to be better than the last attempt, so will modify from here.

There really isn't much to it, but here's the details (quantity for two complete burgers, 4 patties) :


  • ~400 grams beef mince - as per previously, exact blends of meat are most often personally guarded secrets, but even just ground braising steak (or chuck)  is a pretty decent option to get started.  This time around I actually just used 15% fat content Aberdeen angus beef, and was still fine
  • Salt
  • Two rolls - depending on your preference, I go for Brioche burger rolls
  • Sauces - I go for yellow mustard on the base and relish/tomato sauce on the top
  • Two cheese slices
  • Mature cheddar


Pre-head the grill/broiler and a heavy bottomed frying pan on the hob, for about 10 minutes on a high heat.
  1. Split the mince into 4 even balls and squash into a patty shape - ideally about the diameter of the bun, it should be pretty slim

  2. Cut the buns in half and lightly toast under the grill (cut side facing the heat)

  3. Sprinkle salt on the top of each of the patties, and depending on the size of your pan put them in salted side face down - ideally I guess two at a time - with a spatula press down on the tops of each patty (for the smashed effect) - cook for a few minutes until nicely browned on the underside

  4. Sprinkle salt on the op of patties and flip & repeat

  5. Once buns are lightly toasted, add a few slices of the cheddar to the top half of the bun and toast further until melted

  6. Apply yellow mustard to inside base of the bun and relish to the top half (the cheese half)

  7. Once patties are nicely browned both sides, place one on the base of the bun, followed by a cheese slice, followed by the top of the bun.

  8. Eat!

Cooking time probably won't take more than 10 minutes, so if you have the buns, cheese and raw patties ready to go at the start, you can get it done pretty efficiently (if not frantically!)
rob hinds Shambolically fumbling my way around the kitchen

Chorizo Mac & Cheese

A little while back, a pasta place opened up near the office - It's called Coco di Mama and is a London chain.  I got lured in there a while ago because they had a board outside saying they were selling mac & cheese (marketers take note, that is all it takes to make me come to your shop).

They have mac & cheese on permanent rotation, but with a few variations: pulled-pork, chorizo and truffle oil.  Of the three, the chorizo variety is definitely the stand out. The pulled pork is fine, but the pork really just sits in the background not bringing much to the dish, and the truffle variation is not really to my taste.

But the chorizo, that is good. it brings a slightly spicy, acidity and brightness to the dish that works like a cross between tomatoes and bacon (the high notes of the tomatoes and the meaty, low notes of the bacon).  So, as if it wasn't already obvious, I have to try and re-create it.  Now I feel guilty making mac & cheese to frequently, as its really not a healthy meal, but I decided it was high time last weekend.

I went with my usual mac & cheese approach, so I will only skim over that, with a few notes at the bottom.


  1. Cook the macaroni until al dente

  2. Cook the leek in butter, then use the butter to make a basic roux (I have never actually weighed/measured any of the flour, butter, milk or cheese I use here, so I can't really comment on that, but here is the basic idea)

  3. Add the cheese to the roux - again never weighed the cheese, just add to taste and thickness of the sauce - unsurprisingly, if you use stronger cheddar, it will taste stronger!  I also added 4 cheese slices (see notes below)

  4. Mix the leeks, chorizo, cheese sauce with the macaroni in an oven proof dish and top with more grated cheese and breadcrumbs (if you dont have breadcrumbs, I find grating a piece of sliced bread works well) - put in the oven at ~160 degrees for something like 30-40 minutes


  1. The cooks chorizo I used came similar shape to bacon lardons, small cubes about 1 cm in length - I found these somewhat underwhelming, and really I think I need to go for bigger slices of chorizo to get that brightness - with the smaller size it adds overall flavour to the dish, but not the more direct hit

  2. I added the cheese slices on recommendation from the FoodLab - the reason being it contains sodium citrate, which is used to make cheese slices more meltable - and the theory is helps make the sauce smoother, and bring out more of the cheese flavour. Modernist Cuisine go as far as using the sodium citrate raw in their mac & cheese. Without doing a particularly controlled experiment, I can't say that I observed nay notable difference, but I had the cheese slices (leftover from burgers) so in it went!

  3. I leek in my mac & cheese, but there is no denying it varies from the original, so to be true to re-creating that it might have to drop out next time around..

rob hinds Shambolically fumbling my way around the kitchen

Birthday cake

I was saying a day or two ago, I often surprise myself at how difficult cake decorating is.

It's not that I am surprised that it's hard, I am surprised that I keep fooling myself into thinking "that looks simple".  In the cold light of day, I know full well that people spend years training and practising cake decoration, but for seem reason that part of my brain shuts down when I think of a cake decoration that looks simple to replicate (see my mothers day cake for goal vs reality!).

This occasion was no different.  It was my wife's birthday and needed to make a cake. and I thought a sponge with chocolate icing, but covered completely with chocolate chips in a densely covered pebbledash type effect (at least that's the best way I can describe it!)

I used the same chocolate-cream cheese-buttercream icing as in last year's cake, but this time I mixed up my sponge approach, moving away from my default food processor method.

The food processor method basically involves throwing all the ingredients into a food processor (just a normal processor using a blade attachment), and processing until smoothe, dropping consistency.  However, having read a bit about flour and how gluten is formed (adding moisture and stirring/beating to form gluten bonds, the more beating the more the proteins are able to move and form more bonds - creating a big gluten network), I wanted to take a more traditional approach to the cake - e.g. beat the ingredients up until the addition of the flour and then fold that in.  Replacing a small (~10%)  amount of the flour for a gluten free alternative (in this case, corn flour) also helps avoid the build up of too much gluten (which would prevent rising, and nice airy sponge).

Switching to the traditional approach, on the basis of a single experiment compared to numerous sponges previously baked, appeared to be a success - the cake definitely rose more than usual.

rob hinds Shambolically fumbling my way around the kitchen