Time for Reds

There was a time when I would travel for work, stay overnight and then go out and get something to eat.

Well I am not doing that now and don’t expect to be doing it for a while either. I have though still a few places to write about and review that I didn’t do so at the time. This is one such review.

Back in January when I could and did travel I was staying overnight in Leeds. I needed a place to eat. I rarely eat at the restaurants in the hotels, usually either they are very expensive and out of budget, or as was the case in Leeds, the hotel I was staying didn’t really have a proper restaurant, serving a few bar snack type meals only. The other thing I do find with hotel restaurants is that it can be a bit hit and miss when it comes to the quality of the food.

Around the corner from the hotel there was quite a choice of restaurants, this is so much easier these days with Google or Apple Maps which show the restaurant close to you.

I was checking the menus of a few nearby places, when I saw on their website, that Reds True Barbecue in Headingley had a 51% discount offer in January, if you pre-booked. So I decided I would go there to eat, the menu looked great as well. It was simple to book online and I walked down to the restaurant.

The outside looked very American to me, though I’ve never been to America and have thus never eaten at a proper American barbecue joint, and so have no frame of reference to what a real barbecue place is like. However if I was to say what I thought an American barbecue joint was like based on the films and TV programme I felt it looked like what I thought an American barbecue joint should look like.

Reds True Barbecue in Headingly in Leeds

Having walked through the door I was given a warm and friendly welcome. The place was crowded, considering it was a Tuesday night. Being in Headingley the clientele were quite young and I am guessing a fair few were students. Probably taking advantage of the 51% offer. I liked the look of the place, slightly industrial, wooden tables and American signs.

Though I had seen the menu online, I still took my time to have a good look over the menu choices. There were a range of starters, barbecue platters and to quote the menu, “things in bread” which had a range of burgers.

Having travelled up to Leeds during the day and missing lunch, I was quite hungry. I went with the barbecued three meats with two sides deal.

barbecued three meats with two sides

I chose the smoked brisket, the short rib and the sausage. For my sides I went with fries and onion rings. Though I was tempted by the chicken wings and the pork belly. To drink with the meal I ordered a bottle of Corona.

The food arrived pretty quickly and I was impressed with the look of the food and the portion size.

The sausages were really nice, meaty and spicy. The short rib was delicious and very tender. The brisket was nice, but I felt it was a little dry. I enjoyed both the sides, though I think on reflection I probably should have had some slaw alongside.

My meal should have cost £25, but with the 51% discount on food, in the end it was just £14.54 which was really good value.

Though I don’t expect to be going to Leeds anytime soon, I hope that I can because I think I would like to have a return visit to Reds for some more excellent barbecued food.

Self-catering at La Croix Du Vieux Pont

One of the reasons I blog, it’s more for me than other people. It’s a useful reminder for me about what I have eaten, what I have cooked, and as in this post challenges when cooking on holiday.

At the end of July we went on an Eurocamp holiday in France. Having visited Brittany last year and stayed at a Eurocamp site I had anticipated blogging about my  self-catering experience and what worked and what didn’t, but for some reason never got around to it. I wish I had as it would have made this trip a little easier. 

I did post my challenges with self-catering when we went to Calpe in 2016 and 2017.

This year we went with another Eurocamp to La Croix Du Vieux Pont in Picardy or Hauts-de-France in Northern France. So I have decided to quickly write up some of those experiences in preparing for self-catering.

My previous experience of self-catering apartments was from the Greek Ionian islands and Cyprus. This was before children, so it was me and my other half. We rarely used the self-catering facilities for cooking, as we would eat out a bit, but it was useful to have a hob, a fridge and a few utensils and crockery. The “kitchen” in the apartments I experience were very minimal and not really sufficient for anything more than snacks and hot drinks. Also the local shopping environment wasn’t exactly great for self-catering, with very small supermarkets.

When we booked our Calpe holiday in 2016, due to dietary requirements (gluten free) we wanted to ensure we had not only a self-catering kitchen, but a decent enough kitchen for actual real cooking. We found the kitchens in caravans in the UK great for self-catering, if a little cramped. However I would usually take a range of ingredients and kitchen utensils to make my life easier when cooking. So I did something similar when we went to France this year.

At La Croix Du Vieux Pont, we had a three bedroom caravan which came with a well-equipped kitchen including a proper gas hob, an oven and an outside gas barbecue as well.

This was in many ways better than the equipment I have had at UK holiday parks, for example there was a washing up bowl and a draining rack! This made clearing up after a meal so much easier than just having the sink and draining board.

I took the following items with me to make cooking and catering easier.

Chopping board – for some reason the only chopping board I find in caravans are glass ones! So I always take a plastic chopping board with me.

Knives – I have found the knives on holiday either blunt or broken, so I have a large kitchen knife and a bread knife that I use on self-catering holidays.

I took a sieve with me, but in the end didn’t use it, as the caravan was equipped with a colander.

I took a spare baking tray, as usually there is only one in the caravans I have been in, in addition I took a pair of tongs which is useful for turning items on the grill. There was a long-handled barbecue tongs were provided which worked well for the outdoor barbecue.

Though I wanted to take my Tassimo coffee machine, I was overruled so we took a cafetière that worked well.

I took a potato peeler and I also took a pair of scissors, but there was one in the caravan.

The other things I take with me our sandwich bags, cling film and foil. This is easier to store uneaten food but also for packed lunches.

To help with washing up and cleaning, I took some steel scourers, washing up spongs, j cloths, washing up liquid and tea towels. In addition I take spare bin  liners as well.

I also took the following ingredients, though I know I could get some of these in French supermarkets, I wanted to avoid spending extra money on basics that I already had in the kitchen.

      • Pasta
      • Rice
      • Tomato pasta sauce
      • Pesto
      • Sunflower oil
      • Olive oil
      • Salt
      • Pepper
      • Parmesan
      • Various seasonings
      • Onions
      • Pepper
      • Butter

As two of our household are gluten free I also took a range of gluten free items as well.

I pack the fresh food in a cool box, which if we get a small fridge I use during the week as supplementary fresh food storage. The fridge though we got was pretty big and I didn’t use the cool box.

Overall I don’t think I missed anything, apart from some mustard and white wine vinegar to make a French dressing, so in the end we bought some dressing from the supermarket.

Chipolatas on the Barbecue

One of the nice things I have enjoyed when self-catering at a Eurocamp in France is the gas barbecue that is outside every caravan. Something I have never experienced in the UK (maybe it rains too much).

One of the advantages of the barbecue is that you can avoid using the oven or grill in the caravan which can heat up the living area considerably, which when it is hot anyhow, makes it very uncomfortable.

On the first evening of our recent holiday to France, we popped to the local campsite shop for some quick extra supplies (we had brought some basics with us, as well as enough food for the first meal). However as we had time we thought we might get some French food for the evening meal.

I picked up a pack of Chipolatas sausages, which I grilled on the barbecue.

These were really nice, meaty, tasty and delicious. We had these quite a few times over the holiday.

Over the week, as well as Chipolatas I also did Merguez sausages, lemon chicken and some nice peppered rump steaks.

Most of the time we had these with salad, though I did cook Pommes Rissolées a couple of times, and also made a (gluten free) pasta salad as well.

The only challenge was on the final evening, though I regularly cleaned the griddle part of the barbecue, the bottom part did have too much grease on it, so we had some flames which resulted in certain pieces of food getting somewhat charred! When we go again I will clean this part of the barbecue as well.

Part of the (new) housekeeping agreement with Eurocamp, as well as emptying the fridge and doing the washing up, you also had to clean the barbecue.

Knowing this in advance, I did bring some metal scouring pads and cloths for this purpose. It came up okay, but having some proper cleaning spray or similar would have been useful. However I got there in the end.

I really enjoyed cooking on the barbecue during the week, it was quick to light up and made catering much quicker and easier.

Chargrilled Butternut Squash

Last year on a visit to Wahaca in Oxford Circus, I really enjoyed the chargrilled crown prince squash.

I said back then

The squash was grown for Wahaca by Riverford Organic and served with kale & cashew nut mole. I really enjoyed this dish, was full of flavour and very tasty. I think it could have been improved if the squash had been peeled, but the flesh of the squash did come away from the skin despite this. I really liked the chargrilled aspect of the dish and you could taste that in the squash. This dish is advertised as vegan, and I suspect people might avoid it, but if it comes back onto the menu, go for it, it was delicious.

Chargrilled Crown Prince squash grown by Riverford Organic, served with kale & cashew nut mole

With the recent wonderful weather I decided to try and recreate this dish using my own barbecue and some butternut squash.

I brushed the butternut squash with some olive oil, seasoned with salt and pepper, added some dried herbs and chargrilled it on the barbecue. I started skin side down over the heat and covered with a lid. I wanted to roast it slightly before turning it over and grilling the sides of the squash.

The end result looked like this.

Though I liked the look of the squash, there wasn’t enough flavour for me, I remember the crown prince squash being much tastier.

I think I will try again, but will try and get it to taste better. I am wondering if I should pre-cook in the oven before finishing off on the grill?

Barbecued Salt and Pepper Pork Belly

With the unusual lovely hot weather, my barbecue has been used a lot, and the barbecued meat served with a selection of salads.

One new recipe I have been doing has been going down well and involves using pork belly strips.

Barbecued Salt and Pepper Pork Belly

Take the pork belly and season with salt and pepper, I then sprinkle the pork with chopped fresh coriander, though I have also used dried coriander, along with some lemongrass. Add a little olive oil and leave to marinade. I either buy pork belly without rind, or if no choice remove the rind before marinading and cooking.

I find pork belly general works best with long slow cooking, but I also like it on the barbecue as well. So you could cook the pork slowly in a warm oven, or throw caution to the wind and grill it on the barbecue.

I try and cook it on the barbecue so that it takes it’s time, but doesn’t dry out. One method I have used with a whole chicken also works with the pork belly.

Though you can cook directly on the barbecue, it can be quite challenging to ensure that the pork is tender and cooked properly. A challenge is that it is difficult to control the temperature of the barbecue unlike a normal grill. The key process I use is to recreate some aspects of a “normal” oven as opposed to the usual way of using a barbecue as a grill. After the coals have reached cooking temperature, move them to the sides of the barbecue, so that when the pork belly is placed on the grill, it is not over direct heat. This needs to be done with caution as the charcoal will be really hot and I use a tool with a long handle to do this. The pork, after placing on the grill, was then covered, I used a wok lid, but this is where a kettle barbecue comes into its own. This works well with larger pork belly joints as well.

Smoking again

BBQ Box from Smoke Catering

On a recent visit to the Temple Quay market I decided after looking around to have the BBQ Box from Smoke Catering. I have really enjoyed food from them before.

They were there with their big smoker and their choice of Texan style smoked meats. Their huge smoker always impresses me filled with delicious food and the surrounding aroma and smoke.

On the menu was nine hour beef brisket with homemade slaw, garlic mash and beans. You could have chosen the seven hour pulled pork in a brioche bun with a smoked pork and chilli sausage, or smoked Beef Rib. They also had the BBQ box which was advertised as containing the beef brisket, pulled pork, a smoked pork and chilli sausage, served with the homemade slaw, garlic mash and beans.

However by the time I got there, the pulled pork had sold out, so with the BBQ Box the pulled pork was replaced with the beef rib. Which to be honest I was pleased with, as I had enjoyed it last time.

Generally the more popular stalls will run out , so my usual advice with the Temple Quay markets is to get there early and usually before half past twelve, though I did get to the market at 12:30ish, Smoke Catering’s pulled pork brioche was obviously very popular that day.

I don’t generally understand why some stalls are more popular than others. The Thai stall had a immense queue crossing the entire market and then some. They always have big queues, which to be honest is why I’ve not tried them yet. There are also other stalls which have no queue at all, it’s not as though the food isn’t any good, from my experience when I’ve tried them they were delicious and tasty.

I was also doubly pleased with a bigger portion of meat than the last time I had the box from Smoke Catering. The beef brisket was melt in the mouth tender, enhanced with the crisp “burnt” edges. The rib was also beautifully tender and full of flavour. I did feel that I was really getting my money’s worth with this box. The sausage was meaty and tasty, the chilli enhanced the flavour and didn’t overpower. I enjoyed the combination of the slaw, mash and beans. The mash was wonderfully smooth and creamy with a hint of garlic, no bitterness or harshness. The beans spicy and full of flavour and it was great to mix in with the mash. The homemade slaw was fresh and crunchy, maybe a little too sloppy, but minor point, in what was a tasty meal. Overall a delicious box of food.

Smoking…

The sun was shining and it was the right time to head off down to the Temple Quay market in Bristol.

Smoke Catering were there with their big smoker and their choice of Texan style smoked meats. There was beef brisket and pulled pork.

After very little thinking time I went with the BBQ Box from the top of the menu. The box contained homemade slaw, garlic mash and beans. On top of the box was some smoked beef brisket, smoked beef rib and a smoked pork and chilli sausage.

As it was such a lovely day, the place to eat this was in Harratz Place on the quayside.

I have had their food before, and the slaw, mash and beans were just as nice as they were the last time I had them. The mash was smooth and creamy with a hint of garlic, no bitterness or harshness. The slaw was fresh and crunchy. The beans spicy and full of flavour. The smoked beef brisket was tender and delicious, it was melt in the mouth. I like the tender beef and the crunch of the barbecued outside.

Smoke Catering 9h Beef Brisket

The beef rib was nice, only a small slice, and I would liked to have more of this. The sausage was meaty and tasty, the chilli enhanced the flavour and didn’t overpower.

It was more than I usually spend on lunch and I think for the price I would have liked a slightly bigger portion dog the barbecued meat.

Overall this was a really nice lunch.

Smoking the brisket…

Smoking the brisket…

A couple of weeks ago I passed the Low n Slow stand at the regular Temple Quay street food market, alas I was on my way to a three hour meeting and I didn’t think it would be fair to my colleagues to have what sounded like a delicious barbecue box filling the meeting room with food smells. So this week, not having a meeting, I checked the Twitter and saw that Low n Slow were going to be at the Temple Quay Market.

I went with the “ultimate combo” barbecue box, consisting of 12 hour pulled pork, 9 hour beef brisket, burnt ends, served with salad, coleslaw, pickles, a POW ball and homemade sauce. So what are POW balls? Well according to the menu by the stall they are tasty bacon wrapped meatballs with bbq glaze.

This was a wonderful combination of flavours and textures.

The beef brisket was beautifully tender and delicious. The smoke was subtle and didn’t overpower the dish. The crispiness of the burnt ends contrasted well with the tender brisket.

The pulled pork was very tasty and as for the POW ball, this was nice. Like a festive pigs in blanket but bigger, smokier with a subtle sweet taste.

This kind of meal starts to make me think if a proper smoker style barbecue would be a nice thing to have. Well until I make a decision about that, I will continue to visit the Low and Slow stall.

Barbecued Chicken

barbecuing over charcoal

I have done this method of barbecuing a whole chicken a few times now and each time, the end result has been delicious tender moist chicken full of smokey and chargrilled flavours.

The first part of the process is to spatchcock the chicken. I don’t have a pair of poultry shears so I usually use a big cook’s knife to cut out the backbone. I also don’t use skewers to secure the legs or keep it flat, but you just have to be more careful when turning the chicken.

I usually marinade the chicken, lemon and parsley (with some diced onion) I find works well. Adding some white wine adds more depth of flavour.

As for the barbecue, the key here is to avoid cooking the chicken over a direct heat. After lighting the charcoal, once the flames have died down, and they are covered in grey ash you can start to cook. However the first thing you need to do is to move the coals to the sides of the barbecue leaving the middle empty, the chicken will be placed over this empty zone. Moving the coals can be tricky as they will be really hot, but the aim is to create a circle of hot coals around a clear area. This will allow the chicken to be cooked via in-direct heat without overcooking or burning.

The chicken is placed down on the grill carcass side down. I then use a wok lid to cover the chicken. This creates an oven effect and helps to stop the chicken drying out. You could of course if you have one use the lid on your barbecue.

barbecuing over charcoal

Turn the chicken after 15-20 minutes and cook the skin side. Take care when turning the chicken, especially if you like me didn’t use skewers. Add any remaining marinade to baste the chicken. Re-cover with the wok lid.

Check the chicken is cooked and then remove from the barbecue.

We served it with salad and some crispy fried (well actually roasted) potatoes. No I don’t add any barbecue sauce!

Another time I am thinking of using a similar method to cook beef or pork.

Whole Chicken Barbecued

Whole Chicken Barbecue

Cooking a whole chicken on a barbecue is not a simple process, you can have undercooked on the inside and burnt and charred on the outside. I used this process to cook a whole chicken.

The first thing I did was prepare the chicken by spatchcocking and then marinated with lemon juice, lime juice, garlic, parsley and some olive oil.

Though you can cook a spatchcocked chicken directly on the barbecue, it can be quite challenging to ensure that the chicken is properly cooked, through, without burning or overcooking the outside. Part of the issue is that it is difficult to control the temperature of the barbecue unlike a normal grill. The key process is to recreate some aspects of a “normal” oven as opposed to the usual way of using a barbecue as a grill.

After the coals have reached cooking temperature, move them to the sides of the barbecue, so that when the spatchcocked chicken is placed on the grill, it is not over direct heat.

The chicken I placed it “inside” down with the skin side on top. The chicken was then covered, I used a wok lid, but this is where a kettle barbecue comes into its own.

The end result was a properly cooked chicken, which was moist and succulent and full of flavour.