Barbecued Lamb

Last August I barbecued some joints of lamb on my barbacue.

Cooking joints of meat on a barbecue is not a simple process, you can have undercooked or raw on the inside and burnt and charred on the outside.

I used this process to cook two different kinds of lamb joint. I had a mini lamb shoulder and a boned half leg of lamb.

The first thing I did was to prepare the lamb by seasoning with salt and pepper and then marinating with rosemary, and some olive oil.

Though you can cook these kinds of joint directly on the barbecue, it can be quite challenging to ensure that the lamb 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 lamb is placed on the grill, it is not over direct heat.

The lamb 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 lamb, which was moist and succulent and full of flavour.

Barnsley Chop

I was staying up in Manchester. I was staying at the Macdonald Manchester Hotel. I had stayed at the hotel before in 2015, though back then I didn’t have dinner in the hotel. This time having arrived late into Manchester, I decided to eat in the hotel restaurant.

It was a Monday evening, so I didn’t expect the place to be that busy. There were quite a few people eating in the bar, so I did think that there might be some people eating in the restaurant. When I arrived the restaurant was empty, but it was late, and I was hungry.

The restaurant is called The Scottish Steakhouse and if you go to the hotel website it says:

True to our Scottish heritage, the beef we serve comes from fully accredited Scottish farms and supplied to us by Scotbeef, suppliers to the highest quality retailers in the country. The beef is then traditionally aged for a minimum of 21 days on the bone and hand cut by highly skilled butchers using time-honoured techniques, delivering the perfect Scottish dining experience. 

However the menu actually says:

All our steaks are from the North West England! Straight from Dukesmoor Farm who have a range of superior and traditionally reared British cattle.

So, which is correct? Well who knows, I suspect the menu is now right.

Looking over the menu, I decided that I would have something from the grill. I do quite like a nice lamb chop, so went with the Barnsley Chop, which the menu said was served with grilled mushrooms and roast cherry vine tomatoes.

I did ask if the dish came with chips, I was told it came with fries, but did I want chips, I said I was happy with fries. I thought they might be extra. Well when I got the bill they were an extra, I didn’t mind as I wanted some fries, but didn’t appreciate the confusion.

My meal arrived promptly and looked very nice.

Overall it was a nice plate of food. The chips was nice, as were the mushrooms and tomatoes. The lamb was cooked well, was tender and tasty. I think the lamb could have been better seasoned, but that was a minor comment.

Thought the initial service left a lot to be desired, the service after the meal was friendly and excellent.

African Spiced Lamb Rump

I was up in Manchester staying at the Copthorne Hotel on Salford Quay and went for dinner in the restaurant. I had a table overlooking the water, I settled in and looked over the menu and ordered.

Well after a somewhat disappointing starter, I did have quite low expectations about my main course. I had ordered the African spiced lamb rump with roasted Mediterranean cous cous.

Unlike my starter I got what was described on the menu.

The lamb was nice, tender, but lacked flavour. There wasn’t s lot of African spice there. The cous cous was nice and there were some nice roasted Mediterranean vegetables hidden in there. The dish was dressed with a yoghurt dressing.

I have to say, I did enjoy the dish, it wasn’t that impressive, but it was okay. If I was at the Copthorne again, would I order it again, probably yes.

Lamb Hotpot

Needing an evening meal and not having much choice I ate in the bar at the Copthorne Hotel in Salford in Manchester. There is a typical bar menu, this time I ordered the lamb hotpot.

The dish comprised the lamb hotpot covered in sliced potato, some red cabbage slaw and some toast.

lamb hotpot

The lamb hotpot wasn’t half bad, the lamb was tender and there was a good portion, it was quite tasty. The potato slices in my mind needed to be cooked for a little longer and I prefer my potato crispier. The red cabbage slaw was nice, I think it would have been easier to eat if it had been sliced thinner. I wasn’t sure about why there was toast, then I worked out it was for mopping up the sauce.

In the end it was just okay, nothing special.

On the barbecue

Over the weekend we had a couple of barbecues. It is one of my favourite ways of cooking. Even a little rain wasn’t enough to put me off.

On Saturday we had burgers, seasoned chicken and lamb ribs. Sunday we had a similar spread, with beef kebabs, lemon chicken and more lamb ribs.

For the lemon chicken, I marinaded some chicken thighs in lemon zest, lemon juice, garlic oil and some Schwartz Chicken Seasoning. This is then cooked on the barbecue. 

I find that you have to be careful to ensure that the chicken is fully cooked, so I use an old wok lid on top, to cover the chicken, to “roast” the chicken as it is grilled. I really like the crispy chicken skin that you get on the barbecue.

For the seasoned chicken I followed a similar process, but used a new chicken seasoning (from Morrisons) which had turmeric, so the chicken was quite yellow. It was delicious.

The lamb ribs were from Waitrose and I seasoned them with salt, pepper and rosemary before placing them on the barbecue.

I did think that they might need longer cooking, but they were tasty and tender.

The burgers and kebabs were from Aldi and were quite good.

Hoping the weather continues to improve so we can have more barbecues.

Time for a Christmas Meal

Generally this time of year would be the time for Christmas meals, whether that be friends or family. I have been planning our traditional Christmas meal (for Christmas Eve) but in the past I have been to various Christmas meals for various things. 

My work would do a regular Christmas event with a meal, we didn’t have one last year (2020) due to the lockdown. I also didn’t go to the meal in 2019, as the one before in 2018 had been terrible. Rubbish food and awful service, didn’t want a repeat of that experience. I did  though have an excellent meal with the team I was in, in 2019 at the Mud Dock Cafe. Then I had a tasty homemade chestnut and parmesan gnocchi in a truffled mushroom and spinach cream followed by a rather delightful selection and beautifully presented board of cheese.

I am not attending an office Christmas meal this year, my (newish) team is rather geographically dispersed, but I did recently attend a festive gathering of our Scout Leadership team (I am a trustee). We went to the Fork ‘n’ Ale Taproom & Kitchen in Weston-super-Mare.

I drove down to the seafront, parked my car and walked to the taproom, it was blowing a gale and it was bitterly cold. I was reminded of Bill Bryson, who in Notes from a Small Island said of Weston-super-Mare.

First, you were born. This in itself is a remarkable achievement. Being born was easily the most remarkable achievement of your whole life. And think: you could just as easily have been a flatworm.

Second, you are alive. For the tiniest moment in the span of eternity you have the miraculous privilege to exist. For endless eons you were not. Soon you will cease to be once more. That you are able to sit here right now in this one never-to-be-repeated moment, reading this book, eating bon-bons, speculatively sniffing your armpits, doing whatever you are doing – just existing – is really wondrous beyond belief.

Third, you have plenty to eat, you live in a time of peace and ‘Tie a Yellow Ribbon Round the Old Oak Tree’ will never be number one again.

If you bear these things in mind, you will never be truly unhappy – though in fairness I must point out that if you find yourself alone in Weston-super-Mare on a rainy Tuesday evening you may come close.

It wasn’t Tuesday! Well at least it wasn’t raining, though I wish I had worn a hat. I opened the door to the Fork ‘n’ Ale and the wash of heat was welcome and needed.

First things first after finding everyone, was to buy some drinks. They had a really interesting selection of beers. As it was festive I went with the Christmas Nectar, a light beer which was delicious.

The service was excellent, friendly, warm and efficient.

For my starter I had the pulled chicken and maple bacon terrine. It was supposed to come with toasted chunky bread, but we had chunky bread (untoasted).

It was certainly an interesting concept and though I enjoyed the dish, I think it was something I wouldn’t have again. The bread was excellent though.

The turkey choice on the menu was a breaded turkey escalope with ham, and though it was turkey, the dish didn’t sound very festive, so I went with the lamb.

This was a lamb shank with a red currant and port gravy. It came with roasted potatoes carrot and parsnips. I don’t think it came with the butternut squash mentioned on the menu! Served alongside were the Forks collard greens, which was peas, beans, courgette and cabbage. 

The lamb was kind of what I was expecting, slow cooked lamb in a delicious gravy. The lamb was very tender and I enjoyed it. I expected it was brought into the pub and then heated as required and served, nothing special, but still tasty.

I did think though that the accompaniments were excellent, the roasted parsnip and carrots were delicious and I really enjoyed the collard greens. I could have done with a few more potatoes, but they were nice and crisp.

I would have preferred cheese and biscuits to finish, but that wasn’t on the menu, so I went with the brownie and ice cream. They had run out of coffee ice cream, so we were given a choice of a range of flavours. I went with vanilla.

The brownie was moist and had a rich chocolate flavour. That was a great end to the meal.

I have in the past had some terrible festive meals, this one was rather good. Some interesting choices made about the menu, but I did think there was some really tasty food on offer.

I had never been to the Fork ‘n’ Ale pub before to eat, actually not been there to drink either. They have a great choice of beers and the food was interesting, I think I would visit again.

I do take photographs of my food…

…but I don’t always blog about them, nor do they always go on Instagram!

Usually it’s time, but sometimes it’s because the food wasn’t very good.

Back in July I went to Taka Taka. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I was hungry and the concept did seem interesting. I do like Greek food and have enjoyed the meals I have had from The Real Greek chain.

I looked at the menu and went with the Mix Meat Meze.

A freshly grilled mix of gyros, pork, lamb, chicken souvlaki, and sausage. Served with fries, pita bread, tzatziki, and authentic Greek Salad.

I went to Queens Square to eat, I opened the box. There were fries, three skewers of meat, sausage, tubs of tzatziki, and Greek Salad, as well as some warm pita bread. I was a little disappointed that there was no mix of gyros, I did consider going back and complaining, but was running out of time, and I was hungry.

It wasn’t very good. The meat was dry and chewy. I think it had been cooked and then stored. There is a (big) difference between freshly grilled kebabs and those that have been done and then stored in a warmer. There wasn’t really enough salad and the lack of gyros, was disappointing.

I haven’t been back!

Merguez sausages with salad and flat bread

The title of this blog post really doesn’t do justice to the plate of food I bought from Kabylia at the Finzel Street Food market.

I was going to our office in Bristol more over the summer and one Wednesday in August I once more found myself in Bristol.

I popped out for a walk at lunchtime and it was nice to see the St Nicholas market bustling with people after seeing it a few months ago quite empty.

There were huge queues for Matina, Low & Slow, and the felafel place. I didn’t feel like queuing so I left the market and I popped to Finzel Reach market to see what was on sale.

There weren’t as many stalls as there was pre-pandemic and it isn’t as busy as it was on Fridays/

I decided to try Kabylia, the Algerian street food stand. 

Kabylia is a cultural, natural and historical region in northern Algeria. The Kabyle people are indigenous to Kabylia and speak the language known as Amazigh.

I had some Merguez sausages with a feta and pepper pickle, salad and flat bread. The sausages were reheated to order, placed on flat bread and then the salads were added.

Took it back to the office it was rather nice. The pickle was tasty, the salad was lovely and I enjoyed the flat bread. The Merguez sausages were a little soft, I prefer a meatier sausage and these weren’t quite to my liking, though they did taste right. Overall though it was a lovely plate of food which I did enjoy eating.

Overall I did enjoy something I wouldn’t have normally chosen.

Back to the Mediterranean

Back in London and it was time for lunch.

Didn’t really know what I wanted, the Leather Lane street food market was full of possible choices. In the end though I made a return visit to the Mediterranean Grill which I had been to a few weeks back.

I went with the large mixed salad box, but it came on a plate as I was eating in. I was asked to take a seat and they prepared the salad. I had the choice of rice or chips, I went with chips this time. The dish came with chicken and lamb and the salad was served with some chilli sauce, hummus and yoghurt.

The chicken and lamb were very tasty and tender.

The chips were rather nice, crisp and hot, if anything too hot.

The salads were nice and fresh and well seasoned. I personally would (again) have liked more yoghurt, but apart from that it was very tasty.

Yes it was basically a mixed kebab without the pitta bread. Even so it was fresh and delicious. I then paid my bill and again like last time left feeling happy about what I had eaten. 

I think next time I will have rice again, I don’t know if they do pitta bread on the side, but I might as well ask.

Grilled Lamb Salad (okay it was a kebab)

Feeling hungry and not really sure about what I wanted I headed out from the office in London to see what was around and what tickled my fancy for lunch.

I did initially think another salad from Birley Sandwiches as I had really enjoyed the one I had last week. There was quite a queue (which isn’t too surprising), so I thought I would venture up to the Leather Lane Street Food Market and have both a bit of a walk and just to see if there was anything else I might want to eat. There were quite a few familiar stalls which I have frequented on my recent visits to London, and I did think, did I want to return to any of them. There were some I was quite tempted to try as well.

As I walked down the road I noticed the Mediterranean Grill on the side (a permanent physical place, not just a temporary street food stall) and the display of salad and curry looked very tempting.

I initially wasn’t sure, but after another short walk, I turned around and headed back.

I went with the large lamb salad box, but it came on a plate as I was eating in. I was asked to take a seat and they prepared the salad. I had the choice of rice or chips, I went with rice. They lamb was not cooked to order, but taken from the hot plate. The dish came with some chilli sauce, hummus and yoghurt.

It looked great.

The lamb was flavourful and tender. The salads were nice and fresh and well seasoned. I personally would have liked more yoghurt, but apart from that it was very tasty.

Yes it was lamb and salad, but it was basically a kebab without the pitta bread. Even so it was fresh and delicious. I then paid my bill and left feeling happy about what I had eaten. I think I will go again.