Smokin’ hot

We have recently started smoking.  No, not the nicotine kind (don’t worry Mum!), the charcoal kind.  And my is it fun.

Our little smoker cost us the princely sum of $50, half price on the GrabOne daily deals website.  I think it looks a bit like a cute little alien space pod that landed on earth:

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We’ve had adventures with pulled pork (delicious) and smoked beef (still perfecting that one) but my favourite so far has been a smoked leg of lamb, using Yotam Ottolenghi’s lamb shawarma recipe.

I know I prod and poke around with some recipes, but there is really nothing you would want to change about this one: it is totally amazing and has ruined me for all other lamb dishes.  The preparation may feel a bit like a labour of love – plenty of fancy and delicious ingredients like cinnamon sticks and star anise and fresh coriander that need to be ground, sliced, crushed and grated.  But it is utterly, totally worth it.

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The recipe asks that you dry-roast the peppercorns, cloves, cardamom pods, fenugreek seeds, fennel seeds, cumin seeds, star anise and cinnamon stick until the seeds pop, and then add nutmeg and paprika.  This will make your kitchen smell absolutely lovely.  These ingredients then have to be ground to a powder – we used an old, slightly decrepit coffee grinder with a dodgy cable, borrowed from my parents.  No electric shocks resulted, you will be glad to hear.

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All of that delightful fresh coriander (40 grams), along with sea salt, lemon juice, garlic, peanut oil, sumac and fresh ginger are mixed with the ground spices to make a paste.   I loved this bit because the lovely fresh smells hit you in a big delicious wave.

One then massages  the paste into the lamb joint.  Which, I won’t lie, does feel a bit odd.

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The lamb gets wrapped in its own little foil tent.

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Now we divert from Mr Ottolenghi’s method, as we placed ours in our smoker, instead of a 170 degrees celsius oven.  A smoker, I have learned, is a delicate thing when it comes to heating and maintaining a specific heat.  I must confess I leave the more technical aspects of this part to the spouse, who has a far greater aptitude for tools, gadgets and generally all things that go ‘beep’ than I do.  But for those of you wishing for these details,  we use charcoal in our smoker, and to cook this joint, we tried to keep the temperature around 200 degrees farenheit / 93 degrees celsius, and took our lamb out when it reached an internal temperature of around 65 degrees celsius.

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I’ve already confessed that Mr Ottolenghi has ruined me for all over lamb recipes with this amazing concoction.  A purist may be horrified, but I found smoking the lamb joint complemented the flavours beautifully and boy does it make your garden smell incredible while it’s cooking.  Happy experimenting ’til next time.

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Hot Water Beer and Mussels

It simply wouldn’t be a summer holiday without a little cold beer, would it? And luckily the remote, beautiful Coromandel Peninsula, the current holiday location, was happy to oblige us with the the Hot Water Brewery.

You find this little delight on the Tairua-Whitianga Road, nestled alongside the Seabreeze Campsite.

Upon arrival, one of the brewers (Allan) provided taste-testing of a range of Hot Water Brewery’s beers. My favourite was the Walker’s Porter, which had a warm, full taste to my non-beer drinker’s palate. The Kauri Falls Pale Ale was also quite lovely and I imagine dangerously easy to drink on a Summer’s afternoon.

Handily, Hot Water Brewery also has a brasserie attached. I ordered the fresh coromandel mussels with coriander salsa and they were heavenly. The mussels were plump and juicy and although I worried the coriander might be overdoing things, it was a perfect complement. The mussels came with ciabatta bread, grilled and doused in some delicious olive oil. You’re lucky there is any photographic evidence at all, this meal was gobbled with lightening speed. The Mister had some very tasty grilled Gurnard and a generous portion of delicious chips. But no food envy from me.

Anyway friends, I have more holidaying to be getting on with. Happy eating and keep safe.

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