Pad Thai inspired pork burgers

Here’s one for the tail end of barbecue season. In fact, here’s one I was not quite brave enough to take to a barbecue yesterday (cancelled of course, because Grim Rainy Island).

It’s a bit of an experiment, and it drifted into my head after putting some leftover peanuts into a rather gentler pork burger mix for a different barbecue a few weeks back. It worked, but it made me think: aren’t we tottering close to a Pad Thai vibe here?

Why the heck not. In for a penny.

Pad Thai pork burger

In, also, for an eye-watering quantity of fish sauce. Damn, that stuff’s pungent. Like, borderline is-this-recipe-worth-it pungent. Oh, it cooks out – it’s great. But there’s ten minutes coming up where you will not enjoy being in your kitchen.

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SmokeWorks, Cambridge

As Cambridge slowly gives up even pretending not to be a London suburb, the accretion of restaurants you might actually want to eat in goes hand in hand with the complete inability to afford houses you might actually want to live in. A mixed bag, to put it mildly. But when I heard that we were getting a BBQ joint in that Bodeans/Pitt Cue style, I was excited.

The horrifyingly distorted economics of my hometown are somewhat beyond the scope of a paean to pulled pork. You could mutter darkly about gentrification or something, but in the centre of Cambridge that’s taking the piss. Plus, I suspect the tears shed for the demise of the Eraina actually fall more from nostalgia for greasy 1970s moussaka than any understanding of how food is meant to work.

No, the vaguely-Greek-if-you-squint trip around the Med in a deep fat fryer has been replaced with SmokeWorks, and I could not be happier about it.

Smokeworks (2)

(There’s a great set of photos here from the opening night, by Karohemd)

The food, of course, is the important part. And the short version is: it’s great.

Let’s get a bit more detailed.

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The Globe, Brighton – epic BBQ with a side of Brake Bros disappointment

The Globe is a superficially-unpromising back street boozer just off the Brighton seafront. It is also the cut-down second outpost of BBQ Shack, a two-joint mini chain of Texas-y barbecue pubs that have been getting deeply promising reviews.

We figured we’d try it on Sunday.

The tl;dr version:

£6 – 8 for a main. Great meat, great BBQ sauce, terrible sides. Cool decor, uninspired beer. Go for lunch, not dinner. No website.

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Barbecuing in the rain

Yesterday we decided to eat all the meats. Being a bank holiday weekend with the promise of rain, it seemed like the British thing to do. So we made ready.

I don’t have all the recipes for everything that was made, but here’s a run down:
  • Slow-smoked pork ribs
  • Slow-cooked brisket
  • Burnt ends
  • Pork burgers with garlic & Parmesan
  • Red cabbage coleslaw with garlic & tahini
  • Aioli-marinated aubergines
  • Double blue cheese dip
  • Skewers of prawns in lime & garlic
  • Miscellaneous grilled vegetables
  • The obligatory halloumui

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How I learned to stop worrying and love barbecue

A few days ago, one of the supplements in The Guardian did a little ‘Barbecues – For Or Against?’ piece that utterly failed to wow me. On the one hand there was the ‘Most barbecues are awful, but…’ argument, which had me sold on pretty much everything before the ‘but’. On the other was a few columns of socially contentious guff about burnt freezer sausages, liberally immolated offer accelerant-laced hell pits, and tended all the while by burly, topless men, fending off the nigh-indistinguishable feral dogs and children snapping at their ankles. I should say something pithy and sympathetic here really, mention my own council estate childhood rather than making me sound like a dreadful sneering twat. But I’m not going to.No, the barbecues I grew up with typified by the gormless, rather vacant confusion with which much of Britain seems to greet food.

Ok, so the Australian solution touted in the article made me throw up in my mouth a little, but there’s only so much parboiling that even a man who likes to cook Mexican can take. Back in Blighty, we take probably our most unusual, certainly our most unfamiliar and seasonally fragile means of cooking, and put it in the hands of a chef selected purely on the basis of body-mass, then scratch our big manly chins over the process of making fire, before liberally littering it with the worst produce available. My parents, bless them, had got a little further, but were wedged firmly in the eighties. Theirs was a land of skewered pork with a mushroom at the end, and oily mustard marinades which smoked like all hell.

It’s no huge surprise, then, that my reaction to an ebullient “Let’s barbecue stuff!” from Mr C (who is, after all, a broad-shouldered man with a beard) followed a rough trajectory from “Thrice-sodomised Moses, have I not put that shit behind me,” through to “Fine [sigh] but I want it in writing that you wont take your shirt off.” Three or four attempts later, all more or less untroubled by pasta salad, bare nipples, or gang violence, I’m ready to recant.

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