Friday, 31 January 2014

Hario Ceramic Slim Grinder or Mill Detailed Review

A detailed review of the Hario Ceramic Slim burr manual grinder or mill after about a months increasingly serious use, with grind timings, espresso and french press examples, and including acquiring a second one!

So I wouldn't normally retread ground after writing about this previously, but I found a variety of things out since initially writing about this, a couple of nice things happened centered around the grinder and generally it's even more won me over.  So I thought it deserved turning the original blog post in a more detailed and updated specific review.

If you're in a hurry, my conclusion is that if you are prepared to do 2-3min steady arm work, enough to make your arm tired, when you want coffee, in return for saving a lot of money, then you really can't beat this little gem.

So what were those main reasons to update this?

  1. I found an extra half click or so on the grind settings which really stepped up my espresso, 
  2. I used it for around 2 weeks with a french press, and found it a little different from espresso and it's worth a few notes on
  3. I bought a second one with a great purchasing experience.
  4. I upgraded my tamper and basket, bought some expensive specialist mail order ground coffee to compare it against, and really started to notice the quality of the grind.

Purchasing Experience

I bought the second one again through Amazon, through a vendor called Japan Syndrome, there is a link at the bottom of this section.  The first one was over Christmas and was slow to arrive.  This one took 9 days from start to arrival, straight from Japan, which I think is pretty good.  It also arrived with all the Japan markings on, which I liked, and second it came with a lovely origami crane and a nice note.  I know that's silly, but it made me doubly happy in investing a second time, and just started off the whole experience on a positive foot.

Espresso Performance


It's straight forward to adjust but not something you want to do every day between grinds, as it's hard to know where your perfect setting was.  After fiddling I've found the very finest was maybe a half or full click more than my first review. 

So this was the original grind I did, on the almost on the finest setting, it took 2m 10s for me to grind this much, and it leaves my arm tired, but not out of breath. 

Having found that extra click, it takes me around 2m 25s to grind my espresso now.  How long it takes you to grind is very dependent on how fine you are grinding (more in the French Press section), and how steadily you grind.  Steady arm speed leads to the best results.

This is a grind comparison between the new grind done with the Hario Ceramic Slim on the left and on the right is some professionally ground coffee from Pact Coffee, their espresso blend and grind which I had for a separate review I'm working on.  Although hard to see from the photos the manually ground coffee is noticeably finer, especially in the machine, it having to work a lot harder for the same portion and tamp.

And this is the Hario ground in the a Gaggia classic 58mm basket.  Really nice texture, really nice to tamp, and then polish, you can get an excellent surface. Coffee finish is excellent, no bitterness.  

Construction and Use

Very good.  

Lid doesn't come off as handle keeps it on, top half to bottom half screws together very nicely.  Packs up into a very small space, the handle just lifts off and stacks by it, and it will fit in any cupboard or shelf.   It also travels very well.  This is a huge win for me as going manual has released not only, at a premium kitchen tabletop space, but also an additional power socket space in the kitchen.  Grinding action is best when you steadily move both arms in a slight figure of eight fashion at a constant-as-possible speed and pressure.  If you are sleepy and clumsy you can ping the handle off, but it hasn't happened to me more than twice in the month.  I haven't gone into the whole take apart and photo the burrs, but there is another good other review here with photos of the conical sections and rings.  Graduations on the cup are very useful and you quickly get to know how quite precisely much you need to grind for your machine and minimise wasted effort and coffee.

One of the major advantages for me is it grinds much quieter than a powered machine, not silent, but pretty inaudible outside of the room.  My espresso machine isn't quiet, but if I need a sneaky early morning coffee.  I can grind with this and make it in the aeropress to very good results and not disturb anyone.  All the powered grinders I've heard or used, have been far to noisy to use when others in the house are asleep.

French Press Performance


I ended up travelling with this for about 10 days and using a french press.  Performance was still very good but not quite as good as espresso.  It took me a while to get the right setting for the grind I wanted and when I found it it got very annoying trying to find it again if I changed anything.  This was solved by second, one to leave on espresso and one for french press or aeropress depending on which I'm using the most.

What was really noticeable was that on the coarser settings you have to be a lot steadier and use a constant speed to get the best grind.  It's overall not as even, and if you go too fast, or speed up and slow down you get a noticeable amount unevenness.  It's a lot easier on the arm though.  Doing a full grinder cup amount (enough for two people in a medium size french press) on this really quite coarse grind (coarser than I ended up finally using) only took about 1m 50s.  But you can see even in the photo the unevenness.  The grind I ended up with took me about 2m 50s to do as much coffee as this, whilst making sure I used a smoother arm movement, and produced something much more even.


Excellent and great value

I've been making about 2 coffees a day with this now for about a month, and the manual grinding hasn't worn thin.  I still love doing it this way, it's tactile and involving, and produces great coffee.

  Very good fine grind for espresso
  Quality construction
  Very small footprint and packs up easily
  Low mess
  Low noise
  Low cost

  2m 10s of reasonably vigorous arm work - enough to make your arm tired
  It's not a big shiny box in your kitchen you can show off (if that's your thing)
  Coarser grinds for French press take more controlled arm turning

I've been charmed by this grinder.  One of those rare thing that you buy at a price that you aren't too worried about if it isn't great, and then find out that it's exactly as good as you need, and much better than you expected.

Sunday, 26 January 2014

Breadcrumbed Lamb Breast with Tartare Sauce

So this recipe originally got interrupted, meaning that the cooked and pressed breast got frozen in four neatly wrapped parcels and I've been meaning to finish both the meal and the write up for a while.

It was generally a lot of firsts for me, first time making mayonnaise from scratch, first time deep frying anything successfully, first time breading anything, and first time working with lamb breast.  So in general with all the events in-between I'd love to give the lamb breast a second go, but here is the write up with a lot of useful links and what I found out in between.

Tartare Sauce

Nigel Slater's Tartare sauce recipe and explanation was what I was aiming for:  "The point of tartare sauce has always been to provide a piquant contrast to the mild-tasting food it accompanies. In one knife-sharp hit, this sauce of mayonnaise, gherkins, mustard and capers continually sharpens an appetite that would soon be dulled by mouthful after mouthful of crumbed or battered food." 

However the method stating 

"then slowly whisk in 250ml each of groundnut oil and olive oil, a little at a time"

    should read

"then drop by drop, seriously tiny amounts especially at the start with more whisking than you think.... 

Clearly you are supposed to know this, however I didn't.  

Luckily Delia's Smith excellent, short and detailed guide here tells you not only what you need to know, but how to rescue it when it goes wrong and curdles.  I can verify the rescuing method, does indeed work

Anyhow, fresh tarragon, djion mustard, parsley, capers and cornichon, looked, smelled (despite the false start) and tasted fantastic.  Definitely something I'll do again, but think I'll experiment with the oil used.  U did it on the night with both low fat Crème fraîche (full fat really needed), avocado oil (interesting and nice, but not recommended for tartare, and comes out quite yellow), and groundnut oil (the best I've tried so far and as recommended by the Nigel Slater recipe)

Lamb Breast

So this whole thing was inspired by the Great British food revival recipe here.  I was cooking with some guidance from Page 295 of The River Cottage Meat Book, (also where the mash and orange and watercress salad idea came from).

Prep went absolutely fine

However the size of doing 4 breasts (you probably need to do 2 if you are going to cook for 4+ and are going to be fairly choosy in how much you strip out of them) meant that they would have tin foil lids, which didn't keep the cooking contained as well as a pot lid, and heavy earthenware casserole dishes taking a while to warm through.  So the cooking time extended out to about 3h45m before I had to finish up where I was - I wasn't convinced it was enough.

The Meat book says "until the meat is completely tender" this is definitely the hard part about cooking Lamb Breast - smelt amazing, tasted great straight out of oven.  Definitely not completely tender even after the extra time.

Getting the bones out of the breast is also harder than made out in the guides.  There is a large section at one end which needs to be cut out and removed, short hard ribs, and then three or so soft ribs fanning out down the breast.  These didn't easily push out as they were indicated to, so either it wasn't cooked as much as perhaps it could have been, or it's just a bit trickier.  However after the first the hands got used to the action and the anatomy and it became easy enough.  A little bit of knife work, and strong fingers solved it fine.  However you are going to have more waste than you might thing, and the original size of the breast makes out.

This is the two major bits separated out.

Layering back into the dish for pressing.  At this point time was scarce.  More thinner layers would have been better.

And then after being quartered, frozen, defrosted and ready for preparation several days later

Thinly sliced, this would make amazing cold lamb sandwiches.  It tasted great - like lamb roast leftovers and was my favourite way to eat it.  I wish I'd used a little of the stock (which set firm in a jug) to spoon across, and layered, salt, pepper and some of the fresh cooked herbs in the layers so it set in just a fraction more jelly and kept the smaller pieces together.

Sliced ready for breading and deep frying.  These were much thicker than the recipe planned for so I was using a meat thermometer to check they were completely cooked through in the centre, and upping the frying time.

So here is the rub.  As you can see in the photos this was quite fatty and I was expecting this.  However  some of the pieces from the thick ends of the breast were fantastic.  Some from the thin end, not so much. There are two layers of connecting tissue which are very noticeable towards the thin end and these were still tough when you hit them in some pieces.

If I did this again - I'd alter the recipe by:

1.  Slice off the larger pieces of fat before the start of cooking, especially on the thick end.  
2.  Giving it a really hot start (230c) to get that fat rendering and some colour on. 
3.  Then cooking longer and slower to soften it more.  
4.  Then spending more time cutting out the fats, ribs, and either pulling apart the interconnected tissue, or discarding a lot more.
5.  then slicing and layering more layers of thinner but more consistently meat layers for pressing
6.  Layering with a spoonfuls of the stock imbetween layers (reduced by half or more), and with some of the herbs rescued and salt and pepper
7.  Having a tighter fitting pressing material for the container, and possibly more weight, 4 pints of milk on each area rather than cans of beans sort of weight.


Breading was fine, and held together any loose pieces from pressing better than I thought.  Frying was more tricky - 170c is the recommended oil temperature and this worked fine, but no more.  Any more and the breadcrumbs went very hard and burnt without cooking anything very much inside.


However it still turned into a good meal.   My daughter once again, being the litmus test, and providing the definitive review: "Chewy but Yummy".

Really interesting piece of meat, and think has the possibility to taste great, but definitely needs some fairly high effort preparation to be at it's best.

Looking forward to doing it again.

Saturday, 25 January 2014

Beef Carpaccio and Marinated Beans

One of the nice things about trying to cook everything from the animal is to do some of the prime cuts as well as the frugal ones.  The difference per kilo at one of the local farmshops here is huge, £40/kg for fillet of beef, £11/kg for a double rib - probably my favourite cut to cook.  The fillet is such a small part of the animal you can understand the market forces driving the price difference, but it seems a shame to spend so much and just to do steak, when often I think a rump, or a sirloin is just as good and sometimes better for that.  I wonder if the ladies who lunch who only buy the fillet there, as it's "the best" are subsiding my purchases.

But a special occasion, so if cooking fillet, or even not cooking fillet, I thought it would be nice to do something different that you don't often do with Rump or Sirloin, so a Carpaccio.  good for a much smaller piece of beef than a 4kg double rib.  This was done with about 600g of fillet, from the butchery counter at a well known supermarket.

This is to this Jamie Oliver Carpaccio Recipie with a little cold lemon and thyme pasta salad and Grana Padano added, and a vinaigrette rather than just a drizzle of olive oil.

I thought it was a really good recipe though I thought the marinade needed loosening a lot with more wine vinegar and a bit of lemon.  I was a bit nervous trying to do carpaccio without a proper meat slicer, but using a very sharp knife and the trip of spreading them out with the flat, worked surprisingly well.  This is prior to pressing out.

We really liked it and as importantly it passed the toddler test.  I'm always amazed about how unafraid kids are about food if you don't tell them they should be afraid of it.  What is basically raw beef and strong tasting beans:  no problem - just please remove the funny green bits (thyme and herb stalks/leaves) Dad. Fair enough - so lightly rinsed beans and undressed pasta, and it all disappeared.

Updated:  2014-01-26

Leftovers made a fantastic cold pasta salad, a coarse chop and a mix. The marinade (well obviously) had much more fully flavoured the beans having been left overnight, but they were a slightly less appetizing colour.

Tuesday, 21 January 2014

Back on line and Ikeahacker published

So Katherine and I are rediscovering how little sleep a newborn means, and blogging as predicted by my one of my colleagues stopped completely.  We're now back in the house from hospital, and Tate is now sleeping at least for a while, and I've set up to write a very short and first blog post from my new desk..

Many projects have moved on in the meantime, pasties, coffee, and finishing the lamb breast last night, and two of the big hifi projects have just kicked off.  So there is plenty to catch up writing about.

To this end I think I've worked out how to merge the blogs so to keep a time and storyline, and avoid audiophile people having the food posts if they don't want it and foodies avoiding the hifi posts.  Though the venn diagram of the two seems to normally overlap pretty well.

The first big project on the hifi blog is a turntable project for the new study, and whilst I was away I was delighted that the smaller part of that, getting the study built, got published on Ikeahacker which made me very happy.

So, the Hugh meat book from the photo is joined by the GingerPig meat book, ready for next post.  Hoping to catch up with a lot of computer based tasks tomorrow.

Also enjoying reading Beth Watkins Lambing Live blog at up at Park Farm, and thinking whether it can link up with the Lamb butchery course at the GingerPig.

Sunday, 12 January 2014

Warrens at Dereford (Digital From Day 1)

Today was sort of a big day, as finishing the lamb breast had to take a back seat to +Tate broadhurst @TateLowen arriving a bit early.  The next generation's lives are going to me immeasurably different from ours, digital enablement hopefully being as much as a blessing as it is a fated curse.

It did mean that along with Amber and Tate's great Grandmother having a short stay there we have been spending some time in Dereford hospital which I have to say has treated us very well.

The Lamb Breast has been quite happily pressing in the Fridge.  8 cans of baked beans providing an important part of this dish

I also have discovered that there is a branch of Warren's Bakery in Dereford hospital which provided a chance to sneak a fast pasty a lunch.  Before we very shortly head back to Cardiff I think getting in as many pasty reviews in as possible is well worth doing. Or if not I'll still enjoy doing it.

To be honest doing good food in a hospital canteen type setting must be hard.  But the decor and branding was trying hard to please.  Warren's regularly comes up in the best pasty argument so it was hard to order anything else

I was very pleasantly surprised.  Good pasty decently treated, in a hospital.  Better fat flavours in the pastry and meat than the +Oggy Oggy Pasty.  But I'm not sure that rolled style is really a crimp.  Again the turnip is cubed rather than chipped or sliced.  Very salty, not enough pepper, decent gravy.  But generally a proper pasty, and a welcome brief diversion.  Latte with it was terrible though.

Does bring up the question with pasties.  Is the best pasty made by a butcher doing bakery, or a baker doing butchery.  Generally I vote with the butcher driven pasty, as I don't think it's really about the pastry in the way a patisserie is instead, much more about a meat pie and about the veggies beat and gravy - a meal in a pastry wrapper.

More on pasties to come including my recommendations.  For which you will find disagreement in my family alone, let alone the wider Cornish community.  But safe to safe at either Warren's or Oggy Oggy have been both very faithful representations of the bread.  With absolutely no carrot, always with turnip, and a miners end nub to save in your pocket.

Gribbles, Oggy and Lamb Breast

Staying at my in-laws this Sunday, and looking forward to cooking for everyone. I'd been saying for a long time to do a lamb breast recipe and now seemed the perfect time.

Breast is very cheap and generally unloved, and I'd not done it before but it had looked great on the Great British Food Revival.  Perfect sort of nose to tail material.

We booked the meat from Gribbles based on family recommendation, and it was a great chance to take Amber down to see what she would be eating on the Sunday, and visit another local butcher.  We went to the Plympton branch

Lovely local butcher, open early at 08:00, and it was a beautiful day.  Not a huge amount of stock, but different things, and all looking very good.  Very friendly, and made it really approachable for Amber.  Great stuff thank you!

We overbought.  There was some logic for this - to make twice as many breaded pressed fingers as we needed, freeze some, and they would provide further meals with defrost and fry/bake. But four lamb breasts might have been overly ambitious.  We paid £3.50 each, for which you get a lot of meat.

Conveniently there was breakfast next door. +Oggy Oggy Pasty  pasties fresh out of the oven were great, a pixie pasty for Amber and a large for me.  Nothing quite like fresh Cornish pasties, technically of course in Devon in Plymouth, but Cornwall only just over the Tamar.  These were authentic and very good, K's family are from Penzance, and have been cooking them for generations - one of my favorite things to be cooked when we come down.   Anyway the local "where is the best pasty" argument always rotates and causes great discussion.  These were reliably good, but if was going to do a really picky review.

+ really good finish on the pastry
+ very good gravy, and a good balance overall
- not enough pepper, could have had more meat
- some cubed not sliced veggies

But ultimately a proper hot pasty is hard to beat.  See very happy face.

It's very interesting the different price of beef skirt in the southwest, due to the popularity of making pasties at  home compared to the rest of the country.  Skirt (Diaphragm) is a great cut of meat and overlooked elsewhere, but at £10+/kg regularly down this way, certainly not here.  More like £7/kg when buying in Cardiff. 

Amber was totally un-phased by the butcher and loved helping.  I expect the Lamb to disappear well on Sunday when she sees it cooked

So after a great day out and about the breast is making the house smell fantastic as it cooks in the oven. Pressing overnight following.  Photo below of half before going in.  I think the cut looks great, will see

Great piece of meat.  Yes fatty and yes needing de-boning, but as it is cooking looking very appetizing.

One of our friends Beth at Park Farm just started her own blog as it comes into lambing season and she's taking a sabbatical and helping on the farm.    Current score 2 lambs, 99 Ewes.  A while since I bought things from the on site farm shop at Park Farm - mental note to ask.  Nice to see the thing all the way start to finish.

Hope you have something nice planned for your Sunday.  All the best

Friday, 10 January 2014

Some Education On The Way: @GingerPig

A short post. My wonderful wife decided I need some education. Of this sort I thoroughly approve. Very excited

Thursday, 9 January 2014

#GYO Coffee: hats off to the spikec linked here

So great start to end posting from spikec on instructables on #GYO coffee.
Grow, harvest, de-husk, dehumidify, roast, grind, press and drink.

Have bought seeds from +John Watkins (plantsfromseed)

This may be a long term project.

Update 2014-01-16
SpikeC commented back "Thanks! This project was fun - as a one time event. Too much work :-)" fair warning given.

Tuesday, 7 January 2014

Brawn: first check your pot

So there is a lot to be said for just-doing-things.  Fundamentally the main thing stopping people from doing things like quartering your own chicken is just buying a chicken, a knife and a book and getting on with it.  The first time you do it it’s a bit messy, the second you feel more confident, the third you just do.  Having said that, sometimes more planning does help and this is one of those occasions.  So writing it up anyway in the hope it inspires people to do better, and hopefully provides some slight amusement.

So two half heads and some trotters taken out 36 hours prior to defrost and put in the fridge.   Defrosting like this in the fridge means that luckily if plans do change, you can refreeze things which you shouldn’t if you defrost on the table top.  It also means if you need to re-portion something down a bit you can refreeze the other bit.  This is really useful as you can buy something oversize, or cut the meat into the largest joint you might need for a special occasion, but if it turns out just to be you and the family and need to cut it down before cooking.

The plan is that the meat never gets above 4c or whatever your fridge is at, but obviously defrosting like this is going to be slower.  This normally works great, especially for things going in for a slow cook where you only need defrosted enough to cut and prepare.  The 12-16+ hours in the oven then making sure it is very thoroughly cooked through which is important especially with pork.  Make sure you adjust up your cooking times if still slightly frozen!  If fast cooking room temperature meat works much better – so allow to thoroughly warm up. Use a meat thermometer in the middle to check it is cooked all the way through to a safe temperature.  Remember lots of people poison themselves with inadequately defrosted cooked meat, turkeys especially. 

So armed with what should have been ready to work meat, puy lentils, herb and spice bunches, an old razor and a large glass of nerve steadying single malt close by, along with lots of enthusiasm what was the issue?

It was not even vaguely defrosted.  Some combination of having been right at the bottom of the freezer for a while, there being a lot of it to defrost in the fridge, the fridge being on coldest setting for the beer over Christmas, or maybe the skull holds the cold better than a more fleshy join, it just wasn’t workable and it was clear the moment I laid it out.  Even as I’d planned to up the boil time from 4 to 6 hours – this wasn’t going to work.  However that didn’t really matter as…

… it was also clear it was not even vaguely going to fit in the pot.  I thought the 28cm stock pot was big, it was the biggest that the cooking equipment shop had had when I bought it.  It turns out for making brawn you need a properly big pot – right into the second hand from a professional kitchen size.  Any suggestions on where to source from near Cardiff happily received.

So it went back in the freezer.  Feeling foolish, as both the sources I was uses mentioned difficulty getting into pot, or needing a big one. 

Anyhow if you’re out there thinking about having a go, you can definitely do better than this.

On the plus side, I met the awesome Tom and Kate from @GrowUpBox today in Royal Festival hall in the #Soutbank, and they have promised to help the Thin Jetty cook Cerviches Tilapia from their amazing aquaponic micro-farm sometime soon, which I’m really looking forward to.

I also got to ride up and down in the singing yellow JCB lift in the blue zone Royal Festival Hall (RFH).  Worth a surreal ride for free if you are a tourist in the Southbank.  RFH also a great free space inside for lots of impromptu meetings, and people competing for the seats near the sparse power sockets on the wall.

Lastly apparently you can buy Coffee plants as house plants, or I presume for #GYO but no-one I’ve yet talked to who has bought one has seen one flower let along make beans.

Monday, 6 January 2014

Back to the grind

In the UK for many it's back to the grind day at work after the Christmas and New Year break.  So I thought in honour, a grinder review was in order.

How is coffee nose to tail?  Well, this and beer is something I'd very much like to do start to finish.   Technically you should be able to grow your own barley (or buy it from a local farmer), malt it, and make beer - anyone tried to do this?  (The space required for malting seems a lot.)  Although having found a good local brewer just over the mountain in Caerphilly in the Celt Experience I waned on the self brew

Could you grow your own coffee? (seems unlikely but a greenhouse?). There are local businesses here, or delivering online, roasting regularly and importing single origin beans.  Anyway you can make a huge difference on the quality of the coffee you make with just beans that haven't been sat around a long time and grinding it immediately before going into the espresso machine. It's also a lovely end to end process that makes the kitchen smells great.

My coffee grinder broke, and to be honest, it was bad.  Whilst getting decent reviews (at the time) and being a burr grinder it had several problems.  The button was exactly where you wanted to pick it up so moving it around normally meant spraying coffee over the kitchen.  It (Ok I when using it) made a lot of mess and the thing was fiddly to get beans in and out of.  It got a lot of coffee grinds inside its casing as well which didn't help longevity, and ultimately it didn't grind fine enough or well enough.  Not my finest purchase.  Luckily I can't find it on Amazon any more either so no need to steer people away from it.

It's meant I've been stuck with supermarket ground for a while over Christmas, and it has been making me grumpy.  Roger at roger-in-technology recently tried one of his favourite Australian Skyberry coffees ground from the supermarket and provides a good write up of why pre-ground also made him grumpy

So where to look for help on a new grinder?  Coffeegeek is very US focused, but my main reference, and they do a great explanation of why the grinder is so important.  However I can't convince myself that £/$200 is how much I want to spend on a grinder.  Or more importantly lose that my kitchen space to a permanently set up machine.

So in light of new year resolution and getting some exercise, it's time to try a manual.

Enter Hario Coffee Mill (Ceramic Slim).  Shipped from Japan it takes a while to arrive, but very pleasantly surprised.  I paid £18 and it seems to be very nicely made.  It is really compact, which means it perfectly fits in a shelf, the handle just clicks off - so it uses almost no footprint in the kitchen.  The hex key at the top is just smaller than a standard electric screwdriver bit socket (yes I tried), but there must be someone out there who has hacked that - something for another day.  Beans go in the top (securely enough), and the cup at the bottom collects everything neatly and has approximate graduations.  After a couple of goes, I started to really like it.

The main thing people warn about manual grinders is they take a lot of turning.  Exactly how much is not very clear from many reviews.  So below is the amount of coffee I need to grind for one double espresso in my machine.  This took me 2m 10s, without particularly rushing.  At this speed this leaves my arm tired, (like whipping cream manually), but me not out of breath, although slightly more awake.

On the finest setting (click positions not infinitely adjustable) the grind is very nice.  Very even, and good texture.  Much better than the previous electric grinder.
(this is exactly the same coffee from below poured out)

And now into the basket - inelegantly tamped and slightly damp in one corner due to messing about having put it on a board first.   Pouring the coffee directly out of the collection bit works much more nicely.

Here is the espresso it made.  (Not sure what you can tell from a photo.) how was it?  Well much much better than the cheap electric burr grinder.  Espresso pump clearly immediately working a lot harder, crema fuller, taste is much smoother.   All in all very impressed.

Not being quite as geeky as coffeegeek I can't compare to the £200 grinders recommended there, but in general this grinder reviews very well there.  When you look at it, you can see where the money has gone, and the lack of electronics mean that I think the burr and mechanism is probably equivalent to a lot more expensive machines having to spread the spend over power supplies and electric motors.

Practically (and I think this might be a winner for me) It is much, much quieter.  My work means I regularly leave at 05:00 and putting the electric grinder on wasn't fair on my better half, or the baby.  Whilst not silent, this noise is definitely not an issue for anyone outside the room - I just need to budget 2 minutes of grinding rather than 20s.

Lastly the intangibles.  I really liked doing the coffee this way.  I felt involved, it's a nice hands on object, it made a measurable difference to the quality of the coffee, and it really didn't cost very much.


  Good fine grind
  Quality construction
  Very small footprint and packs up easily
  Low mess
  Low noise
  Low cost

  2m 10s of reasonably vigorous arm work - enough to make your arm tired
  It's not a big shiny box in your kitchen you can show off (if that's your thing)

Next to be replaced is the espresso machine.  Again looking for one with as small as possible footprint, but getting significantly up the quality scale.  Suggestions happily received.

Happy back to the grind day

Sunday, 5 January 2014

Brawn 1 (Research)

So I have been thinking about this pigs head and it's time to do something with it.  It's been sitting in the outside freezer for too long now.  I needed to choose a recipe, and whilst reading up I thought it was worth just crediting some of the great sources out there.

I have to mention +Danny Kingston and his fantastic food urchin blog.   His article on #brawnoff was basically the reason I ended up with a trotters and head on half pig from Huntsham court farm, rather than just a shoulder from my butcher.  I love this article - not only does it give you directions to four great brawn recipes, but it's totally honest from a pretty full on person (check out the octopus), that doing brawn isn't going to be for the faint hearted.  It's also a great start to end story, of getting something special and unusual and doing something with it. (with great photos)

This discussion on the River Cottage Forum, is also very useful with some different takes about how to go about the whole boiling a head in a pan thing in this discussion.  Not to mention cleaning ears.

But like most everything I've been doing with Nose-to-tail cooking I always end up falling back to the River Cottage Meat book.  I then found this quote on the top of the Brawn recipe, which made me think I really should have got round to this by now.  Hence the head is now defrosting in the fridge

"Everyone who wishes to embrace the holistic, 'nose-to-tail' approach to meat should buy a pig's head once in a while and make a brawn"

Whilst I am here, this is the most fantastic book.  Recommended to me by an ex-restauranter who is normally extremely disparaging about cook books, it's essentially been behind everything new I've done with meet for about two years now.  It's approachable, inspirational and comprehensive.  For instance the section on chickens doesn't just talk about animal welfare, it takes you through how to quarter a bird and actually give you what you need to be able to get to the point where a chicken makes 4 meals (for 2) which is how I learnt, and it makes buying a quality whole bird practical and affordable and the only way in our house we now buy chicken.

The pork Donny Brasco is a favorite recipe of mine which I've experimented doing a number of different ways.  My mother-in-law (who's cooking I love), even started reading it, and changed the way she cooked at meat after having something from it at ours and a look at the book.  The whole bit of having a cook-it-fast section, and then a cook-it-slow section and being clear which is good of which, and what can be done either way is just great.

Anyhow, below is a photo of my now very well thumbed copy.  If you do want a copy and use the link below to buy it, it helps fund the domain cost for The Thin Jetty.  It is quite a bit for a book though, and if you want to avoid buying it I find that most of the recipes you can find online if you know what you are looking for, or certainly very similar versions.  You just don't get the very good animal by animal and cooking technique by cooking technique explanation and organisation.  For instance this Jamie Oliver recipie  gives a very good outcome and is very like similar to the pork Donny Brasco I mentioned.

Friday, 3 January 2014

New year herbs - Wahaca Serrano Chilies

So this year I intend to grow more of our seasonings.  We've grown vegetables, and succeeded well with beans and leeks especially, but last year slugs annihilated everything, and it was extremely disheartening.  This year I'm lowering the sights to just concentrating on herbs and seasonings, and hoping that means we get many more exciting things grown and cooked.

Technically the month by month book says it is too early to plant things.  But wanting to start the new year at pace I thought we'd better start with something that will stay inside and preferably was free if it didn't work.  So a brief divergence:

I regularly get to work in the Southbank +Southbank Centre which is a fantastic vibrant place, with an impromptu skatepark, inside out art gallery, British Film Institute +BFI, outdoor book market , a pedestrian bridge much better than more famous millennium bridge with fantastic views from it (especially at night) as well as the fanstastic Queen's walk along the Thames.

There is a great restaurant there called Wahaca made of shipping containers.  I had briefly a shed made of a shipping container, it was the best shed ever, but it wasn't popular in the street so had to go - anyhow that was my first reason for going in, loved it, and have been going in for lunch or dinner very regularly for a while.  The service is always quick, they do very good Mexican food and beer, and the menu rotates regularly with new experimental dishes.  They also serve guacamole with giant pork scratchings instead of tortilla chips - so well worth a mention here as well.  The scratchings are amazing, 'popped' uniformly in cooking.  Probably mass produced but a great use of otherwise possibly wasted.  The guacamole is reliably good, and I loved the first scratching, but you need a stomach of iron to eat the whole basket on your own, but well worth a shared order for the table.  +wahacatv also give you these with every meal.

A match book?  No much better....

Serrano Chili seeds.

Frankly I was extremely dubious, but thought it was lovely and have been quietly amazing them in the man drawer at home.  So it was time to see if they would work.

With some able help from my 2.5 year old daughter, we planted up 12 sticks in a little propagator and I'm delighted to declare, that yes, they do indeed work!  We had our first germination this week

So very much looking forward to potting out, and generating some chilies to use.  Unfortunately my wife is allergic to them, so I may be looking for an outside home opportunity for volunteers to use the results.

Thinking of that, that pigs head needs doing.  There was a good chili based one, but that won't do, maybe juniper.  How big does a juniper tree grow anyway?

Not long before it's actually the right time to put things in the propagator and then plant out.  Worth having a think if you have small space on a window sill where something might like to grow.

Happy new year all.

Thursday, 2 January 2014

First, catch your hare (or pig in this case)

So this is my blog on nose to tail cooking, in my interpretation here, pretty much also start to finish cooking. I'd become very disillusioned with how far we can or have become from our food, and with my grandfather who used to run a bakery, two uncles running restaurants, a visit to a welsh farm for a wedding, I realized I'd very much lost touch and had no excuse for it  Getting out into Wales where we live, finding fresh air, great produce and then doing something creative with my hands is  real tonic from hours typing, and travelling to London.

So repeating the warning, from the home page.  If a real butchery counter makes you squeamish, please check something else out. I love to cook fish, and vegetables, and bake, but mostly I like to cook meat, and I think this page will end up being mostly about that.

So first catch our Pig. My previous supplier stopped answering the door, but still has good pigs, so I was searching about for our Christmas roast.  I really wanted a trotter on whole shoulder, something very big to cook over night and just need taking out for Christmas day, and was slightly at a loss having left it late.  I ended up contacting huntsham court farm but they were out too (at a shoot I think) which was a nice start.

However Richard from Huntsham, kindly phoned me back after the event, somehow managing to catch me in the bar out for my Birthday, the long and short of it I bought half a pig.  And a new freezer.

More on the freezer later, it's definitely a worthwhile investment, and outdoor rated.  There are some whole venison adverts around at certain times of year, so makes the whole thing achievable.

So somehow I managed to order "minimal butcher".  This is what I really wanted, but it did leave me a big job late at night to get that giant loin into more manageable pieces.

Google "how to butcher a pig" - replay you tube video a lot.  Use inadequate knife and hacksaw blade and tea towel.  Some better planning would have definitely helped.  But result

We had two chops - actually the rare bread meat I don't think makes as good chops, the luxurious fat great for roasting or lardons just a bit too much, and I can never get it to render enough whilst cooking without over cooking them.  Rest to the freezer something to work on later.

Bit of fast forward to Christmas eve then.  Plan is shoulder of pork Donny Brasco from the excellent river cottage meat book.  Except that it'll be a garlic, rosemary, sage and salt rub. (whole bulb of garlic blitzed) I find the 16-24 hours Hugh suggests too much unless you want more like pulled pork (which is how he recommends serving it - and it's great don't get me wrong), for a roast though on a Sunday, I think about 12 hours works great, if you make sure you give it a really good sizzle at the start, and the end before a really good rest (an hour in this case).

All prep done in the evening which makes for a relaxed Christmas day (veggies (thank you for reminding better half), and meat).

It doesn't need the foil, it's just there to try and protect the bottom of the oven, funneling run off into the plan, as the limb protrudes even this largest roasting tray and some of the edges release a lot of  fat. On at 230 for 30minutes checking the top doesn't catch or blacken.

We used a litre of good cider at this point, and then just just turn down to 95c and leave overnight.

Turned out just fine:

I now have two half heads (longer story) and 3 trotters in the freezer to use.  Some head cheese is required and everyone being out of the house to do.

Very happy new year all.  Hope you cook something you love shortly.

Welcome to my blog

Welcome to my blog.  All my thoughts are entirely my own.  This is a space to put all my outside work projects, mostly related to the things on the tab. So

  • High Fidelity Audio:  Vinyl, High Def Audio, Silent Computing
  • Nose to tail cooking:  Very much from production to consumption*
  • Driving, Cars and Coffee:  Currently an black MX5 and a white FD2
* I don't intend to post anything unsuitable, but this is going to involve preparing and cooking a lot of mainly large pieces of meat.  So if you're squeamish about the contents of the counter in a proper butchers probably best to avoid.

Mainly this is a space where I can write more than 140 characters at a time, stories are important.  Get authorship recognition and link in the forums and internet spaces are participate in.

I hope you enjoy