Sriracha Wings


Sriracha wings

At the weekend, Claire and Will had a BBQ in their Forest Hill garden.  These are eagerly anticipated, not only because Claire makes a frickin’ good burger, but also because us London-dwellers have little outside space so appreciate a good BBQ all the more.

My contribution to the BBQ is always chicken.  A few wings to have alongside the epic burger.  For years I have made them with a chipotle-honey glaze, as I would have this time had I not entirely run out of chipotle paste (a very rare occurrence in our house).  A quick scout around on the internet produced a few different hot wing recipes, but none I liked as much as Serious Eats’s Sriracha wings.  Of course, you could just smear a load of Sriracha straight from the bottle on to the wings, but this recipe combines it with honey, lime and soy to create a more multi-dimensional sauce and tones down the levels of heat and garlic you usually get when you eat the sauce straight.

Sriracha wings

Sriracha wings

These wings are prepared in two stages:  firstly a dry marinade of salt and baking powder dehydrates the skin to make it crisp up more when cooked (since discovering this, I never make wings any other way), and then a coat of the Sriracha sauce just before putting on the grill.  This recipe has plenty of sauce for the amount of wings, so you can re-baste whilst the wings cook, building up levels of glaze for a stickier wing.

Sriracha Wings
Adapted from a recipe by Serious Eats

12 chicken wings, jointed and tips removed
1 tbsp baking powder
1 tbsp sea salt

For the sauce
55g butter
125ml Sriracha
2 tbsp honey
1½ tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp finely chopped coriander
1½ tbsp lime juice
1 tbsp rice vinegar

Arrange the chicken wings in a large bowl, skin side up.  Mix together the baking powder and sea salt and sprinkle over the wings.  Refrigerate, uncovered, for 4-8 hours.

To make the sauce, melt the butter in a small saucepan and allow to cool slightly.  Whisk in the remaining ingredients.

When you are ready to cook, brush a liberal amount of the sauce over the chicken wings, turning them over to coat the underside too.  Cook them on a barbecue until the skins are crisp and the meat cooked through, adding more of the sauce as you go.  Transfer to a plate and serve.


Pitt Cue Co, Soho

Pulled pork, pickles, bone marrow mashed potato and house bread

Pulled pork, pickles, bone marrow mashed potato and house bread

Without trying to solicit any sympathy for my current situation, I’m finding it very difficult to get back into the swing of things following my recent trip to San Sebastian.  Despite returning home two days ago, I seem to be unable to shake off that holiday laziness; the kind that is in no rush to get up in the morning and gives you decisions no more complicated than what to eat for dinner.  A distinct lack of pintxos bars and ice-cold txakoli in the Fitzrovia/Marylebone area has sent me on an internet-searching quest of where to buy Basque wines in the UK instead of getting on to more pressing matters like unpacking my suitcase and updating my blog.

On my last day in the office before going on annual leave, I met Claire for lunch.  I have a terrible, and much-documented, track record of trying and failing to get a lunchtime table at Pitt Cue Co., so was pleased when I turned up early one Thursday lunchtime to find that I was first in the queue.  Pitt Cue Co. is notorious for its queues and long waiting times – partly because the food is excellent, its reputation first built upon a successful food truck based on the South Bank (among other places) and partly because their dining room has a mere 30 covers, mainly in tables of two.

Having strategically skipped breakfast and ordering a Soho Sour whilst waiting for Claire, I was ready for as much BBQ as I could eat.  The cocktail was a tastebud-stinging blend of bourbon, amaretto and lemon juice with ice and a fresh cherry.  Perhaps not the best option for lunchtime, but good to waken up the senses after a morning of terrible office coffee. 

Green chilli slaw, pulled pork bun

Green chilli slaw, pulled pork bun

The focus at Pitt Cue Co., understandably, is on the meat.  On arrival, the waiter and I gave each other a little smirk when one diner asked if there were vegetarian options.  The meat is served, largely, in two ways:  in a meal or in a bun, both with a side dish.  The former has the meat placed on one of their trademark vintage white tin bowls with the side dish and a few pickles, the latter serves the meat in a shiny brioche bun.  Claire and I both opted for the pulled pork, mine in a meal, hers in a bun.  Pulled pork is one of those food trends of the past few years that seems to have sprung up on menus all over town, although few manage to do it well.  I am lucky enough to live with a man who takes his pulled pork-making very seriously (although it is perhaps a little spicy for my taste – he is the Chilli Fiend after all).  Far from the dried out offerings of many a BBQ restaurant across the city, it is clear that the pulled pork at Pitt Cue Co has been seasoned and slow cooked with a great deal of care – it is moist, flavoursome, well-spiced and has that soft, almost gelatinous quantity that allows you to devour a great deal without even noticing.

Of the sides, the green chilli slaw was tasty enough, but the name led me to expect a lot more heat than was actually delivered.  The star of the show, however, the ultimate dish of the day was the bone marrow mashed potato.  I had heard from many others just how good this mashed potato was, but had never tried it for myself.  A swirl of perfectly smooth and buttery mashed potato arrives in a small tin dish with topped with a ladle of incredibly rich bone marrow gravy and a slab of garlic butter.  Not one for somebody who is watching their weight, but for the rest of us, sheer heaven.  It’s like the mash and gravy you wish came with every meal.  Be prepared to share though, as your dining companion will not be able to resist dipping their bread in, not matter how much you try to edge the dish to your side of the table.

My only real complaint with Pitt Cue is that a lunch of this size will generally render you immobile for the rest of the afternoon.  You will also smell like a BBQ as no amount of washing your hands will really get rid of that smoky meat smell.  Best to save it for a day when you can head home for an old movie and a snooze on the couch.

Apologies for the poor quality of the photos – it is dark in there!

Pitt Cue Co., 1 Newburgh Street, London W1F 7RB

Pitt Cue Co on Urbanspoon

Brioche Burger Buns

Home-Made Burger

When burgers hit the big time in London a few years ago, it became clear very quickly that the only bread for burger buns was brioche.  The restaurants all caught on very quickly and brioche was snuggling burgers all over town, but the shops and bakeries were a little slower off the mark.  As the humble burger graduated from late night shame-food to gourmet menu centrepiece, what inevitably followed was a tidal wave of home cooks seeking to create their own at home. Suddenly we were stocking up on mince, bacon, American cheese and gherkins and scouring food blogs for tips on creating the perfect burger.  As summer came around and friends with gardens fired up their barbecues, we had the perfect opportunity for showcasing our concoctions.  There was only one problem: the bread.

When it comes to stocking up for a BBQ, bread is often an afterthought. The meat, obviously, is of paramount importance, the booze also, but the bread is usually chucked in the trolley at the last minute and barely given any attention at all.  Consequently, the bread table at a BBQ would often consist of those dry, anaemic looking multi-pack supermarket baps or finger rolls.  The kind that disintegrate the minute you get any kind of moisture or sauce near them.  The kind that stick to the roof of your mouth.  The kind that have no flavour whatsoever.  When we upped our game with our homemade burgers, this no longer became an option, the bread had to live up to the other components.  The problem was, hardly anywhere sold ready-made brioche buns.  Early in the summer, we used to get ours from Kindred Bakery in Herne Hill.  After the burst water main put them out of action, we found a stall in Brockley Market that sells them, but both are fairly pricey.  In recent months, the supermarkets have woken up to this trend and  you can now buy brioche buns in Marks & Spencer and Tesco, although both look a bit shiny and processed.  It seems that you definitely get what you pay for.

The other option, of course, is baking your own.  Brioche is a bit of a faff but need not be too laborious.  You will need about 12 hours or so to complete the whole process, but the active time you spend is barely more than you would spend ordering and collecting the buns from a local bakery.  My buns are based on a savoury brioche recipe by Paul Hollywood.  I was lucky enough to take part in Paul’s Bread series and got to taste a savoury brioche couronne he made. It was filled with mozzarella, basil and parma ham and was one of the most delicious things I have ever eaten.  The bread dough is enriched with milk, eggs and butter and proved in the fridge overnight.  Once firm enough to work with, the dough is then shaped into balls and baked.  The end result is a light, malleable bun that holds together well.  You could add sugar if you prefer your brioche a little sweeter.  The recipe below makes about eight buns.

Brioche Burger Buns

Brioche Burger Buns

Brioche Burger Buns

  • 500g strong white bread flour
  • 10g salt
  • 10g instant yeast
  • 170ml warm full-fat milk
  • 4 eggs
  • 250g unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 egg, beaten, for glazing
  • 1 tbsp sesame seeds

Put the flour, salt, yeast, milk and eggs into the bowl of a free-standing mixer and, using the paddle attachment, mix until the dough becomes smooth and shiny.  Continue to mix for another five minutes, adding the butter a teaspoon at a time until all of the butter incorporated into the dough.  It is important to add the butter gradually.

Tip the dough into an oiled plastic container with a lid.  The volume of the container should be a minimum of one litre so the dough has room to expand.  Leave to prove in the fridge overnight.

Line two baking sheets with greaseproof paper.  Remove the dough from the fridge and divide into eight equal portions.  To make the bun shape, flatten out the dough into a disc and bring the edges into the centre and pinch together.  Turn upside down and place on the baking tray.  Place four buns on each tray, ensuring that there is enough space between them to allow them to expand.  Cover the rays with clingfilm or a clean plastic bag and leave to rise in a warm place for 1-2 hours or until doubled in size.

Preheat the oven to 190ºc / 375ºf / gas 5.  Brush the buns with a little beaten egg and sprinkle with the sesame seeds.  Bake in the oven for 20 minutes until risen and golden.  If you tap the bottom of the buns, they should sound hollow.  Leave to cool on a rack.