Building a tandoor oven

I do love Indian food, and in particular tandoori chicken, I set to work building a tandoor oven from terracotta flowerpots to cook it at home.

Tandoori chicken is essentially “chicken cooked in a tandoor oven”. A tandoor oven is (usually) a clay built, cylindrical oven, fired with charcoal, and these are used extensively throughout India and Pakistan Punjab region for cooking all sorts of breads and meats. They can reach extremely high temperatures – resulting in superbly tender food.

My plan was to use a large outer pot, with 2 inner pots on top of each other to create what is effectively a chimney above the hot coals. I bought several suitable pots and an angle grinder.

On with the build pics…

1-inner-pot-holes

First I drilled holes in the bottom of the inner pot, for airflow

2-angle-grinder-pot-bottom

I chopped the top off what becomes the upper pot with an angle grinder

3-pot-bottom-hole

Chopped the inside out of another pot’s base to use as a riser

4-main-pot-feet

These anti-frost feet are useful for raising the large outer pot up for increased airflow

5-main-pot-mounted

I bought this large terracotta pot for £25

6-inner-potstand-detail

Here’s the inner riser in the main pot

7-place-inner-pot-in-outer

And the one I drilled all the holes in goes on top of that. The coals will sit in here.

8-place-top-pot-on-inner

Coming together now. The upper pot is rested on top – it overlaps the lower pot, for added stability.

9-backfill-with-vermiculite

I used vermiculite from a horticultural supplier as insulation to fill the outer void.

10-pop-lid-on

Here it is, complete with the lid on, and Howard for scale.

11-finished-side-profile

Side view

12-fire-it-up

Put some lumpwood charcoal in and set light to it.

13-lit-topview

After about 45 minutes it looked ready to cook with

14-temperature-test

Yes I would say that’s hot enough!

15-livin-the-dream

I bought some proper tandoor skewers to cook the chicken with. They’re great as it’s so hot. I also made some naan bread and slapped those on the side, as is traditional. I was grinning like a cheshire cat at this stage!

This crack appeared during the first use, and was much wider before it cooled.

The only issue – this crack appeared during the first use, and was much wider before it cooled. Bit of a shame cosmetically but it seems fine. I’ve used it since without issue.

Overall this has been a great success and I urge you to build your own tandoor. It’s really not difficult or expensive to do – it cost me roughly £70 in materials, plus the skewers, which is a lot cheaper than the commercially available models which run into hundreds. If you build one, buy a cheap kettle BBQ cover to go over the top to keep the rain out, and to stop the wind blowing all your vermiculite away.

I have to say that homemade tandoori chicken is superb, and the naan breads too, all crispy and bubbling, but I do need more “bread slapping” practice to get them to stick without burning my hand!

 

 

Sopressata

Sopressata sliced

Sopressata is an Italian salume which is pressed whilst fermenting which gives it a square shape (hence the name – pressare is “to press” in Italian) Recipe adapted from Salume book.

I used these ingredients

  • 1700g pork shoulder
  • 400g pork backfat
  • 37.2g sea salt
  • 6g cure #2
  • 65g skimmed milk powder
  • 29g dextrose
  • 3g white pepper
  • 5g minced garlic
  • 3g hot pepper flakes
  • 60 ml white wine
  • T-SPX starter culture
  • distilled / spring water
  • Ox runners (about 6ft)

 

Soak the ox runners in some luke warm water for a couple of hours, change the water every so often, then rinse them thoroughly through with more cold water.

Open a beer.

Put all the blades for the mincer into the freezer, along with the meat. Wait until the meat was partially frozen then grind it through the coarse plate on the mincer.

I was going to cut all the fat by hand, but I chopped it coarsely then ran it through the mincer too. I think chopping by hand would have been better.

Mix everything apart from the starter culture thoroughly together, and put it all back into the fridge.

Prepare the starter culture. I boiled about a cup full of spring water then let it cool and mixed the T-SPX into it, then set it aside to wake up while I drank another beer.

Mix the T-SPX solution into the sausage mix and then stuff the mixture into the casings.

Sopressata stuffed into beef runners

Stuffed into beef runners

It now needs pressing. I got 2 baking trays and some cling film, and weighed them down with books.

pressing sopressata

pressing sopressata

I left these on top of the fridge to ferment for 48 hours. I wrapped it all up in a plastic bag to maintain humidity. The temperature was a solid 21-22C throughout, and using the graphs in “the art of making fermented sausages”, I estimated that this would be enough.

After pressing

After pressing

What I hadn’t accounted for was my shoddy tie job splitting at the ends of the sausages, that’s why one of these is in mesh as I had to retie it. Oh well. I weighed and labelled them and then inoculated the outside with some mould I had harvested from my finocchiona, then hung them up in the chamber at 75% RH and 12C.

Hanging in the chamber

Hanging in the chamber

Every week or so I took them out and recorded the weight loss on the label, then re-hung them.

weighing session

weighing session – some decent mould coming on

They lost weight pretty quickly. After just over a month they’re at 40% weight loss, and smelling great. I couldn’t wait any longer

Sopressata sliced

Sopressata sliced

Sopressata sliced overhead

Sopressata sliced overhead

Sopressata sliced closeup

Sopressata sliced closeup

Overall I’m really pleased with these, especially having thrown my first attempt away The pics above are at 40% weight loss. I think they’ll be even better at 50% as they’re a little soft, so I’ll let some go to that and report back. Flavour-wise, they’re super twangy from the t-spx, with good fat definition (although I’ll try some where I’ve cut the fat manually to compare). I don’t get much pepper coming through so I’ll increase it a bit next time, and maybe (just maybe) drop the fat percentage a little.

Finocchiona

Finocchiona sliced

An Italian pork and fennel salame from the Tuscan region. According to legend, it was invented when a thief stole a salami and hid it in a fennel field. When he returned to retrieve his sausagey swag, he found that the fennel had flavoured it beautifully. Probably not true, but a nice story nonetheless. Anyway, onto the sausages.

Ingredients

  • 1000g trimmed pork shoulder
  • 400g cubed back fat
  • 35g salt (2.5%)
  • 4.3g Cure #2 (0.3%)
  • 3.75g BP (0.26)%
  • 6.25g dextrose (0.44)%
  • 7.5g fennel seeds (0.53)%
  • 2.5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 6g T-SPX starter culture in 12ml distilled water
  • 75ml Chianti
  • Beef runners (about 3ft in length or so)

 

Method

Put the beef runners into a bowl of water to soak. Change the water every so often. It needs a minimum of a couple of hours.

Trim and cube the shoulder meat into roughly 1″ chunks, then stick it in the freezer to partially freeze along with the back fat.

Put the mincer blades and some bowls in the freezer to chill too.

Mix the starter culture (T-SPX in my case) with the lukewarm distilled water and set aside to get going.

Open another beer and relax for a while.

Once the meat’s partially frozen, grind the shoulder meat through the coarse blade into a cold mixing bowl, then add the ground (or diced) fat to it.

Add the rest of the ingredients (including the T-SPX mixture), then mix everything all together thoroughly. I used my hands because I don’t have a paddle mixer. Just make sure everything stays nice and cold. Once mixed put it back in the fridge while you sort out the stuffer.

Rinse the beef runners thoroughly through, inside and out. Don’t drop them down the plughole.

Stuff the meat mixture into the runners, tie the sausages off when they’re about 12-18″ long, I made 3

stuffed

Freshly stuffed

Prick them thoroughly all over with a sterilised pin or sausage pricker, especially anywhere you see air bubbles.

Label the sausages with the exact weight of each one, then transfer them to somewhere warm and humid to incubate for 36 hours. You want about 80% relative humidity and about 75 degrees F temperature for fermentation. This gives the starter culture a chance to get well established. I put my sausages into a small wine fridge which was switched off.

Once that’s done, transfer them to your drying chamber, which meticulously maintains 12-15C and 75% Relative humidity. Or thereabouts. They’re ready when they’ve lost about 30-35% in weight. If you’re like me, you’ll look in on them daily to see how they are, and weigh them a couple of times per week.

I also inoculated these with some mould I harvested from a French (olive and tomato) salami my mum had brought back from France.

To harvest the mould, I cut an inch square piece of the skin off, placed it into a bowl of luke warm, previously boiled distilled water, added a little sugar, and left it out on the kitchen worktop overnight, covered. I then put this solution into a spray bottle, and sprayed the sausages with it. After a week I was excited to see some mould growing:

mould starting

Mould starting to show

mould starting 2

another exciting mould shot

hanging out

After a few weeks it has covered everything 🙂

I pulled them out of the chamber at 35% weight loss, which took almost exactly a month, they felt right and smelled fabulously cheesy

Finocchiona mould

Look at that sexy mould

Finocchiona slicing

Very pleased with the way these turned out

Finocchiona sliced

Keeping everything near freezing helped to reduce fat smearing

Finocchiona sliced

Finocchiona sliced

Finocchiona sliced

Finocchiona sliced

Overall I’m very pleased with these as they look the part and more importantly, they’re delicious. They have a little sour twang, with a hint of cheesy-ness, and when you crunch a fennel seed it’s perfect. Next time I think I might drop the fat percentage a touch, and increase the fennel a little. Otherwise they’re just what I was after. 10/10 will make again.

 

 

Sopressata fail

I’ve tossed out my first batch of sopressata. (sad face)

There were several contributing factors which lead to the uncertainty, and eventual binning.

  1. I used an out of date packet of culture – 6 months out of date, but stored unopened in the freezer. I used pretty much all of it to compensate. I’m fairly sure this wasn’t the cause but it added another element of doubt.
  2. I didn’t have the means to accurately test the PH drop of the meat after fermentation (I’ve since bought a PH testing pen)
  3. They grew some pretty funky looking mould where the links were close together at the top. (see pics)

 

So there you go. I could have wiped the mould down with a vinegar solution and they may well have been fine. They did smell great, with a nice sour twang.

I’ve got all the stuff to make another batch, so I’ll get cracking again.

As they were on their own in the chamber, I left them in there for about another week or so after I decided they were no good, so the mould got a lot worse as you can see in the pics:

Mouldy Sopressata

Mouldy Sopressata

 

Mouldy sopressata cross section

Mouldy sopressata cross section

Pancetta arrotolata

Pancetta arrotolata

Pancetta is Italian cured and dried pork belly. Pancetta arrotolata is exactly the same, except it’s rolled and tied up before hanging to dry. If it hasn’t been rolled it’s called pancetta “tesa” (flat).

To make it, buy a good quality piece of pork belly, with the skin on. Trim any uneven, flappy bits off, and square the edges so that it cures more evenly.

Weigh the meat and calculate the cure ingredients (as % of total weight of pork belly, that way you can’t overcure it)

  • 2.75% sea salt (or kosher salt)
  • 0.25% Cure #2
  • 1.75% Demerara sugar
  • 1.8% Black pepper
  • 0.5% Juniper berries
  • 0.5% dried chilli
  • 0.25% bay leaf
  • 0.25% garlic powder
  • 0.25% thyme

 

Grind up all the cure ingredients in a pestle and mortar or a herb grinder (I use a coffee grinder) then rub it really well into the meat, all over. For some reason I find this part quite therapeutic. Bonus points if there’s a nipple or two on the pork 🙂

Anyway, put the meat and any remaining cure into a ziplock bag, or vacuum seal it and put it in the fridge to cure, turning it over every few days and giving it a rub. It should take about 2 weeks and will feel firmer once done. If in doubt, leave it a few more days, as we’re using the equilibrium (% cure by weight of meat) curing method, so it can’t overcure and end up really salty.

Once it’s fully cured, take it out of the bag, then rinse all the cure from the meat and dry it with kitchen paper or a (completely clean!) tea towel. Discard the liquid and the bag.

Fresh out of the cure

Fresh out of the cure, waiting to be rinsed

Ready to be rinsed

Ready to be rinsed

Cured pancetta skin side up

Cured, rinsed and dried – skin side up

Cured, rinsed and dried - skin side down

Cured, rinsed and dried – skin side down

You can now hang it in the shape it is (flat / tesa), or roll and tie it. If you’re rolling it, cover the entire meat side completely with freshly ground black pepper. I found this instructional video very useful.

Coating the meat side with loads of black pepper

Coating the meat side with loads of black pepper

Pancetta tied and ready to hang

Pancetta tied and ready to hang

Note down the exact weight on a label and attach to the string, then hang in your drying chamber. If you don’t have one, anywhere which maintains about 50-75% relative humidity and a coolish temperature (10-18C) will do. Could be an understairs cupboard, or a garage, outhouse, whatever. If the humidity’s not high enough, you can make a makeshift drying chamber by making a salt/water slurry in a bowl and place it underneath where it’s hanging. That’s what I did with my first bresaola, it worked out ok.

It may get a little mould on it when drying, especially if there are other meaty things hanging in the same space. Generally, White and powdery = good, but anything black, or green, or hairy is a no-no. You can see some mould on mine in this photo.

Pancetta and bresaola hanging

Pancetta and bresaola hanging

 

If it gets some of the “bad mould” and you catch it in time, just take it out and wipe the mouldy bits with vinegar, or a 50-50 water-vinegar solution.

Weigh it occasionally, it’s ready when it’s lost about 25-30%. I cut mine straight through the middle

Pancetta arrotolata

Pancetta arrotolata

You can slice it wafer thinly and eat it raw at this stage, all porky, herby and lovely. You can also cube it up and fry it, put it into casseroles, pasta etc, as you see fit. Whichever way, it’s delicious. I’ve portioned mine up vacuum sealed it, and it’s in the freezer.

Portioned up ready to seal and freeze

Portioned up ready to seal and freeze

 

Arduino curing chamber controller progress

Starting the mains wiring

We got some good work done on the Arduino curing chamber controller last night.

Initially we had built it with 4 individual relays, but had accidentally snapped a leg off one of them, rendering it useless, so we replaced the individual relays with a great new board. It has 4x240V relays built onto the board itself, check it out:

New relay board is a thing of great beauty

New relay board is a thing of great beauty

You can see that it has LEDs on to indicate which of the 4 relays are active, but we wanted it to control the front panel LEDs instead, so we de-soldered them from the board, soldered some new pins onto it, and then wired them up:

Wiring the LEDs on the front panel up to the relay board

Wiring the LEDs on the front panel up to the relay board

Working out the layout in the case, the relay board mounted on risers

Working out the layout in the case, the relay board is mounted on risers which you can just see. It’s not been fixed down in this picture

Starting the mains wiring

Starting the mains wiring. It’s so much neater in the case now we don’t have all the individual relays wired up.

Here it is all wired up to the mains, and running a test program which cycles through all the relays in turn – I’m pretty damn excited now!

The remaining tasklist is as follows:

  1. Fix the front panel and the lid on the enclosure (the lid is already laser cut)
  2. Write the software (!)
  3. Make some epic cured meats
  4. Profit?

 

I’m planning on running this in tandem with my other curing chamber controller, at least initially, just to see how it behaves, and to fine tune the software before using it in anger.

I’d also like to eventually add data logging for temperature and humidity, so that I can graph it via something like plot.ly and this arduino library, but that can come at a later date.

 

Saucisson sec

Saussicon sec after hanging

Saussicon sec is a traditional dried French sausage, heavy on garlic and black pepper. 

  • 1Kg diced pork shoulder
  • 125g diced pork fat
  • 10g fresh garlic
  • 3g cure #2 (pink salt #2, instacure #2, the one with nitrate and nitrite in)
  • 8g sugar (I think I used demerara, but whatever you have)
  • 20g Sea salt
  • 5g black pepper
  • Natural casings

Soak the casings in tepid water for an hour or so, then rinse them out thoroughly with the tap, trying not to lose it all down the plughole.

Grind the pork shoulder and the fat separately, then mix with everything else so that it’s well combined. Keep everything as cold as possible. Partially freeze the meat and fat if you like, to avoid the fat smearing when grinding.

Stuff it into your pre-soaked casings

Saucisson sec coil

Saucisson sec coil

Saucisson sec closeup

Coily close up

Once you’ve got a nice long sausage coil, twist it up into whatever length links you want, then sterilise a needle and give them a prick here and there all over to help them dry evenly.

Record the weights of the individual sausages, label them and hang them up in your super-duper dry curing chamber until they’ve lost about 30% weight.

No super-duper dry-curing chamber? No problem, just hang them somewhere about 12-15C, and dark with about 60% Relative humidity. I hung these in an understairs cupboard, on skewers above a bucket of salted water. Just check them once a day. I found that my min / max recording temperature / humidity meter was very useful here.

Saussicon sec after hanging

Saussicon sec after hanging

They’re really tasty, but next time I’ll stuff them into hog casings and hang them in my converted fridge, regulated by the fridge controller. I had to slice these super thinly to get them at their best, so I think a larger diameter would help. Also I’ll pack them a bit tighter if I can, there were a few small air gaps in the middle.

Overall – I like them and I’ll make more, but I’ll put a bit more black pepper in next time. I’ll make another post when I make some more, to compare to these.

 

 

A box of Southdown sheep

Southdown sheep

A friend of mine is a hobby farmer, he raises rare breed cows and sheep, which he lends out for “conservation grazing” on various bits of land around the local area – Stately homes and such. Some of the new commercial breeds won’t eat the local flora, but the heritage breeds are happy to – they’ve been doing it for hundreds of years – so this makes them valuable to land owners because they help to manage the land. Whenever he sends a cow or sheep to slaughter he’ll give me a call. He doesn’t have any pigs, unfortunately, but I’m working on that 🙂

Here’s what I got in my lamb box for £50 last time around

Southdown sheep jigsaw

Southdown sheep jigsaw

Not bad, eh?

It’s much cheaper (and tastier) than the meat from the supermarket, and they were raised, slaughtered and butchered within a few miles from my home.

This is Southdown sheep meat from a hogget (slightly older than a lamb, but not quite mutton yet). He also raises Dexter cattle and English Longhorn cattle. The Dexters were super tasty. Looking forward to some of the Longhorns sometime soon hopefully…

Bresaola dried in beef casing

Sliced bresaola

The first bresaola I made (which I dried in a cupboard above a bowl of salt mush) was tasty, but had fairly serious case hardening. Since then I’ve built a curing chamber controller to convert an old fridge for hanging meat, and so I cured and dried another one, for science!

To make it, I used a piece of salmon cut beef from Johnny at JT Beedham‘s butcher, and I used exactly the same cure ratio and curing process as the previous bresaola, only this time I cased it in a beef bung cap, or appendix. More about these here.

So here it is after curing. Curing ingredients / method are listed here for reference.

Dried off after curing

Dried off after curing – smells divine

The beef bungs are stored in salt, so you need to let them soak for a few hours in water, and rinse them thoroughly before using them.

Beef bung as it arrived

Beef bung as it arrived

 

Soaking the beef bung casing

Soaking the beef bung casing

It took me about half an hour to gradually get this beef into the casing. Quite satisfying once complete, they seem pretty resilient.

Finally got it into the casing

Done. Check out the feathery markings

Stuffed and tied with a bubble knot

Stuffed and tied with a bubble knot

Stuffed, weighed and ready to hang

Weighed and ready to hang

Once that was done, into the chamber. Here it is after a few weeks

Pancetta and bresaola hanging

Pancetta and bresaola hanging out

I didn’t use any starter cultures to inoculate the casing, but it developed a nice coating of white mould. I regularly took it out to inspect for “bad” mould (blue, green fuzzy, hairy or black) and weighed it to check on its drying progress. Once it had lost 37% weight, I pulled it out.

Some good looking mould on the beef bung casing

Some good looking mould on the beef bung casing

Some good looking mould on the beef bung casing

View from the back

When I squeezed it it felt “right”, i.e. not squishy, but softish with a little give and spring.

I decided to cut it straight through:

Cutting the bresaola

Behold! No case hardening!

I took a few wafer thin slices off to taste

Sliced bresaola

Sliced bresaola

 

It’s much more like what I’ve been aiming for. It’s beefy with a complex cheesy-funk taste – like you get with shop bought salami. The texture’s smooth and the drying is even, with no case hardening (\o/) If you pull at both ends of a slice it comes apart like brisket does, into strings, along the grain. The herbs are a little muted so I’ll up the quantities next time – maybe the casing funk has overtaken it taste-wise.

It took 7 weeks to drop 37% weight in the chamber, and I think it’s all the better for the longer, slower drying. The casing and controlled drying environment have definitely helped to even it all out.

I’ve now got it vacuum packed in the fridge, where it should keep almost indefinitely, but it’s not likely to last too long around here 🙂

 

 

Kielbasa Krakowska

Kielbasa Krakowska

A hot smoked kielbasa krakowska. Traditionally cold smoked, this is a lot quicker, and it’s bloody delicious. This recipe’s from the Marianski brothers’ book, “Home production of quality meats and sausages”

So for 1Kg pork shoulder I used:

  • 18g salt (sea salt, not table salt!)
  • 2.5g Cure #1 (pink salt)
  • 2g black pepper
  • 2.5g sugar
  • 3.5g crushed garlic
  • 1g freshly picked and chopped marjoram (if using dried, use less, about half)
  • 100ml iced water
  • ~6ft natural hog casings

 

Put your coarse mincer/grinder blades (10mm or 3/8″) into the freezer, and a bowl big enough to grind the meat into, if you have room.

Soak the casings in luke warm water for a couple of hours. Change the water periodically during this time, and then rinse the casings thoroughly under the tap, inside and out. Don’t let go of them when rinsing, they’ll slip down the plughole and disappear. You don’t want that.

Soaking the casings

Soaking the casings

When everything’s really cold, grind the meat and then mix everything together really well, it should go a bit sticky.

Grind the meat

Grind the meat

Stuff into your casings and make links whatever size you like. About 12″ is traditional.

Divided into links

Stuffed and divided into links

As you’re going to smoke these, you need a surface for the smoke to adhere to (a pellicle), so they need to hang for a while. Either hang them on smoke sticks, coat-hangers or a clothes drier at room temperature for about 2 hours, or put them in the smoker on really low heat with all the dampers wide open until they’re dry to the touch.

Then you can start to apply smoke. I used apple wood chips. Apply heavy smoke for 1 – 1.5 hours, gradually increasing the temperature of the smoker until it gets to about 170F. The sausages are done when they get to 155F in the middle (I stick my remote temperature probe into one of the sausages, set the temperature alarm and sit back with a beer)

Once cooked it’s traditional to plunge them into an ice bath or shower them with cold water to stop them cooking. I didn’t bother with this step.

Kielbasa Krakowska

Kielbasa Krakowska

That’s it. Wait until they’re cool enough to eat and get stuck in. Store any you don’t eat straight away in the fridge or freezer (vacuum sealed is best) – they’ll be good for a week(ish), but more than likely won’t last long enough to spoil.

These have a good “snap” when you bite into them, the marjoram and garlic come through nicely, and then you’re left with a heavy smokey aftertaste. Definitely will be making these regularly. Slice em up and put em on a sandwich with sauerkraut and gherkins. Mmmm.

 

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