Thursday, 21 February 2013

Sticky Ribs in Under an Hour

Takes: 40 minutes
Feeds: 4
Skill level: Extra Low

The price of beef has sky-rocketed in the UK since we're no longer able to pad it out with delicious horse, so here's a great way to use a cheap-as-chips cut of pork.

  • Pack of pork ribs (this one cost me £3 on a 2-for-£6 deal and were at least 2 days out of date when I cooked them)
  • 100g hosin sauce (get it in a massive squeezy bottle from the chinese supermarket)
  • 1 tbsp any kind of vinegar
  • 1tbsp honey
  • 2tbsp soy sauce
  • 1/2 tbsp mixed spice (if you're American, pumpkin pie spice. If you can get to the chinese supermarket, five spice.)
  • Salad or something to make the meal at least look civilised on a plate
"Streak-free summer glow"
Awwwww yeahhhh

  1. Boil the ribs for 15 minutes
    Don't bother putting the kettle on, just shove them in a pan with some water and get it hot. Turn it right down once it starts to boil, and keep it on there for 15 minutes. It will smell dreadful and delicious skuzz will float on top. HAVE FAITH.
  2. Prepare the glaze
    Shove all the ingredients that aren't pork or salad in a jug and stir them. Proper rocket science, this. Also, turn the grill on the highest setting now
  3. Drain the pork
    Look at that grey, sad pork and remind yourself why boiled pork is never the final stage. Put the ribs on a grill tray
  4. Brush the glaze over the porkMakeover time. Make that meat look like an Essex lass in Magaluf.
    PS Americans- substitute this for a bad New Jersey joke or something
  5. Grill for 20 minutes
    Ribs have an a-side and a b-side. Make sure that fleshy side is up first, and gets nice and charred in places

    Yeah, it's really that simple. Go on, do them tomorrow night. If you're having a night in with friends, this will make you godly. Just remember to provide ample napkins if it's for Halo night. That doesn't bear thinking about.
Not drooling at this image is one of the first indications of vegetarianism.

Monday, 11 February 2013

The Karczma, Birmingham

The place that makes you wish you had a Polish grandmother and hadn't worn a belt.

On a surprisingly snowy February day in Birmingham, I decided to try one of the best-reviewed restaurants about- The Karczma.

The first thing one notices about the Karczma is the homely-yet-touristy decor. An abundance of ikea sheepskins drape over plastic-shaped-like-wood benches (which are fixed to the ground too far from the tables, annoyingly), the ceiling is lined with hay and the walls are painted with twee murals of traditional Polish farm labour. While initially impressive, the juxtaposition of the rustic shutters with the widescreen television silently playing Sky Sports inside it does rather give the impression of a mud hut with mod cons. However, you didn't come here to get gooey over adorable crochet tablecloths, you came here to eat hearty Polish food.
Do try to look past this
vomit-inducing mural

Once you've ordered, you're told to help yourself to the little table by the bar, which has huge loaves of bread, a pot of pickled gherkins and (most pleasingly), a vat of seasoned pork fat. This really separates the men from the boys- spread that stuff on like peanut butter, it's delicious, and a taster of things to come. If your date shies to this then she might as well go home right now.

I'll just mention now that the wine selection at the Karczma is unsurprisingly poor, since their wide array of flavoured vodkas is the main attraction. Of course, this only clicked into place in the first sip of my warm California Bay Chardonnay from a single-portion bottle: unbeknownst to me, the only wine available by the glass. Just bear that one in mind. Go for beer or vodka.

We ordered marinated herring, goulash soup, a mixed platter of dumplings and roast pork with a wild mushroom sauce, all to arrive at once. The marinated herring, famed to me by the Golol Bordello 
song, was cracking. It's marinated in oil and onion, and served on yet more raw onion (with a little lemon juice to take away most of the bite), and it's the perfect thing to cut through the starchiness of the
rest of the meal.
Adorable soup caddy

The dumplings were as heavy and delicious as expected- three beautifully steamed packages that could easily be a small meal each. The goulash soup wasn't too salty, my usual complaint, and was presented in a small hanging cauldron with a tiny wooden ladle. The beef itself was falling apart on my spoon, and had a beautiful sheen from yet more animal fat. The roast pork was particularly good if a little dry in places, with a dark, rich, slightly nutty mushroom sauce and three salads to cut through the heaviness.

The atmosphere at The Karczma is incredibly relaxed. Fortunately,
they opted away from trying to play traditional Polish music, and instead the same three euro-pop tracks spin round. The bar is friendly and inviting, the benches, while uncomfortable, are big enough for at least ten people, but don't feel empty with just two.
Roast pork with wild mushroom sauce

Price-wise, you'd struggle to do better. Starters and small meals (like the dumplings) are around five pounds, which larger meals like the pork are around ten. Portion sizes are enormous, so it would be best suited to a group of friends who'd like to share everything, or just popping in for a small soup for an inexpensive, warming meal. The bill came to just over £30 for two, though there was enough food for at least three.

For a restaurant in an unusual location with such an unimpressive front, The Karczma is incredibly well-reviewed. Their Tripadvisor page has endless reviews from happy customers, mainly because they are reminded to on the back of the business card given with the bill, but also because The Karczma presents something of a local secret- homely, different, but budget-friendly enough to frequent.

The Karczma, Polish Millenium House, Bordesley Street, Birmingham, B5 5PH