[New openings] SmokeWorks, Free School Lane

SmokeWorks is a new venture by Cambscuisine (who run the two Chop Houses in Cambridge, among others). This new restaurant took over the premises occupied by Eraina in Free School Lane, on the corner with Bene’t Street and will open on Tuesday evening this week (the counter on the website is off). The menu will mainly consist of US style BBQ items (chicken, ribs of various flavours, pulled meat buns etc.). Heading up the kitchen is Vladimir Hromek who was previously head chef at the University Centre brasserie.
Modelled on similar trendy joints, there will be a no booking policy and the kitchen will be open all day from 11:30 to 22:30 (23:00 at weekends) with takeaway available. Drinks come in the shape of bottled beers, wine, (hard) milk shakes, bourbons and ryes as well as soft drinks. The decor is equally on trend with exposed brick, tables and benches with supports made from steel piping, filament bulbs and so forth. You call service by using a emergency off switch next to your table. This box also holds cutlery and the sauces which are made to Chef Vladimir’s recipes.
I was commissioned to take photos during a trial run on Friday evening and here are some of the results:

I had the opportunity to taste the chicken pieces, pork scrumpets, lamb ribs and pulled pork and it was all very good, the meat moist and with good flavour. The beef dripping mash was amazing.
One thing you’ll be hard pressed to find is a healthy or vegetarian option, it’s all rather rich. There are no salads or green vegetables as sides but the red coleslaw was fresh and crunchy.

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Making bacon

I’ve always been fascinated by the subject and read in various places that it was actually really easy to do at home. Reading Tim Hayward’s book Food DIY was the last kick up the backside I needed to try it myself.
Remember the crackling I made from pork belly skin last week? Part of the belly meat I cooked on the day and the other half I turned into bacon using the “easy dry cure” from the book which involves packing the meat in three parts sugar and five parts salt (plus any extra flavouring, I used smoked paprika and thyme), tightly sealed in two freezer bags and left in the fridge for a week, flipping it over once a day.
Today it was time to see if it had worked. I opened the bag and it smelled good so hadn’t gone off. That was the first hurdle taken. After rinsing off all the cure and padding it dry, it looked like this.

Home cured streaky bacon

It had lost about a third of its volume and was nice and firm. It smelled really good, too. As a test, I took off two slices, chopped them into lardons and fried them in a dry pan over medium heat. They turned really crispy and the fat had rendered beautifully in which I fried an egg. Look at those crispy little bits!

Fried lardons of the home cured bacon

This experiment gave me confidence to try some more home curing. I think I’m going to try some gravadlax and duck ham next.