The wine guy: fire in your belly

by Crumbs

12 July 2017

Andy Clarke visits The Cauldron, the first new restaurant kitchen in a century to use solid fuel only, and gets inspired...

Being a freelance TV type, I often skip (sometimes literally, depending on my mood) from place to place, working on various projects. And it was because of this that I made my first ever trip to The Cauldron in St Wherburghs. I was meeting two colleagues of mine who lived there to plan a food series I was to produce (it’s called James Martin s French Adventure , and just so happens to be airing at 3pm every weekday as of 30 January on ITV, in case you were wondering!). This was the perfect opportunity to visit somewhere I’d not been to before.

The Cauldron, which at the time had only recently opened, is a restaurant with an intriguing edge – it has the UK s first solid-fuelled kitchen in over 100 years, apparently. With no gas to cook with, charcoal and beech logs are used to heat cast iron cauldrons, a Victorian Swedish stove and a wood-fired oven.

The building used to be an internet café (and still has plenty of plug sockets for all those laptop-wielding freelancers and students – we don’t like to be too far away from a power source), but was lovingly refurbished by executive chef Henry Eldon, co-owner Lauren Nash, and head chef Lucia Gregusova. It s now a warm and welcoming muraled eatery with an exciting menu.

Ever since that first visit, I d been promising myself to get down there again for dinner, and recently made it back. If you’re there soon, I d urge you to try the tandoori broccoli, which is marinated in a homemade North Indian spice paste, then chargrilled and roasted to perfection, courtesy of the wood fire.

And if you want the perfect match to sip with it, you have to try a bottle of Bristol’s Pioneer Kombucha . A live, fermented sparkling drink made with green tea, orange pekoe and rooibos, it’s Europe’s first alcoholic Kombucha (but is relatively light at only 1.6% ABV). It tastes like a refreshing, lemony cider and is made in St Werburghs. (This is just one of the many things on The Cauldron s super-local, ethically focused menu that are made in the area.)

Another standout dish is the cherry-smoked ox cheek suet pudding (see recipe below), served with creamy mash. This meaty masterpiece has a warming, subtly smoky edge, and I want to recommend a couple of sips to go with it, should you cook the recipe at home.

In the spirit of buying local, I wandered up the hill to Grape & Grind for my wine, where Darren and the team have some real beauties on offer.

The Goose Shiraz is from the high-altitude vineyards of Upper-Langkloof in South Africa, where the cool breezes ensure the grapes keep their elegance. The aroma of this savoury wine reminds me of when steaks are on the griddle, and the instant tannic hit of tobacco-esque fruit when you sip it is great if you’re a gravy freak like me.

But going even better with this rich winter dish is Familia Pacheo Organic – a blend of Monastrell and Syrah from Jumilla in eastern Spain. Its creamy nose with underlying spice is a winner when you are plunging into the pudding; the rich, soft tannins coat your tongue and urge you to dive into the mash; and its plummy richness complements the gravy and smoked meat.

The Cauldron sums up the Bristol food scene’s quirkiness and innovation fantastically; in every corner of the city are totally individual eateries and watering holes with their own stories, top produce and individual style.

You can buy Bristol’s Pioneer Kombucha from £2.20 per bottle with next day delivery online, or check out the stockists on the website ;

Familia Pacheo Organic (£8.50) and The Goose Shiraz (£12.50) are available at Grape & Grind – mention
Crumbs and you’ll get a lush seven percent discount!

(serves 6)

3 large ox cheeks
2 carrots, chopped
2 large onions, chopped
4 celery sticks, chopped
4 garlic cloves, chopped
4 green cardamom pods
2 cinnamon sticks
3 sprigs of thyme, leaves picked
4 bay leaves
50ml brandy
330ml stout or porter
200ml full bodied red wine
500ml beef stock

For the pastry:
570g self-raising flour
250g beef suet
2 tsp baking powder
2 tbsp rosemary, finely chopped
50g butter, for greasing

– Trim the cheeks to remove any excess fat or gristle. (The fat can be rendered down to use for roasting veg in – we smoke ours, and fold it through mash to go with the pudding.)
– Set up your charcoal barbecue with a fire to one side. If you have a gas barbecue, turn the burner on one side to high and leave the other side off.
– Cut each cheek into 8-10 pieces and arrange on a wire barbecue rack, making sure not to crowd it. (You want the air to circulate around each piece.)
– Once the barbecue is hot on one side, put the meat on the opposite side of the grill. If using a charcoal grill, add 3 large chunks of cherry wood to the top of the coals, and if using gas, place a small foil tray of cherry chips over the gas burner that is on, and reduce the heat to low. Close the lid and any air vents or dampers to suffocate the fire. Leave to smoke for 15-25 minutes, with the temperature low (around 100C).
– Heat a thick-bottomed pan with vegetable oil. Once hot, add the ox cheek pieces and brown all over until crisp and gold, being careful not to burn the meat as it will become bitter. Remove from the pan and set aside.
– Reduce the heat and add all the vegetables, herbs and spices to the pan. Sauté, stirring continuously, until softened and caramelised. Season with salt and pepper (we use smoked salt and cracked green, pink and black pepper).
– Increase the heat and add the meat back in with the sautéed vegetables, and pour in the brandy, porter, wine and stock.
– Cover the pan with a lid and continue to simmer until the cheek meat is tender. For us, working over fire, this takes about 2 hours.
– After this time, check the meat to ensure the cheeks are tender, but not falling apart, then set aside.
– Mix all the pastry ingredients (minus the butter) together until fully combined. Slowly add enough water to bring the mixture to a wet pastry consistency.
– On a floured surface, knead the dough until it comes together, adding a little flour if necessary. Roll out the pastry to 5mm thick.
– To build the puddings, grease six individual pudding bowls, moulds or basins with the butter and line with the pastry, pushing it deep into the moulds. Make sure to not trap any air or tear the pastry, as the filling will escape.
– Fill each pastry-lined mould with the braised cheek and enough liquid to cover the meat, leaving at least 1cm of pastry at the top. Cut out pastry lids and brush them with water to help them seal. Then, using the back of a spoon, bring the 1cm of excess pastry in the mould over the lid and push it down. The pudding should now be sealed without any gaps.
– Cut out sheets of baking paper and kitchen foil large enough to cover the top of the mould. Put the baking paper over the lid and then wrap the foil around the top to create a seal.
– Arrange the moulds in a large steamer, or steam in a covered pan set over a low heat, filled ⅓ of the way up with boiling water. Allow to cook for 1 hour before removing. We serve ours with mashed potato and green beans.

Andy Clarke is a freelance TV producer and writer; follow him on Twitter @TVsAndyClarke; one4thetable.com ; thecauldron.restaurant