Staffordshires Food and Drink Scene.

From bean to cup with Courtyard Coffee Roasters

Hessian sacks of various sizes, a bright red Diedrich roaster, and collected coffee paraphernalia greet visitors to Courtyard Coffee Roasters, just off Eccleshall’s High Street. Wooden shelves are filled with…

Hessian sacks of various sizes, a bright red Diedrich roaster, and collected coffee paraphernalia greet visitors to Courtyard Coffee Roasters, just off Eccleshall’s High Street.

Wooden shelves are filled with glass canisters of loose leaf tea – greens and oolongs as well as black teas and rooibos – single origin chocolate, mostly from Madagascar, and real hot chocolate. But it’s the aroma of coffee, freshly roasted and freshly ground, that fills the air. 

Owner David Wiggins originally established the roastery as a training school for baristas, but it has since morphed into a retail shop. He also sells online and supplies a handful of independent cafés and restaurants, some with their own unique blend.

David’s adventures in coffee began in the 1980s when he and his wife had a deli in Dresden, Stoke-on-Trent. He came upon an antique machine and started roasting his own coffee. In 1990, he set up Rapido Coffee Services, an exhibition service he ran successfully for around 20 years while simultaneously taking charge of Eccleshall café The Artisan (now Sancerre), the neighbouring bakery, and the roastery. Finding himself spread a little thin, David’s focus is now on Courtyard Coffee and his passion for these flavoursome beans.

The bulk of the world’s coffee is grown in Central and South America – Brazil is the biggest producer – but large quantities are grown in Africa, some in India, and quite a bit in Indonesia and elsewhere in southeast Asia. Each origin has its own particular qualities, led by the climate and geology of the region where it’s grown. While coffee trees need rainfall to flower, too much rain can damage the crop. The fruit, bright red when ripe, is called a cherry. Usually picked by hand, their preparation has a big effect on the finished flavour.

“The processing is quite involved,” explains David. “You have to get rid of the cherry to get to the seed. The fruit is removed by either the dry method or the wet method, often depending on the climate in the country of origin. Half-processed coffee beans are coated in a hard shell known as parchment, which is removed by hulling. Now the green coffee, as it’s called, is ready for roasting.”

The green coffee arrives in sacks weighing 50kg, 60kg or 69kg depending on which part of the world it has come from. While a large roaster will process a whole sack at once, one of these will last David a couple of months. He roasts in small batches of only 2.5kg of green beans at a time, yielding 2kg of roasted beans due of the loss of moisture as they’re heated.

“I’m not really big enough to buy direct from the plantations, and that’s almost a full time job in itself,” David tells Sauce. “You need to have feet on the ground. So I buy from four or five independently run, ethical importers who in turn buy direct from the plantations. They pay better than Fairtrade rates and in some cases they will buy the smallholders’ entire crop, certainly a year ahead and sometimes a couple of years in advance.”

Roasted coffee beans

People are more interested in individual origins these days, and growers are actively encouraged to seek their own markets, whereas previously they were very heavily discouraged from doing so. David believes the next revolution in the global supply chain of crops like coffee will be blockchain. Rather than finding new routes to market, the goal is transparency and traceability. Companies such as iFinca in Central America – which a lot of Colombian producers are already using – are setting the bar for its integration into commercial networks.

Although he claims not to have particular favourites when it comes to coffee, David is partial to Indonesian, Indian and some Central American origins.

“I keep coffee from around 20 different producing countries, only because we’re limited by space. I’ve usually got a Costa Rican, El Salvadoran, Colombian and either Honduran or Nicaraguan. Always Peruvian, because people like it, and Mexican when possible – it’s hard to get the ones I favour. And I always keep decaffeinated coffee, sometimes as many as four types.”

The El Salvador is very popular due to its sweet and chocolatey tasting notes, but David’s bestseller – largely because he supplies one couple who get through a kilo a week – is Indian Monsoon Malabar. It’s stored under cover in mesh-sided warehouses during the rainy season, to allow humid air to circulate around the beans and alter their flavour. The tasting notes are copper, tobacco, leather.

“The effect of the extra humidity is that the beans swell and so the chaff falls off,” says David. “It makes it slightly sour, and the end result is very good if you like that style. In the days of the Empire, when coffee was transported to the UK and the rest of Europe by sailboat, the journey would take around 6 months, and while the sacks were in the hold they’d absorb humidity from the sea. People got used to that flavour, so when steam came in and the journey time was reduced to weeks, they noticed the difference. To try to recreate it, this monsooning process was developed, and it’s now mostly carried out in Mangaluru on the southwestern coast of India.”

As coffee beans are roasted, each half of the seed splits along one side and the chaff – or silverskin – falls away and burns off. The acids, proteins and sugars in the coffee expand until the stage when it opens up with a crack. That cracking sound indicates the roast is nearly complete.

“If I’m making a blend I’ll probably roast them separately so each is roasted to it’s best. If you take three or four types of bean and roast them all together, one of them will be perfect but the others will be over or under done. Usually the roast time is around 12 minutes, but some will be done at 10; others will take 14. You need to judge by eye, aroma and sound.”

When it comes to turning the beans into a more brew-able form, a burr grinder is the best. Propeller blades tend to be too effective, producing an almost floury and slightly uneven grind.

“If you grind coffee for an espresso too fine, the water struggles to get through, and you’ll end up with a coffee that’s so bitter you won’t be able to drink it. That’s known as over-extraction.”

When using the filter method, pouring over the water – ideally at a temperature between 88-92 degrees Celsius – produces a bloom of tiny bubbles of carbon dioxide which will be familiar to anyone who uses a cafetière or drip coffee maker. There’s nothing wrong with giving it a little shake to get a more even extraction.

“I tend to brew at about 90 degrees,” shares David. “Using the burr grinder and filter method, you get the true aroma of the bean released. The coffee industry is always searching for that aroma in the cup, but you never really get it.”

Courtyard Coffee Roasters
14d High Street, Eccleshall, ST21 6BZ

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Good Morning Zoats


Good Morning Zoats

bowl of zoats with banana and berries

Another wonderful recipe from the Sauce archives – health and wellness blogger Sarah Leanne Rose aka The Growing Butterfly has the perfect breakfast to set you up for the day, whatever you’re doing.

You can have some fun with these ‘zoats’ by adding whatever toppings you fancy, like a shake of cocoa powder and some sliced banana or frozen berries.

  • Author: Katy



50-60g oats
200ml milk
1/2 courgette

Then choose:
1 scoop protein powder
1 tbsp honey
1 tsp flaxseed


  1. Start by adding the oats to a pan, then grate the courgette over the top.
  2. Next pour the milk in and gently stir the mixture together until combined.
  3. On a low-medium heat, place the pan on a hob and allow to cook for a minute or two, stirring at intervals.
  4. Now add in your chosen ingredients to create the desired flavour combination and mix well.
  5. Turning down the heat, leave to cook for a further minute before serving straight away in a bowl, adding any additional toppings of your choosing.

Toppings can be anything that you like such as:

  • Nut butter
  • Fruit
  • Nuts and seeds
  • A little chocolate


You can find more of Sarah’s recipes and blogs about mental health and other topics on:

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White chocolate & raspberry layer cake


White chocolate and raspberry layer cake

White chocolate and raspberry cake

As most of us are rattling around the house with plenty of time to get our aprons on, we thought we’d share some recipes from the Sauce archives. This is an oldie but a goodie from the very first issue of the magazine, two whole years ago.

You may not be able to visit the lovely Beth Lauren Cake Parlour at the moment, but if you can get your hands on these ingredients you can recreate this beauty at home. The recipe makes one 6 inch cake.

  • Author: Katy


For the cake
300g unsalted butter or Stork
300g fine caster sugar
6 medium free-range eggs
300g self raising flour
1tsp good quality vanilla bean paste
+ Homemade or good quality shop bought raspberry jam

For the buttercream
250g unsalted butter
400g icing sugar
1tsp vanilla bean paste
150g melted couverture white chocolate


  1. Add the butter, sugar and vanilla paste into a stand mixer and beat on a medium speed until pale and fluffy.
  2. Beat the eggs in a separate bowl. With the mixer on a low speed slowly beat into the sugar and butter mix, making sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl.
  3. Sift the flour into the mixing bowl and mix on a low speed until incorporated.
  4. Line 3, 6” tins with parchment paper and split the mixture equally between them.
  5. Bake the cakes at 180 degrees Celsius (fan) for 25-30 minutes or until a metal skewer comes out clean and leave to cool.
  6. To make the buttercream add the room temperature butter and vanilla into the bowl of the stand mixer and beat until pale.
  7. Sift the icing sugar and beat on a low speed until incorporated.
  8. Add the cool melted chocolate to the buttercream and fold in by hand. Set aside.

To assemble

  1. Use a cake leveller to create perfectly even layers, you can also use a serrated knife.
  2. Place your first layer onto the silver cake board and fix with a small amount of buttercream.
  3. Fill the piping bag with your white chocolate buttercream and pipe an even layer onto the cake; place the second layer of cake on top of this.
  4. Pipe an even ring of buttercream around the outside of the second layer, leaving the centre hollow. Fill with the jam and place the final layer on top.
  5. Place the filled cake onto your turntable and use the palette knife to spread a layer of buttercream over the top and sides of the cake. Take off any excess buttercream using the cake side scraper or by using your palette knife.
  6. We finish our cake with white chocolate drips and fresh raspberries but you can decorate yours however you choose!


When the lockdown is over, you can head to the Parlour for coffee and a professionally made cake:

Beth Lauren Cakes
2C Radford Street, Stone, ST15 8DA

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All because the lady loves… vegan chocolate

With more people than ever committing to a vegan diet, it can be hard to find indulgent treats that truly cut the mustard and are also free of animal products….

With more people than ever committing to a vegan diet, it can be hard to find indulgent treats that truly cut the mustard and are also free of animal products. Dairy free chocolate has been increasing its shelf space recently, but has often left chocolate lovers’ sweet cravings unsatiated.  

Sauce came across Chilled Angel’s dairy free chocolate truffles in Apple a Day Juice Bar in Stone, and although we’re not vegan ourselves we had to try them. The man behind this relatively new brand is Carl Hill, who has been nicknamed Chill ever since he was a child. His partner’s name is Angela, hence Chilled Angel.

Until early 2019 Carl worked in IT, although he wore many hats as a programmer, web designer and video editor for the company that employed him. He had already made his steps into the world of dairy free confectionery on Angela’s behalf.

“Angela has been vegan for years, but I couldn’t get vegan birthday cakes or things like that,” Carl explains. “If there’s a need to do something I will just make it.” 

“Vegan chocolate is generally really bad,” adds Angela. “It tends to be tasteless. Sometimes the ingredients are good – it’s healthy – but it’s awful and you’d rather not bother. Carl’s chocolate is just amazing. The only problem is, now he’s started to build the business up I don’t get any!”

Carl’s current range includes truffle style chocolates with classics like the peanut butter cup, chocolate ganache, coconut cup and cinder crunch alongside rum truffles. He also makes filled bars – strawberry creme topped with dried strawberries, peanut butter, peppermint – as well as crystallised ginger and fruit and nut bars, all using the same dark chocolate as the starting point. An enquiry about an Easter egg inspired versions filled with chocolate buttons and cinder crunch pieces. Everything he makes is gluten free as well as vegan friendly.

“It basically started with things she liked,” Carl says. “I wondered if I could put the cinder crunch flavour in a bar, and I tried the peanut butter cup in a bar too. Then I started experimenting and came up with the peppermint, the fruit and nut, and the crystallised ginger. The fruit and nut came about because they were things that were in the cupboard.”

It has taken a lot of trial and error to get to this stage, and Carl’s still working towards perfection. Some initial attempts had too low a melting point, and the moulds for the bars have to be kept bone dry to prevent any bloom – a white discoloration – on the finished product. New products are generally inspired by requests from customers and friends, and Angela of course.

“I’ll try it, then Angela tries it, and I’ll perfect it until it tastes good. I’m planning to try a version with no refined sugar, but that’s still in development. But I think at the end of the day people have chocolate because it tastes nice.”

At the moment, Carl sells his creations through the Chilled Angel website, through Etsy and on Amazon. He’s always looking for new stockists who are interested in carrying all or part of the range, and they’ll soon be available in Newcastle too. Angela has been a yogi for 15 years as well as offering holistic therapies including reiki, and is set to open Home Holistics yoga studio on Garden Street this April. 

“At the moment, Apple a Day Juice Bar and Mo’s Deli and Cider Store in Stone stock our chocolates,” adds Carl. “And Lady Rouge Tattoo Parlour on Wolstanton High Street. She tried them and said, ‘They’re amazing, I want to stock them’. And they’re flying out. It’s hard to keep up with demand. We’re also doing some vegan fairs, which is a good way to meet new people.”  

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The perfect hot chocolate

Comfort food doesn’t come in many more comforting forms than hot chocolate. For best results you should always use good quality dark chocolate with 70% cocoa solids – or more,…

Comfort food doesn’t come in many more comforting forms than hot chocolate.

For best results you should always use good quality dark chocolate with 70% cocoa solids – or more, depending on your personal taste. Treating yourself to the perfect hot chocolate is no time to be overly health conscious, and the use of a mixture of milk and cream as in this version gives the finished drink a delightfully silky mouthfeel. You can easily replace the milk and cream with coconut, almond, soy or rice milk for a vegan alternative. 

Use cinnamon, vanilla, chilli, cardamom or virtually any other flavour you can imagine to change things up, or keep it simple by adding just a pinch of salt. This will tone down any bitterness from the dark chocolate and enhance the sweetness of your drink. 

You could top your hot chocolate with marshmallows if you’re feeling extra decadent. Alternatively, add a dash of a dark spirit or cream liqueur as a grown up treat. Chocao, a cacao gin liqueur made in Staffordshire, would be the perfect partner. 

Serves 2

450ml whole milk
70g dark chocolate, finely chopped or grated
30g milk chocolate, finely chopped or grated
75ml single cream
Pinch of salt

  1. Warm a third of the milk in a saucepan over a medium heat and stir the chocolate through.
  2. Stir until the chocolate has melted into the milk, then whisk in the rest of the milk and the single cream.
  3. Continue to heat until the mixture is hot (but not boiling)  before adding the salt.
  4. Add any additional flavouring, then serve in your favourite mug.

Share photos of your chocolatey creations with us over on Instagram by tagging @staffordshiresauce or #staffordshiresauce!

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COVID-19: Local food banks need our help

This article is a little different from our usual content, but we feel that during these uncertain and difficult times it’s absolutely vital that we all pull together and help…

This article is a little different from our usual content, but we feel that during these uncertain and difficult times it’s absolutely vital that we all pull together and help each other as much as we possibly can.

If you haven’t seen it firsthand, you’ve probably seen media reports on the supermarket frenzies happening across the country as people panic-buy food and other goods. Unfortunately, not everybody has the luxury of being able to stockpile food. In fact, many are unable to purchase food full stop, because they simply cannot afford everyday essentials. Thousands of people locally rely on food banks and kind donations from members of the public to keep their heads above water.

Across Staffordshire, we have numerous food bank services which people rely on every day, and it’s important to keep those donations flowing. Below are the details of each food bank and specific supplies that are presently running low. If you can help in any way possible, get in touch with the relevant food bank.

Stone Community Hub
Food is donated by the Stone Community Hub via several donation boxes around town. These boxes are located in Morrisons, Barclays Bank, Co-op Food in Walton and St. Dominic’s RC Church. In addition, you are also welcome to drop off any donations directly to The Hub. For more information, please visit their website.

  • Tinned meat
  • UHT milk
  • Small jars of coffee
  • Jam
  • Potatoes
  • Custard
  • Rice pudding
  • Fruit
  • Biscuits

Newcastle-under-Lyme Borough Food Bank
Donations can be made at Tesco stores in Trent Vale and Kidsgrove, Sainsbury’s in Newcastle, Morrisons in Milehouse, and Co-op Food along Butt Lane. Donations can also be made at any of The Trussell Trust food bank centres across the county. For more information about how you can help, visit the Newcastle food bank website.

  • Long life juice
  • Soap
  • Shampoo
  • Deodorants – both ladies and gentlemen
  • Shaving foam/gel and razors
  • Washing powder/gel
  • Washing up liquid
  • Sugar
  • Sponge puddings

Lichfield Food Bank
Lichfield Food Bank have numerous drop off points located throughout Lichfield, Wall, Shenstone, Kings Bromley, Fradley and Alrewas which can be found here.

  • Long life milk
  • Long life fruit juice
  • Coffee
  • Tinned fruit
  • Tinned rice pudding
  • Tinned tomatoes
  • Tinned tuna
  • Dry packet rice
  • Tinned peas and carrots
  • Instant mash

Stoke-on-Trent Food Bank
Your donations can be made to the Blurton Methodist Church on Magdalen Road, Stoke-on-Trent, ST3 3HS from Monday to Thursday between 9:30 and 15:30.

  • Rice pudding
  • Small packs of tea bags (40)
  • Large packs tea bags (160)
  • Instant mash
  • Tinned fruit
  • UHT milk
  • Tinned steam pudding
  • Squash

Ashbourne Food Bank
Ashbourne have recently experienced an influx of new referrals as we all enter this period of uncertainty, so it is vitally important to help them out with any donations you can, no matter how big or small. Donations can be dropped off at Sainsbury’s, Boots, Ashbourne Library and both Co-op Food stores. For up to date information, visit Ashbourne Food Bank’s Facebook page.

  • Squash
  • Sandwich fillings (eg jam)
  • Hot dogs
  • Tinned meatballs
  • Dry pasta
  • Snacks
  • Breakfast bars
  • Tinned vegetables
  • Tinned meals (pie, curry, chilli)
  • Tinned fruit
  • Desserts
  • Coffee
  • Sugar
  • UHT milk

If you are struggling during this period of uncertainty, get in touch with the Alice Charity on 01782 627017 or visit

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Canalside declared Small Farm Shop of the Year

Canalside Farm Shop at Great Haywood has been named Small Farm Shop of the Year at a prestigious awards ceremony at the Nottingham Belfry. The national awards, which celebrate the…

Canalside Farm Shop at Great Haywood has been named Small Farm Shop of the Year at a prestigious awards ceremony at the Nottingham Belfry.

The national awards, which celebrate the best of the farm retail industry, are organised by the Farm Retail Association (FRA). The ceremony took place on 3 March.

This family-run Staffordshire business has been growing produce for over 35 years, with owner Chris Barton at the helm.

“To say that we are absolutely thrilled and delighted to win this award is an understatement,” said Chris. “When you consider the standard and number of farm shops across the UK, it really is an honour just to have been shortlisted. We cannot thank our staff and customers enough for their continued loyalty and support over the last 35 years. Our farm shop has grown and changed a lot in that time, and it is only with the continued support of our customers, that we have been able to achieve what we have.”

Canalside has been transformed in the last 8 years, as Sauce found when we spoke to the family for our autumn/winter 2018 issue. This has included building a brand new café and complete renovation of the farm shop, with the introduction of an on-site butchery, bakery and delicatessen. Since then, both have gone from strength to strength, creating 40 new jobs and selling more than 100,000 punnets of strawberries, 20,000 home-made sausage rolls and over 110,000 cups of coffee.

“The Farm’s aim has always been to source high quality, local food and drink, from farms and producers within a 30 mile radius, whilst continuing to produce our own fruit, vegetables and bedding plants, here on the Farm,” Chris added. “The expansion of our farm shop has also enabled us to make even more of our own produce here on the Farm and the introduction of our butchery has made a big difference. Our team of qualified butchers now make all of our meat products here on the premises, supplying both our farm shop and café, meaning our customers know exactly where their food is coming from.”

The Farm Retail Awards are the only awards to be judged by fellow farm retailers and celebrate the best farm shops, farm cafés and restaurants, farmers’ markets and trade suppliers in the country. Canalside were finalists in the Farm Café/Restaurant of the Year category as well as Small Farm Shop of the Year. If you would like to pay them a visit, Canalside Farm Shop and Café are open every day from 9:00 until 17:00.

Canalside Farm Shop and Café
Mill Lane, Great Haywood, Stafford, ST18 0RQ 

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To Infinitii, and beyond British-Indian food

On 11 February, a new restaurant and gin bar opened its doors in the picturesque Staffordshire village of Abbots Bromley. Sauce were invited along to sample the modern Indian cuisine…

On 11 February, a new restaurant and gin bar opened its doors in the picturesque Staffordshire village of Abbots Bromley. Sauce were invited along to sample the modern Indian cuisine and fabulous paired gin cocktails at The Infinitii.

The former Royal Ruchi has been transformed by owner Mustafa Chowdhury and his team into a contemporary restaurant, with teal walls set off by burnished gold metalwork and comfortable furnishings.

With menus that embrace both veganism and the health conscious (the kitchen uses olive oil for cooking and steers clear of deep frying, so poppadoms are out), Infinitii is also committed to reducing its environmental impact by sourcing organic, local ingredients and producing net zero plastic waste.

General manager Jacobo Gonzalez Jaspe and award-winning chef Mamrej Khan are at the helm. In a career already spanning 25 years, Khan has worked in restaurants across the world including the 5 star Taj Hotel in Chennai, The Rose Garden in the Maldives and the Deluxe Palace Hotel in Bahrain. Since coming to the UK, he’s been head chef at the Lasan group in Birmingham and The Mint Room in the southwest, as well as being a mentor to celebrity chef Aktar Islam, of Michelin-starred Opheem.

On arrival we’re presented with some of the cocktails that have been created in partnership with nearby Nelson’s Gin – a Basil Smash made with their London dry, lemon and basil, and a peppercorn and chilli-infused cocktail with Nelson’s Timur gin.

For starters, we’re served the smoky lamb tikka – cinnamon smoked lamb fillet cooked to melt-in-the-mouth perfection in the tandoor, which is available as a starter or main course. The dish is covered with a glass cloche so you can experience those smokey aromas at the table as it’s revealed.

And there’s a modern take on classic Mumbai street food in the form of bhel puri. A mind-blowing combination of textures and tastes, bhel puri pairs tangy tamarind paste with crispy puffed rice and lightly spiced potatoes. This is a dish that would easily be overlooked on the menu, but we highly recommended giving it a try.

Next, chef has prepared South Indian inspired Malabar sea bass – a panfried fillet cooked in coconut milk, tempered with mustard seeds and curry leaves and served with spiced sauté spinach. The creaminess of the coconut complements the sea bass, as does the fragrant saffron rice that’s paired with both main courses by the chef.

infinitii food

For the editor, its duck Lucknowi, an Awadhi speciality of seared Barbary dusk breast in a caramelised onion, tomato, yoghurt and cashew nut sauce. We also tuck into a side of daal makhani, made with the black lentils so common in Indian cuisine. These are rarely used elsewhere than India because they are difficult to prepare and cook compared to other varieties. There’s also traditional clay oven baked naan, shot through with smoky Applewood cheese.

We’re also treated to a sample of each of the desserts on offer: from a light chocolate and cinnamon mousse decorated with a beautiful painted chocolate leaf, to traditional carrot halwa, a sweet pudding served with sour apple and strawberry coulis. The gulab jamun, India’s answer to the doughnut, is also served with sour apple and a mango coulis to cut through the sticky sweetness.

The Infinitii is putting an unpretentious and modern twist on authentic Indian food, showcasing regional techniques and placing the tandoor at the heart of the kitchen. We certainly enjoyed our trip beyond the boundaries of ‘British-Indian food’, and we look forward to seeing what they do next.

The Infinitii
Bagot Street, Abbots Bromley, WS15 3DB

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A steak lover’s paradise

A time-honoured menu staple of restaurants and pubs across the land, steak comes in many guises despite – or perhaps because – the methods of cooking it are so straightforward….

A time-honoured menu staple of restaurants and pubs across the land, steak comes in many guises despite – or perhaps because – the methods of cooking it are so straightforward.

Unless you’ve done your research, it can be tricky to know which cuts to buy and what to pair them with when you want to cook beef steak at home. Luckily, we’ve tapped into the knowledge of chef and restaurant owner Rich James from Smoke & Rye, so that you can buy and prepare three of the most flavoursome cuts with confidence.

First of all, how do you recognise a good steak when you’re out shopping? Rich’s first tip is to get to know your local butcher.

“Your butcher should be able to recommend you a good steak. He or she should know their stuff about where the animal has come from, how it’s been bred, how long it’s been fed grain, how it’s been looked after. From the lines of the beasts themselves to how they’ve been treated in the abattoir, provenance is really important. And marbling is key – you don’t want it to be plain and boring.”

Thicker steaks are easier to work with as well. Fine-grained fillet tends to be finished in the oven because of its shape, allowing the heat to be distributed evenly.

“It will take a bit more time, but you get more opportunity to cook it how you like it. We don’t deal with anything below 10oz here, apart from fillet because it’s a smaller cut. For sirloins and ribeyes you need to have a thick cut because you need to be able to caramelise the edge, but keep the right cooking temperature in the middle. If it’s too thin, you won’t be able to get it rare or medium; it will be at least medium-rare by the time it’s on the plate.”

Starting with Rich’s personal favourite, the t-bone is a cut from the sirloin but includes a section of tenderloin, also known as fillet.

“You’ve got two very different cuts of meat on there, really,” Rich explains. “One has a lot of marbling – sirloin is a lot more fatty than fillet, which is a lot leaner – but it gives you the chance to have texture and flavour in the same piece of meat. It’s the best of both worlds.”

It makes the cooking process a bit of a challenge, because it can stay a little rare around the bone. Fillet tends to be better cooked rare or medium-rare.

“You’ve got to be careful that the fillet isn’t overcooked, but it’s not a big deal – it’s all in the resting. Caramelise it, let it rest, have a feel, and if it’s underdone bang it back on the grill for a few minutes. The other thing about the t-bone is that you want to over-season the fillet. There’s less flavour in it so you want to add more seasoning to that side than the sirloin side.

“It’s my favourite cut because you also get that bit of marrow from the bone, which is really good for you. I would cook off some bone marrow and run it through clarified butter, just to add some richness. You don’t want to add creamy, heavy, thick sauces, because you’ll lose the flavour of the meat.”

Ribeye steak is, as the name suggests, from the rib section of the beast. Some people are a bit put off by that fact that the ribeye still has the bone in, but it’s a purposeful decision in Rich’s kitchen because it adds so much to the dish.

“The marrow is where all that fantastic umami flavour is,” he says. “Again, caramelisation is key. It’s a bit thicker so there’s a bit more fat in it. To render that down you need a nice hot grill or pan, ideally. Don’t use butter to begin with because it will just burn. You need to be able to get in there with a bit of oil, caramelise it on both sides, rest it in butter and then finish it off in a pan with butter if you like at the end.”

With the ribeye, Rich recommends serving alongside a fresh, acidic garnish that will cut through the fattiness of the steak.

“It’s a big, bold steak – it’s not going to take well to the addition of heavy, fatty cream or anything like that, but the light, spicy, herby and vinegary flavour of the chimichurri works really well.”

The fillet is the leanest and most tender cut, making it great for raw preparations like tartare and carpaccio. As it’s the least fatty, it’s worth paying for the best raised and aged steak you can afford to get the best flavour. Rich prefers his fillet served medium-rare.

“I would pan-fry it to start with in some foaming butter to get it rare, add some blue cheese on the top, put it in the oven for about 5 minutes to get it almost to medium-rare, and then let it rest. Then I’d deglaze the pan with some brandy and some bone marrow gravy to get a really heavy, rich, flavoursome sauce.

“You want those rich flavours with fillet because it’s so lean. You still have flavour in fillet, but nowhere near the same level as in the other two cuts we’ve talked about. You’ve got to add, add, add when it comes to fillet, so plenty of butter, plenty of seasoning and plenty of other umami flavours to make it rich. The texture of it is amazing, though. I serve a little crouton at the bottom to soak up all the juices, a bit like an old Tournedos Rossini.”

Smoke & Rye’s menu is inspired by Rich’s travels and experiences with American food. So how do British steaks compare to those you’ll find over in the States?

“They use a lot of Kobe beef, which we don’t have so much access to here,” he says. “They get a lot of Japanese breeds imported. The Americans are well known for their steaks, but they work with their beasts in a slightly different way to us – they feed them and look after them differently, and of course they’ve got the climate so the animals are much bigger. American steaks and American wagyu are some of the best steaks in the world, and some of the most expensive.”

Another point of difference is the (voluntary) USDA beef grading system, which is based on the maturity of the meat and level of marbling, so that customers can be assured of the quality of the meat they’re buying.

“The system is really useful because it provides a clear, organised way of grading meat,” adds Rich. “At the top end is prime, followed by choice and select. Here, there’s no reliable way to tell whether a product is prime or select – it’s hit and miss, especially in supermarkets. It would be good if we could introduce that kind of system.”

Now that we’re moving towards the colder months of the year, Smoke & Rye’s style of food and cooking is really coming into its own. When it comes to the steaks on the menu, there’ll be a move towards heavier, creamy sauces and red wine or barbecue gravies, often incorporating the delicious juices from the smoker.

“We don’t tend to make things overcomplicated for no reason. Our customers come for amazing quality ingredients and simple but decent cooking. Whether you’re grilling or panfrying your steak, it’s always a high temperature and resting properly that are key. You want that Maillard reaction going on to get as much caramelisation on the steak as possible – it adds texture and it adds flavour.”

Smoke & Rye
19 Stafford Street, Stone, Staffordshire, ST15 8QW

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All the world’s a pub

Theatre reviews might not be obvious subject matter for Sauce, but food and drink and culture are inextricably linked, perhaps nowhere more so – at least in an English context…

Theatre reviews might not be obvious subject matter for Sauce, but food and drink and culture are inextricably linked, perhaps nowhere more so – at least in an English context – than in the pub. So when we were invited to see Two at the New Vic Theatre in Newcastle we jumped at the chance.

In terms of hospitality, the theatre is welcoming and homely. Downstairs you’ll find a gin and bottle lounge, open since August 2019, which offers a relaxed environment to gather pre-show. Every gin and beer is sourced from within a 30 mile radius, from the hyperlocal Weal Ales, Titanic and Staffordshire Gin to Papermill Gin and Thornbridge beers from slightly further afield.

The restaurant at the New Vic has played host to themed evenings including a Bavarian night, wine and cheese night and Latin American night. Their recent French night featuring accordion music from Sophia Hatfield went down especially well.

This summer, with the auditorium undergoing a major refurbishment project, the team are keen to let people know that the bar and restaurant are very much open for business with plenty of events in the pipeline. Keep your eyes peeled for more on that in the coming months.

In review: Two

Written by Jim Cartwright, Two is a dark comic drama set in a northern town. For her directorial debut at her home theatre, director Ruth Carney decided that a typical Potteries pub would be a natural setting for the intimate and poignant production.

The audience are drawn into the action from the moment they enter, as the Landlord serves pre-performance tasters of beer from the working bar. Set up with the help of Burslem’s Titanic Brewery, the cast are able to pull (and knock back) real pints of Steerage from the central island.

Designer Lis Evans was inspired by the nearby Hop Inn, The Victoria, The Greyhound, The Marquis of Granby and the Staff of Life in Stoke. Mock Minton tiles, heavily patterned carpet and tired wooden chairs complete the transformation to traditional local boozer.

All the dramas of life are played out in the microcosm of the pub, where the Landlord and Landlady are constantly at each others’ throats whilst warmly welcoming patrons of all ages and circumstances. Originally scripted in 1989, there are times when the play feels slightly dated as well as times when it is difficult to watch, but the language is poetic and the dissection of human relationships is as relevant as ever.

Two actors – Samantha Robinson and Jimmy Fairhurst – play all 14 characters in Two. Their mastery of pace as they dart between costumes and accents, charting the emotional highs and lows of each storyline, is truly impressive. We’re spectators to arguments, affairs, loving friendships and abusive relationships as they veer from comic karaoke to chronic loneliness, and finally to the tragedy that has split the couple’s marriage apart.

The dark joke at the heart of the play is that, while the pub is where punters come to relieve their worries and cares, the Landlady and Landlord at the literal centre of it have lost their ability to talk to each other. The destructiveness of this lack of communication feels important to talk about at a time when the suicide rate in the UK is on the rise and mental health in hospitality is under the spotlight.

Two opened at the New Vic Theatre on Friday 31 January and runs until Saturday 22 February. Tickets are on sale now, priced from £15.50, from the Box Office and can be booked online or by calling 01782 717962.

New Vic Theatre
Etruria Road, Newcastle-under-Lyme, ST5 0JG

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