Two weeks ago my sister and I made the difficult decision to close our little sandwich shop, Honeytrap. It was something we had been toying with for a while now, given that our lives are very different to when we first opened, and finally the timing just seemed right. I've tried not to lament too much on closing the shop, instead I am choosing to look forward to whatever comes next. But one thing I will sorely miss is working on K Road - a street that possesses a beautiful, genuine quality you can't find anywhere else in Auckland. We grew up sifting around this part of town. Countless coffees and dinner dates at Verona, dirty kebabs at 4am, and many a night spent dancing till dawn at Calibre. We've always loved its chaotic nature and the colourful characters who inhabit the area. For us, it was the only place we considered running a business, and we will miss it being part of our daily routine.
We didn't really have a clear vision for Honeytrap in the beginning. It's hard to describe something to people when you don't even know what it is. We were a café that didn’t serve coffee and wasn’t open for breakfast. A restaurant that sold alcohol but wasn’t open for dinner. A takeaway shop that had nice plates, cutlery and free Wifi. All we knew was that we wanted to do it our way, be open the hours that we wanted to work, and have a small changing menu of things we wanted to eat. I had delusions of swanning around the café in a silk dress, hanging out with friends, and casually entertaining the way I did at home. The reality, of course, is that you never make any money from your friends sitting around drinking free beers; that cooking for the masses is a far different game to entertaining at your house; and you can’t wear a Miss Crabb dress to work when you have to fist the dirty drain every half an hour to get some water flow going down your grease-ridden pipes.
Eventually, we found a groove, started to function as a proper business, and focused on what the people kept coming back for - sandwiches. The thing I love about sandwiches is that they allow you to be really creative. Every cuisine around the world has a staple starch. Mexico has the tortilla, India has naan or paratha, and the Orient has its rice. When you swap out those starches for two slices of bread, you can turn flavours from any cuisine in to a killer sandwich. We had so much fun coming up with specials at Honeytrap, and I still have so many more ideas bobbing around in my head that we never got to try. But of all the sandwiches we ever put on the menu, the one that remained our most popular from the day we opened the doors, to the day we closed them, was the BBQ beef brisket.
Often it is the simplest dishes that become the classics. They come to define you, and keep people coming back, so you can never take them off the menu. That's the funny thing about a signature dish (and Al Brown said this regarding his fish sliders in the Depot cookbook), as much as your customers love it, you kind of come to despise it (just a little). But food is not only about the taste. It's situational. It’s about who you’re with, the memories it evokes, where and how it is served. Sure, I can make Al’s fish sliders at home, but the real joy of eating them comes from being at Depot with your best pals. Where the music is loud, the staff are great, and you've just slammed a plate of fresh oysters chased by one of those ice cold little beer flutes.
Anthony Bourdain sums this up perfectly, "Context and memory play powerful roles in all the truly great meals in one's life. I mean, lets face it: when you're eating simple barbecue under a palm tree, and you feel sand between your toes, samba music is playing softly in the backgroud, waves are lapping at the shore a few yards off, a gentle breeze is cooling the sweat on the back of your neck at the hairline, and looking across the table, past the column of empty Red Stripes at the dreamy expression on your companion's face, you realize that in half an hour you're proably going to be having sex on clean white hotel sheets, that grilled chicken leg suddenly tastes a hell of a lot better.”
So you can go ahead and make this sandwich for yourself at home. But sadly, it probably won’t be the same.
honeytrap's bbq beef brisket
You will end up with more pickle, BBQ sauce and ranch dressing than you need for these sandwiches, but all of them keep well in the fridge. You will also end up with too much brisket. Once you've shredded it, and tossed it with the BBQ sauce, you can bundle it up into 150 gram portions (wrapped in glad wrap), and freeze for future sandwiches. Feel free to substitute store bought pickles if you don't have the time to make your own, but I urge you to make your own BBQ sauce. Store bought ones a generally pretty shit.
Makes 4 (or more)
For the brisket
1.5 - 2 kilos of beef brisket
Brisket rub (one teaspoon each of onion powder, garlic powder, paprika, smoked paprika, cayenne pepper, salt and pepper)
- Line a roasting tray (big enough to hold your brisket) with greaseproof paper.
- Rub the brisket all over with the rub and place in the roasting tray with one cup of water.
- Cover with another layer of greaseproof paper, then a sheet of tin foil. Use a tea towel to pinch the foil around the edge of the tray, creating a really tight seal. Repeat with another layer of foil.
- Cook in the oven at 160c for 8 hours. Check every 2 - 3 hours to make sure all the water hasn't evaporated. If it's looking a little dry, add more water.
- When cooking is finished the brisket should easily pull apart with tongs.
- Shred the brisket, discarding any really fatty or sinewy bits that don't look like they would be nice to eat. Most of this should have broken down during the cooking.
- Toss the shredded meat with 2 - 3 ladles of BBQ sauce (recipe follows).
For the BBQ sauce
2 x 400 gram tins of tomatoes
1/4 cup of Heinz tomato sauce
1/4 cup of cider vinegar
1/4 cup of brown sugar
1/8 cup of soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon each of cumin, coriander, paprika, chilli, cayenne pepper, smoked paprika, garlic powder and onion powder
- Mix everything together in a saucepan and bring to the boil on the stovetop.
- Reduce to a simmer and cook for 3 hours.
- Blend with a stick blender until smooth, before pushing through a sieve to remove any lumps.
For the zucchini pickle
500 grams of zucchini, sliced into thin medallions
Half an onion, sliced
1 cup of white wine vinegar
1 cup of water
1/8 cup of white sugar
1/2 tablespoon of salt
Pickle spice: equal parts coriander seeds, peppercorns, star anise, cinnamon sticks, mustard seeds, bay leaves (you can make a big batch of this and keep it for future pickles).
- Mix your sliced zucchini and onion together in a bowl and salt LIBERALLY. Place in a colander or sieve over another bowl and allow to sit for one hour.
- Rinse and drain.
- Whisk together your vinegar, water, sugar and salt with 1/4 cup of pickle spice in a saucepan and bring to the boil.
- Allow to cool. Strain off pickle spice and tip liquid over zucchini.
- Allow to sit for a few hours, preferably overnight, before using.
For the ranch dressing
1/2 cup of buttermilk
1/2 cup of mayo
1 tablespoon of cider vinegar
1/2 teaspoon of sugar
salt and pepper
- Mix all ingredients together with a whisk or a hand blender, until smooth.
4 sesame seed hamburger buns
Half a red cabbage, finely sliced
2 spring onions, sliced
- Toss the red cabbage and spring onions with enough ranch dressing to coat.
- Toast your buns and spread both halves with mayo.
- Layer a few pickles on the bottom half of your bun, top with about 150 grams of brisket, red cabbage slaw and the top half of your bun.