Finally at this time of year the weather outlook is promising without too much rain, and it’s officially barbeque season, although some of us are hardy enough to light the outdoor coals whatever the weather.
There’s nothing finer than sitting out by the water, on our own little patch of paradise for the evening, watching the world and the water go by, feeling the warmth of the barbie and smelling the wonderful aromas, hopefully whilst not getting smoked out waiting for the fire to get going!
The best tip we all know is not to rush it, how many times do we see the barbeque at it’s best after we have eaten? Next time that happens and if you have any bananas or soft fruit, put them in foil with a dab of butter, a generous pinch of brown sugar, a splash of rum or brandy, pop a few squares of chocolate on top and sprinkle a few nuts if you like, then seal before cooking over the barbeque. It’s the most delicious way to use the last of the heat. Another delicious way to use fruit on the barbeque is melt golden caster sugar with rum and coconut in small saucepan, then brush the mixture all over chunky wedges of fresh pineapple and cook for a few minutes on each side until charred, serve with fresh chopped mint leaves and a dollop of crème fraiche or fresh cream.
If you’ve made flatbreads earlier or have any other type of bread such as pitta they could well be the first thing to go on the barbeque and make a good appetiser with dips etc. while sipping a suitable glass of something nice. I’ll be sharing lots of dips, salsa and salad recipes and ideas later.
If anything needs to be marinated, it’s useful to have had it in the fridge all day or night before for the flavours to develop. Most marinades need an acidic base such as a type of vinegar or citrus fruit juice in for it to easily absorb into the meat, the acid acts as the carrier for the flavouring. A useful tip for marinating is to pop the marinated meat, chicken or chunks of vegetables for kebabs in a sealed plastic food bag, then move the contents around in the bag to distribute the marinade around without getting your hands covered, also takes up less room in the fridge when in bags instead of bowls.
The one thing I couldn’t be without is my temperature probe, for safe food, especially when cooking on the bone. They are available in most big supermarkets and cook shops. I like to be sure meat is cooked to at least 65 degrees Celsius and chicken above 70 at its centre, salmon is safe above 50. Be sure to use separate tongs or utensils for raw and cooked meat.
If using wooden skewers soak them in water for 20 mins before threading the meat etc. this helps to stop the wood burning when cooking.
The woody part of a rosemary sprig makes a great skewer to flavour lamb or tie a few pieces together to make a small bunch and use as a brush with seasoned oil and garlic over the meat or chicken.
Threading peppers and onions with the meat helps with flavour, but they can cook quicker than the meat and char too much so make separate vegetable skewers also using mushrooms, courgettes and aubergines with any chosen marinade. Cooking them first and then wrapping in foil to keep warm, or far enough away and separate from the meat is a must for vegetarians!
I love charred whole sweetcorn on the barbeque, doused with herby lemony butter or sweet chilli sauce.
In my bread article I’ve shared a couple of quick pizza base recipes, if nice and thin these should cook successfully over the hot barbeque rack and you’ll get the authentic pizza oven taste.
Halloumi can be quite salty, so soak it in cold water for a few hours, then squeeze the moisture out and flatten it a little to keep it together before putting the skewer through.
My potato wedges recipe although better roasted in the oven works just as well wrapped in foil over the barbeque to save turning the gas on. Use Maris pipers if you can as these hold their shape better. Part-cook in a pan of boiling water then drain and dry with kitchen roll. Toss a bowl together with Malden salt flakes, olive oil, freshly ground black pepper and garlic. Sprinkle with fresh grated parmesan and roast in the oven or over the barbeque until golden and crisp.
Coleslaw is the perfect accompaniment with a barbeque. Simply grate any type of cabbage (I like to use red and white) with onion and carrot, add a little finely grated fennel or celery if you have it and mix together with mayonnaise (or crème fraiche if you prefer), a dash of cider vinegar, a glug of olive oil and a squeeze of lemon, add a pinch of salt and white pepper to season and a tsp of wholegrain mustard. Add a few raisins or sultanas for sweetness with the zing.
Here are a few marinade ideas for the main event
A dry spice mix can be sprinkled over the hot coals and the smoke will add a subtle flavouring to food while cooking.
If your marinade or spice mix isn’t going far enough for whatever is going on the barbeque it’s a good idea to loosen it up with a glug of oil.
BASIC BARBEQUE GLAZE is universal for use with most meat, fish, tofu or halloumi.
Use a base of 3 parts tomato puree and add 1 part sweet and one part citrus.
The sweet is either honey, maple syrup or brown sugar and the citrus either vinegar or fruit.
To give heat add mustard, smoked paprika and chilli powder or paste.
TIKKA TANDOORI For chicken and vegetable skewers, my favourite with mint yoghurt dips, warm breads and crisp salads
2 tbsp paprika, 1 tbsp turmeric, crushed garlic clove or 1 tsp powder or granules, 1 tsp allspice, 1 tsp cayenne or chilli powder, 1 tsp ground cumin and 1 tsp ground coriander.
Combine all the spices with oil, natural yoghurt and a squeeze of lemon juice to make the marinade. The longer the better, preferably overnight for the marinade to work. Alternatively, you can buy a good ready make tandoori masala mix in some supermarkets to use with yoghurt, oil and lemon.
HARISSA PASTE, shop bought, is perfect when used with oil for lamb or vegetable kebabs, as is CHIPOTLE PASTE, with oil and honey for chicken and beef
FOR PORK Use Chinese five spice mix with oil, honey and soy sauce
SWEET SATAY Great with chicken on skewers or tofu
Combine 1 tsp clear honey with 1 tbsp soy sauce, 1 tbsp mild curry powder, 3 tbsp smooth peanut butter and the thick part of the top of a tin of coconut milk
JERK RUB is ideal for giving heat and spice to chicken, lamb or pork
1 tsp each of allspice, smoked paprika, black pepper, salt
½ tsp each of chilli flakes, cinnamon, nutmeg
2 tsp dried herbs such as thyme, rosemary or parsley
2 tsp salt
Combine all the spices and seasoning to store in a jar until needed. Use as a dry rub or add dark brown sugar and oil to make a marinade.
STICKY PORK RIBS
Combine 50g dark brown sugar with 1 tbsp wholegrain mustard, 2 tbsp tomato puree, 5 tbsp orange marmalade and 2 tsp orange juice. Simmer in a pan until smooth and then smother over the ribs and leave to marinade for a few hours, cook slowly for best results.
FOR HALLOUMI, PRAWNS OR SALMON
Sweet chilli sauce with oil and honey
SMOKEY CAJUN RUB
1 tsp each of smoked paprika, cayenne, garlic, thyme and oregano, pinch of salt and black pepper. Add oil for a marinade and red peppers and onions for skewers.