Barbecues are very much a ‘Man Thing’

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Barbecues are very much a ‘man thing’, according to Antony Worrall-Thompson, its something to do with the time we spent sitting in caves ripping chunks of meat from roasted carcasses, the hunter-gatherer in us enjoying the spoils of the day, then as now, women didn’t get much of a look-in – men still love playing with fire and the nation is in the grip of barbecue fever.

In just a few short years, virtually every house in the country has a barbie of some kind, yet much of the fare on offer is pretty uninspiring, usually involving sausages, chips, chicken fillets, burgers or steaks.

Mind you, if the meat is of good provenance and well hung, a drizzle of good extra virgin olive oil, some freshly ground pepper and sea salt will be adequate and one doesn’t necessarily need a fancy barbie either.

There’s so much choice nowadays from disposable trays available in petrol stations to sturdy hibachi with adjustable racks or cute little barbecues in girlie colours. The top of the range gas grill doubles as an outdoor kitchen and can be used from January to December.

I’ve cooked on them all but I’m a big fan of the kettle grill with domed lid – this gives you many more options and some can double up as a smoker.

Before you go shopping, you’ve got to consider your lifestyle and what you want from your barbecue, does it need to be portable or can it be a fixture?. Do you want to cook for large parties or just a few family and friends? Are you a purist or a pragmatist – will it be charcoal or gas? I like to have both options, depending on the occasion. 

One of the more important elements of a barbecue is the facility to control the height of the food over the source of heat. This is vital, particularly when you want to cook a large joint of meat evenly. With gas, its just a click of the switch and then you are in business.

Charcoal is a whole lot trickier. Its vital to light the barbecue well in advance. A good trick is to line the base of the barbecue with tin foil to reflect the heat upwards.

Don’t use firelighters and certainly don’t resort to petrol – screwed up paper, kindling and long matches are fine. Pile the charcoal into a pyramid and once lit leave it alone.

Meanwhile, prepare the food. Lay it out in manageable size portions on trays. Make lots of sauces, relishes and salads – many people make the mistake of overdoing the meat. Trim excess fat off the meat or it will catch fire and create lots of flame. There are masses of easy and delicious marinades that can be made in minutes but a very good bottle of extra virgin olive oil, Maldon or Halen Mon sea salt,and freshly cracked pepper are the essentials.

Add fresh herbs, particularly the gutsy ones like rosemary, thyme and sage, or freshly cracked spices to ring the changes.

Yoghurt tenderizes but drain well before cooking, otherwise it will stick and burn, as will items doused in sweet barbecue sauce.

When the coals are ready they should have burned down to a grey ash with glowing red coals underneath. Spread them out a bit at one side to create a cooler area if it is needed.

Use long-handled tongs and have a mister close by to douse flames if necessary. 

Best of all, enjoy the thrill of the grill, practice makes perfect.

There are lots of books to give you new ideas but Antony Worrall Thompson has just added his creative talent and published Barbecues and Grilling with Jane Suthering – published by Kyle Cathie. Buy this Book at Amazon

Here are some recipes from the book to try for your next barbie.

Blue Cheese Dip

142ml (4½ fl.oz approx.) carton soured cream
150ml (5fl.oz) mayonnaise
2 teaspoons white wine vinegar
2 tablespoons sliced spring onions
1 garlic clove, finely diced
1 teaspoon Tabasco sauce
75g (3oz) crumbled blue cheese (Stilton, Roquefort, blue Auvergne)
Salt and freshly ground pepper

In a food processor, blend together the soured cream, mayonnaise, vinegar, spring onions, garlic, Tabasco and the cheese. Season to taste.

Oriental Pork and Pineapple Kebabs

This is one instance where sweet and savoury combine beautifully. The slightly sharp pineapple juice helps to cut through the richness of the oyster and soy sauces.
Makes 4

500g (18oz) pork fillet (tenderloin), cut into 24 chunks
1 tablespoon oyster sauce
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
¼ teaspoon ground white pepper
1 tablespoon finely chopped red chilli
1 tablespoon grated ginger
1 shallot, finely chopped
24 chunks of fresh pineapple, cut the same size as the pork.

Combine the pork and the remaining ingredients, with the exception of the pineapple. Cover with clingfilm and allow to marinate for 3-4 hours in the fridge. Remove at least 30 minutes before cooking.

Meanwhile, soak 8 small bamboo skewers in cold water for 30 minutes. Thread alternate chunks of pineapple and pork onto the skewers.

Set the kebabs on the barbecue grill over medium-hot colas and chargrill for 10-12 minutes, turning them from time to time until the pork is cooked through. Brush the pork with any remaining marinade while it is cooking. Serve immediately.

AWT’s All-American Burger

No barbecue book, or for that matter, barbecue, is complete without a classic beef burger. Cooking the onion first will give the burger a much better flavour and prevent the burger from going black.
Makes 6

15g unsalted butter
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 teaspoon finely chopped garlic
1 teaspoon dried oregano
½ teaspoon ground cumin
Ikg (2¼ lb) finely minced lean beef
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 teaspoon chilli sauce
6 soft white burger buns, split and lightly chargrilled
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

In a small frying pan, melt the butter and gently fry the onion, garlic, oregano and cumin until the onion is translucent and softened. Allow to cool then transfer to a large bowl and mix with the minced beef, olive oil, parsley and chilli sauce. Work with your hands to create a blended mixture, but do not overwork it.

Form the mixture into 6 ‘burgers’, and chargrill them on the barbecue – for medium rare, 4-5 minutes each side, 6-8 minutes each side for well-done.
Fill the buns with the burgers and garnishes of your choice.

To garnish, choose from torn lettuce leaves, thinly sliced onion rings, thinly sliced tomato, sliced pickled gherkins, tomato ketchup, mustard and mayonnaise.

Oriental Chicken Thighs

For a traditional presentation, serve these with noodles combined with some wilted spinach leaves and flavoured with chopped garlic, fresh ginger and light soy sauce.
Serves 4

12 skinless and boneless chicken thighs

For the marinade:
5 tablespoons dark soy sauce
3 tablespoons mirin or dry sherry
3 tablespoons sweet chilli sauce
3 tablespoons unrefined soft brown sugar
2 tablespoons grated fresh ginger
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped 

In a shallow dish combine the soy, mirin or dry sherry, chilli sauce, sugar, ginger and garlic. Add the chicken thighs and turn them to coat with the marinade, then cover and refrigerate for at least 2 and up to 24 hours, turning from time to time. Remove from the fridge about 1 hour before cooking.

Cook the chicken thighs on the barbecue grill over hot coals for 8-10 minutes on each side, basting with the marinade several times during the cooking. Serve immediately.
For a grilled teriyaki tuna variation, take 4 tuna steaks, each about 2.5cm thick, marinate as above and cook on the oiled barbecue grill over hot coals for 2 minutes each side. Serve at once.

Indian Spicy Chicken

Yogurt tenderises the chicken and beating the meat ensures that it won’t take too long to cook. If there’s any leftovers, the chicken makes a great sandwich filling with salad.
Serves 6

6 skinless and boneless chicken breasts

For the marinade:
4 garlic cloves, crushed with a little salt
300ml (10fl.oz) Greek-style yogurt
1 tablespoon grated onion
1 green chilli, deseeded and finely diced
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 teaspoon chilli powder
1 teaspoon garam masala spice mix
½ teaspoon English mustard powder

Mix together all the marinade ingredients.

Lay a chicken breast between two sheets of clingfilm, then beat it with a meat mallet or rolling pin until its widened to about twice the size. Repeat with the remaining pieces of chicken. Cover the chicken with the yogurt mixture and marinate, covered, in the fridge for at least 2 hours or preferably overnight.

Remove from the fridge about 30 minutes before cooking. Wipe the excess yogurt from the chicken and oil the barbecue grill. Cook the chicken over hot coals for 4-5 minutes each side, until lightly charred.

Bananas with Toffee Sauce

A simple way of barbecuing bananas is to cook them in their skins until they blacken and feel very soft. When you cut back the skin you will discover a natural banana soufflé – delicious.
Serves 4-8

8 bananas in their skins

For the Toffee Sauce:
100g (3½ oz) unsalted butter
100g (3½ oz) unrefined soft brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
100ml (3½ fl.oz) dark rum
142ml (4½ fl.oz) carton double cream

To make the toffee sauce, melt the butter in a small saucepan with the sugar, cinnamon and rum. Simmer, stirring from time to time, until the sauce begins to thicken. Add the cream and whisk until the sauce emulsifies. Do not boil.

Place the bananas, unpeeled, on the barbecue over medium heat and cook until the skins have blackened all over and are just beginning to split.
Allow your guests to peel their own bananas and watch for their excited reactions. Serve the sauce separately.

Foolproof Food

Barbecued New Potatoes

Serves 4
750g (1½lb) new potatoes, scrubbed but not peeled
3 tablesp. olive oil
salt and freshly ground black pepper

Cook the potatoes in boiling salted water until just tender – 10-15 minutes depending on size.(You could do this the day before if you like). If the potatoes are large cut them in half, but if small leave whole, toss in the olive oil, salt and black pepper. 

Thread onto skewers. Grill over medium coals, turning regularly for about 8-10 minutes depending on size.

Hot Tips

Deasy’s Harbour Bar and Seafood Restaurant, Ring Road, Ring, Clonakilty, Co Cork – delicious seafood – well worth a detour – Tel 023-35741 for reservations.

Glebe Brethan Farmhouse Cheese wins Gold at World Cheese Awards
This gruyere-type cheese is made from unpasteurised Montbeliarde cows milk by David Tiernan in Dunleer, Co. Louth. Made in 45 kilo wheels, the cheese is matured on spruce timbers for a minimum of 4-6 months. It is mellow, fruity and creamy when young, becoming more aromatic with spicy, nutty flavours. Great to see some new cheese coming on stream in Ireland. For more details contact maireadtiernan@eircom.net 

Celtic Market in Patrick St. Cork on Sunday 10th September 
As part of the folk festival this September, a Celtic Market with up to 30 food stalls will be held in Cork, there will be a number of events including a Ceili Mor, Live Music and Street Theatre. Enquiries from Rose-Anne Kidney, Festival Market Manager, Cork Folk Festival, Festival House, Grand Parade, Cork. Tel 086-8283310

About the author

Darina Allen
By Darina Allen

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