What is it about barbeques that brings out latent culinary skills in even the most kitchen shy lads; perhaps it is the primeval thrill of playing with fire that generates a rush of excitement. As a nation despite the inclement weather we’ve taken to the barbeque with huge enthusiasm. Virtually every house has a barbie in some shape or form. 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, it’s just a click of the switch and then you are in business.
Charcoal is a whole lot trickier. It’s 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, Irish Sea Salt, 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. Sausages are fine there’s a whole lot more out here so here are a few deliciously simply suggestions.
Asian Chilli Chicken Breasts
Seek out organic or at least free-range chicken.
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 fresh red chilli, seeded and finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
4 tablespoons runny Irish honey
2 tablespoons soy sauce
4 tablespoons lime juice
1 spring onion, diagonally sliced
1 fresh red chilli, seeded and finely sliced
1 tablespoon fresh mint leaves
1 tablespoon fresh coriander leaves
4 x 35cm (14inch) flat metal skewers
Cut each breast lengthwise into 3 strips. Combine chilli, garlic, ginger, honey, soy sauce and lime juice. Reserve 4 tablespoons of the mixture. Add chicken to remaining mixture and toss to coat evenly. Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes. Thread 3 chicken strips on to each skewer. Grill over a medium-hot coals, turning every 2 minutes, until cooked through (8-10 minutes). Drizzle over reserved sweet chilli mixture. Sprinkle with spring onion, chilli, mint and coriander leaves. Serve hot.
Chargrilled New Potato Skewers
900g (2lb) small new potatoes
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, approximately
1 tablespoon rosemary, finely chopped
metal skewer or pre-soaked bamboo skewers
Scrub the potatoes and cook in boiling salted water for 15-20 minutes. Cool. (the potatoes may be cooked ahead). Cut in half, toss in olive oil and sprinkle with finely chopped rosemary and sea salt.
Thread the potato halves onto the skewers. Cook potato halves over a barbeque until crisp and slightly charred on both sides. Alternatively roast in a hot oven 230ºC/450ºF/gas mark 8 for 10-15 minutes or until cooked and nicely brown – you may need to turn half way through.
Lamb Tikka Masala with Naan Bread and Tzatziki
2kg (4lb 8oz) leg or shoulder of Irish lamb cut into 4cm (1 1/2 inch) cubes
3 tablespoons grated ginger
6 garlic cloves
1-2 green chillies
3 tablespoons fresh coriander, chopped
3 tablespoons garam masala
2 teaspoons turmeric
3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
300ml (10fl oz) natural yoghurt
salt and freshly ground black pepper
naan bread or pitta bread
flat kebab skewers
Mix all the ingredients for the marinade together. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Add the lamb cubes and toss well in the spicy yoghurt. Marinade for 1-2 hours.
Thread the lamb pieces on to a skewer with bay leaves between the cubes. Grill over moderately hot coals for a couple of minutes on each side – you’ll need to stand over them and keep turning them otherwise they will stick.
Serve with tzatziki and naan bread.
Chargrilled Quesadillas with Tomato Salsa, Feta or Mozzarella and Guacamole
Mightn’t occur to one but quesadillas can also be made on the barbecue and are delicious.
8 x 20cm (8 inch) flour tortillas
100g (3½oz) Gruyere cheese, grated
200g (7oz) feta cheese, crumbled or Mozzarella
Tomato salsa – see recipe
4 Spring onions, chopped
Guacamole – see recipe
Spread the tortilla with a quarter of the Gruyere cheese. Put a layer of tomato salsa on top and sprinkle with some chopped spring onion. Sprinkle with a quarter of the Feta or Mozzarella. Lightly place a second tortilla on top. Assemble the remaining tortillas in the same way. (This could be done up to 4 hours beforehand – cover with cling film and keep at room temperature).
Grill over medium-hot coals until lightly browned and the Gruyere is melted, this should take about 2 minutes on each side.
Cut into wedges with a sharp serrated knife. Serve hot with tomato salsa and guacamole.
Tomato and Coriander Salsa
Salsas of all kinds both fresh and cooked have now become a favourite accompaniment to everything from pangrilled meat to a piece of sizzling fish.
4 very ripe tomatoes, chopped
1 tablespoon red onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
½-1 chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
1-2 tablespoons chopped fresh coriander
Squeeze of fresh lime juice
Salt, freshly ground pepper and sugar
Mix all the ingredients together. Season with salt, freshly ground pepper and sugar.
Taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary.
One of my most treasured possessions is a dark green pottery bowl with a coarse textured interior; it was specially made in a village in the Oaxacan valley in Mexico to make Guacamole. I carried it and the lava rock pestle the whole way home and have enormously enjoyed using it ever since.
1 ripe avocado, preferably Mexican
1 clove garlic, crushed
1-2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime or lemon juice (as a last resort)
1 tablespoon coarsely chopped fresh coriander
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper .
Scoop out the flesh from the avocado. Mash with a fork or in a pestle and mortar with the garlic, add the freshly squeezed lime juice, a little olive oil, chopped coriander, salt and freshly ground pepper to taste.
Pan grilled Mackerel with Parsley Butter or Green Gooseberry Sauce
This is a master recipe for pan grilling fish.
The simplest and possibly the most delicious way to cook really fresh mackerel.
Serves 1 or 2
2-4 fillets of very fresh mackerel (allow 6 ozs (170g) fish form main course, 3 ozs (85g) for a starter)
small knob of butter
2 ozs (50g) butter
4 teaspoons finely chopped parsley
a few drops of freshly squeezed lemon juice
segment of lemon
First make the Parsley Butter.
Cream the butter, stir in the parsley and a few drops of lemon juice at a time. Roll into butter pats or form into a roll and wrap in greaseproof paper or tin foil, screwing each end so that it looks like a cracker. Refrigerate to harden.
Heat the grill pan.
Dip the fish fillets in flour which has been seasoned with salt and freshly ground pepper. Shake off the excess flour and then spread a little butter with a knife on the flesh side, as though you were buttering a slice of bread rather meanly. When the grill is quite hot but not smoking, place the fish fillets butter side down on the grill; the fish should sizzle as soon as they touch the pan. Turn down the heat slightly and let them cook for 4 or 5 minutes on that side before you turn them over. Continue to cook on the other side until crisp and golden. Serve on a hot plate with some slices of Parlsey Butter and a segment of lemon.
Parsley Butter may be served directly on the fish, or if you have a pretty shell, place it at the side of the plate as a container for the butter. Garnish with parsley and a segment of lemon.
Green Gooseberry Sauce
Use the tart hard green gooseberries on the bushes at the moment, they make a delicious sauce.
10 ozs (285g ) fresh green gooseberries
stock syrup to cover – 6 fl.ozs (175 ml) approx.
a knob of butter (optional)
Top and tail the gooseberries, put into a stainless steel saucepan, barely cover with stock syrup, bring to the boil and simmer until the fruit bursts. Taste. Stir in a small knob of butter if you like but it is very good without it.
Una’s Handmade Gourmet Pies.
Thai Green Curry Pie, Chicken, Leek and Bacon Pie, Mince and Onion Pie, Steak and Guinness Pie, Goats Cheese and Roasted Vegetable Pie…how delicious does that sound and they are. Una Martin uses Woodside Farm’s bacon, Gubbeen chorizo, Ardsallagh goats cheese, Waterfall Farm vegetables, Ballyburden Farm beef and the lamb is from Sheehan’s butchers in Douglas, for her pies encased in an irresistible homemade crust. Available at Mahon Point Farmers Market every Thursday and Douglas Farmers Market every Saturday. Contact 087 2859957.
Ovencrafter Hendrik Lepel will teach a hands-on two day workshop on how to build your own outdoor wood fired bread / pizza oven on Saturday 9th and Sunday 10th July -10am to 4.30pm – at Coolibah, Belgooly, Kinsale. Cost €150.00 per person and includes lunch on both days. To book phone Hendrik 086-8838400 or kirdnehl@hotmail – www.bakehus.com
Canapes, Finger Food and Tasty Bites – half day course at Ballymaloe Cookery School on Thursday 28th July 2011 – 9:30am to 1:30pm – lunch included – 021 4646785.