ArchiveJune 9, 2024

Summer BBQ

Nothing says Summer like wheeling out the barbeque, but this year because the weather has been so crazy, it’s been in and out of the shed on a regular basis. I’ve got a couple of different contraptions. One a very fancy barbeque Weber and several other ‘Heath Robinson’ types, all of which do the job, but it must be said, varying degrees of skill are needed to turn out nicely charred, succulent food.

I love cooking over fire, it definitely brings out my inner ‘caveman’ and awakens my primeval instincts. Can be as simple as a circle of stones with a feisty fire in the centre and a wire rack to lay the food on top. Grilling is all about controlling the heat and arranging the food at a careful distance from the heat source. If, however you really prefer not to play Russian roulette and would rather play safe to be sure of constant results, invest in a Weber or similar type barbeque – they are brilliantly reliable and have a lid so you can cook anything from a loaf of bread to a butterflied leg of lamb to a turkey deliciously. We love to give a smoky flavour. Tempting as it may be, don’t leave your gas barbeque out in all weathers, it will eventually deteriorate and rust.

Last weekend, I was invited to a friend’s 80th birthday party in the UK. It was such a brilliant party and a wonderful weekend of catching up with young and old friends, some of whom I hadn’t seen for over 20 years and certainly not since before the pandemic.

For Sunday lunch for over 80 guests, multiple sheets of marinated ribs were grilled on a long skinny repurposed scaffolding frame with two half barrels on top and a rack that could be adjusted to two heights (essential). I suppose the whole barbeque was put together for less than £50 and it worked like a dream. On the previous evening, five butterflied legs of lamb had been cooked to perfection on the same simple contraption.

A super easy way to feed a crowd of people and a brilliantly convivial way to whet everyone’s appetite.

Top Tips for tasty grilled food:

  • Marinade before, time will depend on the thickness of the meat or fish.
  • Use lots of gusty herbs and spices.
  • Season generously with flaky sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper.
  • Buy really fresh fish and best quality ingredients.
  • Keep chops and steaks good and thick so they can char on the outside but remain juicy and pink in the centre.
  • Use lots of chunky vegetables doused in extra virgin olive oil and optional herbs and spices – carrots, aubergines, cabbage wedges, scallions, spring onions….
  • As an accompaniment, have a gorgeous bowl of chilled fresh organic salad leaves with lots and lots of Parmesan grated over the top.
  • Have lots of good sauces and salsa.

Jasper Wight’s Rosticciana – Charcoal Grilled Pork Ribs

Rosticcianaare whole sheets of pork ribs grilled over charcoal, then cut into single cooked ribs.

They are common in Tuscany, Italy, more in a home cooking environment (cucina casalinga) than in restaurant cooking.

Jasper learned this recipe and marinade from Piera Vegnani, at one of her Sunday lunches for 20 or so family and friends crowded around a long table in the kitchen of their rustic farmhouse on the edges of Panzano-in-Chianti, in the heart of Tuscany.

Sheet ribs are simply a single sheet of ribs cut close to the bone when the pork belly is taken off in a single piece (approx. 12 ribs). Do not be tempted to buy spareribs, with their extra inch or so of flesh, or to buy single ribs. 

A decent butcher should be happy enough to cut the sheet ribs off. 

There are of course many variations on the marinade, so feel free to improvise. Quantities depend on the quantity of ribs, but you want a light marinade, like a heavy dusting, not a heavy load.

  • finely sliced onion
  • finely sliced garlic
  • black peppercorns crushed in a pestle and mortar or a spice grinder to a medium texture
  • fennel seeds likewise
  • a few crushed dried chillies if you like some extra heat to the pepper
  • strips of lemon zest
  • coarsely chopped rosemary
  • coarsely chopped sage
  • sunflower or olive oil
  • (no salt)

Rub the marinade all over the ribs in a large oven dish, cover and chill for at least 12 hours, ideally turning and mixing from time to time.

At least 4 hours prior to cooking, take the marinated ribs out of the fridge and bring up to room temperature

Around 90 mins before serving, light the barbeque, using only lump wood charcoal, ideally large restaurant grade chunks, not charcoal briquettes.

Ideally your barbeque will have a rack for the coals to sit on and an adjustable height grill. also keep a small squeezy bottle of water nearby to douse any flames, and a pack of fine sea salt that will be easy to sprinkle.

Our friend Mimmo Baldi, who runs the Enoteca Baldi on the main piazza of Panzano-in-Chianti, likes to clean the barbeque grill with an improvised brush of woody herbs, such as rosemary and bay branches, and also to drop some of the leaves into the coals a little before the ribs hit the grill, to give some extra perfume to the ribs in due course.

After around 45 minutes the coals should be white and not so fiercely hot, but still hard to hold your hand near.

Knock off as much of the onion, garlic, lemon zest and herbs as you can, but don’t fuss if some is left on.

Salt one side of each rib sheet (fairly generously) and place it facing salt side downwards on the grill.

Don’t move the sheet ribs around. They should sizzle gently, not flame and not burn. If they do flame excessively, raise the grill a bit and squirt a little water onto the flaming areas.

After around 10-15 minutes, salt the top side of the ribs (maybe a little less generously than before) and flip them over. You want to be sure the cooked side is cooked all over, with no patches of raw pork that maybe missed the main areas of heat.

Grill the second side for another 10-15 minutes, until there is no blood puffing from the bones, and the flesh is all cooked through.

Generally, we serve these pretty much straight from the grill, but they can be rested and held for up to an hour or so if you want to build up a larger pile.

To serve, cut between the ribs with a heavy knife and pile up on a warm plate.

Eat with your fingers, with paper towels to hand.

Pineapple, Chilli and Lime Salsa

Delicious served with the ribs or just a lamb chop.

Serves 8

½ fresh pineapple, cored and finely diced (use less canned if you are in a hurry)

1 fresh red chilli, seeded and finely chopped

1 red onion, finely chopped

2 tbsp chopped fresh coriander or mint

grated zest of 1 lime

3 tbsp lime juice

salt and sugar

Mix the pineapple with the chilli, onion, coriander or mint, lime zest and lime juice in a bowl.  Add salt and sugar to taste.  Cover and let stand for 30 minutes at room temperature to allow flavours to blend.  Serve chilled or at room temperature.

Butterflied Leg of Lamb with Harissa and Chickpea Salad

Serves 8 or more

1 butterflied leg of lamb (1.5kg approximately)

100g harissa or rose harissa

zest and freshly squeezed juice of 2 lemons

Chickpea Salad

700g dried chickpeas

3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

4 onions, sliced

4 cloves of garlic, chopped 

flaky sea salt

½ – 1 pomegranate


175ml extra virgin olive oil

50ml freshly squeezed lemon juice

2 cloves of garlic, crushed

2 tsp freshly ground cumin seeds

2 tsp freshly ground coriander seeds

salt and freshly ground pepper

To Serve

3 tbsp coriander, chopped

3 tbsp flat leaf parsley, chopped

150ml natural yoghurt with 1 tablespoon of freshly chopped mint leaves

Night Before.

Mix the harissa with the zest and freshly squeezed juice of the lemon.  Place the lamb in a large bowl.  Pierce some holes in the lamb with the tip of a sharp knife – this will allow the marinade to penetrate the meat.  Pour the marinade over the lamb and rub in well.  Cover and refrigerate overnight.  A large Ziploc bag works brilliantly also.

Cover the dried chickpeas in plenty of cold water.  Allow to soak overnight.

Next Day.

Preheat the barbeque or oven to 180°C/Gas Mark 4.

Drain the chickpeas, put into a saucepan.  Cover with fresh cold water.  Bring to the boil and simmer until tender, about 30-45 minutes approx.  Heat the oil in a saucepan, sweat the onion and garlic until soft.  Then allow to become golden and caramelised.  Season with flaky sea salt.   

Mix all the ingredients for the dressing together in a bowl. 

Remove the meat from the marinade, place on the barbecue near the coals to seal in the juices on each side.  Raise the grill and cook for 20 minutes on each side, occasionally basting with the remaining marinade.  We like it pink. Alternatively put on a roasting tray and roast in a preheated oven for 1 – 1 ¼ hours depending on how well you like it cooked. 

When the chickpeas are cooked, drain and toss immediately with the caramelised onions, garlic and spicy dressing.  Allow to come to room temperature. 

When the lamb is cooked, remove from the grill and allow to rest for 15 minutes. 

Toss the freshly chopped herbs through the chickpea salad. 

Slice the meat thinly, serve with chickpea salad and a blob of yoghurt and fresh mint.


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