I adore the balmy evenings eating outside

I
We’ve had such blissful summer weather, who would want to be anywhere else but in Ireland when the sun really shines and warm breezes freshen the air.

I particularly adore the balmy evenings eating outside and being able to stay outdoors until the stars start to twinkle in the night sky. This is not the weather to spend in the kitchen frying over a hot stove, any sizzling should be coming from the ‘barbie’ – simple and delicious – this week some new ideas to add to the thrill of the grill.

Remember that people’s appetites increase when they eat outdoors, and of course all those lovely aromas of cooking food will make them hungrier still. Keep your guests’ hunger at bay with some fingerfood – particularly if you get your timing wrong and the cooking takes longer than expected!

Try to have some extra standby food on hand, such as extra sausages (which can be frozen later if they’re not used) and bananas or tomatoes which can be wrapped in streaky bacon.

Before you start barbecuing make sure that you’re organised – with your tongs, seasoning and dishes ready. Even though barbecues are laidback affairs, they will only seem effortless if you’ve organised yourself a little first.

The fundamental principle of barbecuing is controlling the heat. On a barbecue, you do this by raising or lowering the grill. Because they cook more slowly, the larger the pieces of meat, the further from the heat source they need to be. So for thick steaks, chicken legs and larger cuts of meat, you are better off searing over a high heat for a few minutes before transferring the meat to the edges of the grill, where the heat is lower. Searing will seal the meat, so that the juices remain inside during further cooking on a low heat. Smaller pieces of food (eg chicken paillarde or lamb chops) can be within 10-12.5cm (4-5 inches) of the coals. 

The appropriate time to test the temperature of a fire is when the flames have died down. The coals should be glowing red and covered with a light dusting of fine grey ash.

For an approximate guide, hold the palm of your hand flat about 12.5cm/5 in above the coals and count in seconds.

If you can only keep your hand there for:

1-2 seconds – the coals are hot 
3-4 seconds – the coals are medium hot 
5-6 seconds – the coals are medium 
6-7 seconds – the coals are medium low 
8-9 seconds – the coals are low 


If the fire burns too low, boost the heat by pushing the coals closer together and adding more charcoal to the outer edges of the fire.

For a two-level fire with hotter and cooler areas, spread some of the hot coals out in a single layer, to create an are of slightly lower heat to one side of the barbecue. Use the hand test (as above) to check the difference in heat intensity. You can then grill ingredients requiring different cooking temperatures simultaneously.

Be aware of hygiene and safety, keep all food refrigerated (or cool) until its needed. Keep cooked and uncooked meat separate and use different implements and serving dishes to avoid cross-contamination. Wash your hands after touching uncooked meat.

Never leave a barbecue unattended, always keep a fire extinguisher at hand and always damp down the barbecue completely before you empty out the ashes, and allow it to cool before moving it.

Happy cooking!

Wire Rack Salmon with Dill Butter and Roast Tomatoes

Fish works brilliantly on the barbecue provided you put it in a ‘fish cage’ for ease of turning. However you can do a perfectly good job with a ‘Heath Robinson’ type solution using 2 wire cake racks.
Serves 10-20

1 or 2 unskinned sides of wild fresh salmon
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Olive oil
Dill Butter
110-225g (4-8oz) butter
4-8 tablespoons of freshly chopped dill
10-20 cherry tomatoes on the vine

Sprinkle the salmon generously with sea salt up to an hour before cooking. 

Light the grill or barbecue. Just before serving, lay the salmon fillets skin side down on the wire rack. Brush the flesh with oil or melted butter and sprinkle with freshly ground pepper. Put the other wire rack on top. Lay on the grid of the barbecue, 15-20cm (6-8 inches) from the heat, cook for 10-15 minutes on the skin side. Turn the entire cage over and continue to cook for 5-6 minutes or until just cooked through. – Time will depend on the thickness of the fish.

Meanwhile melt the butter and stir in the freshly chopped dill, spoon a little dill butter over the salmon and serve with roast cherry tomatoes on the vine.

Roast Cherry Tomatoes

Drizzle the tomatoes with extra virgin olive oil, season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Roast on the BBQ for 5 or 6 minutes until they are warm through and just beginning to burst.

Balsamic Peppered Pork Chops

Adapted from Eric Treuille and Birgit Erath’s recipe in Barbecues.
Serves 8

8 pork free range organic pork chops, 2.5cm (1inch) thick
4 garlic cloves
2 tablesp. whole black peppercorns
1 tablesp. thyme leaves or 
1 teasp. rosemary
¼-½ teasp. crushed chilli flakes
1 tablesp. balsamic vinegar
3 tablesp. extra virgin olive oil

Trim the excess fat from the chops. Cut snips through remaining fat with a scissors at 4cm (1½ in) intervals, this keeps the chops flat and prevents them from curling and shrinking during cooking. They will also cook more evenly.

Put the garlic, peppercorns, thyme, chilli flakes, vinegar and oil in a food processor or blender; whizz to a coarse paste. Rub the paste on both sides of the chops. You can do this up to 2 hours in advance, then cover and keep in the fridge until you are ready to cook.

Grill over medium hot coals, basting with extra balsamic vinegar, for 8-10 minutes, until cooked through to the bone, there should be no trace of pink but don’t overcook as they will become tough.

You could also cook them indoors on a preheated ridged cast iron grill pan over high heat for the same length of time. 

Chilli Chicken and Ginger Paillarde

Chicken paillarde is an excellent way to prepare a chicken for the barbecue – they cook faster and more evenly. It is essential that chicken is cooked through properly, in order to safeguard against salmonella or campylobacter poisoning.
Serves 8

8 organic chicken breasts, skinless
Chilli and Ginger Marinade:
1 red chilli, seeded and finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, crushed
1½ tablesp. grated fresh ginger
6 tablesp. runny honey
3 tablesp soy sauce
6 tablesp lime juice

Accompaniment:
8 tiny spring onions
8 tomato slices
½ cucumber cut into long thick batons
fresh mint leaves
fresh coriander leaves

Cut each chicken breast in half lengthwise, keeping them attached at one side. Combine chilli, garlic, ginger, honey, soy sauce and lime juice. Dip the chicken in the mixture and toss to coat evenly. Put on a plate, cover and refrigerate until cooking.

Grill the chicken over medium hot coals, turning every 2 minutes, until cooked through, 4-5 minutes depending on thickness.
Serve hot with a selection of salads.

Chilli Chicken and Ginger Wraps

8 flour tortillas
8 lettuce leaves

Wraps with sweet chilli chicken, tomato, spring onion, cucumber and lettuce make great barbecue food – guests can have fun assembling the wraps themselves if all the components are laid out in bowls. This idea could also be used for other fillings of your choice.

Chargrilled Quesadillas with Tomato Salsa, Feta or Mozzarella and Guacamole

Mightn’t occur to one but quesadillas can also be done on the barbecue.
If you have a surplus of squash or zucchini blossoms they make a delicious addition to the quesadillas – use 3 or 4 squash or 1-2 of the larger zucchini blossoms for each quesadilla.
Serves 4

8 x 20cm (8 inch) flour tortillas
100g (3½oz) Gruyere cheese, grated
200g (7oz) feta cheese, crumbled or Mozzarella
Squash blossoms – optional

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. Add the squash blossoms if using. 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 pan-grilled meat to a piece of sizzling fish.
Serves 4-6

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.

Guacamole

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.
Serves 2-4

1 ripe avocado, preferably Mexican 
1 clove garlic, crushed
1-2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime or lemon juice (as a last resort)
1 tablespoon 
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. 

Rosemary Lamb Chops with Mustard Mint Dressing

From : Barbecue, Where there’s Smoke there’s Flavour
By Eric Treuille and Birgit Erath
Serves 4

8-10cm (4in) woody rosemary sprigs
8 lamb loin chops, boned – see directions
1 garlic clove, crushed
2 teasp. black pepper
1 tablesp. balsamic vinegar
1 tablesp. olive oil
salt

Dijon mustard dressing:

1 tablesp. Dijon mustard
2 tablesp. finely chopped mint
3 tablesp.freshly squeezed lemon juice
6 tablesp. olive oil
salt, black pepper

For skewers, strip the leaves from the rosemary stalks, leaving a few leaves at one end of each stalk. Sharpen the other end to a point with a knife. Use sprigs to skewer the lamb.

Boning and herb-skewering the chops.

Trim off excess fat from cutlets. Cut around the bone to release the meat.

Pull the flap around each chop to make a round shape. With a small, sharp knife make a slit through the chop, passing first through the flap. Push the sharp end of the rosemary sprig through the slit to secure.

Combine garlic, pepper, vinegar and oil. Rub on to both sides of lamb. Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

For dressing, combine mustard, mint and lemon juice. Gradually whisk oil to make a thick dressing. Add salt and pepper to taste. Grill skewered lamb according to instructions below. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Spoon over dressing.

To barbecue outdoors:
Grill over hot coals for 3 minutes per side for medium rare, 5 minutes per side for well done.
To barbecue indoors: Preheat a ridged cast iron grill pan over high heat. Grill for 3 minutes per side for medium rare, 5 minutes per side for well done.

Think ahead:
Skewer and rub lamb up to 1 day in advance. Cover tightly with cling film and refrigerate. Make dressing up to 4 hours in advance. Cover and store at room temperature

Eric’s Chicken Baguette

Serves 4
4 boneless, skinless organic chicken breasts, butterflied (see directions) and marinated.
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 tablesp. fresh marjoram
2 tablesp. extra virgin olive oil
1 teasp. black pepper
1 baguette – preferably Declan Ryan’s Arbutus bread or other good artisan bread
salt
2 large ripe beefsteak tomatoes, sliced
1 handful crisp salad leaves
garlic aioli or mayonnaise

First butterfly the chicken breasts, they cook more easily and evenly on the barbecue.

Remove the fillet from each chicken breast and save for another dish. Slice each chicken breast from top to bottom, so that you can open it out like a book. Flatten with the palm of your hand to ensure a good, flat shape.

Toss the chicken breasts with lemon, garlic, marjoram, oil and pepper. Cover and refrigerate for 20 minutes. (You could do this up to 2 hours ahead, cover and refrigerate, turn in the marinade every 15-20 minutes). Cut baguette into 4 equal-sized pieces. Split and toast baguette on the cut side until just crisp, 1 minute. 

Grill chicken – if cooking outdoors grill over a medium heat until chicken is opaque, with no trace of pink, 3 minutes per side. If cooking indoors, preheat an overhead grill and cook in the same manner. 

Sprinkle the chicken with salt. Fill the baguette with tomatoes, salad, chicken and aioli.

Barbecued Flat Mushrooms

Large flat mushrooms
olive oil
chopped fresh herbs, eg. chives, thyme, parsley and marjoram
salt and freshly ground pepper

Arrange the mushrooms on a flat dish, sprinkle with freshly chopped herbs. Drizzle with olive oil, season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Leave for ½ - 1 hour approx. Cook on the barbecue, sprinkle with sea salt as they cook. Serve as they are or with garlic or herb butter.

Barbecued New Potatoes
Serves 6 - make a bigger quantity by doubling up recipe.

900g (2lb) new potatoes, scrubbed but not peeled
4 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.

Cut Apple Kebabs
Dessert apples cut into large chunks, or quarters, sprinkled with lemon juice
Just before cooking toss in or paint the apples with melted butter, sprinkle with caster sugar and thread onto skewers. Grill for 5-8 minutes or until golden and caramelized.

You could also cook the fruit in tin foil papillotes on the barbecue – use a mixture of peaches, nectarines, cherries, strawberries as desired.

Foolproof food

Roast Bananas with Chocolate and Roasted Hazelnuts

Serves 6
6 ripe organic Fairtrade bananas
75-110g (3-4 oz) Green & Black chocolate, chopped
50g (2 oz) chopped roasted hazelnuts or walnuts 
crème fraîche or softly whipped cream

Cook the bananas on the barbecue until they are black on all sides. Put onto a serving plate. Split the skin on one side. Sprinkle some chopped chocolate and roasted hazelnuts over the hot bananas. Serve immediately with a blob of crème fraîche or softly whipped cream.

Other good things to serve with Roast bananas:
Cinnamon sugar (Combine 110g (4oz) castor sugar and 1-2 teaspoons cinnamon)
A mixture of rum soaked raisins and chopped walnuts
Toffee sauce and chopped pecans

Hot Tips 

Books on Barbecuing

Barbecue – Where there’s Smoke there’s Flavour – by Eric Treuille and Birgit Erath, published by Dorling Kindersley

Barbecues and other Outdoor Feasts by Hugo Arnold – published by Kyle Cathie.

Food Magazines generally do barbecue features at this time of year – eg Food and Wine, BBC Good Food, Olive, Delicious …..with lots of new ideas.

Growing Awareness - Farm Walk on Sunday 31st July at Parkmore, Templemartin, Bandon, Co Cork on Farm of Caroline and Eddie Robinson. Tel 021-7330178-
The Robinson family live on a 30 acre organic farm keeping cattle, pigs and geese. They grow 8 acres of vegetables including 4 large polytunnels. All produce is sold directly to customers at street markets. www.growingawareness.com  

Euro-toques Annual Food Forum and Fair, Brooklodge Hotel, Macreddin, Co Wicklow Sunday 4th September.
This year’s Food Forum will centre on ‘Children and Food’; addressing the need to educate children about food, change eating habits and bring children back to real food. 
To book a place at Food Forum and Wild Food Barbecue lunch or to book at stall at the Food Fair, contact info@eurotoquesirl.org  www.eurotoquesirl.org  Tel Ruth or Abigail on 01-6779995 immediately. 

About the author

Darina Allen
By Darina Allen

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