Thursday, 6 September 2012

Last Days of Summer - let's fire up the barbie!

With the weather forecast looking to be at least reasonable for Friday and Saturday, I know that I will be hauling the old barbecue out of the shed and scrubbing it down this weekend. I even bought a bag of coals today in preparation!

I think everyone has their own favourite thing to barbecue - for me, I think lamb burgers are the way forward as I think beef burgers dry out way too much and become hard little testicles, whereas the higher fat content in the lamb makes for a much tastier BBQ experience. I highly recommend Lidl - the chicken breasts are monstrous and great value, they also do pre-packed lamb burgers that are as good as any I've had and for Himself, sausages are a must. Being half-German and half-English, this means a pack of German Bratwurst and also a packet of the "Deluxe Irish Traditional Style" will hardly break the bank at €2.99 and €1.99 respectively ... and did you know that sausages freeze beautifully, so if - for example - you find that only one member of the household likes a particular variety (no names being mentioned here!) then the remainder will freeze nicely for the next event, be that BBQ or brunch. And for a treat, their 2-pack of "Deluxe Hereford Fillet Steak" comes in around €11.99 and they are fantastically tasty (especially when their new celebrity tie-in chef Paul Flynn from the Tannery Restaurant in Co. Waterford cooks it for you, as we did at the Lidl press launch for their new "produce of Ireland" range last week - wowser, is all I can say! Find the recipe here).
Chef Paul Flynn's fillet steak for Lidl

This post isn't so much about meat to prepare, or even marinades to use, but actually more about the sides - a passion of mine. So often, the side dishes are totally secondary to the meat event, but for me the salads and sides have the power to make or break a BBQ. A simple green salad of fresh leaves, chopped tomato, cucumber and scallion dressed with a straight forward vinaigrette is a great foil to all that meat - I love some fresh herbs thrown in there too (a friend donated me a sample of their fresh herbs from the garden and it's inspired me to organise a raised bed for next year), and you can add whatever else you like - grated carrot, chunks of avocado, olives, a handful of nuts or seeds for crunch - it's great stuff. Incidentally, Delia Smith's website has a great "how to" section, including simple directions on how to make regular vinaigrette; I had to print it off and tape it to my fridge, as I was so fed up of vinaigrette that was either eye-wateringly sharp or like an oil slick on the tongue... 
Home-made coleslaw is also good, as mentioned on the Veggie(ish) Delights post, great with burgers.

I adore also whole sweetcorn done on the BBQ. Simply stick it on and let it char slightly on the outside - make sure the salt cellar and butter dish are to hand when serving, fantastic!

Another favourite here is mushroom - if you remove the stalk from a large flat / portobello / breakfast mushroom and pop in a large pinch of salt,just leave that on the BBQ and let the magic happen. The salt draws all the moisture out of the mushroom and it is just delightful. You can also roast red peppers easily on the BBQ; just rub them in oil and pop them onto the cooler part of the BBQ, and as they cook move them in towards the centre so they don't burn. They do take quite a while though - up to 15 minutes. They are done when charred on the outside, but you don't want that to happen too quickly or they will be too hard on the inside.

Some sort of carbohydrate is also required / expected. That can be as simple as a bread roll to go with the burgers and sausages (and I personally far prefer the soft white floury bap type roll to the standard burger bun or hot dog roll) or you can upgrade it. Potatoes are lovely done in the BBQ but take forever - I usually parboil them for 20 minutes first and then wrap in tinfoil and give them about another 20 minutes on the BBQ. Potato salad is also great, although with a German in the house, we tend to do it German style - boil baby potatoes and either leave whole (if small enough) or chop into bite-sized chunks. Season with salt and pepper and stir in a spoon of mayonnaise and then also add in some chopped pickled gherkins, leaving the rest of the jar on the table as a condiment. It's that simple. Again, Lidl and indeed most supermarkets these days, stock gherkins. My own favourite are the small little ones.

I have a great cous cous salad that I do - it was a recipe from the "dinner at a dash" section in the free paper Metro that I used to read on the Tube each day on my commute into London, back in the early 2000's. Simply "cook" the required amount of cous cous according to the packet instructions (usually means leaving in boiled water for about 5 minutes). Pop a tablespoon of raisins into cup of water to soak and plump up for a few minutes while you get on with chopping vegetables - plenty of cucumber, tomato, carrot, red pepper and scallion all finely chopped quite small (I think this is key ... a bit of a pain, especially with the carrot, but it's worth it). Toss these in with the cous cous and add the raisins, some chopped mint and parsley. Pour over some good olive oil and a the juice of one lemon and that's it - tasty as.

A good school friend of mine does a great Asian noodle salad that is great to ring the changes as well - again, the quantities here are a rough guide, for you to play around with as you see fit.
  • 100g smooth peanut butter
  • 2 tbsp sweet chilli sauce
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp garlic oil
  • 1 tbsp sesame oil
  • 1-2 tbsp lime juice  
  1. Blend the sauce ingredients above together, and mix with cooled noodles / pasta, chopped scallions and chopped red pepper or mange tout / garden peas, and lashings of coriander, to taste
  2. You can add chopped salted peanuts for garnish and nice salt hit and I also toast some sesame seeds on a dry pan and add these, they give a nice flavour

My dad also could not even contemplate a BBQ without a grilled banana - wrapped in tinfoil and seasoned lightly with ground black pepper, it is very good in a retro "chicken maryland" sort of way. Alternatively, you could leave out the pepper and instead stick a flake bar in the middle and have it for dessert - both rock!

A last word - dessert. I think the most appropriate thing here is ice-cream sundaes! Yummy. Some good quality vanilla ice-cream, layered up with some toasted hazelnuts (you can them toasted and chopped from the bakery aisle of the supermarket, or you can toast them in a pan yourself, just dry with no oil for 3-4 minutes), some good quality chocolate sauce (recipe below, or use a shop bought one), a couple of crumbled Oreo cookies, more ice-cream, more sauce, a blob of whipped cream, a mini-flake and a last sprinkle of nuts - you won't move for a week!

Hot Chocolate Fudge Sauce
  • 150g dark chocolate  (Just a note on the chocolate here - I use a minimum of 60% cocoa solids, with the addition of golden syrup to the recipe, it's sweet enough even for children)
  • 25g butter
  • 4 tablespoons golden syrup
  • 150ml cream (unwhipped, just pouring cream)
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  1. Place all ingredients together in a pan and heat gently on a low flame (otherwise the chocolate will burn) until the chocolate and butter have melted
  2. Stir together well and keep warm
  3. Re-heat if necessary, again over a gentle heat, stirring constantly
Lastly, the only comment I will make on gas versus charcoal BBQ is this - if, like me, you have the old-fashioned charcoal burning type BBQ, it's great to be able to pull it over beside you and throw some small pieces of wood or even turf on it to keep you warm and enjoying the garden as late as possible - even my garden looks romantic at 10pm when lit by lots of tealights in jamjars!

Enjoy the good weather everyone, and here's hoping it lasts all weekend.
Sarah xx

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