TOM PARKER BOWLES WANTS CORNWALL TO LIGHT OUR (BBQ) FIRE
Food writer Tom Parker Bowles on why Cornwall needs to get the barbecue out this summer
Last night, I fired up the barbecue. For the 12th time this month. And we're only half way through July. It's not simply a passion, rather all-encompassing addiction. My wife reckons that given half the chance, I'd not only grill endlessly over those gloriously glowing coals. But boil my breakfast egg on it too.
She may have a point. Because the barbecue is far and away my favourite way of cooking. Over charcoal, of course. I have no time whatsoever for gas. So convenient, they say. And so much easier. Well tosh and poppycock to that. I adore the ritual of the briquettes. The firing up, the long wait as first, there's smoke, then roaring flames then finally,at long last, that gentle sprinkling of white ash, telling me it's time to cook.
Barbecuing combines gastronomy with pyromania, a thrilling melange. Plus a beer or glass of something chilled and white or pink are as a essential tool as tongs and sharp, poky type thing
Of course, barbecuing combines gastronomy with pyromania, a thrilling melange. Plus a beer or glass of something chilled and white or pink are as a essential tool as tongs and sharp, poky type thing. But it is an art. What always amazes me is men, who for the rest of the year struggle to make toast, suddenly see themselves as Marco Pierre White at the first dribble of sun. And go onto needlessly torture entirely innocent sausages and perfectly blameless burgers, by burning 10 kinds of hell out of the poor things. No wonder most people dread an invitation to the barbie next door. The point is that flames are the enemy. Ok, so those Burger King adverts may look fierce and macho. But they're adverts. For very second rate fast food.
You want a consistent heat, and don't be afraid to use the domed cover of your grill. I have a big, but basic, Weber, and have used it for years. When the white ash appears, add your sausages, chicken, sardines, asparagus, lamb chops or whatever. Then whack on the cover, to ensure they not engulfed in some awful inferno. If things get too fiery, close the air ducts to reduce the oxygen. And bring in a plant spray filled with water to quell those evil flames. Always let things sizzle at a gentle pace.
As to what you throw on top, it's entirely up to you. But one of the great dishes is the butterflied leg of lamb. Get your butcher to cut out the bone, then marinate for a few hours (overnight best) with hot paprika, olive oil, sherry vinegar, slat and fresh thyme (recipe below). Then cook for about five minutes each side, allow to rest for at least 15 minutes and carve into great thick, just pink slices. Bliss.
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And lamb chops never fail to thrill. I tend to bung them in a Thai red curry paste, mixed with olive oil, and leave them to wallow for an afternoon. Cook gently, and keep prodding them with your finger. They should still be a little soft when you haul them off the coals.
Sweetcorn is another beauty. Buy in their husks, soak in water for an hour, then let them cook slowly for about 10 or 15 minutes. Asparagus need only a couple of minutes each side. Fresh sardines or mackerel are anointed with a lick of olive oil and a great handful of sea salt. While bigger fish, bass or bream, can be wrapped in foil with a glass of white wine, and perhaps a few fronds of dill. Put them at the side and let them bubble in their juices for 10 minutes.
I once had a friend who cooked a half pig's head on the griddle. Not to be recommend, unless you have experience in these things. Which he most certainly didn't. Half cooked brain and seared eyeballs do little for the appetite.
I once had a friend who cooked a half pig's head on the griddle. Not to be recommend, unless you have experience in these things. Which he most certainly didn't. Half cooked brain and seared eyeballs do little for the appetite. But a great fat hunk of sirloin steak cooked over coal is the best possible end for a piece of beef. If you're feeling especially flush, go big with a huge cote de boeuf.
As I've already mentioned, liquid is key. Both h2o for the barbecue to fight those insidious flames. And alcoholic libation, for the chef. Experience, as ever,makes things run more smoothly. But as long as you take this al fresco art seriously, you'll be fine. Remember, this is an art, not some ghastly, grunting Neanderthal initiation ceremony. Treat the barbecue with respect and it will repay you in kind. As for the good old British weather ...well, we can't let a little downfall get in the way of our grilling glory. A large umbrella works wonders, but only if it isn't being held by one's wife. Otherwise,get outside and light up that grill. The drizzle may be dreary. But real barbecued food is anything but.
BBQ Butterflied leg of Lamb
1.5kg leg of lamb, ask butcher to butterfly
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tsp hot paprika
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
2 tsp thyme, leaves finely chopped
1 tbsp olive oil
1. Mix together the garlic, paprika, vinegar and thyme and rub into the lamb. Drizzle over the olive oil and leave to marinate in the fridge overnight (or for a minimum of 2 hours), turning occasionally.Take the lamb out of the fridge to come up to room temperature and spark up the Barbie.Cook the lamb for about 7 minutes on each side, or until cooked to your liking. Leave to rest for 10 minutes before serving.Slice the lamb and serve with a green salad and crusty rolls.