Saturday, July 17, 2010

Come on baby light my fire

The BBQ season at Casa El Willo is now well underway. Whenever we have anything that can be grilled or roasted, it goes on one of my two Webers (gas downstairs near the kitchen and charcoal on the roof terrace).

A few tips for those who are new to the art of cooking over fire. Most important of all, if you are using charcoal or wood, you need to light the fire well in advance so the coals are glowing red and covered in a layer of white ash. This will take at least 30 minutes with charcoal, even longer with gathered wood. With gas you need to heat it up until the temperature is as hot as it will get.

Why, because you need to get the bars really hot to stop food from sticking to them. Then, It is better to lightly to oil the food and lay it on searing hot bars than attempt to oil the bars themselves and don’t be tempted to move things about too quickly or too often on your BBQ. You need the food to build up a burned edge at the point of contact with the bars, so it won't break up or tear when you flip it.

Most people are happy to cook the odd beef burger, sausage or a piece of steak but in fact the BBQ is much more versatile than that. Here are for a few foods you might want to try to ring the changes:-

Tomatoes Cut in half lengthways, brush with olive oil and grill, cut side down, for about three minutes.

Garlic Trickle whole garlic bulbs with olive or rapeseed oil, wrap in foil and grill until tender, about 20 minutes. Cool slightly, then squeeze cooked cloves on to steak or toasted bread, or use them to make aïoli.

Sardines Rub gutted sardines with a little olive oil and season with chopped garlic, thyme, salt and pepper. Ideally, put them into a barbecue fish basket to make it easier to turn them, and cook for two to three minutes a side.

Fruit kebabs Thread cubes of apple, pear, banana, mango, pineapple, halved figs or plums on to skewers. Brush with honey thinned with a little apple or orange juice and grill over a low, fading barbecue, turning very frequently, until lightly caramelised, about five minutes.

Peaches or nectarines Halve, then brush the cut sides with a little melted butter, sprinkle lightly with brown sugar and grill, cut side down, for three to four minutes. Serve with ricotta, ice-cream or mascarpone and a sprinkling of toasted flaked almonds or chopped hazelnuts.

Pineapple Cut a fresh pineapple into quarters, brush with melted butter mixed with brandy or white rum. Cook both cut sides for about four minutes or so and then serve with more spirit and ice-cream.

In fact I will cook almost anything on my BBQs from whole chicken* and even turkey* to paella. And one last tip, on a charcoal BBQ try throwing a few handfuls of oak or hickory chippings or herbs such as rosemary on the coals to add a delicious smoky flavour to your food.

* Don't try that on a Spanish chimnea.