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Recipes: Brenda Costigan on barbecued food safe to eat





Sitting on the tree-shaded patio of our friend's house in the hills above San Rafael in Marin County, California, we were sipping our wine as we waited for the joint of pork to roast in the round, pot-bellied kettle barbecue. It took ages, but we didn't mind.

The sun was shining, lemons were growing on the trees around the swimming pool, where the children were having a great time, and we were at peace with the world.

With our unreliable Irish climate, it is easy to understand the popularity of gas-fired barbecues. They heat quickly and they also cook quickly, which facilitates darting in and out between the rain showers. Also, the heat of a gas-fired grill is more easily controlled than that of a charcoal one. Coping with charcoal, while it has its own magic, is a more primitive form of cooking; a bit like the caveman. Is that why men are always so willing to cook at barbecues?

The key to a good barbecue is to have as much as possible prepared beforehand in the kitchen. Cooking on the barbecue itself is just the culmination of this preparation.

Points to note:

Be sure that the barbecue itself is on level ground. If you're using charcoal, don't use petrol to light the fire.

Barbecued food is the cause of many cases of stomach upset and food poisoning during the summer season. The main reason is that though food might be burnt black on the outside, it can be raw inside. This is particularly important to watch out for when chicken joints with the bone still in are being cooked.

If cooking for large numbers, it is not a bad idea to cook the meat in the oven first, ahead of time -- cover it with foil to prevent any browning. Then the meat can be browned on the barbecue later. If you can adjust the level of the grill tray above the heat, this will allow for slightly more controlled cooking.

Keep separate tongs and brushes for handling and basting the raw meats and the cooked meats.

Mayonnaise-based dressings on raw vegetables or salads that are left standing in the hot sunshine can be another cause for tummy upsets. Oil and vinegar dressings do not cause the same trouble. Keep salads in the shade for better flavour.

Have lots of garlic bread, pasta salads and potato salads to fill the gaps. Appetites seem so much heartier when eating out in the open.



A typical Portuguese recipe, this is a tasty dish to cook on the barbecue. For more flavour, I have used boneless chicken thighs. Ideally, marinate these overnight in a good-quality buttermilk to tenderise them. Once you've done that, the peri peri marinade is spread inside the joint. Prepare this dish well in advance to allow plenty of time for the flavours of the marinade to penetrate right through to the centre of the rolled chicken before cooking it. If you like, place the prepared chicken skewers on a tinfoil plate on the barbecue grill. Doing so will catch the escaping tasty juices. Then lift the skewers off the tinfoil plate and put them directly on to the grill for the final browning. Serves four to five.

You will need:

8-10 boned, skinless chicken thighs

300ml (1/2pt) buttermilk (optional)

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

8-10 skewers -- if using wooden ones, steep them overnight in cold water

For the peri peri marinade, you will need:

4-6 fresh red chillies (or more)

2-3 fat garlic cloves

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

1/2 tablespoon paprika

75ml (3fl oz) olive oil

40ml (1 1/2 fl oz) red wine vinegar

Simply place the chicken thighs in a bowl, pour the buttermilk over them and season with some freshly ground pepper and salt -- using buttermilk as a marinade is optional, but it does tenderise the chicken nicely. Stir to ensure a fairly even distribution. Cover and leave in the fridge overnight. Remove the chicken from the buttermilk marinade a few hours before cooking.

For the peri peri marinade, preheat the oven to 180 C, 350 F, Gas 4. Put the chillies and the whole garlic cloves into a roasting tin and roast them in the oven for about 10 minutes. When they are cool, finely chop the chillies and garlic cloves, then put them into a saucepan. Add some salt and freshly ground black pepper, the dried oregano, the paprika, the olive oil and the red wine vinegar. Simmer for two to three minutes, then allow the mixture to cool. It can be stored in a covered jar for up to four weeks.

Lay one chicken thigh out flat on a board, the boned-out side upwards. Spread the boned-out side with some of the peri peri marinade. Roll the thigh up and pierce it on to a skewer, then place on a dish. Repeat with the remaining chicken thighs. Spoon a little more of the peri peri marinade over the rolled-up chicken thighs, then cover with some clingfilm and leave aside for at least an hour so that the flavours can penetrate.

Cook on the hot barbecue -- I like to use a foil plate or a baking tin on top of the grill for the initial cooking to catch any escaping juices. Grill, turning occasionally, until the skewered chicken thighs are cooked right through, giving them a final tasty browning directly on the grill itself.

These will take at least 20 minutes if you are cooking them under a standard cooker grill, so using a barbecue will, no doubt, take longer. It is important to check that the centres of these rolled-up chicken thighs have been well cooked, so cut one open to check before serving.


A special treat. The rashers are wrapped around the scallops and held in place with cocktail sticks. They are left to marinate briefly before grilling. Serves five.

You will need:

10 narrow streaky rashers, rinds removed

10 scallops

10 cocktail sticks, steeped for an hour in cold water

Extra virgin olive oil, for drizzling

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 tablespoon of fresh sage or herb of your choice, chopped

Thin wedges of lemon, to serve

Separate the rashers from one another. Wrap each scallop with a rasher and pin the rasher closed with a cocktail stick. Trim any excess bacon if the rasher overlaps. Put the bacon-wrapped scallops into a dish and drizzle a little olive oil all over them. Then sprinkle with some salt and freshly ground black pepper, and the chopped fresh sage, or whatever herbs you are using. Leave to rest for 15 minutes to half an hour to allow the flavours to penetrate.

Grill on a hot barbecue -- or a kitchen cooker grill -- for about two to three minutes on each side. Serve with lemon wedges.


Chunks of cod or salmon (about 4cm/1?inch) can be used instead of the scallops in the above recipe.


Minced lamb is combined with a hot Moroccan spicy mix to give the flavour a real kick. Shaped into little meatballs and threaded on to skewers, they are cooked on the barbecue. Serve with a tasty hummus and yoghurt dressing, see recipe below. Serves four as a meal on its own or eight as part of a barbecue.

For kofta mixture, you will need:

500g (1lb 2oz) minced lamb

1 tablespoon harissa paste

1 small onion, very finely chopped

1 clove garlic, crushed

2 tablespoons fresh coriander, finely chopped

Salt and freshly ground pepper

1 small egg

8 skewers (if wooden, soak in water overnight)

Pitta bread, to serve

Hummus and yoghurt dressing, to serve, see recipe below

For the optional glaze, you will need:

1 tablespoon honey

1 tablespoon mango chutney

Put the minced lamb, the harissa, the very finely chopped onion, the crushed garlic, the fresh, finely chopped coriander, some salt and freshly ground black pepper and the small egg into a bowl and mix well together, ideally using your hands. Shape the mixture into 32 evenly sized meatballs, pressing them firmly into shape. Thread four on to each skewer. Cook the meatballs on the barbecue or a cooker grill for about 10 to 15 minutes, turning them until they are cooked through. Just before taking them off the heat, brush them with the honey and mango glaze, if you're using it. Serve with the yoghurt and hummus dressing, and warm pitta bread.


You will need:

150ml (5fl oz) natural yoghurt

4 tablespoons hummus

1 tablespoon mango chutney

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Prepare the yoghurt and hummus dressing by mixing the natural yoghurt, hummus, mango chutney and salt and some freshly ground black pepper. Put aside in the fridge until it is needed.


Inspired by a recipe of Nigel Slater's, the combination of ingredients adds an exotic touch to our native mackerel.

It is not easy to grill fish on the barbecue. The skin of mackerel is so delicate it sticks to the grill. My way round this is to place the mackerel fillets either on lightly oiled foil plates or on a flat tin, which I place on the barbecue grill until the fish cooks. Serves four to eight.

You will need:

4 double fillets of mackerel

100ml (almost 4fl oz) olive oil

3 tablespoons fresh coriander leaves, finely chopped

Juice of 1/2 -1 lime

1 teaspoon mild chilli powder

2 teaspoons ground cumin

2 garlic cloves, crushed

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Yoghurt and hummus dressing, to serve, see recipe above

Place the mackerel fillets in a single layer on an oiled baking tin. Mix the olive oil, the fresh, finely chopped coriander leaves, the lime juice, the mild chilli powder, the ground cumin, the crushed garlic and some salt and freshly ground black pepper together. Spoon this mixture generously over the mackerel. Leave to stand for about 15 to 30 minutes. Then place the tin over a hot barbecue until the fish is cooked through -- about 15 minutes or more.

If you're cooking the fish under a cooker grill, to prevent the herbs from burning, cover the top of the mackerel loosely with a sheet of tinfoil until the fish heats through, then remove the tinfoil covering and continue cooking until the mackerel is completely cooked through.

Serve with the yoghurt and hummus dressing, see recipe above.