As a nation used to only a handful of really beautiful summer days a year, barbecuing as a cooking method does not come as second nature.
My memories of barbecues involve burnt burgers and sausages topped off quite nicely with a good soaking of rain in true Irish fashion.
When I first started barbecuing, my aim was to see what I could pop over the hot coals apart from meat, which is how my recipe for grilled sweet potato and halloumi salad came about. It's a true example of how this particular method of cooking does not have to be confined to big hunks of meat -- it cooks both the sweet potato and the halloumi cheese beautifully.
The Americans know how to barbecue, so I knew I was in safe hands when I tried my boozy bum chicken for first time. Where else would someone come up with the genius idea of standing the chicken up on a beer can so that the liquid inside permeates the meat, leaving it tender, while the skin goes beautifully crisp? If you make your chicken using this method once, you won't ever go back!
You might not have thought that pizza would be a barbecue option, but by using a pizza stone you will be left with a fantastically crispy base that's perfect for customising with your own selection of toppings.
I hope the recipes here give you lots of inspiration and show that you don't have to limit yourself when it comes to cooking outdoors.
I made this recently and I am a complete and utter convert. My regular poultry dish for barbecues is spatchcock chicken, but this method leaves you with beautifully moist and tender meat because of the steam created by the can of booze. And because the chicken stands upright, you get left with amazing crispy skin. You do, however, have to share the very awkward moment of preparing this particular recipe, which I can tell you no bird will be prepared for! Serves four to six.
YOU WILL NEED
2 tbsps rapeseed oil
1 x 1.2kg chicken
2 tbsps cajun seasoning
Sea salt and ground black pepper 1 large can of either beer or cider
Rub the oil all over the bird and season with the cajun seasoning and a generous pinch of sea salt and ground black pepper. Open the can of the booze and sit the bird on top. It should now be standing to attention! Stand the chicken upright on a hot barbecue at 200°C for about one hour and 10 minutes until cooked all the way through. Using a large pair of tongs, remove the bird and can from the barbecue and then remove the can from the bird. Carve up and make sure everybody gets a piece of crispy skin when serving.
This recipe creates a wonderfully thin, crisp yet chewy dough, which ticks all the boxes for me. I make my pizzas on the barbecue on a pizza stone, which you can pick up quite cheaply these days. The idea is to get the stone really hot and assemble your pizza on top. Pop it on the barbecue lid and they cook in a matter of minutes. Makes three thin bases.
YOU WILL NEED
255g/8oz plain flour, plus extra for dusting
½ tsp salt
1 x 7.5g sachet of easy-blend dried yeast
175ml/6fl oz tepid water
1 tsp honey
1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for oiling
3 tbsps tomato sauce per pizza
175g/6oz grated mozzarella cheese
For the tomato sauce
2 cloves garlic
½ red onion
1 tbsp rapeseed oil
1 x 400g tin chopped tomatoes
½ glass red wine
2 tsps dried oregano
1 tsp sugar
Sea salt and ground black pepper
For the tomato sauce: Fry the garlic and red onion in the oil in a frying pan over a medium-high heat for about three minutes. Add the tomatoes, red wine, oregano, sugar and season with sea salt and ground black pepper. Simmer gently for 10-15 minutes until you are left with a thick reduced tomato sauce. Remove from the pan and allow to cool.
For the pizza: In a large bowl, combine the flour and salt. Whisk together the yeast, water and honey and allow to stand for a few minutes until frothy, then stir through the olive oil.
Make a well in the flour and pour in the wet mix. Using your fingertips, slowly bring the flour in from the sides and continue to mix until a rough dough forms. Turn the dough out on a floured work surface and knead for about five minutes. If the dough is too sticky, add a little extra flour until it becomes smooth.
Form the dough into a ball and place in an oiled bowl. Cover with a damp tea towel or clingfilm and set aside in a warm spot for about 45 minutes, or until it has doubled in size. Punch the dough down on a lightly floured surface, then knead again for a minute and place back in the bowl to rise for a further 10 minutes. Pre-heat a pizza stone on a hot barbecue for about 30 minutes.
Divide the dough into three pieces and roll out into rounds as thinly as possible. Pop one of the bases on the pizza stone and spread the base with the tomato sauce, a sprinkling of mozzarella, some prosciutto slices and a little pesto. Bake the pizza on the barbecue for about eight minutes or until the cheese turns golden and the crust becomes crisp. Repeat with the remaining dough. Serve straightaway.
Barbecues do not just have to be for meat. This recipe is a great example of a delicious salad that can be partly cooked on a hot grill. It's packed with punchy flavours that will leave you wanting more. Serves four.
YOU WILL NEED
2 large sweet potatoes, sliced into 1cm
400g halloumi cheese, sliced into 1cm
Extra-virgin olive oil
3 large cloves garlic, finely sliced
2 red chillis, finely sliced
Ground black pepper
1 small handful mixed salad leaves per person
FOR THE DRESSING
Handful fresh basil, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
Juice of 1 lime
3 tbsps extra-virgin olive oil
Whisk together the ingredients for the dressing and set aside. Place the sweet potato and halloumi slices on a large plate and then drizzle with olive oil and scatter with the garlic and chilli. Season with ground black pepper. Toss each slice in oil so it's coated and then place on a medium-high heat on the barbecue. Cook the halloumi until it has golden brown score marks, then turn to cook the other side. Cook the sweet potato until charred and tender when pressed with tongs. Assemble the salad by tossing the salad leaves in the dressing and placing a handful on each plate. Top with the slices of halloumi and sweet potato and serve with a little extra drizzle of the dressing.