There's nothing quite like a bank-holiday weekend to make you want to get outside and start cooking al fresco. If you haven't already brushed down your barbecue, then now is definitely the time. For those of us who live in lovely unpredictable Ireland we know that a bit of spontaneity is key when it comes to cooking outside, as we seem to be the only country in the world that can have whole four seasons in one day! But fear not, here are some great recipes to get the barbie season kicked off in style, rain or shine.
First though, in order to successfully transfer your kitchen out to the elements it is a good idea to have a few decent tools: a wire brush for scrubbing down the barbecue that hasn't been used for months; metal tongs are invaluable and, in my opinion, the best bit of barbecue kit money can buy; and a nice big pastry brush is great for basting (brushing the marinade over the top of) meat or fish as it starts to cook, to prevent it from drying out.
If you're a fan of South East Asian flavours, this pork satay with spicy peanut sauce should be right up your alley. The sauce is a fabulous whizz-up-in-two-minutes job and is also delicious with fish, chicken or beef. I also think that no self-respecting barbecue should be without a great salsa verde. Drizzled over meat, fish or vegetables, this will turn a very simple barbecue into a feast, and it's really good for you too as it's jam-packed with oodles of fresh herbs.
I love this bulgur wheat salad. It does a great job of soaking up the chicken juices, and the ruby-like pomegranate seeds bring their gorgeous sweet-sour flavour. And the great thing about a spatchcocked chicken is that it will cook evenly and only take about an hour on the hot grills. Any left-over chicken and salad can be simply mixed together for a divine packed lunch the next day.
Thai Pork satay with spicy peanut sauce
For the spicy peanut sauce, you will need:
3 rounded tablespoons crunchy peanut butter
Half a red chilli, deseeded and chopped
2 cloves of garlic, finely grated
2 teaspoons ginger, finely grated
Quarter teaspoon ground turmeric
1 rounded tablespoon honey
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon lemon juice
4 tablespoons water
For the marinade, you will need:
150ml (5fl oz) coconut milk
2 tablespoons sunflower oil
1 tablespoon ginger, finely grated
1 tablespoon lemongrass, finely chopped
Half teaspoon ground turmeric
2 teaspoons ground coriander seeds
2 teaspoons ground cumin seeds
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
450g lean pork, such as pork fillet, trimmed and cut into 2cm cubes
Half to 1 teaspoon salt
A few sprigs of coriander, leaves removed and reserved
To make the sauce, place the peanut butter, the chopped chilli, the grated garlic, the grated ginger, the turmeric, the honey, the soy sauce, the lemon juice and the water in a blender or food processor and whizz until just smooth. This can be kept in the fridge for a few days before serving, though do make sure to let it come back up to room temperature before serving.
To make the marinade, place the coconut milk, the sunflower oil, the grated ginger, the chopped lemongrass, the turmeric, the ground coriander seeds, the ground cumin seeds and the freshly ground black pepper (not the salt just yet) in a bowl and mix together well. Toss in the meat and set aside for at least an hour in the fridge. This could marinate overnight too.
While the meat is marinating, soak some wooden satay sticks in cold water for half an hour (otherwise they will burn). You can also use metal skewers.
Once the meat is marinated, add in the salt and toss to season, then thread on to the satay sticks.
Place the pork on the satay sticks on the preheated barbecue and cook for 3-4 minutes on each side, until cooked all the way through. Place on a plate and scatter with the coriander leaves.
Serve immediately with the spicy peanut sauce.
Barbecued sweet potato wedges with salsa verde
Serves 4-6. Makes 150ml (5 fl oz)
For the salsa verde, you will need:
Handful of parsley leaves
Handful of mint leaves
Finely grated zest and juice of 1 small lemon
1 clove of garlic, finely grated
1 tablespoon capers, drained
50ml (2 fl oz) extra virgin olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper
For the wedges, you will need:
3-4 sweet potatoes, scrubbed clean and cut into wedges
1-2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
First make the salsa verde. Put the parsley leaves, the mint, the lemon zest, the garlic and the capers into a food processor and whizz until it's all finely chopped. Add the lemon juice and the olive oil (add more oil if you want it a bit more runny). Check the seasoning - it might not need salt, as the capers can be quite salty, but it will probably take a few twists of black pepper. This can be made earlier in the day and left at room temperature, or it will keep for a week in the fridge.
Next drizzle the sweet potato wedges with olive oil, season with salt and freshly ground black pepper and cook on both sides on the preheated barbecue until tender inside and golden brown outside.
Serve with a good drizzling of the salsa verde.
For the chicken, you will need:
1 whole chicken
50ml (2fl oz) extra virgin olive oil
finely grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
4 garlic cloves, finely grated
2 tablespoons chopped rosemary
Salt and pepper
For the salad, you will need:
200g (7oz) bulgur wheat
finely grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
1 pomegranate, seeds and any juices, see my Tip, above left
1 tablespoon chopped mint leaves
1 tablespoon chopped parsley leaves
50ml (2fl.oz) extra virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
First you need to spatchcock the chicken. Remove the backbone of the chicken by using very sharp scissors and cutting through all the way down from top to bottom. Place the chicken breast-side up on your worktop and using the palm of your hands, flatten the chicken down. Using a sharp knife, make a few slashes in the legs of the chicken.
To make the marinade, in a bowl mix together the olive oil, the lemon zest and juice, the garlic, the rosemary, the salt and pepper. Place the chicken in a wide dish and pour the marinade over the chicken, rubbing it into every little crevice and slash, then cover and place in the fridge for at least two hours or even overnight.
Preheat the barbecue and place the chicken over it and cook for about one and a quarter hours, turning it over halfway, until the chicken is completely cooked. Meanwhile, to make the salad, cover the bulgur wheat in boiling water and allow to soak for 10-15 minutes until just soft. Drain well.
Mix the lemon zest and juice, the pomegranate seeds and any juice, the mint, the parsley leaves and the olive oil. Stir through the bulgur wheat and season with salt and pepper to taste.
When the chicken is cooked, remove from the oven, cut in to pieces and serve with the bulgur salad.
To remove the seeds from a pomegranate, cut it in half, then hold in the cupped palm of your hand, cut-side down, over a bowl. Use the back of a wooden spoon to smack the pomegranate, letting the seeds fall through your fingers.
If your barbecue has had a few winters (and summers) of sitting outside in the rain then it might be time to finally reinvest. There are many great barbie deals around at the moment, whether it's a small portable version you're looking for, or a larger one to just keep in your garden or on a balcony.
At Woodie's they are selling the brilliantly sized and designed Weber Compact 47cm kettle charcoal barbecue for a reduced price of €79.99, down from €99.99. There were still many available at time of going to press. See woodiesdiy.com.
Ikea also have a brilliant range of barbecues, both gas and charcoal, large and small, ranging from €110 to €510. See ikea.com.
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