Saturday 15 December 2018

Food News: Low and Slow... at the Big Grill Festival

Katy McGuinness

Mouth-watering: The Big Grill festival comes to Herbert Park, Dublin
Mouth-watering: The Big Grill festival comes to Herbert Park, Dublin
Deep South by Brad McDonald
The Saddle Room at the Shelbourne
Potatoes with oil and chives

Next weekend sees the arrival of the Big Grill festival in Dublin's Herbert Park. It's a food festival that feels more like a music festival, says its organiser, Andy Noonan, who is a devotee of the American-style barbecue.

That means you can forget about cremated sausages and chicken drumsticks that are black on the outside and terrifyingly raw within, and think instead of proper pulled pork that's been cooked overnight or longer, and melt-in-the-mouth brisket that'll transport you to the Deep South in a mouthful.

Among the pit masters appearing at The Big Grill are the self-styled 'First Ladies of 'Cue', Samantha Evans and Shauna Guinn of the Hang Fire Smokehouse in Wales. The pair left their nice, safe comfortable jobs in London just four years ago to embark on an epic journey of discovery through the heartland of American barbecue. On their return to Britain, they set up a food truck and made a name for themselves in the fledgling street food scene. Their book, The Hang Fire Cookbook (Quadrille, €31.60 for hardback) is a compendium of accessible barbecue recipes that can be achieved in the back garden using the most basic of equipment, although they do recommend investing in a gazebo and a rain mac so that barbecues are not thwarted by the weather.

Also appearing at The Big Grill are John Relihan from Holy Smoke in Cork, one of the city's best new openings, and physicist turned pit master, Neil Rankin, whose book Low and Slow (Ebury Press, €32.50 for hardback ) turns everything you know about cooking meat on its head and sets out his belief that the flavour of all meat benefits from being cooked slowly at a low temperature. Rankin will be cooking with Brazilian barbecue superstar Andre Lima de Luca on one day, and is also planning a large-scale shawarma on the other. He has designed a one-off pit and structure that he'll come over and help to build for a few days before the festival starts. Andy Noonan's own Fowl Play restaurant will be cooking chickens on an edifice that sounds as if it could have been designed by Heath Robinson.

The Big Grill will be hosting Ireland's first competitive American-style barbecue competition, with a place for the winner at the famous Jack Daniels invitational in Tennessee. Teams compete in the categories of pork shoulder, ribs, chicken and brisket, and an additional dish that can be 'anything but', and are judged by a team trained by Noonan and his colleagues.

Tickets from €15 plus booking fee: see


Healthy potatoes

Potatoes with oil and chives

Instead of buying potato salad from the supermarket, why not make your own simple and mayonnaise-free version? Simply cook waxy new potatoes in their skins until tender, slice while still warm, dress with good olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt and finely chopped chives. Simple.

Southern comfort

Deep South by Brad McDonald

Seductive cookbook Deep South by Brad McDonald (Quadrille, €32.50, hardback) showcases the food of the author's homeland. "Simple food, made majestic," is how Brad describes cooking that is vibrant and rich with spice, and true to its Cajun and Creole roots.

Saddle up

The Saddle Room at the Shelbourne

The Shelbourne Hotel's Saddle Room is offering dinner for two with a bottle of wine for €90 for the rest of August, on any night from Sunday to Thursday. The menu focuses on Irish produce, including Mullaghmore mussels, Dingle Gin-cured Castletownbere salmon, Charleville beef, and lamb from The Curragh.

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