Darina Allen: BBQ recipes to make the most of the summer weather

We’ve been having fun cooking on the barbeque. We fire up the grill at every opportunity. I have to say that even though the flavour of food cooked over charcoal or wood is far more delicious, the gas barbie is mighty tempting, particularly when you want to snatch a moment between the showers.

It’s not the same magic of course as cooking over fire but one needs time and a deal of advance planning.

This group of 12 Week students built a ring of fire on the gravel in the courtyard with some large rocks.

They’ve had some super fun sitting around the camp fire cooking up big pots of stews or just grilling. It’s all the more exciting because they collect their own timber (they walk around the farm with a wheelbarrow to stock up with lots of wood and twigs that have fallen from the trees).

They couldn’t raid the wood shed so they’re having a bit of gas practicing sustainability. Double bonus, clearing up and free timber.

There’s something about cooking over fire that seems to connect with our inner hunter-gatherer and it particularly appeals to men, even wily chaps who can’t boil an egg for themselves fancy their chances on the barbeque, the aroma of the good food sizzling on the grill certainly fuels the appetite.

Steaks and chops, sausages and chicken breasts are still the favourites but don’t forget vegetables and of course fish.

We’ve been catching some fresh mackerel and pollock in Ballycotton and cooking those on the barbeque — wow, how delicious.

Sauces are super important for a barbeque. Some béarnaise or a punchy mustard aioli add magic to a simple steak.

Romanesco sauce is addictive with grilled chicken thighs and of course a good barbeque sauce is always a favourite.

We also love our new season onions split in half, tossed in a little extra virgin olive oil with a sprinkle of flaky sea salt and grilled.

They char deliciously on the outside and become melting tender and sweet.

A little zucchini either whole or thickly sliced are also great, sprinkle them with chopped marjoram. Young beets can be wrapped and roasted and buried in the coals or just grilled.

But best fun of all is barbequed pizza, you’ll need a Weber type barbeque with a lid to cook them properly but it’s a really easy way to feed lots of people deliciously in a short time.

An accompanying salad and a glass of something delicious is all that’s needed.

Pan-grilled Spring Onions

I’m absolutely not a gadget person so I tend to keep kitchen equipment to essential to avoid clutter. However, one good buy in my book is what we call a pan-grill. This is a black ridged cast iron pan which I find gives a super result for vegetables, fish meat and polenta. For me it’s one of the few bits of indispensable kitchen equipment.

Serves 6

18 spring onions or scallions
3 tablespoons olive oil
sea salt

Wash the spring onions, trim the root ends and cut into 6 inch (15cm) lengths approx. Drizzle with oil, season with salt and freshly ground pepper and toss on a preheated pan-grill. Cook on a medium heat until golden on one side, turn and allow to cook on the other side. Serve hot as part of a vegetable plate with grilled fish or meat.

Note: If the onions are large, split in half lengthways and cook until well charred on each side, they become delicious, sweet and tender.

Mustard Aioli

Serve with cold cooked meats, fowl, fish, eggs and vegetables.

Makes 300 ml (½ pint)

2 egg yolks, preferably free range
1-4 cloves garlic, crushed
¼ teaspoon salt
1 dessert spoon white wine vinegar
8 fl ozs (225ml) oil (sunflower, or olive oil or a mixture) — we use 6 fl ozs (175ml) sunflower oil and 2 fl ozs (50ml) olive oil, alternatively use 7/1
2 teaspoons of freshly chopped parsley (optional)
1 tablespoon of whole grain mustard

Put the egg yolks into a bowl with the crushed garlic salt and the white wine vinegar (keep the whites to make meringues). Put the oil into a measure. Take a whisk in one hand and the oil in the other and drip the oil onto the egg yolks, drop by drop whisking at the same time. Within a minute you will notice that the mixture is beginning to thicken. When this happens you can add the oil a little faster, but don’t get too cheeky or it will suddenly curdle because the egg yolks can only absorb the oil at a certain pace. Add the chopped parsley and mustard. Taste and add a little more seasoning and vinegar if necessary.

If the aioli curdles it will suddenly become quite thin, and if left sitting the oil will start to float to the top of the sauce. If this happens you can quite easily rectify the situation by putting another egg yolk or 1-2 tablespoons of boiling water into a clean bowl, then whisk in the curdled aioli, a half teaspoon at a time until it emulsifies again.

Chargrilled T-Bone Steak with Chimi Churri Sauce

Serves 6

Darina Allen: BBQ recipes to make the most of the summer weather
2 x 750g (1½lb) t-bone steaks, a good 2.5cm (1in) thick
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Chimi Churri Sauce
50g (2oz) flat parsley leaves
4 large cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
2 tablespoons water
100ml (4floz ) extra virgin olive oil or sunflower oil
50ml (2floz ) red wine vinegar
1 red onion, finely chopped
½ chilli seeded and chopped or ¼ teaspoon chilli flakes

First make the chimi churri sauce: Chop the parsley finely with the garlic and water. (Alternatively, whizz in a food processor, scraping down the sides of the bowl until well pulsed.) Transfer to a bowl. Whisk in the oil and vinegar gradually. Add the red onion, chilli and salt. Taste and add more seasoning if necessary.

Drizzle the steaks with olive oil. Sprinkle with freshly ground black pepper.

Grill over hot coals for about 6 minutes each side for rare, 8 minutes each side for medium rare or 12 minutes each side for well-done. Allow to rest for 5 minutes.

To serve: Remove the bone to release the meat. Cut the meat across the into 5mm (¼ inch) slices. Serve hot drizzled with chimi churri sauce or with a dollop of béarnaise.

Chicken Thighs or Drumsticks with Romesco Sauce

Romesco sauce is a Spanish sauce, a mixture of peppers, garlic and nuts, sweetened and sharpened with tomatoes and lemon juice.

Serves 4 as a main

4 x 150g (5oz) chicken drumsticks
4 x 160g (5½oz) chicken thighs
1 tablespoon olive oil
Maldon sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
½ recipe quantity of romesco sauce (see recipe below)
20g (¾oz) toasted flaked almonds

Light the barbeque or preheat the oven to 200C/400F/Gas Mark 6.

Put the chicken in a roasting tray. Drizzle it with olive oil, season with salt and freshly ground black pepper and cook either on the grill or in the oven for 30-40 minutes until cooked through and golden brown.

Gently warm the romesco sauce in a small pan and serve with the chicken, with the toasted almonds sprinkled over the top.

Romesco Sauce

Serves 12

Darina Allen: BBQ recipes to make the most of the summer weather
1 head of garlic
4 - 6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 slices slightly stale country bread
75g (3oz) almonds, preferably Marcona
3 large very ripe tomatoes or 15 ripe cherry tomatoes
1 large or 2 small red peppers
flaky sea salt and freshly ground pepper
lemon juice to taste
7 tablespoons cold water

Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/Gas Mark 6.

Trim the top off the head of garlic to expose the bulbs. Wrap in a little tin foil parcel but allow space to pour in about a dessertspoon of extra virgin olive oil. Pinch in the top to close. Cook on the barbeque or in the preheated oven for 30 minutes or until the garlic cloves are soft and squishy.

Cut the crusts off the bread and fry in extra virgin olive oil until golden brown. Remove and drain on kitchen paper and put into the food processor.

Fry the almonds in the remainder of the oil until golden (add a little more oil if needed), add to the bread.

Half (or quarter) and deseed the pepper, put into a bowl.

Half the tomatoes around the equator, add to the peppers in the bowl, drizzle with extra virgin olive oil, season with flaky salt and freshly ground pepper, spread in a single layer in a baking tray and roast in the preheated oven until the tomatoes are soft and peppers are catching at the edges, 30 – 40 minutes. Allow to cool.

Add the tomatoes and peppers to the bread and almonds in the food processor. When the garlic is soft remove the skins and add to the mix. Whizz, taste, correct the seasoning and add lemon juice to taste. Add enough water to thin to a soft consistency. Delicious.

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