Chargrilled Butternut Squash

Last year on a visit to Wahaca in Oxford Circus, I really enjoyed the chargrilled crown prince squash.

I said back then

The squash was grown for Wahaca by Riverford Organic and served with kale & cashew nut mole. I really enjoyed this dish, was full of flavour and very tasty. I think it could have been improved if the squash had been peeled, but the flesh of the squash did come away from the skin despite this. I really liked the chargrilled aspect of the dish and you could taste that in the squash. This dish is advertised as vegan, and I suspect people might avoid it, but if it comes back onto the menu, go for it, it was delicious.

Chargrilled Crown Prince squash grown by Riverford Organic, served with kale & cashew nut mole

With the recent wonderful weather I decided to try and recreate this dish using my own barbecue and some butternut squash.

I brushed the butternut squash with some olive oil, seasoned with salt and pepper, added some dried herbs and chargrilled it on the barbecue. I started skin side down over the heat and covered with a lid. I wanted to roast it slightly before turning it over and grilling the sides of the squash.

The end result looked like this.

Though I liked the look of the squash, there wasn’t enough flavour for me, I remember the crown prince squash being much tastier.

I think I will try again, but will try and get it to taste better. I am wondering if I should pre-cook in the oven before finishing off on the grill?

Barbecued Salt and Pepper Pork Belly

With the unusual lovely hot weather, my barbecue has been used a lot, and the barbecued meat served with a selection of salads.

One new recipe I have been doing has been going down well and involves using pork belly strips.

Barbecued Salt and Pepper Pork Belly

Take the pork belly and season with salt and pepper, I then sprinkle the pork with chopped fresh coriander, though I have also used dried coriander, along with some lemongrass. Add a little olive oil and leave to marinade. I either buy pork belly without rind, or if no choice remove the rind before marinading and cooking.

I find pork belly general works best with long slow cooking, but I also like it on the barbecue as well. So you could cook the pork slowly in a warm oven, or throw caution to the wind and grill it on the barbecue.

I try and cook it on the barbecue so that it takes it’s time, but doesn’t dry out. One method I have used with a whole chicken also works with the pork belly.

Though you can cook directly on the barbecue, it can be quite challenging to ensure that the pork is tender and cooked properly. A challenge is that it is difficult to control the temperature of the barbecue unlike a normal grill. The key process I use is to recreate some aspects of a “normal” oven as opposed to the usual way of using a barbecue as a grill. After the coals have reached cooking temperature, move them to the sides of the barbecue, so that when the pork belly is placed on the grill, it is not over direct heat. This needs to be done with caution as the charcoal will be really hot and I use a tool with a long handle to do this. The pork, after placing on the grill, was then covered, I used a wok lid, but this is where a kettle barbecue comes into its own. This works well with larger pork belly joints as well.

Smoking again

BBQ Box from Smoke Catering

On a recent visit to the Temple Quay market I decided after looking around to have the BBQ Box from Smoke Catering. I have really enjoyed food from them before.

They were there with their big smoker and their choice of Texan style smoked meats. Their huge smoker always impresses me filled with delicious food and the surrounding aroma and smoke.

On the menu was nine hour beef brisket with homemade slaw, garlic mash and beans. You could have chosen the seven hour pulled pork in a brioche bun with a smoked pork and chilli sausage, or smoked Beef Rib. They also had the BBQ box which was advertised as containing the beef brisket, pulled pork, a smoked pork and chilli sausage, served with the homemade slaw, garlic mash and beans.

However by the time I got there, the pulled pork had sold out, so with the BBQ Box the pulled pork was replaced with the beef rib. Which to be honest I was pleased with, as I had enjoyed it last time.

Generally the more popular stalls will run out , so my usual advice with the Temple Quay markets is to get there early and usually before half past twelve, though I did get to the market at 12:30ish, Smoke Catering’s pulled pork brioche was obviously very popular that day.

I don’t generally understand why some stalls are more popular than others. The Thai stall had a immense queue crossing the entire market and then some. They always have big queues, which to be honest is why I’ve not tried them yet. There are also other stalls which have no queue at all, it’s not as though the food isn’t any good, from my experience when I’ve tried them they were delicious and tasty.

I was also doubly pleased with a bigger portion of meat than the last time I had the box from Smoke Catering. The beef brisket was melt in the mouth tender, enhanced with the crisp “burnt” edges. The rib was also beautifully tender and full of flavour. I did feel that I was really getting my money’s worth with this box. The sausage was meaty and tasty, the chilli enhanced the flavour and didn’t overpower. I enjoyed the combination of the slaw, mash and beans. The mash was wonderfully smooth and creamy with a hint of garlic, no bitterness or harshness. The beans spicy and full of flavour and it was great to mix in with the mash. The homemade slaw was fresh and crunchy, maybe a little too sloppy, but minor point, in what was a tasty meal. Overall a delicious box of food.

Smoking…

The sun was shining and it was the right time to head off down to the Temple Quay market in Bristol.

Smoke Catering were there with their big smoker and their choice of Texan style smoked meats. There was beef brisket and pulled pork.

After very little thinking time I went with the BBQ Box from the top of the menu. The box contained homemade slaw, garlic mash and beans. On top of the box was some smoked beef brisket, smoked beef rib and a smoked pork and chilli sausage.

As it was such a lovely day, the place to eat this was in Harratz Place on the quayside.

I have had their food before, and the slaw, mash and beans were just as nice as they were the last time I had them. The mash was smooth and creamy with a hint of garlic, no bitterness or harshness. The slaw was fresh and crunchy. The beans spicy and full of flavour. The smoked beef brisket was tender and delicious, it was melt in the mouth. I like the tender beef and the crunch of the barbecued outside.

Smoke Catering 9h Beef Brisket

The beef rib was nice, only a small slice, and I would liked to have more of this. The sausage was meaty and tasty, the chilli enhanced the flavour and didn’t overpower.

It was more than I usually spend on lunch and I think for the price I would have liked a slightly bigger portion dog the barbecued meat.

Overall this was a really nice lunch.

Smoking the brisket…

Smoking the brisket…

A couple of weeks ago I passed the Low n Slow stand at the regular Temple Quay street food market, alas I was on my way to a three hour meeting and I didn’t think it would be fair to my colleagues to have what sounded like a delicious barbecue box filling the meeting room with food smells. So this week, not having a meeting, I checked the Twitter and saw that Low n Slow were going to be at the Temple Quay Market.

I went with the “ultimate combo” barbecue box, consisting of 12 hour pulled pork, 9 hour beef brisket, burnt ends, served with salad, coleslaw, pickles, a POW ball and homemade sauce. So what are POW balls? Well according to the menu by the stall they are tasty bacon wrapped meatballs with bbq glaze.

This was a wonderful combination of flavours and textures.

The beef brisket was beautifully tender and delicious. The smoke was subtle and didn’t overpower the dish. The crispiness of the burnt ends contrasted well with the tender brisket.

The pulled pork was very tasty and as for the POW ball, this was nice. Like a festive pigs in blanket but bigger, smokier with a subtle sweet taste.

This kind of meal starts to make me think if a proper smoker style barbecue would be a nice thing to have. Well until I make a decision about that, I will continue to visit the Low and Slow stall.

Barbecued Chicken

barbecuing over charcoal

I have done this method of barbecuing a whole chicken a few times now and each time, the end result has been delicious tender moist chicken full of smokey and chargrilled flavours.

The first part of the process is to spatchcock the chicken. I don’t have a pair of poultry shears so I usually use a big cook’s knife to cut out the backbone. I also don’t use skewers to secure the legs or keep it flat, but you just have to be more careful when turning the chicken.

I usually marinade the chicken, lemon and parsley (with some diced onion) I find works well. Adding some white wine adds more depth of flavour.

As for the barbecue, the key here is to avoid cooking the chicken over a direct heat. After lighting the charcoal, once the flames have died down, and they are covered in grey ash you can start to cook. However the first thing you need to do is to move the coals to the sides of the barbecue leaving the middle empty, the chicken will be placed over this empty zone. Moving the coals can be tricky as they will be really hot, but the aim is to create a circle of hot coals around a clear area. This will allow the chicken to be cooked via in-direct heat without overcooking or burning.

The chicken is placed down on the grill carcass side down. I then use a wok lid to cover the chicken. This creates an oven effect and helps to stop the chicken drying out. You could of course if you have one use the lid on your barbecue.

barbecuing over charcoal

Turn the chicken after 15-20 minutes and cook the skin side. Take care when turning the chicken, especially if you like me didn’t use skewers. Add any remaining marinade to baste the chicken. Re-cover with the wok lid.

Check the chicken is cooked and then remove from the barbecue.

We served it with salad and some crispy fried (well actually roasted) potatoes. No I don’t add any barbecue sauce!

Another time I am thinking of using a similar method to cook beef or pork.

Whole Chicken Barbecued

Whole Chicken Barbecue

Cooking a whole chicken on a barbecue is not a simple process, you can have undercooked on the inside and burnt and charred on the outside. I used this process to cook a whole chicken.

The first thing I did was prepare the chicken by spatchcocking and then marinated with lemon juice, lime juice, garlic, parsley and some olive oil.

Though you can cook a spatchcocked chicken directly on the barbecue, it can be quite challenging to ensure that the chicken is properly cooked, through, without burning or overcooking the outside. Part of the issue is that it is difficult to control the temperature of the barbecue unlike a normal grill. The key process is to recreate some aspects of a “normal” oven as opposed to the usual way of using a barbecue as a grill.

After the coals have reached cooking temperature, move them to the sides of the barbecue, so that when the spatchcocked chicken is placed on the grill, it is not over direct heat.

The chicken I placed it “inside” down with the skin side on top. The chicken was then covered, I used a wok lid, but this is where a kettle barbecue comes into its own.

The end result was a properly cooked chicken, which was moist and succulent and full of flavour.

Grilled Beef Skirt

Grilled Beef Skirt

I bought some beef skirt a while ago, in the main to make a pie or a stew. In the end it went into the freezer.

With the recent warm weather and using the barbecue a lot more I decided to try something different.

I took the beef skirt and placed it on a bed of root vegetables in a roasting tray and put it in a medium oven for about 80-90 minutes. The plan was that as this cut of beef wasn’t suitable for quick cooking on the barbecue, I would slow roast it first, before finishing it off on the barbecue.

The beef was cooked for about ten minutes on each side on the barbecue. The end result was then left to rest for a further ten minutes.

I then sliced it thinly and served it with salad and pitta bread.

I was pleasantly surprised, some great flavours and as I hoped it was also very tender and delicious.

Cooking over hot coals

Coals

It was a beautiful sunny weekend and like many other people we decided to cook outdoors on the barbecue.

I was asked the other day why I liked to cook over hot coals, as it can be quite a time consuming process.

First and foremost I like the taste of grilled food, especially over a smokey barbecue. It’s one of the reasons I have a charcoal based barbecue and not a gas one. Gas barbecues are great for controlled outdoor cooking, but they are not the same experience that you get when cooking over coal.

I also find the whole process quite therapeutic, a relaxing activity in its own right.

A Wonderful Staff BBQ

Spit Roasted Lamb

The catering students and staff at Gloucestershire College did an outstanding event last week. Every year the college staff get together in an annual barbecue. Now for a lot of people a big event like this means well done burgers, cheap sausages and if you’re lucky a chicken drumstick, still raw in the middle…

Well this staff event was totally different. There were three food stands. The first wasn’t really a barbecue, but was paella. This was a really well cooked paella with huge kings prawns. This was really nice and very tasty, even if it was a but messy shelling the prawns. There was a vegetarian alternative for those that didn’t want to eat fish. I should say (for regular readers of the blog) that it appeared they had stirred their paella…

The barbecue stand had a nice choice of vegetarian kebabs, satay chicken and barbecued pork ribs. The ribs were perfect, the meat fell off the bone and was beautifully tender. So good you could use a knife and fork, so need to get sticky fingers. I didn’t try the chicken as when I arrived at the stand they had run out and were cooking a new batch. The vegetarian kebab was perfectly cooked and the halloumi cheese that was on there alongside the vegetables was delicious.

My favourite stand though was the Moroccan lamb wrap. They had spit roasted a whole lamb and this was served in a wrap with houmous, yoghurt, sliced courgette and chilli. Absolutely delicious. For those that didn’t eat lamb there was a really nice looking butternut squash alternative.

This was outstanding high quality food for a superb event. It was an extra special event this year as our Principal is retiring.