Saturday, 27 August 2011

Cinder and Smoke

There's nothing guaranteed to bring out the primeval urge than cooking outside on an open fire.  The summer wouldn't be quite complete without grown adults huddling on the patio, (usually under a brolly) poking charred lumps of protein that remain resolutely raw in the centre long after the outside has burnt to a crisp.

I do love an opportunity to crack out the firelighters and brush down the grill, and our first barbecue of the year was a remarkably restrained and civilised affair.  The unseasonably good weather meant we could sit out in the garden and start fire up at Easter.  Star of the show was these beautiful, big scallops cooked in the half shell (sadly we ended up with the flat half, rather than the concave one, meaning lots of escaping juices!) cooked a little wild garlic, foraged from the woods, and plenty of butter.

Another great choice for the grill is mackerel; the oily flesh stands up well to the heat, and the crispy, charred skin is delicious (if it hasn't all managed to get stuck to the bars).  The strong flavour of mackerel can stand some rigorous spicing; I often use chilli or harissa paste or bay leaves and garlic.  This time I tried rubbing the fish with some leftover Thai green curry paste, and made some slashes in the flesh that I stuffed with mint leaves from the garden.  Spicy, fresh and delicious with salad and a cold beer.

Despite enjoying veg, fish and seafood on the barbie my favourite things to grill are still big lumps of meat, and my absolute favourite is lamb.  The smoky flavour from the barbecue really compliments the sweet, herbal flavour of the meat,; choosing lamb with a little bit of fat helps keep it succulent, even if it may cause a few impressive flare ups!  When I was growing up we would sometimes have a marinaded and butterflied leg of lamb, butchered by my Mum and expertly cooked by my Dad until crispy on the outside and pink within. 

Chops are great for cooking like this; they come with their own built in handle to hold onto as you gnaw at the meat, and the strip of fat running along one edge becomes beautifully crisp and smoky.  I marinaded half with Ras el hanout and plain yogurt, and half with sumac, lemon, thyme and garlic.    Although I was out grilling in the garden long after the sun went down I was more than happy with a nice glass of Rioja and some fabulous crispy chops as my just reward.


  1. great post, those scallops look amazing!

  2. Hi Nick, glad you enjoyed the blog. Can confirm the scallops were delicious!