I didn’t go to Glastonbury festival this year but with both our teenage children there, scorchingly hot weather and just because we could, and felt like it, we decided to cook our dinner outside. The British weather has created a very funny bunch of us islanders. We stoically put up with endless drizzle, cloud and greyness for an optimistic nine months of the year, patiently and quietly yearning for blue skies and heat to then be catapulted into a sudden and unexpected heatwave on par with southern Europe. If the heatwave coincides with a weekend then you can walk through any residential area, the length or breadth of the country, to catch the sweet and smoky aroma of the British barbecue.
Yesterday was no exception; downing several glasses of the ever increasingly popular prosecco, shirt off (very red this morning), sitting around a mound of fiery charcoal, listening to the sounds of Glastonbury festival on ‘6 music’ and waiting for the precise moment when the coals turn a glimmering, dusty white and stop smoking.
In my experience, if you’re a man you’ll probably get to tend the barbecue. I’m not sure but either women simply don’t enjoy barbecuing, are just indifferent to it, or they’re just not given the chance by the men present. Men who never cook in a kitchen will brazenly push aside everyone else to be the self-proclaimed king of the coals. We’ve all seen this and it’s quite interesting. Is this some kind of primal drive? Who knows.
I do know, however that cooking on a ‘real’ grill takes a level of skill and flair to create a good meal and to not end up with half the dinner burnt to a cindery crisp, and the other half in danger of rushing everyone eating it off to ‘accident and emergency’ with salmonella or similar.
Inside, I made some wet polenta, seasoned it with salt and pepper and a bit of flaked chilli. This was allowed to set into a 1/2 inch slab and once levelled out roughly was cut into large diamond shapes, ready for the searing flames.
An aubergine was sliced lengthways to iPhone thickness, smeared with olive oil, salt and pepper. I did the same with yellow peppers after cutting into halves.
Esther had salmon and I had boneless lamb steaks, both of which were coated with olive oil, salt, pepper, lemon juice, fresh thyme and a dusting of Lebonese spice mix. This was left to marinate for a good 30mins to 1 hour.
The aubergine went onto cook first alongside the peppers, followed by the polenta. This was all kept warm while the meat and fish were cooking. – about 15 minutes. I let the meat rest for another 10 mins and dished out onto a big plate with some rocket, lots of fresh mint (crucial), olive oil, more lemon juice and salt and pepper.
Another great thing about summer that I love are the peaches/nectarines. I first came across these flat doughnut peaches in a French market a few years ago and although the taste and texture etc. is very similar to ordinary peaches, they lend themselves particularly well to quick cooking on the grill or barbecue due to their flatness.
I halved two doughnut peaches and coated with butter. These were layed on the grill away from the recently cooked fish area. They took approx. 10 minutes each side and were ready when marked with grill-mark lines and caramelised nicely. I plated these up (2 halves each) with some ricotta, a drizzle of honey, a sprinkle of broken walnuts, a bunch of redcurrants (straight from the bush) and some very nice honeycomb, made by Lick the Spoon for last week’s photo shoot that I got to take home along with some fantastic, very upmarket chocolate bars. The light creamy texture and flavour of the ricotta together with the sharp bursts of sourness from the red currants and delicate sweetness of the honeycomb worked very well with the crunchy coffee-ness of the walnuts and summery, delicate tones of the peach. Yum! (Matthew)